mercredi 23 février 2011

Some demonological observations

We like to live in stories. We admire fictional figures more than real people. Our heroes are such semi-fictional persons, we prefer them to real people, and they use this our predilection for their own ends. They let us create them, transform them into heroes from epics, legends or fairy tales, ancient and modern. And sometimes we bring to life mythological figures, spirits, gods, devils. Thus these non-existent creatures become real figures, although they still behave like their fictional prototypes. One of our most popular figures is certainly the Devil with his legion of avatars, servants and impersonators. I have met him (them). One of his avatars, one of the many devils I happen to know is the Missionary. A little devil travelling in exotic places fishing or hunting for souls. I heard from a friend of mine that this type of devil is an especially common species in the black Africa. In some Ghanean villages people have learnt to play an original game with the devil: they change their denomination, go from one church to another. Of course inspired by some material benefits the devil promises or gives them. In this way he demonstrates his ability to go on with his job in our buy-and-sell world. But in fact, as we know from our old folk tales, this is not a real innovation: even in good old times the Devil could pay quite a huge price for somebody's soul. Thus, the Devil can well be a Businessman too. In this way this classical Devil is a close relative to the very modern one. To the devil who is always busy flying, driving and speaking with his mobile phone at the same time. But even this modern devil has an old prototype. In an Estonian tale we encounter a man whom the Devil befriended (nothing human is alien to the Devil!) and once took flying, carrying him piggyback. The Devil flew with such a speed that the hat of his friend was swept from his head by the wind. He shouted to the Devil to stop so that he could look for it, but the Devil said that they are already tens of miles from the spot where the hat had fallen. This devil is a real precursor of the people we meet in business class lounges in airports around the world, to people who fly around the world once per month. They are the same type of personality they play the same role as the medieval Devil from the folk tale. Although the scope of their business interests is wider: they buy and sell many other things besides human souls. Certainly the Devil is not the personification of Absolute Evil as some Missionaries and philosophers try to convince us. The Devil and his friends and servants are neither better nor worse than most of us. They have read something of Adam Smith, and they can quote Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher. They probably believe that there is no such thing as society, there are only inidividuals, and the more easily each individual can follow his/her interests, the better for us all. They believe that they deserve some privileges, they have earned the business class seats and tax cuts because they have really worked very hard to maximise their profits.

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