Palm Sunday

I have three countries. Yes, that’s right, three, and don’t ask me where I was born. In two of them, Easter means that kids are home from school and that shops are mostly closed, so that parents will have to have planned food schedules and child care for an entire week.

In my third country, Easter is a reminder of the battle between Good and Evil, which of course involves no end of diverging not to mention conflicting views.

In my village, a dense and expectant crowd has gathered outside the Southern entrance of the Basilica Mayor de Santa Maria, at 7 PM on Palm Sunday, when one of the great church bells starts booming, the doors open heavily and a rather sinister procession solemnly starts descending the stairs to the accompaniment of a funereal drum beat. Every time without fail, although I am anything but a believer, I am moved to tears by the spectacle.

Indeed, you could almost be forgiven for imagining that evil could be purged from the land, when the emaciated figure of Christ on a great big float weighing nearly two tonnes, is laboriously carried through the town in a procession that will last for many hours.

For a week, the narrow streets will resound on and off with that slow imperious beat of drums, as float after float carrying gorgeously attired Marias, and various versions of her crucified son ceremoniously emerge from one church after the other, to be perilously marched along steep and narrow streets until they re-enter their respective churches as solemnly as they left them.

For lack of hope of better times — ten years, now, after the financial crisis hurled most people here into desolate poverty — and for lack of work, income and proper schooling, the inhabitants of this village must make do with the ray of hope that faith can give them, faith in the final victory of good over evil. Even if they must die waiting, if even their children must die, good will overcome evil in the end, and they will all be reunited in the afterlife.

Oh, how I wish it were so! There are, however, ever more of us, even in this village, who believe that neither good nor evil emanates from forces beyond human control.

To put it differently: If you have a puppy that you treat firmly but kindly, you will probably end up having a well-behaved and kind dog. Likewise, if you have a child that you treat firmly but kindly, your child will probably grow into a well-functioning adult. I can’t imagine there are many who would disagree with me on that score. Discord only arises when we get down to deciding what “kind but firm” treatment means. For dogs, for example, it includes exercise and excludes being tied up for hours outside the house. For children it includes proper nourishment, stimulating education, reliable medical treatment, plenty of parental companionship and an understanding of ethics.

Those are my views, yours may be different. And we haven’t even started to discuss what is “proper nourishment”! Mind you, I insist that we can and must sort out our differences civilly, without prisons or corporal punishment!

But we can probably agree that there is much evil. I maintain it is almost exclusively human. Evil is regularly generated in non-evil humans in many ways. Apart from the obvious (hunger, humiliation, fear, etc.) there are many insidious triggers of evil that we never think about: Not everybody is able to remain impervious to the venom of the Market’s non-stop stream of advertisements through almost all channels. Meanwhile the most entertaining and hence the most popular (and most lucrative!) media outlets are owned and run by the Market, i.e. by forces that adamantly resent any restrictions on entrepreneurial activities, even if the purpose of such restrictions is to protect the planet and its peoples.

I must say I much prefer the Christian legend about the battle between Good and Evil to the poison injected into in all our minds (making us blind to the anarchic self-aggrandizement of the  Market). After all, even a believer of a religious faith can earnestly support efforts to make the world a better place for those who do not currently enjoy proper nourishment, stimulating education, reliable medical treatment, plenty of parental companionship and an understanding of ethics, and he/she can do so civilly, without prisons or corporal punishment!

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