The Italians are deeply religious people. But sometimes they can ask Dov’é Dio. They are now herded, not by a maremma sheepdog but by a German shepherd. He is very straight and whatever the enigma, there’s no doubt about the Lord, so the outcry God, for heaven sake, where are you is not done. Especially not in places where Benedictus represents the powers-that-be.
But then there was an earthquake. Houses destroyed, people resorted to living in tents.And now no one can stop the Abruzzesi around l’Aquila from asking: dov’é Dio.
Is it possible that the Palestinian people in Gaza have the same question? It wasn’t an earthquake that killed so many Palestinian, that destroyed everything. But it must have looked like it.
Stupid to ask. Despite the crusade of Richard Dawkins it is obvious that we all invented God. And after a lot of struggle for life and survival of the fittest we found ourselves in three monotheistic mainstreams. Now, there were people where the invention of the Lord was strongly connected with justifying their crimes and misdemeanours, naming it History. And they gave him an all-loving son! That Lord became the Lord of the western world.
Still, the question where is the Lord seems to me very legitimate. Because, it’s the same question as What’s happening to us. The very moment when, according to the philosopher Susan Neiman, philosophical activity starts … every time we make the judgement this ought not to have happened. We do not see the Lord, no, we have to invent him, again and again, because we see something we cannot explain. Every time when, outside us, there’s something we perceive as evil.
So, I went looking for the Lord. Because, as Neiman also points out, I wondered whether explaining things came too close to justifying them (the invention of the Lord!) and if so where we should stop. I worried how to maintain a commitment to fairness (the invention of the son of God!) when the world as a whole did not.
So I went to Jerusalem, that Sunday-evening in January, when the powers-that-be had a great dinner and knew exactly the difference between evil and feasting a good fighting against evil. Of course I didn’t go to Gaza. But I went to Washington DC the 20th January. And I was again in Jerusalem, the last day of March.
I saw Blair, I saw Mitchell. Could it be one of them, a blessing in disguise either to the Israeli or to the Palestinian?
To cut short: despite the severity of Benedictus, and although I looked in places where God absolutely had to be those days, looking at the importance of matters and according to all beliefs and sayings from all decent people, I didn’t find him.
But I discovered something else. That also the Diaspora is an invention. Of course, the Jewish were shattered over the world. But others were. And of course they had difficulties, being a stranger in places where things happened that people couldn’t explain. But, again, a lot were to envisage these things.
And the Spanish exterminated the Inca. And the Americans exterminated the Indians. And the Turkish the Armenians.
And then came the Germans. Hitler. And the Italians. Il Duce. And the Dutch added to that. And the Polish. And the Russians. And the old man, as Wilfred Owen puts it in one of his poems
… slew his son
and half the seed of Europe, one by one
Now, that is not an invention. You can discuss the numbers (actually, it’s forbidden by a different kind of belief that became paradigm, and that paradigm got his Benedictus too) but you cannot deny the fact. And although half the seed of Europe included more than only the sons of Abraham, it became their party.
Something strange happened too. We said: never that evil again. To Susan Neiman it is one of the central cases of her study in evil. So we saw evil. We recognized it. And yes, at a certain level we could grasp the meaning of it. Not the sense. But, we got an idea.
How then is it possible that nowadays we cannot recognize it? We cannot even smell it when we see it! And again I wonder whether explaining things comes too close to justifying them. And again I worry how to maintain a commitment to fairness.
Can it be that we, as a consequence of the Second World War, when in the words of Siegfried Sassoon, written less than thirty years before, during the First World War,
… men lost their landmarks in the nights
And met in groom to grapple, stab and kill
Yelling the fetish names of Good and Ill
Which have been shamed in history
… is it possible that we, in the madness of the aftermath, for once and for all, accepted that making history means commitment to evil? Turning evil into the right direction.
History goes while shit happens, or the other way around. Calling it God finishes off the moral question.