Saturday, 11 October 2008

That of God

The accidental death was announced today of a right-wing Austrian politician. My immediate reaction to news of this type is relief - another one gone. That lasts for a micro-second before I remember that I am supposed to see that of God in everyone.

It is very easy to demonise the far right, and to think of them as monsters - especially that famous Austrian/German of the 1930s and 40s, whose name I still feel uneasy about writing here in case I get swamped by messages from people who believe he was right. It is so much easier to think of them as inhuman than to accept that they were ordinary people like us.

If we put tyrants and architects of genocide into a special category, we risk seeing them as two-dimensional figures, simple ciphers of evil. This is a very dangerous thing to do, as we then ignore the truth that anyone has the possibility of evil within them - they don't have to conform to some special stereotype, with blazing eyes, or funny moustaches. By turning these figures into the bogeyman, we may run the risk of not understanding how they, as ordinary human beings, achieved power and began to put their ideas into practice.

It is an unpalatable truth that we all have prejudices, and that these can be played upon. None of these people achieved power without the support of other people, whether it was their own cadre of cronies, or a majority national vote. None of them operated alone.

So, having accepted that they were as human as the rest of us, how do we see that of God in them?

I'm still working on that one. Let me know if you have any flashes of inspiration....

In the mean time, for anyone who thinks him- or herself free of prejudice, I offer one of my older poems (yes, I write poems too - not as many as I used to, and not as many as I would like). It's a performance piece - in other words, not all the views are mine! - and is called:


no one could call me racist
but I really don't like Americans
they're everywhere you go
with foghorn shirts and corny voices
though I like my friend Linda from Boulder
and Anne from Antioch U
so no one could call me racist

I don't like the Welsh much either
burning cottages, whingeing at tourists
and let's face it: we're their bread and butter
I like Penn, but he's living in England
so perhaps he doesn't count
no, no one could call me racist

I'm also not keen on the French
I don't know any French people
but I don't like the ones that I've met
in shops on holiday: the cheek,
they pretend not to understand me
and I got an A for French
but no one could call me racist

I get on well with everyone
except the Americans
the Welsh
the French
people who call me honey
people who are cruel to children
people who let their children run riot
people who tell mother-in-law jokes
people like my mother-in-law
people with ginger hair
people who are not like me

me racist?

(Copyright Heather Cawte 1987)