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The black debt

- An old Middle English saying "there is nowt sae strange as folk" encompasses the great mystery of how intelligent, educated and supposedly informed people can always be misled and hoodwinked on a grand scale by an all-powerful, dominant force.

We are constantly led to believe that Europe, including Ireland, is in a "post-religious" era, but our actions are entirely reminiscent of some of the most oppressive religious periods in history.

Take, for example, the mid- 14th Century when the "Black Death" ravaged the continent of Europe. That catastrophic plague was misdiagnosed and misprescribed and it devastated society.

The real cause was indirectly a result of progress; improved shipping allowed the importation of grain from Russia which inadvertently brought the black rat and brown flea, which were the real sources of disaster. The "Wrath of God", however, was pronounced as the cause, and "never-ending penance" the only salvation.

People had sinned greatly and must make reparation with hairshirt and self-flagellation; fasting while giving thanks to the great ecclesiastical power that would lead them through a period of severe retribution.

The fact that there was no logical basis to the theory was irrelevant; the cause was decreed by the hierarchy and no alternative suggestion of "hygiene" or "cleanliness" was tolerated.

Severe penance only made matters worse and weakened the population to succumb more easily to the disaster. Any source that queried the diagnosis or remedial action was silenced and if that failed declared "heretic" and condemned to the dungeons or even the stake. So the disaster continued and countless lives were destroyed.

History has repeated itself many times when the "establishment" has got it entirely wrong but the present misjudgment of the great "world economic crisis" could put all previous miss-calculations, including the "Black Death", in the shade.

The great ecclesiastical power of the moment decrees we have sinned greatly by indulging lustily in debt and that only severe retribution and penance will bring forgiveness and relief. The message is really indistinguishable from that of the Black Death and is every bit as destructive and futile.

The "disaster" we now experience is not the "Wrath of God", though the sin of debt has greatly blackened our souls. The reason we sinned, however, was an effort to thwart and cope with the inadvertent result of progress.

The greatest "success" the world has ever seen and which is quite outside the experience or theology of the hierarchy of economic wisdom, has provided us with the constant ability to produce plenty and eliminated the need for much work.

When this phenomenon began to manifest itself, the decree from on high urged us to borrow what we could no longer earn as a means of entering paradise, but when it failed, those same high priests began to preach a very different sermon. The ships of progress have brought to our shores the unprecedented blessings seen. Success, the ability to produce enough for all with a much reduced need for work, has become a reality. Dogma dictates that the congregation must not be allowed to share in the most productive time in history, the only road to salvation must be through penance and work; the first being futile, the second unavailable. The only relieving facility offered by the "old religion" -- forgiveness after contrite confession -- is denied. "Debt" cannot be forgiven and must be paid in full otherwise we can never enter heaven.

Any contrary view is heretical and must not be tolerated.

It only remains for His Eminence Enda, during one of his many sermons on the unrelenting need for self-denial, flagellation and fasting, to bend down, pick a shamrock and explain to the simple people of Ireland the great mystery of the "troika". "There is nowt sae strange as folk."

Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

Irish Independent