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Friday, October 26

The Devil doesn't wear Prada

"Pundita, dear, tell me Ping! was your Halloween essay, else I will be scared out of my wits that it contained foreign policy advice.

What gives me shivers is that once before you invoked Bill and Ted in a conversation about evil. I don't recall you ever actually explained the mystery of the strange assassination attempt you stopped.[*] Your answer to a frightened reader [in Footsteps in the Dark] only deepened the mystery.

Is there perhaps a hidden meaning in "pebbles" and your telling us not to fear death in the name of -- what? Forming a pattern so a demon slayer might finally notice our plight with Iran?
Boris in Jackson Heights"

Dear Boris:
The last movie I saw in the theater was "The Devil Wears Prada." I found the film remarkable in that it revealed a world that seemed untouched by the war. On the other end of the spectrum there are people such as John Loftus, who fought a lonely battle for decades in the attempt to warn about the threat from Islamic terrorists and Arab Nazism. Even today, many Americans are unaware that our government looked the other way as MI5 and the CIA set about transforming Arab Nazis into terrorists -- the very terrorists who plague us today. And many don't want to hear Loftus talk about about events long past. Then they wonder why God hasn't intervened to smite an army of terrorists.

The situation is complex; there were reasons why secret services in two countries supported Arab Nazis. Remember the threat from the Soviet Union. When things are complex you pretty much have to wait for the systems guys to act -- unless you prefer God smiting everyone in sight. This doesn't mean we should stand around while waiting, for the more we can help to point up a pattern, the quicker the system underpinning the pattern reveals itself to one and all.

But things are indeed pretty bad when the activist equivalent of throwing a pebble at a bulldozer brings down the wrath of the secret police and gets one before a firing squad or much worse. Why, in Burma just scrawling the word 'freedom' on a wall can be a death sentence for the graffiti artist and his family. In Afghanistan a girl can be murdered by her father for attempting to get an education.

Yet such things have always been going on; it's just that they are harder to accept today, when so many people live in freedom and relative security. Such people can make a lot of demands on government to 'do something' and many ask, "Where is God?"

From there it's a hop and skip to brooding about evil. From there it's short drop to feeling very small, helpless and fearful -- or deciding to make war on evil.

So sometimes Pundita applies the hair of the dog, so to speak, by way of warning some impatient readers. If you want to battle evil, you need to enter the realm of evil. There you will stumble across men and women very much like John Constantine. But chances are overwhelming you will end up like Constantine's eager young apprentice -- the one who figured a way to blast a few demons to smithereens. This only attracted the attention of a more powerful demon, who killed the boy with one blow. As he lay dying he said, "It's not like in the books, is it?"

"No, it's not like in the books," replied Constantine.

Better to get crushed while hurling pebbles at the wheels of the juggernaut than to embark on the path of a demon slayer. Better to die with the faith that sooner or later the systems guys will right whatever's out of whack in the realms of good and evil. Better that, than the knowledge that evil will take revenge across countless lifetimes if you win even one battle against it. Few among us are constituted for such a way of existence.

So while waiting for God, the government, and the systems guys to do something you can make yourself useful in ways that don't lead you into the forest -- where Pundita will be waiting to scare you back to the main road.

* I'd say "warned about" is closer than "stopped."
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