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A depressed Sunday/1995

Written by Mass Dosage

The Devil's Henchmen

Typical suburban neighbourhood, AnyBigCity, Earth: happy houses owned by industrious parents who spend their hard-earned money in the local grocery and bottle stores, cafés and restaurants. Their loved and loving children attend the local school which is on the way (more or less) to mommy or daddy's office so they can be dropped off with the minimum amount of bother in the mornings. A few of them even attend services at the local church on Sundays. There are many churches scattered throughout the suburban community - enough to give an unsuspecting onlooker (maybe a foreign businessman with his hand in another country's till) a false feeling that the devil has no foothold here. After all, where are "his" open places of worship where members of the community meet to praise and exalt "him"?

But God is not the only one who works in mysterious ways - the devil has his own brand of underhand mysteriousness. He does it insidiously, his operations are almost always covert. For every church there is at the very least one of his equivalent temples: be it a crack house in Harlem, an opium den in Hong Kong, a brothel in Hillbrow or a gun dealership in Houston. His dark jewels are hidden everywhere - a flashy casino almost camouflaged by gaudy lights promising wealth and happiness; a XXX-movie theatre perched expectantly on a busy plastic street corner. His followers abound: from drug dealers living lavishly next door to entertainers and cut-throat corporate bankers; to pimps living above the poverty line in areas where gun shots ring out an urgent cacophony every night - screaming violently for someone, anyone to listen and to do something, anything to help. Their disguises are often non-existent and they are on the whole easy for the average person on the street to avoid, or contact. But the dark lords of satan can also be experts in concealment and ensconsement.

A rabbit and an old man appear to patrol the world and to spread greed and materialism. They take turns, each one rising out of the dank deceit of its respective hiding place once a year, as predictably as Christmas and Easter. They wear their disguises well - a bright red suit, beard and a jolly laugh mask the old man's wicked intentions, while the rabbit's "cute little bunny routine" serves its purpose, year after year.

We know both of them well and are taught to believe in them as soon as we are old enough to say the words "Santa Clause" and "Easter Bunny", and thus they are indelibly imprinted on our subconscious, no matter how many times we are subsequently told that they do not exist. They are the counterattack in the incomprehensible struggle between good and evil where the victor takes the world and all that is in it. Go(o)d moved and sent his/her Son into the world to spread peace and goodwill. Holidays (once Holy Days) were established in remembrance of His great deeds, and so that others would be encouraged to live in the same manner. The Devil sat back and pondered for a time over this move, mumbling something suitably execrable to himself. Then he introduced Santa and the Bunny - it seemed to be an innocent move and rather a weak reply at first. But gradually They began to take over the meaning of Christmas and Easter, turning them into grand, commercial money-making events for the whole world to greedily celebrate. Few could hold onto the vision of Christ in a manger in the face of an oh-so appealing Santa bearing even more appealing gifts and other assorted goodies. Who would want to mourn a death, no matter how great the deceased, when a sickeningly cute bunny wabbit took time to deliver chocolate eggs to your front garden?

As the game marches unceasingly onwards towards Armageddon and the inevitable checkmate of some form, the moves become increasingly desperate and ruthless, and the line between which move belongs to whom becomes ever more difficult for our clouded minds to distinguish.

Could AIDS and the living dead it produces be God's reply to increasing drug abuse and amoral sexual practices? A harsh attack it is, but maybe the time for opening moves and preliminary gambits is over. Maybe the stage in the game has been reached where early strategies have given birth to pitiless offensives. Those who practise promiscuity and shoot poisons into their bloodstreams no longer run rampant, instead they die, slowly, so they can talk about their suffering, feel remorse (perhaps) and warn others, having set an example that should not be emulated. Or is AIDS just more of the devil's shock tactics - an attempt to spread despair and gloom and to breed hopelessness, whilst wiping droves of people off the face of the earth and straight into the ranks of his army in hell. Perhaps this game is taking place on many levels and in many dimensions concurrently, in worlds and ways beyond human comprehension. A loss on one plane could lead to a victory on another, or maybe a snowball of losses, rippling destructively in all directions and dimensions at once.

Once again we know nothing and can do nothing but live our short lives out as the universe accelerates towards its shutdown and judgement day when the bets will be paid out as the final victory of all victories will be declared - one way or the other. Sitting back and just letting things happen seems an inviting path to take, but surely that defeats the object of us being here in the first place. Every positive thing we do is tallied up somewhere; every smile, every tolerance, every forgiveness, every time we turn down the chance to do wrong, every time we reject the temptation to give in to evil. If we try to see through the disguises which veil wrongdoing by constantly being aware that things are often not as they seem, we earn a modest triumph. If we replace hatred with love, destroy war with peace and remove the prefix from unhappiness, it must register on that scoreboard somewhere on the outer reaches of infinity. And when the lights get put out, every extra point could count in determining whatever outcome awaits us.

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