Swastikas and Acts of God

It looks a bit alarming at first glance, a Len Deighton, or Jack Higgins scenario, where the bad guys have won the war. No need for alarm. Those were not armoured personnel carriers trundling through College Green, or a Panzer division cunningly disguised as a fleet of laundry vans, taking part in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The uniformed detachments marching with military precision were American high school marching bands,  shivering on O Connell Bridge as the rasping east wind came up the river. It looks like traditional Patrick’s Day weather. The Archbishop and members of the government attended Mass at the Pro-Cathedral. The train of the Archbishop’s cope was carried by a glum looking cleric, an uplifting sight to the glum onlookers

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The young ladies and gentlemen of the marching bands were not really dressed for the Irish weather, yet they remained cheerful and enthusiastic throughout.  Much of the display was a glum procession of industrial and trade vehicles, with a few balloons attached. Not too much frivolity. The pubs were shut. The only place to get a drink was at the dog show in the Royal Dublin Society, also, like the Swastika Laundry, based in Ballsbridge. …I wonder..The weather undoubtedly improved when the Powers-That-Be decided to inaugurate a Saint Patrick’s Festival. Colour and extravagant displays were permitted. The 1930’s and 1940’s glumness was no longer mandatory.

I came across an old laundry list, stuck between the pages of a book. It itemised prices, terms and conditions. There was a disclaimer at the bottom..the laundry shall not be responsible for any loss or damage occasioned by War, Revolution, Civil Strife or Act of God. Blimey! I had never realised what a perilous business it was, entrusting garments to a laundry. The Luftwaffe had a good go at Dublin once. No doubt they had The White Swan, The Court and Mirror and The Bell laundries and others marked on their maps. But not the Swastika….very strange. Anyway, the laundries’ dirty linen has been well and truly washed in public. It might be wise to review the terms and conditions under which you purchased your washing machine. In many neighbourhoods it is not permitted to hang out your washing, especially not on the Siegfried Line. You may take your pick from the recurring wars and revolutions throughout the world. It’s what we humans do, despite the unending suffering and cruelty.The armaments industries influence policy and determine the fate of nations. We as a species, have the capacity to blow the whole bloody world up. Mr Putin, standing for election– another cliffhanger—states that he would destroy the world if Russia were attacked. “What use would the world be without Russia?”

 

   

 

But what about Acts of God? If cleanliness be next to godliness, why would laundries feel at risk, more than say greengrocers or tailors. Have you ever heard a hairdresser excuse his or her incompetence as an act of God, even on a windy day? A dinner may turn out to be a ‘disaster’, but hardly God’s fault. The Puritans, a god-fearing people, on the other hand, denounced starch. I recall as a child, being puzzled by the Volunteer uniforms in our National Museum. The inscription on the belt buckles read ‘Gott Mit Uns.’ It seems that the Kaiser, out of the goodness of his heart, had supplied uniforms and belts to the Irish Volunteers. (Clean underwear is a wise precaution to minimise the risk of wound infection when going into battle. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Belt and braces. Remember what your mother always said about clean underpants.’Suppose you were knocked down and had to go to hospital.’) Not a chance when God is mit uns. At other times God gets a bit impatient with us. He sends his chosen messengers to vent his wrath on his children..Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Tamburlane the Great, plagues, locusts, hideous diseases and natural disasters. That puts manners on us. ‘No atheists in foxholes’ etc. It’s all part of a plan. We grow up in the fear and love of God. Explain that to me. No, don’t. The people I fear most are those who speak with total certitude about God’s plan. Actually they shout and rant most of the time. Saint Francis of Assisi went to Egypt to convert the Muslims. Fair play to him. They recorded that he shouted and ranted so much that they concluded that he was a madman. Under their law at that time, madmen were not held responsible for their behaviour and should not be put to death. Moreover they complained that he was smelly and unhygienic. With high explosives nowadays there is no need to discriminate between innocent and guilty; young or old; male or female; black or white; believer or infidel, sane or insane. The shouting, ranting evangelists on television look very prosperous and well dressed. They shout with absolute certainty. They maintain that we are all made in the image of God. Is it not more likely that we have made God in our image?

I hope He turns out to be a bit better than that.

(Rant over.)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. It looks a bit nippy out there.

 

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