No contest

All at once, wholly and decisively, he shook with laughter. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been thanked so many times in one day just for doing his job and keeping the peace. The ring of protesters broke into smiles. God is great, someone murmured.

Such a useful slogan, he thought: impossible to disagree with in spite of, or perhaps because of, its utter meaninglessness. What was greatness apart from God? What do we know of God aside from the fact that he exceeds our comprehension? But to say “God is great” is to acknowledge our own powerlessness — and in that acknowledgement, to question the permanence and even the validity of all human institutions. Therein lay its power. This nonviolent army was no less militant than the holy warriors of Saladin.

God is great, they began to chant in unison, and at once felt the warm glow of kinship from their shared smallness. It felt good to relinquish authority to a higher power, and what’s more, their political opponents now risked becoming the opponents of God himself. The policeman had seen all this in a flash, looking into their fervent, self-righteous faces; that’s why he’d laughed. But after days of tension, it was a relief to lay the baton aside, take off his helmet, and tie a green ribbon around his wrist. God is great! said one houri-eyed young woman with a green headscarf. God is great, he agreed. Who could possibly quarrel with eyes like those?

This is the eighth post in an ongoing online game of Consequences. Each successive entry begins with the closing lines of its predecessor. Entries are 250 words long, and are linked thematically. The series started with Hydragenic and was followed by Patteran Pages, Porous Borders, The Middlewesterner, Feathers of Hope (Pica), Blaugustine, and Small Change. [Updated to add:] The series continues at the cassandra pages, 3rd House Journal, mole, Ivy is here, Feathers of Hope again (Numenius), and Velveteen Rabbi. The series concludes where it began, on Hydragenic.

13 Comments


  1. Dave, this is seriously seriously good. And so very timely, the quietly revealing detail of green ribbon and headscarf tying the whole thing to current events yet also to wider philosophical questions. Bravo.

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  2. A great piece of writing, dave. That moment when the policeman puts his baton down and puts a green ribbon on his wrist, the world changes.

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  3. Thanks for commenting, y’all. The game was a pretty good writing prompt, I guess.

    Robin, I hope that’s what happens, but at the moment I fear a Tiananmen Square-type scenario seems more likely.

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  4. Yes, the transition seems only to happen one wristband, one mind at a time. Armies work by yielding their mindfulness to the thrust of a million batons.

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  5. And this, too (read after Beth’s clever hijack of the final line). Again, thanks.

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  6. “It felt good to relinquish authority to a higher power…”

    Always a dangerously seductive sensation.

    Great post.

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  7. Or do I mean seductively dangerous? It may be rather too early in the morning to tell.

    Reply

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