Woodlice: a zero tolerance approach

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The Independent Online

Today we return to the latest meeting of the United Deities, which is open to gods of all ages and places. The Roman God of War, Mars, has just put forward a startling theory, ie that just as there are terrorists on Earth, there might be rogue elements among the gods who are capable of anarchic, terrorist acts.

1. The chairgod said he was not quite sure what Mars was driving at. How was it possible for a god to behave in an ungodlike manner?

2. Mars said that if he had ever been a member of the Roman or Greek pantheon, he would not have asked that. The ungodly misbehaviour of the Roman gods was both legendary and mythical. Not only that, but the gods took an active part in human warfare, taking sides for one army against another, like glorified football supporters.

3. So he did not want anyone talking to him about so-called "godlike" behaviour, said Mars; "godlike" to him meant all-too noble and all-too fallible.

4. The chairgod said this did not necessarily mean that there was a terrorist cell of gods who might or might not be committing outrages such as the recent tsunami.

5. Mars said, he should not be too sure.

6. The chairgod said he would like to see some evidence first.

7. Mars said he would be the first to hear, if there was.

8. Oh for heaven's sake, said the Catholic God. The gods were behaving like some local parish council meeting, squabbling, niggling, quarrelling and sulking. Gods were not meant to niggle. Gods were meant to look down at humanity from a great height and issue lordly judgements.

9. Lordly judgements? said the Anglican God. That rang very strange for someone who had observed British lords in action. It had been a recent habit of the British government, when in trouble, to set up an inquiry, instal some tame lord in charge of it and duly get a verdict of no blame attaching to anyone for anything. Lordly judgement? No, thank you.

10. The chairgod thanked him for that and said he would like to move on to the next item on the agenda, which was the request of Satan to be allowed to attend these meetings as an observer.

11. Odin, head of the Norse deputation, said he was completely against it. It was bad enough having a mischievous god around, like Loki, who was responsible for the death of his favourite son, Baldur. It would be far worse to admit evil.

12. Ahura Mazda said he agreed with this.

13. The chairgod said that as Ahura Mazda spoke so rarely, perhaps he could remind the other gods who he was.

14. Willingly, said Ahura Mazda. He said that he was the supreme embodiment of good in Zoroastrianism, or the Parsee faith. Many other gods were also the supreme embodiment of good, he knew that, but he felt even more so because he was perpetually engaged in battle with the source of supreme evil, Anghra Mainyu.

15. He would never allow Anghra Mainyu to attend even as an observer. The same zero intolerance should be shown to Satan.

16. Loki, Norse god of mischief, said he was interested in this eternal non-stop battle against evil. Would Ahura Mazda explain how it was waged? Was it being waged at this very moment? Loki could not help notice that Ahura Mazda looked very relaxed right now. Was he also waging non-stop war against evil as he sat back in his celestial sofa? A very cushy job, if he was.

17. Ahura Mazda said he was not used to being talked to like that and said he would crush Loki like a woodlouse.

18. The chairgod said it was against house rules to crush a fellow member like a woodlouse, and furthermore that it was always best to ignore Loki, who was the embodiment of mischief and therefore as destined to stir up trouble as he, Ahura Mazda, was destined to be good.

19. A vote was taken, and it was decided to turn down Satan's request by a margin of four million to one, Loki being the only one to vote against.

More divine deliberations soon, I hope.