Will Self: PsychoGeography - Santa's ghetto

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The Independent Online

Here, for you, three days before Christmas, is the Teddy Jesus. See how He sits in the birdcage of martyrdom, His glued-on grin frozen in a figure-of-eight rictus, His stumpy paws thrust painfully against the bars. (The correct term for this phenomenon is "stumpmata".) Observe His black halo, the sign of transcendent pathos: is there any object more worthy of our devotion than this? The Teddy Jesus was sewn on Christmas Day 2002 in a Guangxi sweatshop then filled with foam by the careworn hands of a pieceworker who gets no holidays, ever. He was next crammed into a container with thousands of his fellow bears, and freighted halfway around the world so that He could be drooled on in the West.

The Teddy Jesus therefore represents the only true global religion we have: globalisation itself, where this is understood as the Trinity of, Market, the Father, Transportation, the Son, and the Holy Ghost of Chance, which together mean, while you may unwrap the Ursine Deity and gaze adoringly upon him, the majority of humanity is only getting stuffed.

The Teddy Jesus is for life not just for Christmas; and to underline this fact, Ralph and I have decided that each member of the class should get to take Him home for a weekend. But woe betide the little boy or girl who thinks to change the Teddy Jesus's name that is not acceptable, that is blasphemy. However, you may get Him out of His birdcage, play with Him, cuddle Him, dress Him up in baby clothes and bring Him with you when you visit fast food restaurants, fetish clubs, or National Trust properties.

Once every member of the class has had the Teddy Jesus to stay, a prize will be given to the child who has proved most inventive in His worship. Evidence, in the form of digital images stills and full-motion audio recordings, and supporting documentation can be submitted to The Editor, Independent Magazine; but please bear in mind that Ralph and I will reserve the right to involve the police, specialist protection agencies, and social services where appropriate.

It is worthwhile recalling at this point the origins of the stuffed animal faith, for Teddy Jesus did not come unto us without cause: He is not a stuffed gnu, or jerboa that would be an abomination. The Teddy Jesus first appeared to the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, as a visitation of his profound mercy. The President, a keen hunter, had failed to bag a bear, so his hosts tethered one for him. But Teddy Roosevelt refused, uttering the immortal words "Spare the bear". The Teddy Jesus is thus an incarnation of this primordial bear that, through the agency of human love, becomes animate. This doctrine known as transfoamrubberation has been the cause of a major split in the Church of Cuddles, but I don't want to get into that now.

What I do want to get into is Teddy Jesus, and his enormous and lasting appeal to the peoples of this world. Carried hither and thither by missionaries, traders and imperialists, Teddy Jesus has been embraced by everyone, from the crustiest Hindu sadhu, to the Borneo Big Man with a bone through his nose none can resist the appeal of His cosy fur, nor His winsome neoteny.

To date, only those pesky Mohammedans have held out against the loveable bear, and in particular the savage Sudanese, whose muppets sorry, I meant "Muftis" promulgate such sweeping fatwahs against soft toys of all kinds that the British Ambassador was recently expelled from Khartoum for petting a gonk called Nigel. Not that the subjugation of the Sudan for the One-Glued-On-Eyes Faith was ever anything but problematic. Is there one of you, children, who is not familiar with the dreadful fate of General Gordon, who was cut down by crazed mobs of Fuzzy-Felt on the veranda of his residence? Or the peculiar repercussions of this event that resulted in a British gunboat laden with Beanie Babies being dragged overland to Lake Victoria?

Of course, some "authorities", such as Albus Dumbledore, the gay Archbishop of Canterbury, will doubtless cavil at all this, refusing to admit that Teddy Jesus has anything at all to do with revealed religion. For them, the whole phenomenon of the teddy bear is just another example of the way civilisation has as a by-product of its conquest caricatured and infantilised the wild. After all, what could be less cuddlesome that a brown bear? So, first we extirpate their habitat then we hug them to extinction. Seen this way, the Sudanese refusal to tuck up Teddy Jesus has a certain ghastly nobility; but I say, fie on such multicultural apologists, Christmas is not the right time for politically correct point-scoring, it's a time for family, a time for children, and a time for flu-ridden rubber turkeys to cough their giblets out.


'PsychoGeography' by Will Self and Ralph Steadman is published by Bloomsbury, £17.99