God didn’t die in 1883, when Nietzsche first sat down to write Also sprach Zarathustra. God died on Wednesday and, defying the Old Testament tradition, his name can now be revealed: Diego Maradona.
That is, of course, if one accepts the theology laid down in the Gospel According to Manny, summarised in his eulogy for the late midfielder. My first thought on reading that speech was that I must have a serious talk with Manny’s maman Brigitte.
She has manifestly failed in her lifelong mission to educate the lad in some essential disciplines of thought and conduct. One of them is logic.
We don’t know if Diego will rise on the third day, for the simple reason that three days haven’t yet elapsed from his demise. But even if he does, the normal sequence of events suggests that his resurrection will follow his death, not the other way around.
Not so according to Manny. Speaking about Argentina’s victory over England in the World Cup, he said that “This resurrection took place…” Yet following the techniques outlined by Aristotle, a man has to die first and only then resurrect.
Yet Manny concluded his eulogy by saying: “There was a King Pelé, there is now a God Diego.” This confirms two things: first, Maradona wasn’t yet God in 1986; second, since he was neither God nor dead nor Lazarus at the time, he didn’t resurrect.
Brigitte ought to give the little one six of the best for this confusion alone. But it wasn’t the only one.
Manny tacitly acknowledged that Maradona hadn’t yet ascended to divinity at the time – he only had God on his side: “On June 22, 1986, in Mexico City, he scored his first goal with God as a teammate.” Here Manny rephrases Diego himself, who at the time described his first goal as “the Hand of God” (mano de Dios). But then cocaine can make even a God speak rashly.
That first goal, defined by Manny in the same idiom as a “miracle”, was indeed deliberately scored with Maradona’s (not God’s) hand. Rather than being miraculous, that was blatant cheating. Yet one can infer from Manny’s panegyric that Diego’s teammate, God, not only acquiesced in that sleight of hand but actually abetted it.
Now I understand – and in fact often observe first-hand – that France’s laïcité has seeped into the nation’s bloodstream in the 115 years since it was first mandated. Still, for old times’ sake, let’s activate that same logic that Brigitte was so remiss in teaching son petit.
Either there is a God or there isn’t. If there is no God, then invoking him is meaningless. That’s why, for example, I have jolly good fun at atheists’ expense when they say that God is evil because he allows… well, whatever. In response I crack what I think is a devastatingly sardonic smile: “How can he be evil if he doesn’t exist?”
Now, if he does exist (and I hasten to reassure the pedants among you that I use this verb colloquially, without any theologically rigorous reference to the Thomistic concepts of existence and being), he can’t by definition be a cheat. There isn’t a religion in the world in which God tells his adherents to swindle infidels, although in one, which will go nameless, Allah does order killing them.
Another thing Brigitte has failed to teach her lifelong pupil is conduct appropriate for civilised persons, especially those in high office. As part of that code, hatred ought not to be voiced too forcefully even if deeply felt.
As proof of her lapse, Manny described that 1986 quater-final as “the most geopolitical match in football history”, coming as it did four years after Britain repelled Argentina’s aggression against the Falklands.
It has been obvious for some time that Manny loathes Britain with a passion that regrettably still survives at the French grassroots. It is, however, rare among cultured people – unless of course they zealously worship at the EU altar.
Manny is one such: he inwardly genuflects every time that circle of stars is unfurled. If Maradona is Manny’s God, then the EU is at least a demiurge. Hence he feels about post-Brexit Britain the way his 13th century ancestors felt about the Cathars, whom they treated as a deadly threat to the survival of a Catholic France.
Since, apart from Diego, the EU is Manny’s God, he no doubt would like to do to the British what the papal legate told the Crusaders about the Albigensians invested at Béziers. When the soldiers asked him how to tell the Cathars from the Christians there, he said: “Kill them all! God will claim his own.”
That’s fair enough. But Brigitte ought to have trained little Manny to be more moderate and follow Talleyrand’s idea that speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts. Frothing at the mouth when talking about a Nato ally is bad style, bad manners and bad politics.
On second thoughts, it’s doubtful that France treated Britain as an ally even before the Maastricht Treaty. In the Falklands War, for example, she was busily selling Exorcet missiles to the Argentines, who then used them to sink Her Majesty’s ships. Hardly a friendly gesture, is it?
While Brigitte tries, doubtless in vain, to improve son petit’s rhetoric, she should also give him a quick lesson in history. To begin with, treating football as an extension of geopolitics is frankly idiotic, which idiocy is typically practised by only the less savoury regimes.
But some do just that, and that Hand of God match wasn’t the most geopolitical one in history. That dishonour belongs to El Salvador that in 1969 attacked Honduras over a dispute about a World Cup qualifier. Over 3,000 people were killed in that war, which shows that Latin Americans do take their footie seriously.
And, alas, not only they. To see the leader of a residually civilised nation talk about a dead ball-kicker in those terms was most distressing. By doing so, Manny added his voice to the global chorus of hosannas for a chap who off the field was an alcoholic, cokehead brawler, who admired villains like Castro and Chavez, and went on frequent pilgrimages to their fiefdoms.
Maradona was a fine player, but he certainly didn’t rate the ecclesiastical-sounding eulogies he has received. He wasn’t, after all, a great composer, thinker, poet, doctor or inventor. He merely kicked an inflated leather balloon very well.
But then it’s pointless expecting a sense of proportion from modern barbarians. Including those residing at the Palais de l’Elysée.