Saturday, June 5, 2010


Whenever my donkey Moshé sees me approaching, he leaves his companion Mandrin and dashes over towards me. I think his eagerness has something to do with the ingrained hope that I might be bearing oats or apples. Be that as it may, it's clear that my donkeys are not exactly starving.

The reason I've mentioned my friend Moshé is because of the name I gave him, which (as I've often explained in my blog) is the Hebrew version of Moses. It's a good name. I've always felt that my dear Provençal donkey—with a dark cross on his back—would be perfectly capable of wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years in an attempt to lead God's chosen children into a land where milk and honey were flowing. That's the sort of straightforward challenge that my donkey would adore. The only problem with this name is that my neighbor Madeleine got it wrong, right from the start. She called my donkey Mosquée, which is the French word for a Muslim mosque. My lovable beast was transformed overnight into an ecumenical symbol of the three great monotheistic belief systems… which, for an atheist such as me, was truly an unexpected gift from God.

Pat Condell is a 60-year-old English intellectual and stand-up comedian. Richard Dawkins said of him: "Pat Condell is unique. Nobody can match his extraordinary blend of suavity and savagery. With his articulate intelligence he runs rings around the religious wingnuts that are the targets of his merciless humour. Thank goodness he is on our side." I found this excellent video on the website of the RDFRS [Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science]:

It's weird, indeed alarming, that certain religions are in fact power systems whose purpose consists of seeking to dominate humanity. It's good that we realize this, in order to remain constantly vigilant.

POST SCRIPTUM: I'm dismayed to find my intellectual hero Dawkins using the American slang term "wingnuts" to designate folk who are already the object of nice epithets such as "loonies", "fuckwits", etc. I belong to the generation of former cyclists who used real-life wingnuts to secure their wheels. So, for me, these devices evoke tender joyful memories. As a substitute for the derogatory use of "wingnut", I quite like "arsehole" (with British spelling), but Moshé (alias Mosquée) and I reject unequivocally, for obvious reasons, the US spelling "asshole". For similar reasons, I once sent an email complaint to a fellow who dared to designate Bill Clinton disparagingly as a "donkey dick". Insults are fine, and I approve of them wholeheartedly, but they need to be conceived with a blend of rigor and finesse.

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