23rd January


After three weeks of bloody chaos the Bishop arrived. Horrified, he called an immediate halt to the civilisation programme and summoned the generals for urgent talks.

‘There will be no further civilising until we have established the true nature of these creatures,’ the Bishop declared. ‘I’m shocked that you have permitted your troops to act in such an irregular and unjustified manner.’

The assembled gentlemen looked abashed. One or two hung their heads.

‘From what I have learned,’ the Bishop continued, ‘these creatures are quite unlike us. They enjoy eating spiders and ants, the noises that come from their mouths are utterly unintelligible, they fornicate without restraint or censure – indeed, a promiscuous female is held in high esteem among them – and they wander about without a stitch of clothing on. However, strange though all this is, it does not necessarily mean that they are not human and that we should not treat them as such. So before we proceed, I want you to suggest arguments, in relation to each of these habits, in favour of their being human.’

‘Well, the French like eating frogs,’ one general remarked. ‘The Muslims refuse to eat pigs. Yet we agree that, for all their faults, the French and Muslims are human.’

‘Have you ever heard a Scotsman speak?’ asked another. ‘Or a Hungarian? Despite their barbarous tongues, we allow that they are human.’

‘To have sex with anyone except one’s wife is of course a grievous sin,’ a third general said. ‘As for loose women, they are an outrage to God and good society. Nevertheless, though we detest such immorality, who here can say that he is above reproach? And do we not accept that even the worst trollop in the basest brothel is human and not beyond redemption?’

‘You have all spoken wisely,’ the Bishop said. ‘But what about this business of going around in the nude?’

Despite deep concentration, nobody could think of a single example of humans voluntarily and without shame or care wandering about displaying their nakedness for all to see.

‘Very well,’ the Bishop said. ‘Let the slaughter continue.’

And it did – with increased ferocity, for now it had the blessing of the Church.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harp: Esther Swift
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