It’s been an interesting day in Argentina. Today was a public holiday for the national census, happening for the first time in twenty years, so we all got to stay in our houses until we’d been interviewed by a school child with a clipboard (I imagine she was probably a university student but she looked about twelve; maybe I’m getting old). In our case this happened around mid-day which fortunately only just coincided with Joni becoming bored with building brio train tracks on the patio. The census started with a whole bunch of questions on the house; what is my floor made of, and the walls, and the roof? Not being a master builder, I suggested she wrote down whatever most peoples’ houses are made of around here, which she seemed to think was a good idea. The main surprise to me was that the whole thing was semi-anonymous; I didn’t even have to give my ID number, just my first name, but then the questions following regarding the legal or otherwise nature of my work and tax status kind of meant that that would be necessary; although given that they do know where I live, I still can’t see too many folk sticking their necks out for the sake of honesty or national statistics.
As in the UK, Argentina’s national census would normally happen every ten years, but ten years ago Argentina’s economy was in the free-fall which culminated in riots, looting, the currency run, devaluation, five presidents in five weeks, and eventually, in 2003 the election of Nestor Kirchner as president. So it was interesting that his death today coincided with the census, an event which could be regarded as a symbol of the relative stability and prosperity that he is credited with restoring to Argentina during his time of office. I say relative because there is still no shortage of marches, riots, strikes, inflation running at over twenty per cent, not to mention the trade-unionist who was murdered this week. Notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the country has come a long way since the dark days under Carlos Menem at the turn of the Millennium. The Kirchners (Nestor and wife Cristina, currently president) had planned an ambitious sixteen years of Kirchner rule in order to avoid Argentina’s rules on re-election; four him, four her, four him, and four her (a possible variation on the marriage service “four richer, four poorer, four better, four worse”) but with Cristina still in her first term of office, clearly the plan has gone coffin-shaped before it hit the half-way mark. As to what happens after the funeral, there are those who say that Cristina has been little more than Nestor’s puppet as president, so there may be interesting times here over the next few months.
Inside my own house (whatever that might be made of), I’ve been reading this book, which someone gave me. I haven’t actually started reading chapter one yet, and I’m already in trouble. The first several pages are the forward and the reviews, which are all given by folk who have themselves written books with titles like “Strategy for Triumph”, and “Fire begets fire” and so I’m already prejudiced against whatever the guy thinks he’s going to tell me. In fact, if he showed up at my church on Sunday, and preached that we should beware the leaven of the evangelicals, then it would absolutely confirm my belief that he is an arrogant pipsqueak (if reading chapter one doesn’t already do that). Which is of course exactly what the Pharisees concluded when Jesus said the same thing. Sometimes I can well sympathise with those Pharisees. I don’t honestly believe that Jesus is going to return as a revival-preaching Argentinean pastor; but then the Pharisees didn’t think Jesus was going to rock up looking like he did the first time either so, who knows?
When I’m not putting off reading this book, I’m also busily putting off writing a talk I’m supposed to be giving to a Christian youth-choir this Saturday on the subject of why Halloween is a Bad Thing that Christian young people should have no truck with. And if my problem with the above book is that it winds me up, the problem with writing this talk is that I’m finding it difficult to care at all. I’ve read so much stuff on the internet, and even the most hyperbolic Christian writing hasn’t managed to incite me to interest. The history of the UK is such that most of our “Christian” festivals have evolved by grafting Christian teaching onto Pagan festivals, and I suspect the main reason why we don’t get excited about that is less about the good theology of our “Christian” festivals, and more because the syncretism is working well. So why have kittens about Halloween, and not about, say, Valentine’s day? And exactly what is the link between a kid dressing up in a black binbag, and invoking evil spirits? I think it was an Adrian Plass character who described the occult as Christian pornography; part of the reason why we elevate it to an undeserved position is so that we can get close enough to get titillated. Do I approve of Halloween? Not really, mostly because of the annoyance of having my door bell battered twenty times in a two hour period, and partly because of the actually Bad nature of some of what passes for “tricks”, but I would ascribe that far more whole heartedly to “kids in groups do worse things than they would if they were on their own”, and far less to any sort of supernatural manifestation from Evil itself. So now what’m I gonna write? Luckily I have a police fine to pay tomorrow (driving without my lights on; a legal requirement on main roads here and easy to forget if it’s sunny and you’re English), so that’ll probably take care of the morning, and hopefully divine inspiration, or at least the galvanising factor of an impeding deadline, will have struck by the time I make it to the computer when the kid’s gone to bed tomorrow evening.