Friday, 27 November 2009

Manx myths - buy one, get one free

Barry over at the Freethinker blog has a hilarious story today (see
A Dr Gordon Strachan, who lectures on the history of architecture at Edinburgh University, is reviving the old ‘Jesus came to Britain’ legends. In fact he’s not only recently written a book about it (which explains the publicity), but the book’s inspired a recently released film entitled And Did Those Feet? (which explains the other publicity). Oh, and when Dr Strachan isn’t lecturing he’s ministering for the Church of Scotland (which explains a lot of things).
I dread to think what’s going to happen if Manx Heritage or the Tourist Department get inspired by this twaddle.
You see, in the late 1980’s there was brief talk of jumping on the ‘research’ of another barmy academic with an even loopier theory. In that case the academic was American, and the ‘theory’ centred on the idea that the Isle of Man was the Avalon of Arthurian myth, and that King Arthur might be buried here.
Thankfully I’ve long forgotten the small detail, but what I do know is that the Tourist Board (as it then was) bought it lock, stock and barrel and even ran an exercise on how the legend could be flogged, with the help of the academic, to the more gullible of her countrymen.
Two things put a stop to that nonsense. One was agitated pleading to politicians behind closed doors by an honourable local historian to the effect that, rather than bring tourists rushing here, it would send a signal to the world that the Manx were either totally dishonest or certifiably mad. The other was the Lockerbie bombing, following which Americans and their money stayed home for a while.
The thing that worries me is that honourable Manx academics may now be extinct and neither honour nor common sense have been seen in the Tourist Department within living memory. In fact, judging from the spread of Freedom to Fester fever, telling fairy tales while going about with our eyes closed and singing ‘La La La’ to drown out the last voices of dissent is the new traditional (and government underwritten) Manx way of life.
We should not be surprised at this. As the Anglo-Indian academics Bhikhu Parekh and Homi K. Bhabha pointed out at the time of the Satanic Verses saga, the liberal mistake is to take fundamentalists at their word and believe fundamentalism is steeped in tradition, when in fact it is a current and pragmatic reaction to the modern world by folk no longer fit to run it. To be blunt, bullshit merchants who know there is a sucker born every minute, and that all such BS merchants need do for a regular income is embroider some myth, however ludicrous, the suckers would like to believe.

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