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'White men are foolish because they claim to think with their heads and only fools think like that. We think with our hearts'.

Ochwian Banco, Pueblo people chief (Quoted by Carl Gustav Jung).

When Gandhi came to London in the 1930's, he was asked by a journalist what he thought of Western civilisation. He replied that he thought it, 'a very good idea'.

According to a recent survey the family that young people in this country know most about is the Simpsons, the fictitious family of the American cartoon series. Satirical in its take on contemporary American life, this series also reflects and echoes much in contemporary life on Great Britain.

The characters in the Simpsons appear to be divided into two sorts: the stupid and the brainy.

The first type, the stupid character, is characterised by Homer Simpson himself. Fundamentally of very limited intelligence, he is lazy, obese and selfish. His main interests appear to be working as little as possible; lying on a sofa, watching futile television programmes; eating, especially very fattening foods like doughnuts, cream and chocolate; drinking beer; saving money, often in somewhat illegal and unethical ways. He pursues these activities either at work, at home, or else in his favourite bar where he drinks himself stupid with his companions who resemble him. However, he has one great redeeming trait - a soft-heartedness which can on occasion prompt his heart to acts of generosity and kindness.

The second type, the brainy character or nerd, is perhaps incarnated best of all by Professor Frink, a mad scientist who is responsible for all sorts of futile inventions which usually destroy themselves and others. He is unmarried, extremely thin, wears very thick glasses and clearly has no time to think of his bodily needs: in this respect he is the opposite of Homer. His interest is purely intellectual; he is in fact a walking brain and has no human interest whatsoever. He has immense knowledge, but does not know how to use it for good, but only for futility or for the purposes of the corrupt.

From a religious viewpoint, one might search out a source of spiritual redemption in this town of Springfield. Surely this town is not inhabited only by the stupid (and often corrupt, such as Mr Burns, the Mayor and the Police-Chief) and the nerd (and always futile such as the Comic Book Guy or Miss Crabapple)? Our attention is therefore drawn to Revd Lovejoy, the local Protestant minister of the church attended by the Simpson family and their neighbours.

As Revd Lovejoy, in fact a killjoy, drones on in interminable sermons, we come to understand that his religion is in fact 'Bibliolatry', the worship of the Bible. To any problem, he replies: 'Read the Bible'. The problem here is that although you can read the Bible, what purpose does it serve, if you cannot understand it, if you do not know how to apply the wisdom contained in it? The Bible-worshippers have knowledge, but not wisdom, and are therefore unable to apply the knowledge that is in their hands. Here we see the source of the problems of the nerds. Like the Bible-worshippers, they too have knowledge, but they do not possess wisdom, the lost knowledge, which would give them the key to understanding what they are reading and therefore applying it in daily life.

The Simpsons provides a portrait of a town, Springfield. This in turn provides a portrait of a whole civilisation, the Springfield civilisation, which suffers from the Simpsons' Syndrome. This civilisation has knowledge, open only to the brainy, but they do not know how to use that knowledge for good. This is a civilisation which has technology, but not the wisdom to use it.

This is a civilisation which can land astronauts on the moon, but which cannot bring peace. This is a civilisation which can grow obese, but which cannot feed the billions of starving on its back doostep. This is a civilisation that can spend $50 billion dollars invading, occupying and destroying another country in a war of mass destruction and mass distraction, but which does not know how to spend $25 billion providing a billion people with clean drinking water, giving sight to the blind and curing leprosy. This is a civilisation which can send images around the world in a split second, but which cannot get or stay married or stop aborting its infants. This is a civilisation that has the Word of God, but does not know how to live it and is therefore unable to set any example to those who do not have the Word of God.

This is an anti-spiritual, anti-Incarnational civilisation. This is modern Anglo-Saxon civilisation, in fact the futile 'anti-civilisation' of the whole modern English-speaking world. This is the Simpsons' Syndrome in Springfields of the heartless mind. We can only hope that it still possesses a redeeming trait somewhere in its heart; if it does not, it will not be redeemed at all.

Fr Andrew Phillips

6/19 November 2003
New Martyrs of Sarov

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