The Real Thing


There once was a priest of a large congregation you’d been led to believed in, but you went away after learning there was more to life. You thought a bit, learned some more, and came back, seeing him, his congregation and his gospel in an entirely different light. The priest had a background no-one could really question, but which you weren’t entirely comfortable with. At one time, he’d developed his faith with the Nazis and, though he swore that this had nothing to do with his political outlook, activity or what he preached now – admonishing you for even bringing it up to make you look bad for mentioning it and him look good despite doing it (raising the question of whether this was the greatest confidence trickster of all time) – you retained your doubts, querying if this could be more significant than the priest wanted you to think in light of seeing how he related to people, how the congregation worked interpersonally, how the gospel and its ways were spread and who were the main beneficiaries of it all. However, you had to tread carefully: the priest had a bizarre attraction to personal power, even at the expense of his congregation, to the point that they were dependent on his every word, while outsiders had merely to submit to them with the excessive respect and abandonment naturally deserving of someone of such high prestige as the priest.

You’d also discovered a worrying attachment the priest had to worldly goods, with him doing many things to bring in the bucks. He sold Coca-Cola laced with toxins as medicine to people who wanted to believe so much that they’d often sit around singing it was ‘The Real Thing’, thinking the tonic had cured them and they’d rejoice, telling others about this magical concoction and their new found freedom from anything other than The Real Thing. Then, when the funds from them wasn’t enough, he’d start selling it to more people, convincing them that they needed it, too. And didn’t they come in numbers, having got word of the wonders of this priest, who would advise them on how, when and why to drink Coke. And they believed, partly because they saw what happened to those who didn’t drink it. And it made sense and they believed. And when they didn’t believe, the toxins the Coke was laced with would space them out so much that they’d then either believed the priest when he said anything, not least that it was working, or they had to put up with having it forced down their necks, because they were too far gone, there was no-one to stop it and no way to get out of the congregation. If they couldn’t be restored by the wonders of laced Coke, then it was best to just give it them, keep them out of view (they weren’t good for sales) and hope for the best.

But, although there was no-one to really query the ways of the priest, there were Others. Others who called the congregation nasty names and made them feel bad and mad. Ignorant fucking bastards – no education or class, the dirty fucking scum – MOM, DAD, LOVE, HATE – why are they so nasty, Dad? The priest was in a bit of a fix, here, as his own work had led to this as his entire gospel was built on ideas of bad, mad and everyone else. But he managed to convince the believers that the Others didn’t know what they were on about. There was nothing wrong in drinking toxically-laced Coke. It was all good. He hatched a plan to get the congregation to set up communities to spread the gospel that all bad names were bad (unless they were the priest’s bad names – the Church has its needs, after all). No-one really thought to wonder exactly why the names were bad in the first place, but they believed, and so went about doing whatever they could to tell even more people that they needed to be nice, learn happy, nice names and believe, because bad names are bad, we must all believe and we must like the congregation, because their future depends on it, without even realising that, like that Coke, they were the same old names merely dressed up in the priest’s gowns, and the fact that they’d still make the congregation look the same as the old bad names would just feed through to the Others, anyway. The priest clearly had to do something, so he just got more and more people drinking Coke and saying the same things again and again, but making it that they wouldn’t think about anything they were really saying – they’d just be spaced out on the Coke and the gospel, capable of only listening to his words and his words alone, whoever said them.  And it worked. Well, for the believers, because they were believers. So, they came to believe that if everyone was nice and if they supped their Coke, the world would be a nice place for believers to live in – The Real Thing – because everyone else, including the Others, would believe, too, whether or not they all drank the Coke, which they probably would in the end anyway. Let’s face it, if it ever came to that, would they have a choice? Well, if the history of the priest’s church is anything to go by, if the world doesn’t want The Real Thing today, you can bet there’s someone, somewhere, working hard to make damn sure it wants it tomorrow.

Having reformed from being a believer to seeing all this in a new light, you realised that there was no such thing as the curative properties of toxically-laced Coca-Cola and that the believers had lost it, not seeing the priest, his names and his Coke for what they really were. But something had happened where it was nearly impossible to save the congregation. The priest had managed to spread his gospel – or, more accurately, have his gospel spread – by newly-appointed priests, along with the congregation, to such an extent and with such a bizarre form of logic running so deep that any contradiction of the gospel brought with it accusations of heresy and the perception of the heretics as possessing the very maladies which afflicted the congregation and even its priest. So, evidence could be neutralised and you were just believing against a better belief, with the deciding factor being who could obtain the most influence and power to persuade the most people. Coke all round! Everyone’s invited! Homogeneity embraced, worldwide…so long as you sing from our hymn sheet. Welcome to Planet Asylum, the studied concentration camp of conservatively-nice, American-Dream-happy homogeneous understanding, aided and abetted by the philosophy and consumption of toxically-laced Coke! No safeguards or escape necessary.

There was little you could do, as too few knew what was going on and fewer were speaking out in a climate where everyone already believed in the gospel and naturally disbelieved the heretics. You watched as even the left-wingers in politics, usually astute in seeing the political dimension of things even depoliticized, developed a blind spot to end all blind spots where the gospel was concerned. To them, also, toxically-laced Coke and the gospel became the way and the light and the truth, while the Others had to be baptised in the new religion or we’d never be saved. The Others – who were only really taking their lead from the priest – had to stop treading on the congregation, according to the left and other believers in the gospel – while failing to recognise that the priest really wanted this pleasure all to himself, something that, once more, would get the Others following suit. But who needs friends when you’re your own best enemy: the congregation, duped as they’d become to chase the rainbow of more bad names and laced Coke, couldn’t even see that it was also doing a good enough job of doing the treading to themselves. Top up, anyone? The left’s instincts against imperialism? Nowhere to be seen, because they’d lost the ability to see it that way, as the priest pushed his gospel around the world to places where the original thinking and (more effective) solutions were overridden, the booty conveniently ending up in the lap of the gods, as the congregation expanded yet further, even ending up in trying to silence political dissidents. Deviants! Heretics! Meanwhile, the seats of learning, with their congregations in place in the universities, would sacrifice everything the PR says they cherish to the feet of the priest, but making sure to take backhanders for spreading the gospel, making it more likely that those outside, who would usually say something based on the evidence available, were not only clueless but less likely to even discover they were clueless in the first place, the morass of bad learning had become so deep.

In the face of all this, you could additionally see how the Coke often made people ill in ways they frequently couldn’t see, dragging everyone down as the ever-increasing moves to sell Coke could drive nearly everyone nuts with increasingly more people losing the ability and the sense to resolve what had previously been even minor issues. You witnessed the priest’s ways in all fields of life extending yet further, like it does across the globe, only more inwards, too, creating the need for ever more Coke and working against anything that would get in the way of people supping it or the way of life that sustained its perceived value. In the end, then, you just thought ‘fuck this, I wanna get off.’ So you did. You, at least, knew, and so you let the congregation be on their way, clutching The Real Thing as close to their hearts as they could, with you glad that you’d been there, mainly because it meant that you never wanted to go there again. What about the priest? Despite everything, it could just be down to a matter of time before he’s got the whole world in his hands.

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