Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Not since 1695

Scapegoat, n. In the Mosaic ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi), that one of two goats that was chosen by lot to be sent alive into the wilderness, the sins of the people having been symbolically laid upon it, while the other was appointed to be sacrificed.

As I read it, the first was the luckier of the two: the desert was full of scorpions and dangerous beasts, and it wouldn't have been much fun to wander there alone, weighed down by the sins of the whole tribe, but, looking on the bright side, you would enjoy freedom for a little while and there was always the chance of finding a nice clump of ripe alfalfa to fill your four stomachs (goats are ruminants) or even a lonely scapenanny to spend a little time with, while your unfortunate colleague had already had his throat cut and his blood sprinkled on the mercy seat by Aaron to make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sin ... "and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness". That sort of caper must have been even less fun than the odd scorpion bite.

So being sent alive into the wilderness is not such a terrible fate and perhaps no more than you deserve if you have done your best to prevent the sins of the people from coming to light. Anyway, the constant repetition of this word over the last few days by people pretending to be familiar with Lev, xvi is becoming wearisome. And another thing: it has been said that many were against the old boy because he was, or had been, a rough-speaking Glaswegian sheet-metal worker. The reverse is true: there were always many more who supported him just because of that; he had few other qualities appropriate to the job.

Oh, by the way, for the benefit of people who live in Mooney Ponds or Wichita KS, I should explain that the last paragraph is not really about the iniquities of the people of Israel but more about the enforced resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons in London, which takes effect from June 21st.

However salutary his departure may be, it has been sad to watch his recent decline; in addition to his customary muddled petulance, he had acquired the curious habit of calling out "Order! Order!" when absolutely no-one was being disorderly.


Elizabeth said...

Yes, a pitiful event; cartoonist Matt shows one MP saying to another "when I saw what I had been up to, I knew the Speaker had to go".

Chris said...

That's "Moonee Ponds" to you, thank you very much.

Tony said...

No, I meant Mooney Ponds in Renfrewshire.