Wednesday, June 13, 2007

He Used to Have a Good Head on his Shoulders

The Book Judith isn't in the Bible. It's one of 
the apocrypha -- those almost biblical books of dubious authenticity or uncertain authorship. It's a sort of re-make of David and Goliath, that story in which somebody humble, but talented and fearless brings down somebody huge.

Nebudchadnezzar was the king of Assyria, a war machine masquerading as a country. He sent out this bigass army to conquer the world, and he said he would "couer the whole face of the earth with the feete of mine armie, and I will giue them for a spoil vnto them." By that he meant he would give the wealth of the conquered territories -- their gold, jewels, and sweet, light Arabian crude, to the men in his big army with a percentage for his financial backers.

"I shal gette all their oyle," he added somewhat lamely.

He also said that the people he conquered, from Patagonia all the way up to the North Pole, had to toss out their gods and worship him instead, or in lieu of that, adopt sincere beliefs in freedom, democracy, and the free market system, by which he meant markets controlled by him.

And he called his head general, Holofernes, the guy with the hard name to pronounce, and says, "For as I liue, and by the power of my kingdome, whatsoeuer I have spoken, that I will doe by my hand." 

So off goes Holofernes leading Nebuchadnezzar's humungous, ferocious, and very high-tech army, and lays seige to the town of Bethulia, which is on a hilltop and kind of the gateway to Judea. And rather than charge up that big hill, Holofernes wisely just cuts off the water supply, and the elders of Bethulia knew they were in deep kim-chee, and talked about giving up in five days.

Then comes Judith, a widow of the town and local major babe, and says "Cool it, fools, and grow some spines, hearts, and brains. If you had any faith you'd know that the supreme being -- what'shisname -- is gonna give us what we need to do what we gotta do."

So Judith, who's been walking around in a muu-muu and ashes on her head for four years takes a long bath, and rubs down with lavender and olive oil, lays on the henna, gets out her earrings -- the big brassy-looking hoops, and about a hundred bracelets, and puts on her homewrecker dress. Then when she's all fragrant and a banquet for the eyes, she takes her maid and goes down the hill to where the Assyrians are and says, "Which one of you guys is Holofernes?"

Up comes Holofernes, rising to the bait, as it were. "How ya doin', big boy?" says the irresistable babe, "I think I've got something you need -- uh, some information I mean."

Judith wasn't just hot looking, but was also smart as Henry Kissinger and just as devious too. She could spin a line of bullshit yards wide and miles long. And after a few hours with her, in the inimitable words of King James's translators and editors, "Olofernes tooke great delight in her, & dranke much more wine, then he had drunke at any time in one day, since he was borne."

Then, when Holofernes had passed out, Judith took his sword and cut his head off. She had her maid put it in their meat sack, and they departed inconspicuously in the wee, wee hours.

When she got home to her hilltop and showed the head to the boys in the city, they all grabbed their blunt instruments and went running down the hill and began to lay into the demoralized and leaderless other-people's-countries invaders. And they sent out messengers to all the other cities in Judea, so that when their guys joined in the fun, the Jews kicked those tough Assyrians all the way "past Damascus."

What's the lesson this fable is teaching us? I have no idea, other than make sure the sword is sharp for easier cutting. But I do know this: we tend to think of ourselves as the guys who have defeated various Assyrians over the years, since we're the good guys and the Assyrians are the bad guys. But the fact is, we've never defeated the Assyrians. We became the Assyrians.

Here's another: in the long run, the Assyrians always lose.

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