The Burning of Judas and the Problem of Evil
2013-04-03 0:00

By Janet C. Phelan | ActivistPost

Last night, the people of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas gathered in the town square to witness the traditional burning of Judas. The burning of Judas in effigy is a local custom taking place at the end of Holy Week (“Semana Santa”). The square behind the Palacio Municipal was packed with thousands of locals, who climbed onto stairways and shimmied up columns in order to get a better look at the symbolic end of evil.

Earlier in the day, ten large plastic sculptures by local artists, depicting perpetrators of social and political injustice, were placed on display in the square. The theme for this year’s depiction of our current Judases was “Mistreatment of babies.” Not to be harnessed by literal constraints, the artwork depicted a wide range of perpetrators of harm and injustice, including Uncle Sam, a bankster holding aloft a large bag of money and a reptilian sort of dragon which seemed intent on global domination.

At the stroke of ten, the burnings commenced. One by one, each piece of art was pyrotechnically exploded into flames, while pinwheels of fireworks arched up into the sky above the square. The crowd itself exploded into applause, while depictions of oppression and corporate greed transmogrified into ten pyres of burning annihilation.

One of the art works was apparently seeded too heavily with explosives and at the time of detonation, huge sparks rained down on the crowd. A stampede ensued, as the crowd rushed for the cover of the Palacio Municipal. There were no reports of injuries sustained.

Symbolically, the destruction of evil and the triumph of good laces all our myths, our religious texts and our modern day political constructs, not to mention the celluloid outspewings of Hollywood. The thirst for justice and the conquest of evil seems basic to the human story. In the United States, this thirst for justice has assumed again a nearly mythic stature, as our populace is waking up to history: Our history, the truth behind the dream of America, the truth of imperial greed and slaughter, the killing of the indigenous, the enslavement of people of color, of wars based on lies and contempt for human life and the mockery of justice which is now taking place every day in our halls of justice.

But behind this thirst for justice lies a deeply disturbing question. How does one conquer evil without oneself using the tools and methods of evil? Does a guillotine chopping off the head of a king or prince actually end the reign of corruption or does it simply confirm and perpetuate violence as a means of asserting self- will? And ---this question cuts to the core--does the one manning the guillotine soon use this power to become the very oppressor he sought to defeat?


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