So many things lately have got me thinking about Dante’s Inferno again. The greed and corruption by football officials, the sanctioning of tax avoidance by large corporations, the increasing inequality in our society. We are meant to accept that there is no alternative to unbridled capitalism. Even if it means that elected officials obey the will of large corporations and their lobbyists, instead of the people they are supposed to represent. And this is without even thinking of the terror and destruction wrought by religious fanatics. Is this really the best of all possible worlds? There is something wrong with this picture. What’s missing is any sense of morality.
All of which brings me back to thinking about the Divine Comedy of Dante. In Dante’s time, like our own, there were corrupt politicians and greedy bankers too. But he had a solution for this – to send them into the bowels of hell, and to make them suffer with punishments which seemed appropriate. Maybe this is why the poem still seems so relevant today.
The market knows best of course. But the market has no conscience, no sense of right and wrong. But maybe the market really is the solution. It is possible that in particular the supermarket can purify us, and lead us on our journey to salvation. As we enter, we are faced with the abundance of the natural world. Fruits and vegetables abound, and our respect for nature is enhanced. Following on from this we encounter the animal sacrifice, represented by the chilled shelves full of the flesh of beasts of the field and sea. These packaged containers of meat and fish remind us of our duty to make offerings to heaven.
The aisles of the supermarket are like a pilgrimage, and we must travel slowly to appreciate all we have to be thankful for. The glorious display of biscuits is a testament to the plentiful bounty of our lives here on earth. Their cheerful packaging makes promises of a land of milk and honey. Further on we encounter the wine sacrament. We are offered a chance to drink to the health of all men, and once again to thank the gods for the bounty the earth bestows on us.
As we wander the aisles, our journey is leading us to an inevitable last judgment, where a scanner reads our bar codes and makes certain that we have chosen the true path. Nothing can hide from the all-seeing eye of the barcode scanner, and our judgment is final. It only remains for us to carry our worldly possessions to our chariots and make our exodus to our family.
And, if we have opened ourselves to the wisdom of the market, we can appreciate how blessed we are. On the way home, perhaps we will spare a though for those less fortunate than us, those who do not have such a wonderful supermarket to go to.
So no need then to grumble, we truly are in the best of all possible worlds. Rejoice!