The public burning

The public burning

Michael Jackson has a touch of Talisker's Syndrome

Musings with Michael Jackson | 16 May 2002 | Issue 22 | By Michael Jackson

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God must have noticed that I have spent a lot of time drawing attention to the good works of monks in producing alcoholic beverages, even to the extent of crediting them with having inspired the siting of such distilleries as Miltonduff and Strathisla.He and I have never been well acquainted, but He spoke directly to me the day I occupied the pulpit. I don’t suppose He is easily impressed, but this pulpit was very dramatic, in elaborately-carved hardwoods, loftily positioned above the congregation. I was there only once, but I had a fine time with my 15 minutes of deity-by-proxy. God was in Old Testament mode. He was in the mood to raise Hell, though he settled for doing so metaphorically, not figuratively. Remember the iron-clad Scottish God who fired sparks from his fingers in The Ruling Class? You didn’t see it? A classic movie, starring that fine drinker Peter O’Toole. God did not sound Scottish when he spoke to me. He said he was English, but he had an Irish accent. He spoke swiftly and provocatively.As I listened, it was my synapses that sparked and smoked, forming a red mist. I felt like a man who had just had his first shot of volcanic lava, and was about to spit it noisily back into the crater. I became a hellfire preacher. My lips moved involuntarily, spewing a lava-stream of invective. Tourette’s Syndrome? Talisker’s, more like. I thundered ‘a modest proposal’: that one in a hundred marketing folk be slaughtered in a seasonal cull. My frame of reference switched to avant-garde American novelist Robert Coover. I suggested an annual public burning. I felt such an admittedly drastic celebration might inhibit marketing men from seizing every good thing they could find and branding it, dumbing down, relaunching, repositioning and thus nudging it on the first step toward destruction. I reproached marketing men for their sins, citing chapter and verse, and noticed several members of the congregation had turned into pillars of salt.God had not realised when he arrived that the church had been deconsecrated. That is how I came to be there. God did not have an invitation, and attempts were made to persuade Him to leave, but He is not respectful of authority. Despite my propensity for drinking with monks, Jesuits and assorted men of the cloth I had entered the church as an atheist, not expecting to hear His voice. I had been invited to speak on marketing in the drinks industry. The church was being used as a lecture hall, the audience were marketing people. “You spoke in the church, in the city of Enschede, in the Netherlands. You told us we should be culled.” I was reminded of this on a recent visit to the Netherands. I make dozens of speeches every year, but people remember only the word of God.Those members of the congregation who did not turn into pillars of salt seemed not to resent my comments, but to be seriously considering them. The hellfire heat apparently made an impression – unfortunately not sufficiently profound to change the culture of marketing.I am constantly invited to new whisky launches. At each, the downloading of marketing-speak upon the
audience is yet more excessive. The audience’s brains have crashed by the time the distiller himself is permitted a word. By then, there is too little time for him to tell us about the new whisky. The people who plan these tedious rituals obviously missed the sermon at Enschede.If any of the Enschede congregation are here today, our text is: “Whisky is the water of life. Whisky comes first. Whisky is what we are here to celebrate. Whisky is the story.” If you fail to understand this, you face the public burning, the wages of sin. Delivering the gospel is fulfilling, but on a regular basis? That is the difference between cooking for a dinner party and being chef-patron of a restaurant. I need time to contemplate. Or to muse; that is the term we secular scribes prefer. Musing is not as easy as it looks. The trick, of course, is to make it look effortless. A dram helps. I recommend a Miltonduff or a Strathisla – just in case I have not been properly deconsecrated.
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