The Devil and His Daughter

When the Devil showed up to troll Tanith’s blog, he hadn’t planned to read it.

It was his goal to speak his point, succinctly, and block it in with obstacles to dispute. He said,

“Everybody knows if you sell your soul
You’ll be loaded down with treasure.
Just what kind of wickedness is in your heart
You don’t want a life of pleasure?

“A man’s got to live and a dog’s got to die,
When you’re scrounging in the gutter
It makes Jesus cry
So take care of yourself and
Sell your soul for treasure.”

The Devil knew, when he wrote that down, that even if she left it someone else would take a swing. And he knew that that’s what matters—getting people thinking about whether or not to sell their souls.

He got two birds with one stone, too.

The more people talk about the Devil, after all, the less they talk about Tanith.

And it would have stayed that way, too, if the Devil hadn’t gotten bored one night.

He doesn’t have to read replies.

He’s the Devil.

But one night, you see, he got bored. And he went back to Tanith’s blog to see what people had said.

Now it’s the oldest lie that the Devil does tell that your words can reach him down in his Hell, but he’d forgotten that one of Tanith’s regular readers was his daughter.

And she said, “I’ve gone Red,
I’m a Commie now,
Just call me Comrade Mara
And tell me how
You can sell your soul
Without controlling the means of production?”

The Devil got mad, and a little bit sad, and he regretted not insisting on homeschooling his daughter. Nevertheless he made a game effort to reply.

“lol …” he said. “I’d just requisition it from the Party.”

Now, you might think that other readers would hesitate to jump in on a conversation between the Devil and a communist, but only if you’ve never read a blog.

There was Margot with the telling point: “Yeah, and wait in line for seventy years only to find out that all the souls were shipped to a different afterlife.”

And Steve and Ginger, who hashed out in a twenty-post thread that the communists, being atheist, had probably never formally regulated the soul.

And after a while, Mara herself, who inaccurately characterized his argument as “ad hominem.”

So the Devil tried again, a bit more formally now. He said:

“You can say what you will, but it’s a human right,
Unarbitrated by the law
To give up what you’ve got when it’s Devil-sought
In exchange for wealth and pleasure.

“Innate to the body, innate to the soul,
It’s always been that way
And I’m not a troll.
Don’t tell me you don’t know
That it’s right to hunt for treasure.”

And the argument went on long into the night. People mostly took the Devil’s side, for a couple of reasons. First, they thought it was kind of daring and counterculture to do so. They’d never sell their soul themselves, but they liked to think that other people should. Second, Mara was a communist demoness, and nobody in America takes communist demonesses seriously. We like our demons to be larger versions of ourselves, here in America. We want our ultimate capitalist democratic Christian devil, more ruthless than our tycoons, more corrupt than our politicians, living his life every day by scripture and by damn having the demons vote on rigged machines to back it up, in America. So a communist demoness is a little bit like a Prohibition demoness or a Nixon apologist demoness.

Not a bit respectable.

We’ll still fight someone like that. But we’re Americans. We can’t very well respect a devil backing a stupid idea.

So, anyway.

Tanith didn’t post much when this happened.

Some of that was a frisson of supernatural awe. It’s not every blogger who gets comments from the Devil. Most bloggers only get comments from the Devil’s payroll, or from those automatic spammers that from time to time he shits.

But most of it was just—

That kind of “what do I say?” sense that can trouble a person, on those nights.

And because she hadn’t said anything, the Devil kept on reading her blog, intermittently, over the next few months.

Sometimes he’d post, and a bunch of the regulars would jump on him. Or sometimes Mara would post, and he’d make sure to bring up her many inadequacies as a person and a demoness.

And one day, Tanith wrote this.

“The word we have for someone who buys the intangible—the traitless, the ill-defined, the ephemeral sensation of satisfaction carried by the inconsistent belief that we have obtained a thing that we cannot define—is ‘fool.’

“I find myself wondering if the Devil hasn’t trapped himself in a pyramid scheme set forth by his Creator.

“I find myself wondering if it’s anything more than a confidence game, this business of buying souls. If it isn’t all backed by the dubious goodwill of the various divine and temporal institutions that have chosen, for the nonce, to pretend that that concept has value—

“A value that is fundamentally unsustainable, a spiritual tulip market, relying on the metricization of our own unquestioned assumptions.

“So I’d like to ask the Devil
If he’s sure it’s on the level
And just what he thinks he’s buying
If the Devil don’t mind.”

Some people say that that actually reached him. Others think he just got distracted by the pressures of being buried in ice at the bottom level of Hell and decided to stick to more generally pro-Devil blogs.

But he didn’t argue, and in the end that killed him.

The Devil can’t live if he doesn’t keep posting.

If you get to make your point—

Even just once!—

He withers away.

So there’s a new Devil now, just like there always is, just the same as the one before him. He’s red and he’s mean. He’s been as cold as ice from the day that his mother bore him.

But there’s one thing changed.

He doesn’t buy souls.

Not this one.

Not any more.

You’re supposed to give this Devil your soul. He doesn’t buy: he asks. You’re supposed to give it to him; and a lot of people do.

Freely, freely, and with brightness; so they say.

10 thoughts on “The Devil and His Daughter

  1. We like our demons to be larger versions of ourselves, here in America. We want our ultimate capitalist democratic Christian devil, more ruthless than our tycoons, more corrupt than our politicians, living his life every day by scripture and by damn having the demons vote on rigged machines to back it up, in America.

    new sig!

  2. I’m unable to grasp the Devil’s fiendish Satanic rhyme scheme. But when he says he’s not a troll, don’t you believe his Debbil lies! Poor internet manners is rapidly rising up to the top of the list of highly corrupting venal sins.

    Reminds me of the Screwtape Letters, where said devil talks about the pleasure he gets from taking people’s souls and giving them lots of nothing in return. I like this one.

  3. Huh. Rhyming demons. Milton or Moore (ala Etrigan?)

    I must say the description of soul trading amused me, though many quantities are considered to have value strictly because of the worth placed in them by social institutions, quite aside from irrational speculation like a tulip bubble– for example, the dollar, or any other floating currency (this is not to suggest that currencies that are pegged to quantities at a fixed rate by their issuers are innately more stable– witness the WoW-Gold Piece). What distinguishes a tulip market is the upward pressure on price driven primarily by speculators who believe there will be continued upward pressure on price.

    Also: Nixon apologists are, apparently, ‘in’ right now.

    Also: clever as your lines about wanting a devil in our own image are, I think that’s likewise inaccurate, sociologically. We have an innate tendency to demonize The Other. Sure, we don’t respect the communists anymore, now that they’ve stopped threatening us– but that’s what IslamoFascists are for!

    Also: Um, I’ll shut up now, ’cause this was pretty cool.

  4. Hmm…hard to call the Devil a troll. He was quite polite, well-spelled and only one use of internet memery (‘lol’). Ahh, but if the Devil can quote scripture, perhaps too he can Read the Manual and use proper ‘netiquitte’.

  5. Also: clever as your lines about wanting a devil in our own image are, I think that’s likewise inaccurate, sociologically. We have an innate tendency to demonize The Other. Sure, we don’t respect the communists anymore, now that they’ve stopped threatening us– but that’s what IslamoFascists are for!

    Sure, people demonize the Other.

    But that’s not what they base their actual demons on. There’s a tendency to see them as a combination of malevolence and coolness, which means that they have to be based on a twisted version of the traits we value, rather than the traits valued by the Other Guy. The idea of the banality of evil makes for good theology but bad myth.

    You make the Devil into the mafia don or the corrupt politician. Somebody that’d be played by Christopher Walken, or Brando or something. You don’t make a Devil out of Don Knotts.

    Because, see, when your actual demons are evil and malevolent but somehow rather cool, you get rub-off coolness yourself. When you oppose somebody, there’s a sort of coolness osmosis, to the extent that you look better if they’re impressive and worse if they’re pathetic.

    -Eric

  6. Also: clever as your lines about wanting a devil in our own image are, I think that’s likewise inaccurate, sociologically. We have an innate tendency to demonize The Other. Sure, we don’t respect the communists anymore, now that they’ve stopped threatening us– but that’s what IslamoFascists are for!

    Alot of what rebecca says isn’t literally true, it’s what I call Turth. It’s a simplified form of truth, that we inherently recognize the flaws because of the context and connotations. An honest lie, or as picasso would say, art.

  7. You make the Devil into the mafia don or the corrupt politician. Somebody that’d be played by Christopher Walken, or Brando or something. You don’t make a Devil out of Don Knotts.

    It’s true that we do not envision our devils as either banal or ridiculous. It is further true that there is a class of portrayals of slick devils-in-our-own-image (Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate as the most immediate example). By contrast, we also have snarling bestial demons, alien demons, nazi demons and miscellaneous devils and devil-surrogates.

    Moreover, the ones we portray as possessing demonic attributes are the ones outside our identity group: gays, Muslims, commies, witches, the pariah du jour. They’re coming, they hate everything that we stand for, if unstopped they will corrupt/convert our young and vulnerable and destroy our way of life! The actual demons we construct to serve the devil’s function in society tend to be inverted images of our social self-image, not caricatures of it.

    Is the argument that the portrayals of the Devil (as a specific entity) represent something distinct from the incarnate supreme evils portrayed by a society, as was his original defining function?

  8. I think it might be useful, in this discussion to make a distinction between demons and devils.

    Demons are traditionally id-manifestations. Sex hunger, violence hunger, respect hunger, possession hunger. Demons are beasts with power.

    Devils on the other hand are typically seducers. They wear humanity as a mask and control us not through our appetites, but through our vanities.

    Devils have to reflect us, or they would have no hold over us. Demons on the other hand reflect common debaucheries. Perhaps we fear the demons who give in to the desires we most avidly resist, so in a sense they seem like the Other.

    A contemporary American example of how these can work together: Liberals, according to the Limbaughian idealogues are weak, they don’t want to fight wars, they don’t have principles, they want to have gay marriage and sex and abort all the heterosexual babies, they spit on religion hate the troops, and they believe in giving your hard earned money to dusky strangers and letting in the barbarian hordes via immigration.

    Logic suggests that any such group would be pushovers, both because they lack the will to fight for the principles, they hold, theoretically unpopular views, their base has no children, or are non-citizens.

    But if they’re not a threat, there’s no point in hating them. So they’re led by devils. Cunning manipulators of public opinion. People who say one thing, mean another, and mislead the voters every time. People who pretend to care about racism, but really just want the black and Latino vote. The devils have no principles, but they’re excellent at faking it, at clouding peoples’ minds, at seizing power by cheating.

    Liberals -> demons
    Democratic politicians -> devils

    They need the devils to justify the fear for their own side. They need the demons to sow contempt and reactionary hatred into the political dialogue to prevent people from talking and/or agreeing.

    I’m sure a similar argument could be constructed about Native People in the 19th century (Savages with treacherous, deadly leaders), Stalinists in the McCarthy era, and even conservatives (dupes?) and the Bush administration (devils) in the current era.

    You need a devil, so you can justify acting like one.

  9. I dunno. I think that still might be an overly-christian way of looking at things.

    For instance, Saddam liked to call America “the Great Satan”. But isn’t that the Other? Or are you saying that this term was kind of a back-handed compliment?

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