I didn’t expect the Camino Inquisition

I left Am@zon about three years ago – on the principle that I pay taxes and so should billionaire Jeff Bezos! – and I give my custom to local bookshops instead. I have recently closed my Tw@tter account and permanently deleted it. The Mastodon platform is a pleasant environment and it is astonishing that it took the fascist take-over of Tw@tter for millions of people to discover that Mastodon existed. To finish my entire association with the Big 3 Tech giants, I have in addition now left F@cebook and deleted my account.

The only thing that had been holding me back from deleting my F@cebook account was the Camino Pilgrim International Discussion Group because the founder of that group – Johnnie Walker who I have known for 15 years or more – was keen to encourage me to keep contributing as I had long experience of the Camino de Santiago and (apparently) write well. So in a sense what happened last weekend was useful for letting me off the hook and freeing me from any further sense of duty to the group. My contribution was attacked in a most disgraceful manner in an incident of the bullying kind that probably everyone has experienced at some time on the Internet.

This is what happened. First, I saw this meme somewhere on the Internet and I thought it quite funny:

Jesus: Can we have a table for 26 please?

Waiter: But there are only 13 of you.

Jesus: Yes, but we just want to sit on one side.

So, I then adapted the meme to amuse my friends on the Camino Pilgrim International Discussion Group and posted it on Saturday evening. Developing and adapting a meme to a particular interest group is quite a common practice on the Internet and is a fun way to interact with other people. Sure enough, within minutes, members of the group had begun to like or add a smiley face, which is what I expected.

I was about to turn off my computer for the evening when someone added the comment, “Not funny.” It was an abrupt and inexplicable remark which might be interpreted as passive-aggressive, but I thought I would defuse it by replying, “I know, the social distancing sets an appalling example.”

Curious to know who was this person Sybille Yates who was displaying a kind of 1970s ‘Mary Whitehouse’ po-faced attitude to humour involving the Christian tradition, I looked her up on Google and found that she was an Anglican ‘lay chaplain’ in Santiago de Compostela and had launched a most surprising attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury – two years ago – because the Reverend Justin Welby had gone on sabbatical leave for a few weeks. Sybille complained, “Jesus never took time off the cross!” and she then publicly ‘resigned’ from the Church of England on her website (I never knew that ‘resignation’ from the Church of England was a thing!) “I hereby resign from my post of lay coordinator for the Church of England Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela as well from being a member of the Church of England.” https://egeria.house/with-great-sadness/ Having established that this was simply a case of the usual kind of eccentric theatricality of English people of a certain age who tend to police the anglophone communications regarding the Camino de Santiago, I turned off my computer for the evening.

Next morning, after breakfast, I opened my computer to continue with a piece of writing for an American Catholic website and the browser was open at the same Facebook page and my post with the Last Supper meme had gained a lot more likes and smiley faces but another contributor to the group had added another comment, just one word: “Offensive!” At this stage I was worried because this looked like a pile-on. I sent a message to my friend Johnnie Walker and said, “Please look at this post of mine and just advise, as I don’t know what is going on here.” He was busy playing the organ at Mass on Advent Sunday morning, but he never got back to me about it. In the meantime, a South African woman Sylvia Nilsen who is a moderator, a self-published author, and businesswoman who uses the Camino de Santiago for her own commercial interests, deleted my post completely. (A friend in Compostela messaged me to say that Nilsen had left a cryptic message on my post and shortly after deleted it.)

Let’s just re-visit the meme. At the Last Supper, Judas is apparently complaining about the price of the menu. Let’s recall that Judas was the holder of the collective purse for the Lord and his disciples. Also, let us remember that the peregrinations of Jesus and his disciples through the Holy Land on mission is the model for Christian pilgrimage. The humour in the meme has a very solid Christian origin. You wouldn’t write such a meme if you were unschooled in Christian tradition. Nor would it be remotely offensive except to those who only want to claim ‘offence’ in order to draw attention to themselves. Resigning from the Church of England publicly is such an attention-seeking example. (To be more Anglican than the Archbishop of Canterbury, to coin a phrase!)

My friend Johnnie Walker never replied to my communications so I presume that the grave offence caused by my disgraceful Last Supper meme is now the talk of Santiago de Compostela and my name is mud. 🙂 Never should I set foot in the city again without being burnt at the stake outside the Cathedral west door.

Luckily, this afforded me the opportunity to shut down my F@cebook account and delete it permanently, along with Tw@tter this week. I only looked at F@cebook in order to contribute to the Camino Pilgrim International Discussion Group and that was because the founder of the group had sent me encouragement to keep contributing. I find the group quite moribund but felt a kind of moral obligation to add a few thoughts from time to time. At last I am free! Goodbye F@cebook! The account is now deleted.

I recognise that many people are stuck with both F@cebook and Tw@tter because they have so many friends and regular contacts on those platforms, but for me the toxic way in which the public marketplace for our communications is controlled – whether by ‘big tech’ oligarchs or little Hitler moderators with no sense of humour, as in the above case of the ‘Camino Taliban’ – means that a community-based federal system of servers like Mastodon finally gives us control over our communications. Blogging and Mastodon-type community servers are the future. Fascistic control over peoples’ dialogues, whether by tech billionaires or the dead hand of anti-intellectual ‘moderators’ acting as thought police, is yesterday’s way of using the Internet.

There are no heretics. That was a Gutenberg-Galaxy print media thing! We didn’t expect the Camino Inquisition. Wake up and smell the coffee.

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