17th July 1998
Thank God for Diana’s help
Scene: A cloud, with a big polished oak table. A lot of men with long white beards sit on furled cherubs, and at their head is the biggest, whitest beard of the lot. God has called a board meeting. And he’s looking for radical action.
God: So 30,000,000 Britons watch a football match on TV. Meanwhile, and for the first time this century, we’ve got less than 300,000 Jews in Britain. Isaiah, you got the flow charts, the percentages?
Isaiah: Yes, chief, that’s a one per cent conversion rate.
God: One per cent! You show me a businessman who thinks one per cent is a good return, I’ll show you a bankrupt. Moses – gimme solutions.
Moses: Chief, it’s a product problem. The product is outdated, time’s change, fads go fut, no one wants what we’re selling any more.
God: Can we update? Repackage? Judaism ’98!
Moses: We’ve got a rabbi, a real livewire called Shmuley, working on that…
Moses: They kicked him out of synagogue.
God: It’s a start.
Daniel: What we need is original products. Brand new.
God: Trust you to walk straight into the lion’s den. Any specifics?
Daniel: How about an icon? Someone dead, it saves embarassment – but with a living message.
God: We tried that with Elvis. People laughed.
Daniel: He was fat, it would never have worked. I was thinking – Diana. A new religion, Diana as the icon. And just one commandment, people nowadays can’t be bothered to read through ten. They start channel-hopping before they get to Number Seven.
God: Ain’t that the truth. OK, so what is this big commandment, this Numero Uno product message?
Daniel: Thou shalt love!
(So the board passed a resolution and Diana became the official figurehead of a worldwide religion. It enjoyed global launch advertising on an unprecedented scale – more people had watched the Diana funeral than even the Renault Clio ad featuring Nicole’s wedding.
Market penetration was phenomenal – Diana had been the most photographed woman in the world. And product take-up was virtually 100 per cent. Everyone bought the message. So the following week’s heavenly board-meeting was upbeat.)
God: She’s great. She’s dynamite. I haven’t had prayer volume like this since the Flood. And you know, those prayers back then were very monotonous – oh Lord, teacheth me to swim! This time it’s quality. People wanting to be better parents, people wanting to forgive and love and lose the hypocrisy. I tell you, the girl’s a sensation. And I’ll tell you why it is – she’s a woman. People don’t feel threatened by a female. We should have used a woman messiah millennia ago.
Job: The rabbis would never have permitted it.
God: Well, they better get permitting now or it’s your Job on the line. (He chuckles warmly and deeply, a noise like stars colliding that rumbles through the galaxies.) So Isaiah, you going to do the Numbers-crunching?
Isaiah: As you can see from this three-D graphical representation…
God: What’s wrong with flip-charts? Nobody do flip-charts any more?
Isaiah: You can’t log on to the internet with a flip-chart, chief. And the net’s where we’re drawing our data. Take a look at this Diana tribute index. We got 564 places where you can point your computer to pay your respects to her memory and reflect on her great love.
Isaiah: Would I lie to you? This is how the faithful show their devotion. You don’t have to go to synagogue with our new product, but you still have to put in the time. Maintaining a web-site is work intensive. It demonstrates real commitment.
God: How are the older products faring?
Isaiah: OK, so we log onto a search engine and run a check on Judaism sites – there’s 156 listed. Or we search on Jesus Christ, and we get back 531 sites. But remember – that 564 figure for Diana, that’s just the tribute pages. It doesn’t include news reports, official royal pages, conspiracy theories, bad-taste spoofs or pictures from the crash.
God: I’ve had the Archbishop of York complaining to me this is a cult, it’s distracting focus from my magnificence. How do we answer him?
Daniel: Tell him if he can’t stand the heat, he ought to get out of the furnace.
God: So what kind of stuff have we got on those web-sites?
Isaiah: I adore this one, take a look – you’ve got Diana’s name in twinkling stars, while one of those Seventies-style home organs plays Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven. Is that kitsch? And listen, I can download Diana’s Funeral videotape labels, Diana computer wallpaper, a list of Diana’s favourite 50 things.
God: Am I in the 50?
Isaiah: Frankly, chief, no. But Jeffrey Archer is.
God: It’s almost the same thing. I like this one with the dolphins. Looks like a 13-year-old girl has designed this one. Where’s she from – Fort Worth, Texas. Hey, I think I’ve heard some of her prayers sometimes. Nice site. This girl has got the point: dolphins are symbols of my deep, natural love, and so is Diana.
Moses: My one concern, chief, is quality. Like the Bible – you and me went to a lot of trouble, getting the language right, building in the secret code. And the temples and the cathedrals, they didn’t just appear overnight. They took centuries. Now I call that appropriate devotion.
God: Agreed, most of these web-sites look like third form art projects. But I figure, that’s the way Diana was. A bit gauche, gaudy sometimes, not the smartest cookie – but all that honest emotion, all that affection. You couldn’t miss it. And that’s what I see in these internet pages. Quality shmality, this is real love.
Isaiah: At least this is one religion that isn’t going to start any wars.
God: That reminds me – you got the latest on India-Pakistan?
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