Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nice Red Uniforms

The Language of No
I'm standing in the square
And I'm thinking, there must be a way
I can game this.
Even a child knows what they want to hear.
Even a child knows that old trick, too:
If you just tell the truth
You won't be punished.
If yes,
Then penance. If no, penance,
And where is your brother.
Advance to the second round.
No child can point and say
Look, he has no clothes--
This time, they have stripped us.
This time, the square is smaller
And the sky is the top of a box,
Coming down. If yes, death.
If no, death, and where
Is your sister. The sky
Is a stone slab.

The Albigensian Crusade saw the development of the systematized, capital-I Inquisition, with sets of rules that could be applied broadly and were designed to ensure any action on the part of the accused or not accused would be a losing move, and the Inquisitor would always win. The invaders first came in and asked for simple public confessions of heresy; if you confessed, you would receive a minor punishment, but the punishment for a second offense was death, and refusal to confess as well as refusal to implicate others was an offense. Pwnd!

And it was all, of course, quite unexpected!

Will leave you with a found poem of sorts, from the translator Jan Shirley, also apparently the only translator into English of the Song of the Cathar Wars, a poem with a whole backstory in its own right. Maybe tomorrow. This is from "The Inquisitors Guide," written by a professional inquisitor, Bernard Gui, who plied his trade about 100 years after the crusade.

"There are some among them,
As fraudulent as they are cunning,
Who in order to mask
The truth and conceal themselves
And their accomplices
So that their error and falsity
Are not discovered, give ambiguous
Or obscure answers, reply
In a general and confused way,
So that no clear truth can be gathered
From what they say. For this reason
The inquisitor must use energy and skill.
People like this can and must be forced,
Compelled, to respond
Clearly and to say
Exactly what their answers mean."

Image: Wiki Commons, Expulsion of the Albigensians from Carcassone in 1209. Image taken from Grandes Chroniques de France.

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