Sunday, July 30, 2017

Screwtape Redux

[God] wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

 -C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letter VIII

My Dear Wormwood,

Of course we are pleased, but I do not want to hear any more of your ‘not believing our luck.’ Luck is not in play here, and we still have work to do.

You have done shrewdly well with the Patient and his like in this presidential election cycle. His newly aroused political passions have all but eclipsed what had been so bothersome about his Christianity. Don’t worry overmuch that he may appear to embrace positions or actions that appear to be “principled.” The point is to deepen his conviction that particular adjustments to the current political and economic order are ends in themselves, and that once they are achieved, all will be well.

Slowly but surely-- here again the glittering prospect of prosperity is such a boon—we have been able to encourage great masses of affiliated Christians that their faith is not an end, but a means to alluring earthly things, such as a prosperous and delightful mortal condition. With bright and smiling sales pitches from our fellow agents we have managed to convince professed Christians that achievement of earthly goods is no longer a distraction from their moral way forward in the world, but rather a sign of divine pleasure in all their worldly works. Who would have thought anyone once bitten by The Enemy’s bug would buy this? But Our Father Below works in strange ways his wonders to perform. 

Not only do we have a fully articulated Gospel of Wealth, we have TV shows and whole TV networks dedicated to the proposition. We have universities committed to  directing young lives to its realization. How utterly, demonically inspired that the Wealth and other self-realization gospels should be fueled by what their devotees righteously consider their Christian fervor, a fervor so unreflective and pleased with itself that it is impervious to contradiction, to science, to evidence, to charges of cruelty. It is not mere Christianity—pun intended!—but evangelical Christianity. Entirely faith-based!  Faith in sanitized, gleaming kitchens, manicured lawns, faith in everything clean and bright and predominantly white. Without a shred of connection to The Enemy and to those troubling beatitudes. 

In all, such gratifying progress--though it would help if more of our Wealth evangelists could manage to keep their sexual secrets and criminal investigations into their personal holdings out of the news.

We must not in any event become complacent in our labors. In the present political climate we can do much more than merely consolidate our gains. Our elected Agent-in-Chief has done astonishing work, but he cannot succeed without our dedicated help. His bold challenge to so-called “truthful” claims, to “facts” of any kind, promises to burst open the doors to the democratization of all claims, and in that exhilarating cultural climate conflicts can only be resolved by the stronger party, a principle well understood by the wise Machiavelli. Our Agent-in-Chief is on track to be that stronger party. But that will require the continuing nurturance of his hard-won base. This, my dear Wormwood, is where you and your fellow Junior Tempters can make an enduring contribution.

You must continue to remind your Patient and all subsequent patients of what he is most afraid of. Start with his physical vulnerability and fear of pain. We must thank Our Lord Below for Terrorism, its almost daily eruption in such inspired places as schools, hospitals, weddings, funerals, bistros, movie theaters, and shopping malls! Your patient must be constantly reminded of impending terror and terrorists. It has been helpful that people whose looks, dress, faith affiliation, and ethnicity help to identify them as likely terrorists, but even more promising is the startling possibility that anyone’s next door neighbor could fall under the sway of terrorist thinking—that anyone and ultimately everyone is a mortal enemy. Wormwood, the mind reels.

Here again our Agent-in-Chief has paved the way. He has proposed making his countrymen great again, safe again, untroubled again, wealthy again. Don’t you love that dizzying again: that dream state when everyone was Anglo-Saxon, wealthy, safe, and world dominant? When, yes, there was racial segregation and before that slavery, but no one minded. None of the political pundits know what our Agent-in-Chief knows about how willing his poor and suffering countrymen were to accept bold assurances of jobs restored and provision of all comforts, including those never previously enjoyed.

In fairness, Wormwood, you and your colleagues deserve credit for fanning the fervor of “single-issue” patients, helping them to blur or put aside doubts and critical thinking about worrying aspects of our Agent-in-Chief’s promised program. Our Lord Below knows well the preverbal, limbic brain fascination with guns and weapons, the “rights” to which our Agent-in-Chief supports with winsome zeal. The trick, which we now know well, is to acknowledge every patient’s most deep seated resentment and, with ringing certainty, pledge to fix it. For who, really, likes to be regulated? Who, really, wants to treat or even worry about other people’s sickness? Who, especially people who don’t have much, wants to share? With foreigners?

Wormwood, I must stress again what I stated at the outset. Despite so many heartening victories, our work is far from over. Yes, we have elected and all but enthroned our Agent-in-Chief. But the Enemy’s followers and millions more who hang skeptically in the balance are not yet silenced. 

Our chief concern must be those who persist in organizing a formal Resistance. Our  strategy must be to dismiss all such expression as unpatriotic, as mere partisan sour grapes. As our Agent-in-Chief is so fond of reminding Resisters: “I won, you lost, and you are losers.”  This, combined with a program of almost daily sensational distractions, is our best bet to delay the Resistance from revealing exactly how we won--about which the word from you should be mum!

While I cannot be absolutely certain, I believe the Resistances is quieting down. All of us in the Lowerarchy were concerned about the movement not to “normalize” our Agent-in-Chief. His normalization is of course Our Lord Below’s grand plan. Advancing our Agent-in-Chief to the highest office in the land was in itself a giant step toward Normalization, but it is only half the battle. Before the Second War, our German Agent did as much, but that glorious momentum was lost to those who refused to normalize him.

Let me be clear: you must work with your Patient to normalize our Agent-in-Chief. Take heart that every passing day supports your mission. The longer your Patient endures our Agent-in-Chief’s leadership and the more distance he keeps from the lessons and inspiration of the Enemy, the more surely he will be convinced that this, too, is life and he will endure it. Assure him he can weather what is only at the moment a historical novelty. Help him see that this or that disturbing headline is of little consequence in the fullness of time. Steer him to his favorite diversions. Encourage the extra drink. He must not mentally linger in the awareness that his days feel shot through with All-Wrongness. Comfort him with notions of his superior perspective. Assure him that his all-being disturbance is what sensitive men and woman have always known and felt. Help him to see that this too is history.

If you succeed in this, if all of us here below succeed in this, think of what we will have accomplished! We will have normalized—legitimized!-- the conduct of our Agent-in-Chief. We have made him, just as he is, the elected Leader of the Free World, exemplar of national character and will, arbiter of contending appeals to justice, role model for children’s future conduct as citizens and as public servants.

Moreover, we did it without aid of cheap tricks. In the course of his rise our future Agent-in-Chief wore no deceptive masks. He did not once offer a hypocritical nod to the works of the Enemy in order to achieve some short-term gain. He achieved each short-term gain just as he is. And hats off to that performance! He has boldly proclaimed events that have not occurred. He has made emphatic promises and broken them without apology or regret. He is unmoved and unashamed of the disclosure of repellant sexual behavior. He has introduced a mode of personal and public discourse so confusing and so coarse that it slips below standard efforts to argue and refute. He has thrillingly refused to be corrected even by judges in the highest courts, journalists, and scholars. Unrivalled by even our best Agents in the past, he has brought his people to the threshold of failing to distinguish true from false, real from fake. Of utter baselessness he has built a popular base, and what his base reveres in him is that he tells it like it is! Oh, Wormwood!

Again, the normalization must proceed, and as it does, our Agent-in-Chief’s sensational gestures will begin to trigger a new, dark, adrenal response in your Patient. His reality will increasingly become our reality, and you can count on him to become immersed in all of the breaking news. At that point it will not matter whether he is fascinated or horrified. Whatever the case, he will be held helplessly in its thrall, and we will have him.

There has been much to praise in your recent work, Wormwood.

Full of hope, I remain,