I recently shared this C. S. Lewis quote in my |n|otabilia newsletter:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. (C. S. Lewis)
A friend wrote back:
“It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.” Thoughts from today’s conservatives, exactly.
Fair enough. But what interested me in the quote wasn’t that it represented a justification for supporting Trump and Co. The terrifying part is that we don’t even get this choice of two societal evils. What we have now is both: the robber baron’s innate cruelty in sympathetic vibration with the desires of the moral busybodies. And thanks to our current regime’s manipulation of the judiciary, the long-term consequences are dire.
I foresee America becoming (effectively) a theocracy. Perhaps the true theocrat then will sneer at its impurity, diluted by the diversity of Christian thought. But it’s a possibility I’m glad I won’t be around to see anywhere near the worst of. As I responded to my friend:
I’m surprised by your optimism, but happy and envious that you possess it.I think there’s plenty-enough commonality in Christianity across a broad enough swathe of people that supporting what is effectively a theocracy is not only plausible, but likely.And younger people turn into conservatives as they age, which provides a broad base happy enough to live in collusion with more than enough of the common Christian positions as long as their fiscal priapism is constantly stroked.Personally, I foresee a future of bloody coat hangers, closed borders, continued and exacerbated structural racism, the same deep fiscal inequity we already have, a social net slit from ear to ear, and deep intolerance…all supported by a corrupted judiciary.The American experiment was a good one. It isn’t over. But the traditionally democratic part of it—and the attempt to rationalize some kind of permeous membrane between church and state—likely is.And, honestly, this is my charitable assessment because I can’t live with the darker one. I understand (generally, at least) the arguments for optimism, but I don’t *believe* in their conclusion. I wish I did.