Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Turning tiny human infants into medicine"

Screwtape Revisited
With gratitude (and apologies) to C. S. Lewis.

By Meghan Cox Gurdon

"I have heard," Mildew begins, and blushes. "The fact is, Uncle, I have heard things that seem impossible. Is it really true that you have found a way to get them to eat — "

" — their young?" Screwtape interrupts with a hungry smile.
"Yes. Yes! I have found the key, the key, my boy, to unlocking the worst in the human heart. Oh, massacres are entertaining enough, and reasonably productive. Rapine and thieving and savagery and the usual nonsense go a good distance to wrecking men's souls, but not in sufficient numbers. Not for us to win for good — that is, ha-ha, for ill. We must forever be stoking grievances, feeding pride, and constantly thrusting and parrying with the Enemy and his agents. No, the beautifully corrupting key that I have found is vanity."

"I've read about that," Mildew says, remembering. "In first year college, Know Thine Enemy 101, I think it was. All is vanity, saith the preacher," the nephew quotes, his mouth twisting as if he has bitten a bad snail.

Screwtape grimaces companionably. "Indeed. Fortunately most of them don't bother with that any more."

"But how do — "

Screwtape presses on. "What does Man want? He wants sex, he wants comfort, he wants to be young. He does not want to be told he can't have what he wants, or to be inconvenienced, or, worse, to be told his desires are wrong. This is where the Enemy's agents end up doing our work for us, Mildew, countless times!" Screwtape chortles. "Man is a creature of appetites, Mildew. Remember that."

"Appetites, yes, but eating their young, Uncle? I feel sure that I read somewhere that humans are naturally revolted by cannibalism. The Enemy's doing, no doubt, but still, there it is."

Screwtape fixes his nephew with a shriveling glare. "We are not inducing them to broil the little tykes, dear boy, this is no fricassee of first-graders." He sighs heavily, a sufferer of fools, but then brightens, clearly distracted by a pleasing thought. "That's an idea, though. Must get Singer to write something up for me on that...excellent. Now, where — "

"Not broiling them."

"Yes. My achievement, the reason for this — " Screwtape gestures largely about the handsome apartment — "is that I have managed, by appealing to man's love of self, his vanity, to convince millions that it is not cannibalism, but progress, to turn tiny human infants into medicine. The strong picking the weak apart, cell by cell, to be consumed by the strong? Brilliant!"

Read the rest here.
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