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Tuesday: July 29, 2008

Advice from an Unlikely Source

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:00 PM UTC

This passage made me think of James Bowman, particularly his latest diary entry. The problem seems quite contemporary, particularly the pairing of “ministries and newspapers”, though the proposed solution must have looked archaic even fifty years ago. How many people had a riding-crop handy when they needed one even in England in 1958?

It may be asked whether that state of society in which rascality undergoes no social penalty is a healthy one; whether we should not be a happier country if certain important people were pariahs as the hangman once was — blackballed in every club, dropped by every acquaintance, and liable to the print of riding-crop or fingers across the face if they were ever bold enough to speak to a respectable woman. It leads into the larger question whether the great evil of our civil life is not the fact that there seems now no medium between hopeless submission and full-dress revolution. Rioting has died out, moderate rioting. It can be argued that if the windows of various ministries and newspapers were more often broken, if certain people were more often put under pumps and (mildly — mud, not stones) pelted in the streets, we should get on a great deal better. It is not wholly desirable that any man should be allowed at once the pleasures of a tyrant or a wolf’s-head and also those of an honest freeman among his equals. To this question I do not know the answer. The dangers of a change in the direction I have outlined are very great; so are the evils of our present tameness.

(C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, Chapter VII: “Connivance”)