As a Christian since childhood, I thought that I’d read pretty well all of the published works of C.S. Lewis, starting with the Narnia series and moving on to his treatises on theological questions as I grew up, but here is something I had missed.
Since the beginning of our response to the pandemic I have been struggling to find the right words to address the distinction between pure tyranny and ‘benevolent’ dictatorship that constrains our liberty for our own good. I asked myself what dictatorship, however ghastly, didn’t present its actions for the greater of good for its subjects?
Well, here is a quotation that a constituent has sent to me from God in the Dock:” Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology), A work by lewis that I had nor read.
Make of I what you will:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its
victims may be the most oppressive. It would 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. This 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.”
As I say to so many of my correspondents., you may disagree with me profoundly but, at least, you have no doubt where I stand.
I know it’s a cliché, but I really do recall my housemaster telling me -before administering ‘six of the best’ – that it was going to hurt him more than it would hurt me (of course, it may be just false memory syndrome) and although I’ve subsequently found myself recalling his advice with increasing respect and fondness, I’m quite sure that he was wrong about that particular incident.
Over time, how I’ll feel about the PM’s constraints on our liberty…it’s too soon to tell, but for the present I will continue to resist vociferously