Monday, June 13, 2011

"A Prophet Is Not Without Honor, But In His Own Country"

The late, great Joseph Sobran on a writer who "[m]ore clearly than even Huxley and Orwell... saw that politics without morality could only end in tyranny" — The Prophetic C.S. Lewis. An excerpt:
    During World War II, Lewis realized that both the Allies and the Axis were abandoning the traditional morality of the Christian West and indeed of all sane civilizations. The great principle of this morality is that certain acts are intrinsically right or wrong. In a gigantic war among gigantic states, Lewis saw that modern science was being used amorally on all sides to dehumanize and annihilate enemies. When peace came, the victorious states would feel released from moral restraints.
If this blasphemy against "the greatest generation" were more widely known, neo-cons would be removing Lewis from their libraries.

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Blogger Pints in NYC said...

I read that piece the other day and loved it. Lewis was amazing in his political analysis, even though his writing thereon was so sparse!

If you've never read his 'Space Trilogy' series, do so. I recall a line in the third book by one of the characters who is amazed at the policies being instituted in the book's English university-town -- where a coalition of seductive fascists, behavioral scientists, academic positivists, greedy financiers, and literal demons have been confiscating property, taking over and arresting people on minor charges to use them for scientific experiments. The quote went something along the lines of:

"Didn't we just fight a war so this wouldn't happen here?", in reference to WWII.

10:25 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I really need to read more C.S. Lewis. I've only read Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man. I loved his perennialist use of the "Tao" in the latter.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very good example of Girard's anthropological theory of sacred violence. We are in the apocalypse since there is no longer any self righteous(sacred) violence to bring society or culture back into harmony. I really enjoy C.S. Lewis and it's a welcome surprise to see that he would more than likely support Girard's anthropological view of Christianity.

11:43 PM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

I recommend reading more of Lewis, as you say you'd like to. You may enjoy this quote, from the beginning of WWII:

I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply
aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer
ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.

We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of
crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have
never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities
until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward.

Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the latest new poem while advancing to the walls
of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature.

-- C. S. Lewis, sermon, Oxford, 1939

BTW, Lewis served in the Home Guard at age 41 during WWII.

11:16 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks, Inspector. Always good to hear from you.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Quasimodo said...

I would say that it was not a flaw with the "greatest generation," if by that we mean the Greatest Generation were the ones who actually fought WWII. The leaders of nations, who made the actual strategic decisions, were from the previous generation. They came of age in WWI. That generation fought total war with less scientifically advanced weapons but with no less barbarity - Poison gas is but one example. The flaw was modernism and humanism (ironic isn't it?)

The greatest generation is as much a victim as all the generations that followed.

5:04 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Agreed, Quasimodo.

10:56 AM  

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