Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter IV

My dear Ticksnar,

I find, in reviewing our correspondence to date, that while focusing on these interesting questions of sexuality, family relationships, "social justice", etc., etc., that you have neglected certain other aspects of your patient's condition. Allow me to address these briefly, for they are easily dealt with.

You mention, for one, that your patient has developed an obsession with what the humans know as "the end of the world"—but I see no sign that you have followed up on this, which is unfortunate and dare I say negligent. This is a rich field for temptation of which we have taken advantage these many centuries, and which you should not hesitate to exploit as your predecessors have done so successfully. By all means keep this line of thought active in your patient's mind, for it is nearly impossible for the humans to indulge in the loathsome habits of compassion and charity when convinced the end is nigh—for after all, what can it matter? Instead, they become (consciously or not) entirely self-centered in their conviction of Armageddon. This can take either of two forms, both of which are conducive to our cause. In the first instance, they become paralysed by fear, nay, by dread, either of their tribulations in the last days of Earth, or out of uncertainty as to their ultimate fate. (Deliciously ironic, n'est-ce pas?) Alternately, and perhaps even more advantageously for ourselves, humans with this affliction may become smug: convinced they have special knowledge of which their benighted or even willfully deceived brethren are unaware, and utterly convinced of their own salvation, which of course tends toward complacency. If you are even half the devil I believe you to be, you should have no difficulty in seeing your way through either of these scenarios.

You state, for another (though it occurs to me that the two issues may be linked in the mind of your patient), that she has a more highly developed than usual tendency toward xenophobia, manifesting chiefly as a suspicion of and hostility toward Muslims. Assigned as you are to operate within the sphere of Christendom, you may or may not be aware how similar, how indeed allied, are Christianity and Islam. Suffice it to say for now that not only do both seek to serve and to supplicate the Enemy, but that they are both aware that they do so. The Enemy, "The One True God" as the humans are pleased to call that despicable and inscrutable entity, does certainly exist. The failing of the humans, for which of course we can take much of the credit, is in mistaking their own representations of the Enemy for the Enemy Himself—in supposing that their god is The One True God, and that their neighbour's god is a false god, or even (delicious irony again) Our Father Below. If our training schools pay too little attention to comparative religion, it is only partly from the realisation that any sincere religion is potentially harmful to our cause (though always presenting opportunities for subversion), and partly because exploiting religious differences, playing the age-old game of divide and conquer, is widely supposed to be so easy as to require little or no instruction.

Getting back to particulars, many of the Christians and Muslims are themselves aware of their shared historical and theological heritage—but that hasn't prevented them (again, in large part thanks to our own efforts) from reviling and persecuting one another. Take my word for it, my dear Ticksnar, that a sincere practicing Mohammedan (to use an old-fashioned term) is as lost to us as a sincere practicing Christian, or indeed a sincere practicing human of any faith, so long as they are truly attached to the Enemy Himself. If attached to only a particular manifestation, representation, or image of the Enemy, of course, they are ripe for the picking.

Feed your patient's suspicion of The Other, nurture her hostility, let her believe hostility and suspicion ordained by the Enemy her god; above all, never let her reflect on the common humanity of The Other and herself; and you may see suspicion and hostility blossom into hatred. Indeed I fancy you might already be halfway home, if at the sight of a smiling clerk in hijab you can make her think of "sleeper agents" and inevitable holy war. Do not, however, allow yourself to indulge too deeply in the easy pleasures of sectarian misanthropy, for complacency can work against us as easily as against the humans. Keep stirring at the embers, keep picking at the scab of your patient's fears, until the wound is open and the fire full ablaze.

Your affectionate uncle

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