Perusing the interwebs, like usual, I came across a fun post by A Pilgrim in Narnia, on his 2012 C.S. Lewis and the Inklings Colloquium presentation: “Teaching Screwtape for a New Generation.” Now I’ve heard of Narnia, of course, and other works by Lewis like Surprised by Joy, his auto-biography, and Mere Christianity.
Somehow this one went under the radar, and by far, it’s one of his most enticing works.
The Screwtape Letters is a satire, providing some dark and witty social commentary. The story is written through a series of letters from a “senior” demon Screwtape, a mentor, to his nephew Wormwood, as Wormwood attempts to capture the soul of a man simply named “The Patient.”
I’ll have to read it myself before digging further. Meanwhile, I appreciated this quote found on Screwtape’s wiki quote page.
Written way back in 1942, I think it still applies to us today:
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
Brenton Dickieson (author of the Narnia blog) did a whole class on this book at his secular university, making a case for its relevance in today’s highly managerialized world (of which the whole ecology of the university and student loans is exemplary). Not much else need be said.
After all, how many great evils in our time occur through a single click of a mouse, a monotone phone call, an executive order?
We’ve all been there (and I was there last week: a whopping four hour phone call to cancel my cable subscription), dealing with the trappings of red tape and fine lines.
In our time we face-off with a gargantuan beast of a bureaucracy: state and corporate alike, bloated to international proportions that C.S. Lewis only imagined his Hell to be capable of. Ick.
What say you? Is evil hidden behind white collars and cubicles, fax machines and copiers?