Saturday, September 15, 2018

Deals With The Devil

     Sarah Hoyt has a plaintive piece today about those who advise us to “go along to get along:”

     [T]he deals with the devil people make — the real ones, which apply whether one believes in the devil or not — are not the kind made at twilight at a crossroads with a being of distinctly evil shape, and imbued with a suspicious smell.

     Instead, they’re made in nice rooms, in meeting rooms, at conferences, with well-dressed people who are so benign, so kind, so full of wish to help us. And also, inevitably, powerful and full of the aroma of success.

     They stand in our way and without quite saying anything political (some of them do. One of them was stupid enough to at least hint at politics to me when I was in the political closet, but most don’t) make it clear that if you want to advance, succeed, or even “just” remain employed, you must say the right words, believe the right things, hang out in the right circles.

     Is this a sin only of the left? I don’t know. For my entire life, the half century or so I’ve been cognizant of such things, the people in control, the people who were rich, famous, well put together, were leftist.

     The thought that we might have been deprived of a multitude of good things because of political differences is enough to wring tears from a stone. But it’s been going on for decades; it’s only recently come out of the closet and strutted boldly before us.

     The espousal (or mute acceptance) of a particular set of convictions -- especially political ones -- to gain entry to a specific circle, or acceptance in one's educational or working environment, is commonplace. Yes, it's insincere. Yes, it's a deal with the devil, in more than one sense. But it is appallingly common.

     A university with which I'm familiar once had the academic equivalent of a purge in its Economics department because the chairman had decided to admit a young Friedmanite as an assistant professor. The sitting professors were heavily to the left, of course, and they didn't want this heretic among them. The chairman didn't just lose her chair; she lost her tenured position. So the disincentives to divergence can be severe.

     Families can be like that too. Especially the sort of family that's geographically compact and whose members frequently gather for holidays or other special events. A friend of mine who has seven siblings is unable to attend his family's holiday get-togethers for that reason: he's a conservative and the rest of them are hard-left. “Conform or be ostracized by your own family” is quite a threat. I admire my friend for his refusal to bend...but there are many who surrender simply for the sake of familial peace and a place at the Thanksgiving table.

     It's evil. Standing firm against it can cost you everything. And it is shredding much of American society.

     It’s largely a sin of the Left – their “the personal is political” mantra requires it of them – but a dilute form of it affects the Right as well. On the Right it’s manifest in a person’s mimicry, often encouraged by his peers, of those whose approval and support he hopes to gain. “Dress like the boss.” “Spend your free time and money on classical music and museums, not rock concerts and saloons.” “Don’t date her; the people who count think she’s vulgar.”

     As usual, C. S. Lewis has an insight for us:

     The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human's own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the "best" people, the "right" food, the "important" books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

     [From The Screwtape Letters.]

     Being true to oneself can seem “obvious,” even “automatic,” to one who has yet to confront the contrary temptations. Today those temptations are all around us, for politics has infiltrated itself into every cranny of human involvement. Nor is any man’s strength of conviction guaranteed to resist them when threatened by poverty, ostracism, and ridicule.

     This is one of the handful of cases where the other Leftist mantra, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” really does apply. Think about it and how you can be part of the solution – not for yourself, but for others.


Pascal said...

I cannot overstate the importance of what you have written. Here is the sort of assault for which a moral person stays vigilant.

The last time I wrote of it was prompted by a short observation in 2013. It ends with:

"Like I said last August, 'I thought you were smart' is the kind of line you hear from those who are disappointed you don't fall in line with the corruption that 'everybody else' is a part of. "

The example observed there reinforces what you wrote today.

The warning today is about choices offered to the unwary for them to veer from a path they may have once thought out of the question. For once veered upon, it is very hard to find their way back. The others will have too much on them then, each gone from freeman to slave in very short order.

Linda Fox said...

This is one reason that Trump 'unexpectedly' got very strong support from formerly Democratic enclaves in the mountains and hills. Such people, by virtue of their isolation from mainstream society, have developed a preference for independence in thought. From my experience with WV relatives, you just can't push 'em. The harder you push, the more mulish they become.