Roaring Farce

I mentioned, in my last post, that there was another quote from The Four Loves that I wanted to post. It requires a little introduction.

Lewis is discussing good and bad forms of patriotism. He compares the overtly harmful ‘we are superior and therefore we crush lesser peoples’ to the more insidious ‘we are superior, therefore we are obligated to help lesser peoples by ruling them.’

I am far from suggesting that the two attitudes are on the same level. But both are fatal. Both demand that the area in which they operate should grow “wider still and wider.” And both have about them this sure mark of evil: only by being terrible do they avoid being comic. If there were no broken treaties with Redskins, no extermination of the Tasmanians, no gas-chambers and no Belsen, no Amritsar, Black and Tans or Apartheid, the pomposity of both would be roaring farce.

The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis (the emphasis is mine)

Honestly, I stopped dead when I read this, and I re-read it several times as I let it sink in. The idiotic arrogance of such twisted “patriotism” has been clear to me from an early age, but because of the horrors associated with it, I had never thought about the farcical angle.

I think Lewis is on to something. Pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath and envy… which of these, if stripped of its monstrous consequences, is not simply ridiculous?

Alas that, for now, we cannot laugh for long without weeping.


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

13 responses to “Roaring Farce

  • Rob

    Not sure I would call those definitions “patriotism.” Then again, I’m not sure what I would call them. It always bothers me when religious thinkers venture into matters political. Theological concerns don’t always translate well into secular, political issues. One of my favorite modern theologians, N.T. Wright, tends to do that as well and it always leaves me cold. Red flags start flying in my mind.

    As usual, your posts make me think.

    • jubilare

      yeah, this is one of the places where language gets dicey. I would call them “patriotism” inasmuch as a rotten egg is still an egg. They are corrupt forms of what I would differentiate as “true patriotism.” Lewis addresses that in the chapter. He isn’t condemning patriotism as a whole, but pointing out areas where love (in this case, love of one’s homeland) becomes corrupt.
      That is to say, I don’t think he is venturing into politics so much as human nature, though I could be wrong. You will have to read it yourself and tell me what you think. ;)
      Religious thinkers venturing into politics sends up red flags for me, as well, though not always.

      :D Making myself, and others think is one of my missions in life. Thanks for reading and making me think, too!

  • Spider42

    A great post and touches on something I’ve considered and wondered about for a long time.
    This assessment of it all as it’s own kind of farce is actually not inaccurate, we even have a response that suits it – it’s so terrible yet surreal that you can’t really cry but you laugh or you go crazy from it.

    I’d be inclined to both agree and disagree with Rob’s comment however. He’s right in that it’s not patriotism as such – yet it is because this is very much a patriotic state of mind for a very large number of people. In fact this is more than just a patriotic state, it applies to culture and religion – as examples I hold up the kindly Christian friend of mine who is very open and tolerant of other religions but felt compelled to try and convert those close to him because he genuinely felt that his was the true faith and despite his not caring what people believed, wanted to “save” the souls of his friends. The intent was good but the place it came from was pompous and self-righteous. (this would be the 2nd kind of superior as noted in the post)
    Also, I think if Rob doesn’t mind my saying – it may have bad moments depending on the person, but don’t discount people from one discipline/ideology exploring another. They may not be great at it but out of all the ones that fail, there will be that one odd here and there who may well bring a fresh perspective BECAUSE of being not of that specialisation.

    Thanks, I love thought-provoking posts that make you want to discuss things – no winning/losing, just discussion.

    (Oh and thanks for stopping by my site, glad you liked the story. Feel free to come by and critique any and all of the short fiction, I invite feedback on it)

    • jubilare

      Your username really makes me want to sing the They Might Be Giants song Spider. That was a gripping story, by the way. I kept fearing it was going to take a dive off the deep end of dark darkness, but it stayed on the line between hope and despair. Very intriguing.

      I would still call it patriotism, but a corrupted form of patriotism.

      Hm… I think you are walking a fine line with your example. On one side of the line, I agree with you, but on the other, I don’t. Where your friend went wrong, I think, is in assuming it was his job to convert people. As a Christian, I believe that conversion is God’s job. People should not have that kind of power over each other because people are corrupt. However, I will say that it doesn’t make much sense to hold a faith if you do not think it is the right faith… so a certain measure of what might seem like pride is inevitably part of any faith (and atheism is, in this context, a faith like any other). I am Christian because I believe Christianity is true, and this means that I believe at least some parts of other faiths are not true. This only becomes a problem if I attempt to force my beliefs on others.
      This is where things get complicated, but I will try to keep it short. I can debate, prod, question, and answer questions about my faith without overstepping bounds. However, if I find myself unable to let go, unable to let others make up their own minds and go their own paths, then I have strayed into territory where I am likely to do them, and myself, harm. I hope that is intelligible. It’s a short step between believing something, and being unable to allow others to believe differently, and most of us (if not all of us) at some point take that step before we realize it. The more important the belief is to us, the easier it is to take that step.

      :) Thanks! Like I said to Rob (as if he didn’t already know this about me) making myself and others think is one of my missions in life, and I do love a good, civil debate!

      • Spider42

        Thanks! Glad you liked the story, if you drop in now and again I keep posting new ones and I use my online short stories as my experiment ground to see what I can and cannot write well.
        No worries about the long reply, after mine it’s not overkill! :D
        In general I’d be inclined to agree with your observation at the end of your comment, there is a fine line between faith and fanaticism. Faith to me is trusting in your version of that higher power while acknowledging that no one can be proven 100% in our world as compared to another and therefore letting others worship however they choose – fanaticism however is where the world is teetering a little right now (with most major religions) wherein the tolerance of another faith and the unbending belief that your way is the right way and all others are false and to be removed or brought into the fold… this is wrong and to be honest scares me more than a little for the future.
        But, this is a debate with no end so I’m going to cut myself off here before I ramble too long! :)

        • jubilare

          I will do my best. :) Do you also use short fiction to work on your writing weaknesses?

          “Faith to me is trusting in your version of that higher power while acknowledging that no one can be proven 100%”
          I feel that being without doubt is to be mentally and spiritually dead. Lack of certainty helps make us humble, keeps us seeking truth and therefore growing.
          When people are scared, they more readily fall prey to fanaticism, and there is a ton of fear and anger in the atmosphere of our world right now. It scares me, too.
          It has the potential to be a debate with no end, but then most debates do. It is a particularly sensitive topic, but it seems you and I haven’t much disagreement to argue over unless one of us feels like playing devil’s advocate for a while. I managed to convince someone, once, that a table he was sitting at didn’t exist. ;)

          • Spider42

            Kudos on the table thing, sounds very much like something I would do to someone! :D

            And yeah, not much for us to argue really. Completely agree with everything you’ve posted here – it’s stunning how hard I find it to convince people that the bottom line cause of so much is how afraid people are of almost everything and don’t even see it!

            As regards my writing, I didn’t before but for a while now I’ve been pushing myself – with the shorts I post on my blog particularly – to write outside my comfort zone. Partly to figure out and work on my weaknesses and partly just because variety is the spice of life! Not every story will be perfect or ground-breaking and it doesn’t have to be. ;)

          • jubilare

            If everything we wrote had to be perfect or ground-breaking or anywhere near those things, I doubt anyone but egomaniacs would ever start! I know I wouldn’t. I can relate to wanting to let others know, though, that my work isn’t perfect even in my eyes. :P

  • stephencwinter

    Reblogged this on Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings and commented:
    I am so grateful to Jubilare for her permission to re-blog this post. Her quotation from The Four Loves by C.S Lewis is the perfect commentary to my blog on Gandalf’s laughter at Saruman’s performance at the balcony rail of Orthanc. I hope you enjoy reading this and other postings on her wonderful Blog Site.

  • Elemental Surprise | jubilare

    […] it were not for the horrible effects, one would have to laugh. Frollo’s self-importance and self-righteousness are so ludicrous that they would be […]

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