Jewish World Review July 1, 2010 / 19 Tamuz 5770
Screwtape Heard From
By Paul Greenberg
With apologies to
My dear Wormwood,
The word from above -- we have our spies there, you know -- is that you seem quite proud of yourself these days. Sorry to disappoint you, nephew, if you were expecting congratulations from me on your latest feat. Do remember, as Our Father Below has said many times, do not go too far. You junior fiends often overlook the great advantages of having our patients never recognize us or our working through them.
Moderation in all things evil, that's the ticket. The effect is so much more lasting if the victim is enticed just one small step at a time, so he scarcely notices any change in himself or his world.
You'll remember that I was quite proud of your arranging the murder of that
As for this
Dispatches from above say the 80-year-old woman was beaten to death with a 20-pound cross from the
What troubles me is how reckless you've become. I meant to say something back in December, when you arranged to have that
I blame myself for not cautioning you about all this excessive symbolism earlier. Of course, I won't take responsibility for your actions now. Not with the authorities here below. After all, it was your decision to make in the case of
Remember, we want our customers not only to disbelieve, but to not think of us at all. That way, they are easier to manipulate. Always keep in mind that there can be just too much of a bad thing. This sort of devilish triumph always alerts them to our existence when what we want to do is stay sub rosa, below the surface, unnoticed, never thought about. Dismissed as just a myth, an old wives' tale, a fairy story. Nothing that sophisticated people can take seriously in, as they are wont to say, This Day and Age, as if good and evil were now somehow different from an earlier time.
Remember, humans are not like us spirits. They can disbelieve. Having never been a human (oh, what an advantage the Enemy has over us!) you might not understand. But humans are very good at turning a blind eye to the obvious. That is, until they see an elderly woman beaten to death in a church with a cross while she prepares disaster relief kits. That's when it may occur to even the dimmest of them that there may actually be such a thing as evil. And we start to lose our greatest advantage -- our cover, our camouflage, our not having anyone believe we really exist.
Control, Wormwood, you must learn control. We do not want our patients to think about things they cannot touch and see. Your recklessness, your fatal tendency toward self-dramatization, has made it much harder for our other agents. Which is why I've put your promotion on hold.
Have you forgotten? The basic strategic doctrine set down by the Low Command here is always to conceal ourselves. (For now, that is.) If our patients could see us, touch us, they would turn toward the Enemy in droves. Somehow, when we make our Presence known, we frighten them. Always work from the shadows.
Remember, if the humans don't believe in evil, they might not believe in good, either. Which is to say, if they don't believe in us, they might not believe in the Enemy. In our business, a tie is as good as a win.
The object of the contest is to keep our patients lukewarm, complacent, unnoticing. Above all, uninterested in questions of good and evil. They may find that impossible to do when, not to belabor the point, an elderly woman is beaten to death in a church with a cross while she prepares disaster relief kits.
If this letter sounds disappointed, Wormwood, then I am happy you don't misunderstand. Disappointed is an understatement. You've disgraced and endangered all of us down here below.
I wish I knew what they were teaching at the
Dullness wins us souls, Wormwood, dullness! I can't emphasize that point enough. Use the time-tested explanation that this was an everyday robbery gone bad. That's the way to have them think of it, not as the Devil's work. Oh, it might make the back pages of the newspaper, but not everybody would be talking about it -- in their kitchens, in their grocery stores, in their churches. Yes, in their churches. For you've just made it easier for the minions of the Enemy to talk about us in every saving pulpit. Oh, if only they'd stick to their book reviews and politics and self-improvement lectures. But now, Wormwood, you'll have them talking about the knowledge of good and evil. This has put us back centuries.
One of our most important rules is this: Keep our patients' minds on something else. What something else? Anything something else. Finances. Sports. Work. Politics. Bread and circuses. Anything but us and our existence.
I must now end this letter, Wormwood, for I've just received a memo from The Master. He wants an explanation of your little adventure. I really don't know how I'm going to explain this one. Perhaps I'll try to write it off as inexperience. But you can count on this: I'll not take the blame for your amateurish antics. Be prepared: You might receive an invitation to meet with Our Father Below soon enough. The consequences could be severe; you might even have your damnation revoked. If I were you, I'd start planning my excuses. You can guarantee I have.
Your disappointed uncle,
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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