August 11th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Doctor-patient privilege dies with My Health Record

EDITORIAL By-elections reflect disenchantment with major parties

CANBERRA OBSERVED Longman result may force PM to rethink policies

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS No question about it: the Don is in charge

ENERGY Lower electricity price a fantasy

EUTHANASIA Vulnerable will be victims of Leyonhjelm's deadly bill

LITERARY STUFF Atlas Mugged

PHILOSOPHY On human nature

CULTURE AND SOCIETY The shadow of that hyddeous strength

FICTION A Scent of Musk

MUSIC Globalised Music

CINEMA The Equalizer 2

BOOK REVIEW ADF as modern peacekeepers

BOOK REVIEW The men who built up a great tradition

LETTERS

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CULTURE AND SOCIETY
The shadow of that hyddeous strength


by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, August 11, 2018

During World War II, C.S. Lewis published the third, set post-war, of his trilogy of science-fiction novels, That Hideous Strength (many editions).

It is the story of how an English university is taken over by devil worshippers, part of a conspiracy to take over the world.

A young academic, Mark Studdock, whom the devil worshippers are trying to recruit, is taken, as a major step in his initiation, into the “objectivity room”. His initiator tells him this is an essential step in his development, “like killing a nerve”.

At first the “objectivity room” seems mild enough. It is badly proportioned and the (mainly religious) pictures have something subtly wrong with them, including the very positions in which they are hung on the walls. But it is very hard to say exactly what is wrong. The strategic plan is that Mark’s sense of style and taste is to be killed first. The killing of his sense of morality will follow. Once his capacity for mere distaste is done away with, he is to be initiated into abominable acts of true devil worship.

First, his ability to distinguish between beauty and ugliness is to be destroyed, followed by his capability to distinguish between right and wrong, then his capacity to distinguish between good and evil. He is to be made a creature without aesthetic, ethical or moral sense, and incapable of moral choice. In short, he is to lose his humanity.

His descent into moral imbecility is managed slowly and painstakingly; each door by which he might retreat is carefully closed behind him. Finally, though an atheist, a memory of Christianity comes to his aid and he revolts. The very horror of those initiating him helps him, for becoming aware of their evil strengthens his own awareness of the good.

The news from England – and not only England – today makes Lewis’ gradual, one-on-one process of moral death seem wildly optimistic. How can the liberal culture of Britain and Western Europe exist as a host to the extremist and illiberal.

Have the multiculturalism and race relations industries, by insisting all cultures are of equal value, spread an inability to make value judgements about different cultures – and therefore about one’s own – throughout the community? Certainly, it is easy to feel, perusing the daily news media, that something seems to have done this. It looks as if the normal human reactions of Western Man have been, for many, simply blotted out.

It seems to me it is not drawing too long a bow to see something similar in Australia today, when it is being made more and more difficult to criticise outrageous practices, and it is emphasised that all cultures are of equal value.

In Britain, things have gone further. Yet another case has come to light, in Telford, of the mass abuse and even killing of British girls by sex-gangs.

This is the third case, since Rochdale and Rotherham, with victims numbering thousands in each instance, where police and other authorities refused to act over a period of many years.

Fear of being typecast as bigots or cultural chauvinists prevented the police from interfering, yet one can only think that beyond this some kind of nerve has been killed. It looks like a failure of  moral fibre on a nation-wide scale.

Has something happened to these people that they are unable to recognise evil? Evil done not furtively in dark corners but in the full light of day? It is not as if the victims and their families were silent: countless complaints were made to the police over the years.

What caused a whole community, including its police force, who one would think were constrained by both law and duty, collectively to give up its courage and manhood, failing even to protect its own children?

Would the people too morally dead, too brain washed to report or act against mass sex crimes have the gumption to do the modern equivalent of taking their boats to Dunkirk? The people to whom chivalric traditions are so ruined that they give knighthoods to dissolute rock stars whose whole careers have consisted of an undermining of civilisations?

In Lewis’ story, Merlin is resurrected and saves the day, but that is something we cannot rely on.

In Australia John Howard and Tony Abbott were probably the last people to try to intervene to protect Aboriginal women and children in remote communities, certainly the last Prime Ministers of recent times to try to support traditional Western values in general.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act can be seen as part of the same pattern. Once criticism of other cultures is criminalised, judgement of other cultures may become much more difficult, even when it seems obvious to all people of common sense that they deserve critique and perhaps stronger measures.

The phrase “objectivity room” uses the word “objectivity” in a horribly perverse way: if you cannot criticise the bad, you have no standpoint from which to support the good.

Lewis’ Merlin has some fairly sharp comments to make about the modern world. Although the book was written in about 1943, describing imaginary events in what was then the future post-war world, something of the mental and philosophical climate of the real post-war world was anticipated in it with astonishing accuracy. Pope Benedict XVI certainly saw the peril of the “objectivity room”, and what it led to, in his battles against moral relativism and for the re-statement, and more importantly the living, of absolute and unchanging values.

Though there are things about the ending that I dislike, the book remains as fresh, as relevant, and as timely now as the day it was written.




























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