Read The Screwtape Letters, Chapter VI, here.
My Dear Screwtape,
Military service creates few pangs of conscience or cogitations of fear in what the humans call “the post-modern world.” If any anxiety exists concerning war in our contemporary patients, it is only the anxiety of hope that anticipates brutal excitement and gratified bloodlust from smiting a fellow human being who happens to be a temporary enemy. Images of death saturate the current psychological and cultural milieu. From gangs in ghetto streets to warmongers in presidential palaces, human culture drinks violence like vultures drink blood. Humanity hovers, with wings spread, over its own rotting carcass. Directing malice toward one’s immediate neighbors has never been difficult, nor has moving benevolence from the patients’ inner circle of acquaintances to the outer sphere of people they do not know. Let me briefly explain how we are succeeding in these areas.
To direct malice towards an immediate neighbor is easier today than at any previous time in history. We owe our success here largely to the media, particularly the humans' infatuation with video games, television, and movies. I know you’ve heard the statistics about how many media-murders a neophyte sees before he actually fulfills his crimson fantasies. Frequent images of murder (and other vices) radiate daily upon the minds of young patients and work psychologically to desensitize their moral consciousness by cauterizing their consciences, a sort of ineffable photonic brand we burn. Video games are especially helpful here, since digital slaughter enables one to contemplate the joyous passion of the kill without getting one’s hands bloody. Such fictional images of death dehumanize our patients to the real thing, especially children and young men in arrested adolescence, establishing a habit of brutality in their minds, a habit that anticipates the throbbing ecstasy of the actual deed (I’m quite breathless about the prospects of video-based virtual sex, but we’ll leave that to another day.) The recent onslaughts against our Islamic allies beautifully reenforce this sterile form of killing, for modern weaponry technologizes warfare and distances the manslayer from the actual torn flesh, splattered blood, and splintered bones that accompany the humans’ cruder, more primitive methods of killing. If your career had extended to this generation, no doubt you would have been ecstatic to see the progress we have made in warfare.
As for moving benevolence to the outer sphere of people whom the patient does not know, this has never been difficult for us to achieve. In the Enemy’s camp, we still use the propaganda device often mislabeled as “missions” to ensure that our patients love only their neighbors whom they can keep at a distance. For the more secular-minded patients, money squandered through social programs works effectively to salve the public’s conscience on an even broader scale. So, take heart, dear Uncle, immediate violence and distant benevolence still beat human’s ploughshares into swords and their pruninghooks into spears.
Your affectionate nephew,