WE ARE accustomed to thinking of great evil as instantly recognisable. Unfortunately, we have developed such a cartoonish idea of what evil, villains and devils look like that we are entirely unprepared for the entrance of evil dressed in a very different cloak. As C S Lewis warned us decades ago in his preface to The Screwtape Letters:
‘The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.’
The fact is that evil is often facilitated by ordinary, middle-of-the-road citizens. In many totalitarian states, the inaction and unwillingness of millions to confront the evil growing before their eyes has allowed it to thrive, and this is what is happening in our society right now.
Kathy Gyngell has recently drawn attention to the work of the Belgian psychologist, Matthias Desmet, who has done a number of interviews discussing the phenomenon of Mass Formation (or Mass Psychosis) over the last two years. Amongst his many insights is that totalitarian systems tend to split populations into three groups. Firstly, there are those who are utterly hypnotised by the propaganda. Secondly, those who are not necessarily in thrall to the propaganda, but who nevertheless tend to go along with the demands it exacts on them. And thirdly, those who seem to be not only immune to the propaganda, but who oppose it.
Although Desmet puts this split at approximately 30 per cent, 40 per cent, and 30 per cent respectively, I would put our current drift into totalitarianism at around 30 per cent, 50-60 per cent, and 10-20 per cent. The numbers in the opposition group, while low, have certainly increased as more have come to understand that the alleged response to a virus was nothing to do with public health, but rather a manufactured public health crisis being used as cover for the reordering of society into a totalitarian hellhole, replete with digital ID, social credit, decimation of SMEs, and the transhumanist dream of a fusion of our physical, biological and digital identities, as Herr Schwab puts it.
The facilitators who allow this evil to flourish are not so much the perpetrators at the top, nor the hypnotised 30 per cent. Rather, it is the 50-60 per cent in the middle. By and large, this group go along with every absurd regulation and restriction, not because they believe them necessary to fight a virus, but because they believe it to be their best hope of getting back to normal life, and they are worried about standing out from the crowd. What they don’t understand, however, is that you don’t defeat evil by appeasing it. You defeat it by opposing it. When bandits come along to pillage your village, you don’t get rid of them by agreeing to their every whim. You get rid of them by standing your ground, even if it costs you dearly.
But what if the villagers don’t realise the bandits are pillaging, but trying to do them good? Well, after two years of being pillaged, it can be only the most unthinking who fail to see that somethingstinks. Most must have a feeling that their lives are being upended for reasons which are vastly different from the ones they are told. Yet they choose not to listen to that disquieting voice, because to do so would mean having to take a stand.
Why people behave in this way is something that the Czech dissident and later president, Vaclav Havel, pondered in a letter to Gustav Husák, leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, in 1975:
‘Why are people in fact behaving in the way they do? Why do they do all do these things that, taken together, form the impressive image of a totally united society giving total support to its government? For any unprejudiced observer, the answer is self-evident: they are driven to it by fear.’
This fear is understandable. One has to eat. But as Havel explains in his essay, The Power of the Powerless, what drives the acceptance of lies, rather than speaking out against them, is a propensity to put a higher value on materialistic considerations than on a desire for truth and integrity: ‘Is it not true that the far-reaching adaptability to living a lie and the effortless spread of social auto-totality have some connection with the general unwillingness of consumption-oriented people to sacrifice some material certainties for the sake of their own spiritual and moral integrity?’
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes in the same vein:
‘The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand-fold in the future.’
Both Havel and Solzhenitsyn saw the issue very clearly. It is this: we can either stand for truth, or we will get falsehood; we can either retain our integrity, or we will invite deceit.
There is therefore no neutral ground in the fight against evil. The middle of the road is not some neutral place where we can await a return to normality. Every time you willingly agree to go along with these restrictions and regulations that are poisoning and destroying our society, you are doing your bit to fertilise the ground upon which the totalitarian bindweed seeks to grow and to take over our lives. The middle of the road leads to a totalitarian hellhole. My hope is that those in that group will urgently see the need to start opposing the insidious creep of totalitarianism and great evil in our day.