We thus advance towards a state of society in which not only each man but every impulse in each man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will – one dare not even add ‘unfortunately’ – be swept away.
C.S. Lewis, We Have No ‘Right To Happiness’ (1963)
This is how Lewis concludes his essay that began discussing a man and woman abandoning their respective spouses to be with each other. This essay was also the last thing he wrote before he died in 1963. What really struck me reading through it again recently was this final part. Considering when it was written, this final line seems prophetic.
This won’t be a long post, I just have a few observations to make based on it.
It is hard to judge sometimes whether or not ideas are truly your own. Reading this again and knowing I had read it before put this in mind. I’ve argued before that the negative consequences of social changes can take a long time to manifest and technology is something that hides these changes. This is usually in response to leftists who crow triumphant a short time after achieving yet another political victory; that the sky has not fallen as promised by the opposition. Of course, the opposition rarely gives a date, just a general warning as those with a genuine understanding of humanity make no claims at clairvoyance. Yet, it seems I probably got this idea from Lewis if not from someone else. I suppose I can say I elaborated on it a bit more though.
To get back to the quote, the medium I am using now shows the truth of his claim that each impulse would claim carte blanche as well. The notorious Rule 34 of the Internet (don’t Google it), states that “If it exists, there is porn of it.” This is largely true, especially if one is reminded that pornography isn’t confined only to the sexual realm. On the Internet, every misguided passion imaginable has communities devoted to it, even if very small. I confess to having been both entertained and disgusted to websites and videos outlining the legion of fetishes to be found on the web. Even though millions of people in the world have access to essentially the highest artistic and intellectual achievements of man, the best that most do is watch videos of cats doing silly things. Again, I am no innocent.
At the same time, the general abilities of the majority of people to perpetuate their existence has been severely reduced. Arguably billions of people are incapable of surviving if a serious blow were struck to the current political and financial order. I am not so sure that I could survive if I were suddenly without electricity, running water and supermarkets. Or if those things remained and the value of the currency I use were to suddenly vanish. All of these things have and still do happen.
This is getting into territory I’ve covered once if not more and I will end it here. I’ll once again iterate that this is something I’d like to be wrong about but it seems to be playing out as Lewis predicted. I’m sure he’s quite glad he wasn’t on earth long enough to be proven right.