In a futuristic society Marilyn Cuberle is a plain-looking woman, and with modern technology there is no need for that. But over time, "no need" has morphed into "no tolerance." Where equality of beauty is possible, pressure is applied to attain this outcome.
Marilyn is holding out. She is appalled at what society has come to, that what was once merely considered desirable has now become mandatory. Guarding her individuality, she valiantly resists-when gentle persuasion fails; when catalogues are thrust at her, displaying the numbered models' faces that she may choose from; and finally when cajoling turns to subtle threat.
But the doctors and nurses (all donning strangely similar movie star faces) prevail, and Marilyn undergoes the operation. In the last scene, the bandages are removed and she is given a hand-held mirror with which to appraise the results. Marilyn stares into the looking glass, stunned at first, and then exclaims with pure delight-at how beautiful she is, and how she looks just like everyone else! All around her smile benignly. Fade to black.
The goosebumps part of Rod Serling's 1964 Twilight Zone episode for me (now that I am old enough to examine my response) was not so much that the side for enforced conformity wins, but that the last resistance to it is so effectively stamped out as to be won over to the other side. The last step will be the snuffing out of any remembrance of a struggle.
At least this is the hope of the keynote speaker at the annual dinner of the Tempters' Training College, where veteran tempter Screwtape, at first bemoaning the insipidness of the meal before them-souls hardly worth damning-finds consolation in the sheer quantity rather than quality. One strategy is particularly worth throwing their energies into: Democracy.
Though Democracy is a risky proposition that does not always work to Hell's advantage, there have been promising signs of late. The trick is in sowing confusion about the term "Democracy." If handled carefully, it can be reduced to an incantation, especially in a badly educated society. And as an incantation, it can be enlisted by all manner of absurd and selfish causes. Then our work is 90 percent done.
Take Education, for example. It can come to be thought "undemocratic" that every citizen doesn't have a college diploma (like every-citizen entitlement to a pretty face, in Marilyn's world). Knead into that mushy thinking what Solzhenitsyn called the West's "social structures with an allegedly scientific approach" (A World Split Apart), and the final stage is reached when entitlement is codified into law and implemented by the State, and its dissenters punished.
A few oddballs may remember that Democracy is a system of voting and not a prescription for a preconceived social outcome, but they will be bulldozed by the herd. If the national leadership lacks courage, they will follow the herd rather than lead it. "That leaders took the lead in Israel, . . . bless the Lord!" sang Deborah, in a time of sturdier manhood (Judges 5:2).
If the climate is right, not much tweaking is needed to make stealthy substitutions: Replace "All men are created equal" with "All men are equally entitled to everything." From there it is but a step to "No man should possess more than his neighbor." The solution is then irresistible: redistribution of wealth; elimination of differences; lopping off the broom tops that stick out. At first a few Marilyn-types will kick and scream, but in the end even these will be so worn by the relentless barrage of a universal lie that they will look in the mirror and exclaim delightedly with the rest, "Wow, so pretty! And just like everybody else!"
But more important to Hades than society is the individual soul: "'I'm as good as you' . . . has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven" (The Screwtape Letters).
"Humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration" are cheapjack's wares on today's market. They are possible only when citizenship in Christ is one's main identity. Without that, even as fine a thing as Democracy will go bad on you.
If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.