I have thinking lately about goofy, patently absurd notions.
The sort that people would have laughed out of doors not so long ago, but now embrace, even take up arms to defend.
For instance, the Flat Earth theory. Or the Q-Anon notion that an evil cabal of pedophile, child-consuming Democrats runs this nation behind the scenes. One of the newest insists — and with a straight face — that all of the mountains of the world were once trees.
Where’s the proof? Forget about it. Arguing with hard-core believers is like ramming one’s head repeatedly into a brick wall. It soon becomes maddeningly clear that the idea of backing one’s assertions with tangible evidence is “so five minutes ago.” If you knock down one of the pillars propping up such rickety theories, the believer just moves to another, and so on.
I find it extremely depressing.
How does this happen? What does it mean?
I think the British writer C.S. Lewis gives us a useful image in The Last Battle, the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series depicting the final struggle between the forces of good and evil in the last days of that fantasy world.
Throughout the book, the Narnian dwarfs refuse to fight for either Aslan, the Lion god and creator of that world, or for Tash, the terrible god of the Calormenes. The rallying cry of these refuseniks is “the dwarfs are for the dwarfs.” They have no loyalty to any ruling party.
In a nod to Plato, Lewis informs us that the Narnia we’ve been reading about through all of the books, and which Aslan brings to an end, was only the palest copy of the real Narnia. That is where the good now find themselves, although it takes time for them to recognize it.
The dwarfs, however, never get it. Absurdly, they sit in a field on a brilliant, sunny day but cannot see any of it. Their minds are so closed they have convinced themselves they are still in the dark stable where they had been confined during the final struggle.
Here I quote at length from the book:
“Aslan,” said Lucy through her tears, “could you – will you – do something for these poor Dwarfs?”
“Dearest,” said Aslan, “I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do.”
“He came close to the Dwarfs and gave a low growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, ‘Hear that? That’s the gang at the other end of the stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don’t take any notice. They won’t take us in again!’
“Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand.
“But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said ‘Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.’
But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”
So what’s my point here?
When I look about, I see too many people bound to dark ideas that do not correspond to the world we live in. Ideas that do not make them happy but drive them to the point of paranoia and madness, accompanied by a profound distrust of absolutely everything anyone outside of their circle tells them.
And all too often unscrupulous players far away, who know very well the stuff they’re putting out is crap, are consciously, deliberately, and with contempt, manipulating these people for their own ends.
I am convinced wise old Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, “I have found that most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” My take away is that tuning in to the crapmongers day after day does not make people happy: it embitters and poisons. It puts them in the dark, and in the end it puts the rest of us in grave danger of their delusions.
Robert Whale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.