I don’t usually read C.S. Lewis. I could never get into the whole Narnia universe; to me it seemed a silly premise and to mainly be a vehicle for him to proselytize his religion. It was clear he truly believed, and I respect that and his right to put whatever analogies to Christianity he wanted into his books. I just wasn’t buying what he was selling.
That said, occasionally Lewis expressed some actual truth so clearly that it still resonates with people today. Here is one such quote:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
That quote is usually paired up with this one from G.K. Chesterton (whose writings I’ve never explored.)
“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”
And that summarizes my views on the Nanny state, on regulations that prohibit things that might be self-damaging, “for our own good.”
I believe that as adults, we ought to prefer freedom over comfort and safety. I believe adult humans ought to prefer taking individual responsibility for themselves over having someone else be responsible for them.
A slave is separated from control of his own life and the fruits of his labor, and that control is transferred to someone or something else, whether legally or illegally, whether an individual or a group. And the rationale for doing so doesn’t matter in the least. Slavery is the condition where others are completely responsible for one’s welfare, where one has no responsibility for one’s own actions because one is constantly, routinely being told what to do.
Slavery is never something one should choose for oneself. It is so degrading! But many people do.
That’s the viewpoint I’ve had since I was an infant; as a child I was constantly in revolt against the physical constraints and realities of childhood. My poor parents! My Pentecostal father simply could not cope and sent me away, in the end defeated by a 9-year old agnostic who refused to be beaten into his father’s beliefs. My mother could barely cope with my rebellion, although I think she had some understanding of it.
Personally, I could not wait to grow up and become an adult because I detested being the ward of, or being dependent upon, my parents or anyone else for that matter. I would have been on my own by ten years old except that I couldn’t find a paying job at that age; I couldn’t locate anyone who would hire me so I could support myself. I was ready and willing and able to work. The child labor laws were the bane of my existence until I learned to ignore them and lie about my age and claim to be an “emancipated minor” to get a job, once I grew tall enough to be believed.
In previous centuries I would have begged my parents to be apprenticed to a printer (a “printer’s devil”), or taught to be a blacksmith, or a cabin boy on a ship or a runner, or amanuensis, or secretary or scribe, but no! Thanks to laws put in place “for my own good” by “well-meaning people” I was cut off from the means to support myself and become and be independent at a young age. I have no illusions about how idyllic such apprenticeships or jobs were for children; often they were hell, and abuse was rampant. But such was not the rule, it was the exception.
Family lore has it that one of my own great grandfathers was a cabin boy in the British Navy from the age of eight. After enduring three years of sexual abuse and constant bullying, he jumped ship, supposedly diving off and swimming to shore in Galveston as his ship sailed out of the harbor.
On the other hand, at 12 years old he was a happy young man, a chuck wagon cook on cattle drives across Texas, earning his own dollar a day, plus beans and bacon, in wages one hundred percent of which he received and could spend as he saw fit. None of it was “withheld” from him for his old age. None of it was required to pay for insurance someone else thought he might need. Sales and property taxes? Sure. But he could decide whether or not to buy property and he could decide to spring for a new buckboard (taxed) or make it himself.
Supposedly he married a one-armed Indian gal, settled down and had fourteen kids. And if he didn’t find the happiness he sought, at least he chose his path himself from the time he was able to do so.
Did he live a hard life? Absolutely. But it was completely HIS life. He was a free man, at twelve years old.
I doubt he would recognize the country he helped settle.