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The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials “for the sake of humanity,” and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
How do our impulses (or passions, as they are also often called) go out of control? What makes us prone to skewing so far, and to persist long after the evidence shows the passion to be warped or misdirected? What makes a humanitarian ultimately cruel?
These past months have seen nearly all of us in one form or other of lockdown, and even as restrictions have been lifted we have been told to forego human contact, intimacy, and the company of others, all for the “love of humanity,” and all on account of the possibility that we might each of us be harboring a disease and yet not know it. Our leadership, such as it is, exhorts us to continue our “love of humanity”, and continue to hide from one another seemingly without end, long after we flattened any curve, all for a “love of humanity”. Families have had to bear the burden of loved ones dying alone in hospitals, while nurses and doctors have had to bear this burden as surrogate families for strangers, all for the “love of humanity.” And now due to the misshapen passions of several police officers in Minneapolis, we have seen other passions violently unleashed, unchecked, and unmoored by any others that might mitigate or mollify them. Yet our betters say that “for the love of humanity” we can, and indeed should gather en masse, and at least have some sympathy for the violence, all for the “love of humanity.” But of course weddings, funerals, parties, and church services are still restricted for this self-same “love of humanity.”
The ongoing disparity in restrictions has now moved firmly into the territories of cruelty and treachery. Cruelty for restrictions that with each passing day see their purposes diminished, their scientific support undermined, and their enforcement abnegated for the politically correct cause de céleb, and treachery for the bitter vindictiveness with which the restrictions are used to punish the politically undesirable. Justice has, of course, been tossed right out the window.
But let us not ourselves let our own impulses, our own passions, likewise come to dominate our own actions. We have our own, and they could make devils of us too.
This post is part of the June, 2020 Quote of the Day SeriesPublished in