The Screwtape Letters was an interesting epistolic work of fiction by C.S. Lewis that I enjoyed reading when I was in my teens. They were written from a senior devil, named Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, and they contained plenty of advice about how Wormwood might go about ensuring that his ‘patient’ would eventually be condemned to an eternity in hell.
For a while, I have been turning a similar idea over in my mind. That, perhaps before the world began, when the devils were plotting and conspiring about how they might keep people away from leading a fulfilling life, they might have come up with a plan to ensure, as much as possible, that we would all be damned. So, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis, here is my letter from Screwtape to his line manager:
666 Devil Gate Drive
Date: Before Terrestrial Time
I have been thinking long and hard about how we should go about thwarting the natural human desire for fulfilment and I have come up with the following plan that I hereby submit for your approval.
We will need a way of stopping people from thinking and getting in touch with their true spiritual essence. We will do this using a device that will become known as popular music. The way it will work is that each successive generation will produce more and more literally shocking music to annoy their parents. Eventually, after just a couple of thousand years, they will be just listening to a thumping noise that will prevent them from ever being able to hear their inner thoughts.
We need to ensure that they will have absolutely no proper thinking time because then they might be able to work out how to get out of the rat race jobs that we have lined up for them. We will again use the device of noise (that they will think of as music) to fully occupy their conscious minds. We will get it played everywhere so that eventually there will be nowhere they will be able to go and be silent. We will get it played in elevators (when they are invented), in their chariots, in their workplaces, in their communications channels – everywhere. They will enjoy no thinking time.
We will also need a way to stop people from being active in their leisure hours and pursuing something really worthwhile. If they are allowed to study or improve themselves, they may be able to permanently improve their lot. We will do this using a substance they will come to know as alcohol. It will be in many popular drinks and it will have the effect of lightly drugging and anaesthetising them so that they will not want to do anything except fight, cry or sleep.
For the ones who will not be able to cope with rat race jobs and will end up wanting something more out of their hopefully miserable lives, we need to provide something that entertains them for a short while, but simultaneously addicts them and makes them permanent slaves. We have a variety of substances called drugs that will do the job admirably. They will think they are fun to begin with, but this array of substances will eventually completely debilitate those who try to escape by this route.
For those who get religion and feel morally compelled to stay away from some of our best substances, we will need a fairly timid looking method of causing them to lose their ability to think straight. We will do this using a device that will become known as television. Our master plan involves giving them progressively more and more of it over the years until eventually the air waves will be full of mindless and inane tripe that they will think of as entertainment, but will actually paralyse their ability to think.
The strength of this plan resides in its stealth. Humans will think they are having lots of fun, but our methods should keep them from ever discovering the true purpose and meaning of their Earthly lives. I submit this plan in the hope that you will see fit to implement it during the next few human millennia, once their terrestrial time has begun.