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The Screwtape Missives, Part III

by Viscount Sir Galen of Bristol

©2004, Paul T. Mitchell,
This work may not be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

My Dear Wormwood,

Have you forgotten all? Have your failures taught you nothing? I suspect so, after the foolish questions in your last letter. Very well, I shall anser them, but they shall be the last.

You have asked, as your patient is to be fighter, whether he should be guided towards the earlier “chivalric” combat, or the later “duello” combat; that is, “heavy weapons” or “ light weapons?”

Will you never learn? In these “either/or” sorts of questions, it simply does not matter! Light or heavy is not the question. We need to consider the “ why” and the “ how.” Can you honestly list for me the moral differences between rapier and tournament combat? Of course not! There are none.

For our purposes, the only question is, how can we best manipulate him? Which will make him less virtuous? Let his choice be made for negative reasons, and let him get into the habit of supporting something not because it is good, but because its opponent is bad.

Do not let your patient choose which style he likes best, or expects most to enjoy. Rather, have him decide that (although he could not explain the difference between these terms) “medieval” is somehow “better” than “Renaissance,” or that light weapons is more “civilized,” or that heavy weapons is more “manly.” And by these statements, let him mean that their opposites are “ worse,” “ uncivilized” or “ unmanly.” Let his performance be a reaction to others, rather than an expression of himself.

This will be easier to accomplish than you suppose. Your man will join a stampede of people each trying to be more like their group’s ideal, and less like their opponent’s ideal, all without regard to what they themselves prefer, or are supposedly trying to re-create.

Which brings us to your other absurd question: Should your man emphasize “authenticity” or “fun?” I hope you realize by now that it doesn’t matter which choice; as long as it’s made for negative reasons, and executed in bad ways, we’re pleased. Our interests are served.

Whether he’s drumming late into the night or singing bad filksongs loudly (without regard to those trying to sleep around him), or making devastating remarks on Arts & Sciences judging sheets or in heraldic commentary letters (without regard to the feelings of those who are trying to be authentic) matters not, so long as, in his intensity, he forgets to practice the honor and courtesy they all claim to hold above everything.

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape

Continue to The Screwtape Missives, Part IV

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