The incomparable C. S. Lewis is well known (among other things) for his excellent "Screwtape Letters". The fame of these letter is entirely deserved. Much less well known, however, is "Screwtape Proposes a Toast".
This is, in my view, a great pity. Much good would be done if the message of this piece were more widely understood.
Basically, Lewis has Screwtape lecture a group of demons on the great value to Hell of the perversion of the concepts of "Democracy" and "Equality". The point, according to Screwtape, is to keep these two concepts fuzzy in peoples minds and to try and take the claim "all men are equal" out of it's original, political context and try to turn in into the idea that all men are, or ought to be, equal in talents, abilities, virtues and other ways in which it is quite obvious that we are not and can not be equal. In Screwtape's view, much could be done by this to undermine humanity.
I say all this in reflection on a incident in last night's episode of Ten's new "Reality Show" "The X Factor" (I realize it does nothing for my credibility that I profess to hate "Reality TV" but blog on two such shows in as many days). Anyway, a woman came (voluntarily) before three expert judges and sang. They, politely but firmly, told her that she had no talent.
What intrigued me was her comments afterwards, she insisted that she had talent, she said that the judges thought they had power just because they had influential positions in the music industry and they thought they new who did and didn't have musical talent, but they were wrong. And then came the point, the reason these industry bigwigs don't have power and can't judge who does and doesn't have talent "All men are equal, the Queen, industry types, we are all equal."
This, I submit, is a perfect example of the attitude Screwtape was encouraging is fellow demons to promote. Note the confusion. I will, of course, happily concede that there are important, nay vital, political, moral and theological senses in which all men are equal, but so what? How does the fact that we are all equally important as immortal souls affect the question of whether or not the "X Factor" judges can adequately judge a persons talent? Or did she mean it in some other sense? Did she mean that all humanity is equal in ability to judge musical talent? Does this include the tone deaf? Does it include the deaf?
Ultimately, I don't think the woman had the faintest clue what she meant. She had volutaraly submitted her talents before a panel of experts and those experts has been unanimous in giving her the thumbs down, she wanted to come back at them and needed to say something plausible. Perhaps I am judging her too harshly, but she is an example of a genuinely troubling phenomenon. People mouth slogans like "we are all equal" without giving any thought to gaining a clear idea of what they actually mean, this is not a healthy thing for political and philosophical discourse.
* This is not a typo but an reference to Orwell's "Newspeak"