You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level.
The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.” – C. S. Lewis, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (The Screwtape Letters)
Screwtape offers this advice in the advancement of jealousy in order to keep humans from faith or to keep those with faith from productive lives. Earlier, he’d said,
No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior.
I find Lewis’ discussion on this especially relevant today. The way social issues are framed is in terms of “income inequality” and “marriage inequality.” In other words, what is being appealed to in the way the debate is framed is the very jealousy that Screwtape is desirous of. And, like the tyrant in the story, our political class is wielding it with great skill. Don’t fall for it. Someone else’s success is not your failure and our political elite only care enough to knock them down if it keeps you in line. Real answers are more complex.