The unelected but powerful progressive element—”that hideous strength,” as C.S. Lewis so aptly called it in the concluding work of his “Space Trilogy”—has recognized and effectively manipulated within the coronavirus pandemic an opportunity to advance their project by leaps otherwise only imaginable across several decades. Per Rahm Emmanuel’s famous maxim “never let a crisis go to waste,” they thus forge ahead.
The administrative class convinced us to hide in our homes and cease almost all social contact. The “social distancing” spirit of all this being strictly necessary to save lives (as most acknowledge), the hidden power of the state cheerfully grew its undulating chthonic influence by orders of magnitude and pushed itself—amidst earthquakes and financial disaster—closer to the surface.
Lewis’ identification of those powerful secret combinations of progressivism was only one of the things about which he proved prescient in his “Space Trilogy.” Something else he saw coming in detail that would turn Nostradamus green with envy was Joe Biden. And, it turns out, the two concepts are intimately linked.
Joe Biden as a Vessel of Progress
The former vice president represents the popularized portion of that political coalition with the impulse to drive the growth of progressivism (so clearly demonstrated during coronavirus). In Joe Biden’s case, and happily for progressivism, it is increasingly clear he is but an empty shell for that impulse to fill. Lewis saw the future not of Biden specifically, but the likes of him. The fact Biden could be replaced by any true believer in “Progress” as such was sort of his point.
In both the second and third books of his “Space Trilogy,” Lewis envisions the spirit of Progress seeking to speak directly in its own voice.
In Perelandra (the second book in the series), Weston—a poor, misguided scientific progressivist—accidentally relinquishes his physical body, and is filled with the satanic zeitgeist which drives the Progress he adores. Far from an atheist, he believes that the spirit of the age has a character; a spirit properly speaking. He proved himself right when he became the fleshy vessel of evil on Venus, Lewis’ Garden of Eden.
Similarly, in That Hideous Strength (the third book in the series) the severed head of Alcasan, a leftist political extremist, becomes the medium of Progress. A group of scientists, many of whom believe they have discovered a way to access the mind of the severed head, apply machines to moisten the tongue and mouth, move the jaw, and stimulate the vocal cords. The head emits a horrible sound that loosely resembles speech. Those who comprehend the source and nature of the speech (that is the spirit of Progress itself) become like scribes jotting the incoherent and drug-addled mumblings of Ancient Greek oracles. These modern-day irreligious progressive acolytes take the utterances of this dead-but-technologically-animated head as the truth their “gods” send them.
Biden’s similarity to both Weston and Alcason on a practical level is unsettling. The presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America is a walking corpse of a person, who absentmindedly mutters progressive catchphrases that sound vaguely familiar, if entirely incoherent. What keeps him going? Not exactly machines. Perhaps some unseen spirit. Probably nothing metaphysically personal.
What should we expect from a Joe Biden presidency? Sleepy Joe, propped up, being worked by machines (or at least by the Democratic Machine) if not literally, almost literally, and having ideas pass through him, as a mouthpiece that the zeitgeist has deemed acceptable, and has taken full control of.
Practically speaking, the progressive spirit of the age will not simply possess him like the muse (or a demon). In reality, the members of its young and eager movement who will hold their noses and vote for their fifth choice nominee, will stand behind him. The AOCs, Julien Castros, and (more directly) Kamala Harrises of the world will smile and nod as he parrots their ideas, garbling them through the filter of his vacant mind.
As frightening as the prospect of a decomposing president sitting in the Oval Office might seem, the hand in the rear of that potential meat puppet scares me more.
Existential Threats Viral and Otherwise
That hideous strength has decided to use these past pestilential weeks to flex its repugnant muscles. As a general rule, we have bowed before its power.
In an immediate sense, we did what we felt necessary, the only thing we felt we could to save the lives of those around us. In a broad, politically considered sense we have set ourselves up for a potentially awful scenario. If Biden takes office in January, and the powers that be in the Democratic Party control him following this crisis, who truly believes that the measures this crisis has necessitated (or otherwise inspired) will not become permanent?
Worse yet, perhaps such measures, both economic and social, will be only the beginning.
You might ask yourself what reason could possibly be summoned for the continuance, furtherance, or reenactment of stay-at-home orders, deep welfare expansion, multi-trillion-dollar emergency plans, and so on?
The answer, although not central to the current narrative, is climate change.
Something strange regarding the climate fruits of coronavirus is happening before our eyes in the media. C.S. Lewis foresaw (or perhaps simply observed in his time) this same process as the primary means of progressivist narrative flipping.
Mark Studdock, Lewis’s main character in That Hideous Strength, works for a progressive think tank known as “N.I.C.E,” or simply “The Institute.” Although he initially wishes to focus on academic research as a sociologist, the higher-ups soon convince him that the Institute’s real work occurs in the pages of popular newspapers rather than more academically inclined outlets.
Studdock has been told that Alcasan, the political extremist he later learned was the previous owner of the severed head that had become the N.I.C.E.’s mouthpiece for the progressive zeitgeist, is “to be rehabilitated . . . Gradually.” Through a series of articles, Alcasan is to be changed in the public eye. Studdock takes the assignment.
Although Studdock is instructed initially to admit in print that Alcasan’s execution was just, that same death later becomes a martyrdom, represented as “an irreparable loss to the human race.” At first, the articles make suggestions and innuendos about the injustice of his death. Eventually, full-bore arguments in Alcasan’s favor replace the subtlety.
This same process has already begun with climate change and coronavirus. “People in India can see the Himalayas for the first time in ‘decades’ as the lockdown eases air pollution,” proclaimed a recent headline from CNN. Though this may be true, the implication in the reporting becomes clear.
The article, though not explicitly in favor of the implementation of such changes permanently, goes on, “The [new view of the Himalayas] is made possible by a dramatic improvement in air quality in recent weeks, after industries shut down, cars came off the road and airlines canceled flights in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Shut down industry, get cars off the road, and cancel the flights. Live in the pod; eat the bugs.
They haven’t called for it, but they have identified it as the source of an undeniably good change. The reputation of the coronavirus, much like Alcasan, is being rehabilitated by the exemplary silver-lining-chicanery of the media. Such articles are becoming the norm in mainstream outlets like CNN, the Guardian, and NPR.
No explicit arguments for the Green New Deal are being made in the media on these bases, not yet. That’s only because they’ve just begun the process. Give it some time, and you’ll be wondering “what’s the difference between coronavirus and climate change anyway? Both are equally ‘existential threats’ why shouldn’t we treat them the same?”
Lewis’ wisdom regarding pandemic season’s political ramifications should be heeded. If you wonder how things ended for N.I.C.E. . . . well I won’t spoil it (it’s pretty wild), but cosmic justice on the side of freedom and against the hideous strength of the progressive element triumphs heartily.
It didn’t happen automatically. Lewis’ story requires the courage and fortitude of a little band of Christians, led by their astronaut-prophet, to direct righteous action in opposition to the evil at hand and put the evil back where it belonged. Calling on the power of goodness, beauty, and truth, those in opposition to the dangerous current of Progress and its lively spirit pushed back. And the zeitgeist retreated in the face of a stronger Spirit.
Unless you like living and working in your bedroom both during and after the virus, forbidden to leave and afraid to touch or see another person, unless you enjoy the prospect of a world brought to its knees and kept there permanently by an unseen power that wishes to control and subject without prejudice for the sake of a professed public good, then I recommend allowing Joe Biden the retirement he probably wanted before his recent reanimation and possession by the undying spirit of Progress. Even if you don’t think all of that will happen, whatever is animating Joe Biden likely doesn’t have the credentials and goodwill to be president . . . most of the demons I’ve heard of don’t, anyway.