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Bulverism

A National Review post reminded us of C.S. Lewis's essay, Bulverism:

'At that moment', E. Bulver assures us, 'there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.'

The result of Bulverism is that we have packs of politicians shouting lies at each other.

CS Lewis had fascinating insights into people. For instance he understood the seductive attraction of the inner circle, which he wrote about in The Weight of Glory. The need to be in an inner circle has an obvious connection to Bulverism.

As Lewis explains, people want to be in the inner circle. They form inner circles in school and later at their clubs and places of work. They want to feel that they are in a special circle and you and most other people are outside it. They think the circle is superb -'it has all the best people' - and they think they are something because they're in it. Everyone in the circle thinks and says the same thing - it's part of the code. They all think they are right and you are wrong. They are all E. Bulvers.

For those who have been in the circle, finding themselves outside is frightening and even shameful. The man or woman who leaves the circle finds his sense of self and his very being threatened. His career hits the rocks. He's spurned, and made to feel worthless. Winston Churchill experienced this in his wilderness years. But Churchill was tough. When he became a man, he understood he could not sell his soul and he had to leave the inner circle. Of course, his own self-regard more than compensated. 'I know we're all worms', he once remarked. 'But I think I'm a glow-worm'.

Unless it has been corrupted, a fellowship is not an inner circle. The fellowship that abolished slavery was open to all and was guided by principle rather than the self-interest of the members. American revolutionaries are another example of a fellowship, though they were also self-interested. Self-interest can live with principle - real principles, such as honesty or freedom, serve our individual self-interest.

In contrast, an inner circle is marked by snobbish and often irrational entry requirements, greed masquerading under the members' supposed interest in the well-being of the people and closed and self-righteous thinking. Most of all the inner circle is marked by the fact that those in the circle never share the burdens of those outside it - burdens they often impose on them.

Take the inner circle of EUphiles. The EU makes men and women want to be part of it – to enjoy its lavish pensions and perks, to feel specially precious, to enjoy their elitism, and to simultaneously feel self-righteous. They preen themselves on cobbling together an undemocratic 'Union of the Regions'. Never mind that the EU will be a disaster because it tramples freedom and common sense. They will do very well.

They are Bulvers. They are part of an inner circle that deliberately excludes the people it exploits from its elevated discourses and, when it does speak to them, lies to them 'for their own good'.

Comments (1)

John B:

An excellent piece and so very true.

Some of the worst stupidities and betrayals seem to come from "in-crowd" hunger.

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