Russell and Duenes

Malcolm Muggeridge: Deliverance from Happiness

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Only seventeen years into the 21st century, and we are in danger of forgetting the reality of the 20th. We somehow imagine that our technocratic, secular age has ushered in the “broad, sunlit uplands” to which Winston Churchill referred. But believing such a massive lie requires that we wipe the 20th century from our minds, and Muggeridge saw this project in full forward motion, again, decades ago.

As I have written on this blog before, the horrors of the 20th century are assumed to be some kind of anomaly, never to be repeated, in the annals of human history. As Dallas Willard put it, we imagine that the millions upon millions of deaths were the result of certain especially “mad or bad” people, but had nothing to do with the rest of us “decent” folks.

The following is so counter to our collective sentiments as to be, in my guess, regarded by most as virtually insane, the words of a crank and crackpot. Judge for yourself!

“If the kingdom of heaven on earth has dawned for us now, it is necessary to regard this age as exceptionally and increasingly humane, when in point of fact it has evidently been notable for slaughter, cruelty and destruction on a scale rarely, if ever, exceeded in history. We have to offset the Health Service against Hitler’s gas chambers, the Third Programme against the wanton destruction of many of the finest products of our civilization like the city of Dresden, Parks of Culture and Rest against the monstrous annihilations of Stalin, Unesco against the millions of displaced persons (that blood-curdling term, itself an emanation of a lost mind reaching after a lost soul).

We have to persuade ourselves that we are moving toward a condition of peace and enlightenment when, in fact, wealth and skills are being devoted on an inconceivable scale to making weapons capable of blowing us and our world to smithereens, such weapons being in the hands of tenth-rate demagogues like Lyndon Johnson and the hard-faced men, his opposite numbers, in the Kremlin who unaccountably succeed one another in power.”

“Above all, we have to persuade ourselves that we are happy. This is the most difficult and sanity-destroying operation of all…The ever-increasing numbers of the mentally sick (20 million now, reportedly, in America, the happiest land) have cracked under the strain. Happiness in Scandinavia (another happy land, portrayed by Ingmar Bergman) often seems to fall out of the window, Hemingway’s happiness was a bullet he fired into his brain. I gave my happiness an airing on the M1, and it collided with someone else’s, spattering the tarmac with blood. I swallowed my happiness in a little colored pill, I read it in the Reader’s Digest, I saw it on a glossy page. I even ejected it into my girl, but it gave her pain. So she had it cut out. 

Deliverance from happiness would seem to be the greatest need of mankind today, and the Christian churches are an ideal instrument for bringing it about. The New and Old Testaments are full of the hopelessness of looking for anything but tribulation in this world, and the senses stand condemned as gross deceivers which enslave and ruin their addicts.” (From his essay: “Backward, Christian Soldiers”)

Hopefully these thoughts from Muggeridge whet your appetite for his writing. I have found it impossible to find his essays by searching on Google, so it seems one must purchase his books.



Written by Michael Duenes

April 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

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