Wednesday 22 February 2023

The Inner Ring

Like me you might have been wondering why the EU persists in its sanctions against Russia, despite it now being completely obvious that not only are they not working against Russia, but that they are hurting the EU countries more than they hurt Russia. It seems unlikely either that all the politicians concerned are too stupid to notice or that they are being bribed by some other country. Some, perhaps, but not all. However, there is a possible third explanation, as set out in this 1944 talk by C.S.Lewis, The Inner Ring

As he puts it "Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things." What C.S.Lewis calls the Inner Ring is simply an exclusive grouping of people, generally, but not necessarily, people with power and influence. It's worth reading the whole talk to get the flavour of the concept. Politics consists almost entirely of such rings, each ring touching another more inner, stretching from local to national to international to supranational. How many aspiring politicians have been faced with this scenario,

Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still—just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naĂŻf or a prig—the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which “we”—and at the word “we” you try not to blush for mere pleasure—something “we always do.” And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

and fallen for it? Of how many politicians can it be said that they seemed to talk sense until they were part of the government and how many retired generals or senior spies suddenly start coming out with opinions, once they have retired, that you know they didn't express when they were in office? Could it all be down to kompromat, or is it just the lure of the inner ring at work?


A K Haart said...

That's an interesting quote. A step up the ladder and suddenly the world is different.

Rich Tee said...

It is concentration of power that is ultimately the problem. People wouldn't be seduced by it if there was no power to be had over people and resources.

Bayard said...

RT agreed, but sadly that is the way that all societies end up and always have done and I expect the "inner ring" phenomenon is the mechanism. It's a bit like the agglomeration effect with housing.

Doonhamer said...

This occurs at all levels and all organisations - street gangs, corporations (think of leaking Thiocol seals, stupid aeroplane software, derivatives), the Global Warming concensus, the Safe-And-Effective instant unvaccines, certain nations, creeds or races are beyond the pale and can be eliminated with a clean conscience, etc.
I have seen it in a single church congregation.

Bayard said...

D, I would imagine that the Church has always been a fertile breeding ground for inner rings.

Lola said...

Reminds me of the Tom Cruise film - The Firm,

The point of my comparison is that all these inner circles are in some way corrupt and corrupting. If you get invited 'they' are seeing if they can suck you in. And as D says they are everywhere. There is always a 'price'. Maybe it's as was observed by Adam Smith -

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

IMHO the EU fits exactly into the 'conspiracy against the public' phrase.