Debate Magazine

The Inner Ring

Posted on the 22 February 2023 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

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 flavor 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 naïf 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?

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