‘the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible’

The famous author, C.S. Lewis[i], made the following observation:

‘Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that’, or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred’.

It is interesting to consider these thoughts in the context of the Boer War, and – more specifically – the reactions to those of us who dare to challenge, not something someone read in the paper, but the more ghoulish and self-pitying fables which were force-fed to generations of South African children by the National Party propaganda machine. I have always been struck at just how enraged and defensive certain people get, when they are told that the ’filthy atrocities’ they prefer to believe are make-belief.

Rather than reading my work with an open-mind and thinking, ‘well, that’s interesting – I didn’t know that’, the reaction of the more thickheaded class of people is, as Lewis suggests, a ‘determination to cling to the Apartheid-era fairy tales, for the sheer pleasure of thinking their enemies are a bad as possible’… and thus, by extension, to continue basking in the warm, fuzzy feeling of being the innocent victim of a war which was (rather inconveniently) blatantly started by the Boer republics.

And as C. S. Lewis goes on to say, though it seems to make a certain type of person feel better about himself, this extreme Anglophobia, and these delusions of self-pity and victimhood, only lead to pure hatred. It is disappointing that – aided and abetted by a frazzled and fanatical sub-section of South African academia – some are still so resolutely determined to stand by their much-cherished myths, despite all evidence to the contrary.


[i] Clive Staples Lewis FBA (1898 – 1963). Born in Belfast, Lewis studied at Oxford and served in WW1. At Oxford, he was – together with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien – one of a group of writers known as ‘the Inklings’. A devout Christian and a prolific writer, Lewis’ most famous work was ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’


  • Stephen Hunt Posted April 5, 2024 6:20 pm

    Why let the truth get in the way of a good myth, especially an  iconoclastic one? The people who cherish these myths have very selective memories and will frequently and conveniently forget the atrocities committed by their own side e.g the Leliefontein massacre.

  • James Grant Posted April 8, 2024 9:29 am

    This is why these idiots still love the bullshit about broken glass in the food. Pure Apartheid propaganda make belief crap, but they all fell for it, and they still WANT it to be true.

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