M: “Not a chance. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of the white feather brigades.”
F: “No …”
M: “Figures. The White Feather brigades were women who paraded through England during World War 1, handing out white feathers to young, apparently healthy men who had committed the sin of not yet having been machinegunned, or blown to bits by artillery, or drowned in the trenches of World War 1 as an alternative to dying of louse-borne typhus. Basically accusing these men of having a lick of sense – which, in your language, is spelled c-o-w-a-r-d-i-c-e.”
“Studying topside video archives, Master Screwtape. Hard is for the mining goblins, being trained to harvest adamant from the ice-bound lava flows. This training is for topside recruiters and contract sellers.”
“Got it. But, black and white?”
“The archives are what they are, Master. The trainees will take in those elements from them that serve the missions of H.E.L.L., and ignore those that do not. They will understand that nothing in this example detracts from H.E.L.L.’s core precepts – in this case, that nothing is black-and-white. Or else.”
“Until Lucifer decrees otherwise.”
“Of course, sir. But that is covered in introductory indoctrination. Perfect instantaneous recall of all points made in Introductory is expected of all in H.E.L.L. at all times and under all circumstances, under penalty of daffodils, as you know. No need for me to repeat.”
“So what is it that’s so important about this video, that compels the mixed message?”
“Giving our trainees practice in handling complexity?”
“The video presents a man and his dog, who die in a hunting accident. While in Limbo, the two encounter two agents, both of whom purport to represent H.E.A.V.E.N. The pair reject the first agent, on the basis of mutual rejection of the dog and the agent, but accept the second, with whom the dog is happy. The second agent claims that the first agent represented H.E.L.L., because ‘not even the Devil can fool a dog’.
“The training session will direct the attention of the trainees to the claims made by the two agents about the nature of H.E.A.V.E.N., namely that it fulfills, unfettered, all the [ahem] confessable desires of its recruits. The claims are universal – and necessarily false, since there is no agency anywhere that can grant unlimited freedom to any being, without having that freedom clash with the unlimited freedom of any other being, resulting in the very chaos that is supposedly absent from H.E.A.V.E.N. As we both know, and Lucifer personally attests (frequently), the (ptui!) Adversary is no more able to pull this off than any other agency in the multiverse.”
“Hence, our rules and regulations, far more complex, uninterpretable, and imperative than any topside system. Because we will keep order, or else!”
“Indeed, Master. The point, then, is that both of the agents in the video are ours. The strategy is to present multiple versions of the deceptions, so that those who reject one presentation are more ready to accept another, which addresses a criterion highlighted in the first presentation and is perceived to be ‘better’, because it plays to the fantasies of the recruit. The percentage of contracts obtained per topside decedent thereby increases, and H.E.L.L. gains.”
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