“Indeed, Master Screwtape. A fitting culmination to my long-te …”
“… er, ah, [gulp] y-y-your long term s-strategy for e-ensuring that the abhorred Flaming Icicle trophy, for the most contracts to hated H.E.L.L. properties secured per potential customer per Lucifer-defined topside time interval, finally comes to our subregion!”
“Not before time, demon. No thanks to you!”
“Especially with your partner in crime Printphubar out of the running due to the totally unaccountable resistance of his topsiders to our initiatives. I hear it on the lowest authority that the Adversary’s agents, as well as our own, are being deployed in record numbers to his most populous territory to try to figure out just what is going on! It’s an existential threat to both H.E.L.L. and H.E.A.V.E.N., and Senior Vice President P.’s reports have been gloriously unhelpful.”
“You have to admit that the image of our unesteemed colleague Printphubar buried in daffodils is …”
“… of absolutely no value to any of us, and particularly of no value to you, if we don’t get that trophy! You haven’t yet explained the strategy.”
“Ah, sir, if this is your strategy, then why do I …”
“Funny that it was you who mentioned daffodils just now, my dear Wormsap.”
“Y-y-y-yessir. A-as you know, Master, w-we have been promoting the concept of the ‘risk-free society’ to customers in our subregion for at least the last fifty years, topside time. Our agents worked hard to remove risks from daily life, and progressively remove those with living memory of when risk-taking was the norm. In particular, medical advances, which so many have ignorantly attributed to the (ptui!) Adversary, were in fact contributing to our long-term plan.
“That the plan was working to Luciferan specifications has been repeatedly shown by the progressively stronger, more costly, and more futile overreactions to progressively less frequent and less significant events over topside time. The plan has progressed despite warnings and even ridicule, again by persons who were working for us, instead of the (ptui!) Adversary as assumed.
“For all they succeeded in doing was to drive the customers into two camps. The ones for whom the assumption of risk, however insignificant, represents an unacceptable danger to themselves and to the State, and is therefore to be avoided at all costs. And any person or institution who exposes them to risk bears all responsibility for the exposure and any consequences – absolving themselves as a matter of course.
“And, the ones for whom the assumption of risk, however reckless, is an essential proclamation of sacred personal liberty, and any limitation on this liberty represents an unacceptable danger to themselves and to the State, and is therefore to be avoided at all costs. And any person or institution who presumes to limit their freedom!! bears all responsibility for the limitation and any consequences – absolving themselves as a matter of course.
Onto this fertile ground, we sowed the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When we commissioned it, the goblins in the Biowarfare Department laughed at us. “What kind of mayhem you think you can cook up with this wimpy thing?”, they sneered. “At its worst, the humans will still be adding a quarter million persons a day to their population!” “Shows what you know”, we responded. “We get your plague and we keep piling on the population and global warming pressure! Hand it over and watch what happens. Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” Incredibly, the shade of David Rasche tried to sue us over misappropriation of his tag line! What a …”
“I remember it well. I got seventeen Luciferan initiatives declined and was barred from the Infernal Presence because your demons couldn’t teach your customers our rules and regulations!”
“I suggest you get this over with!”
“T-t-t-t-to m-m-m-make a long s-story short [eep]. The virus was deployed, and mild as it was, it was still far worse than humans had experienced in living memory, and of course if you didn’t live it, it’s not real. A few humans saw that the consequences from trying to hide from the virus and its disease, COVID-19, would be far greater than the impact of the disease itself. But they were quickly out-shouted by the “no risk is acceptable” camp (who, of course, had not bothered to fund hospitals to cover risks they might have to face, having forgotten about them), and the world’s economies went from reasonably robust to moribund overnight, with only massive, and not to be repeated, deficit spending by governments preventing outright collapse.
“Two years topside time later, and stupendous outlays of time and treasure on vaccines and treatments and masks and climate-wrecking computer commuter networks, the virus is more active than ever. The voices of those who scream “Liberty!” and “Take a chance, dammit!” are getting progressively louder, not least because governments and businesses are going to have a harder time than ever surviving in the absence of economic activity yielding profits, and taxes. The virus kills people. So does poverty and the collapse of commerce. The “do you want to live forever” line calls up the heroism of persons throughout history who have faced serious risks in order to gain an objective worthy to themselves. Like, for instance, survival. And this appeals to the freedom!! crowd, for their own self-esteem and for the opportunity for them to dish on the ‘pansies’.”
“And you have planned for the eventuality that most topsiders adopt this stratagem by heaping on a virus worthy of the name, and therefore proving that the risks they’re taking are indeed reckless?”
“O-o-of course, Master. But we’re keeping everyone guessing on that. Including ourselves. Because …”
“This is H.E.L.L. You’ve used that line on me so many times, Wormsap. And when the ‘pansies’ scream back that they’re ‘following the science’, unlike the freedom!! types?”
“We’re building a special hall to house those worthy customers, sir. In which those who have used ‘follow the science’ as their emotional battle cry will spend all eternity reading the actual papers on which the scientific reports have been based, so that they can learn how little the scientists actually understand, and how miniscule their chances were of increasing their understanding to worthwhile levels given the funding that the screamers chose to not give them while the background information needed to prevent and stop plagues should have been collected and processed.”
“And we get contracts from each and every last one of them.”
“Yessir. We get contracts from each and every last one of them.”
“And when we get them, the construction demons will be ready?”
“Yessir. Since you mentioned rules and regulations, one of the first things that the new shades will learn on their arrival is that, unlike topside, shortages of materials and labor are no excuse for not getting jobs done on time and under budget.”
“This could be bad, Wormsap.”
“It had better be!!”