In the name of political correctness

The writer Robert Benson (1871-1914) lived for a short duration of 43 years; many of which were dedicated to the prestigious Cambridge University.

Benson was a student at Cambridge, and later on became a professor and Catholic Chaplain. This was a courageous act since Benson was the son of the Head of the Anglican Church and natural successor of such office.

Shortly after his conversion to Catholicism, Benson made a significant contribution to the literary genre of dystopia with his novel “Lord of the World” (1907). Moreover, many readers give the book a “prophetic” value for its success in anticipating things that are happening in today´s society.

Dystopia is a term created by John Stuart Mill, and it consists of the denouncement of a structurally fictional society, deemed undesirable due to its harmful effects on people.

In his novel, Benson describes the dynamics of the society at the beginning of the 21st century, and the tension this generates within his character, Percy Franklin.

The society portrayed by Benson is a globalized one, filled with consumerism, and fascinated by technology, where humanity lives in a periphery of what is important, focused on matters that are irrelevant, shallow and unsubstantial. In this society, an ideological colonization is happening in the form of a single thought imposition. The political correctness is implemented by both easy and hard ways.

In that context, and to make a “better” world possible, a leader emerges (The Lord of the World). His appealing, charismatic and seductive speech for world peace is based on a humanitarianism effort, which cannot be disagreed on without running the risk of being outcast and mocked.

Behind his good image, “the lord of the world” hints a suspicious attraction to power and ways to acquire it which foreshadow a perverse dynamic. What is also suspicious is his strong will to impose a secular agenda, in which man is deified and society is secluded from God.

This is the air breathed by Percy Franklin, the character in the novel; in his mind, he debates between the “logical” political correctness and the practical denial of God that this entails and the loyalty to his Christian spirituality.

His dilemma is not so different from what many of us may confront today. Nor the description of the society Benson created. Perhaps we cannot name the true lord of the world, although it would not be too complicated to identify any of his pawns.

Percy’s final decision on his dilemma, betting on a God-centered spirituality, could serve as an inspiration for our own inner struggles. A strong humanism combined with a Christian spirituality can result in a better society and a richer personal life journey.

Things are as they are, however, we see them and feel them based on how each of us is. With a richer conscience, we can grasp reality more completely and feel compelled to change relationships from dominance and control to collaboration.

The soulless humanitarianism of the “lords of the world” is dysfunctional as it creates a dangerous breach between the human being and its Creator, woman and man, parents and children, matter and spirit, freedom and responsibility, consumption and savings, etc.

I invite you to build a richer conscience that empowers us to close the breaches that others are widening.

Perhaps this will allow us to swim with the current in matters of style and to stand like a rock in matters of principle as suggested by Thomas Jefferson. A good conscience will also help us to overcome a perverse consumer logic that the “lords of the world” like so much: spending money we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.

Prof. Luis Huete