“The Man Who Was Thursday” by GK Chesterton

A detective infiltrates the highest council of an international society of anarchists and becomes privy to their plots of
destruction and mayhem.  Soon he finds out there is another detective on the council … strange.  Then a third.  And a
fourth.  The plot gets kind of predictable after a while.  It turns out that everybody on the council is an undercover
detective, except the guy in charge, Sunday (there are seven members on the council, each code-named with a day of the week).  And it turns out that Sunday is the same guy in charge of the secret police’s anarchy-investigation task force.  It turns out that he is God, too…or the voice of God, or something.  The ending is really weird.  It’s a shame, because the first hundred pages or so are really engrossing.  GK Chesterton knew how to turn a phrase.  Very witty and memorable.

My favorite bit is a dialogue between “Thursday” and a policeman.  Here’s a few gems:

“Thieves respect property.  They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.”

“The common criminal is a bad man, but at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man.  He says that if only a certain obstacle be removed – say a wealthy uncle – he is then prepared to accept the universe and to praise God.  He is a reformer, but not an anarchist.  He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it.  But the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them.  Yes, the modern world has retained all those parts of police work which are really oppressive and ignominious, the harrying of the poor, the spying upon the unfortunate.  It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment of powerful traitors in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church.  The moderns say we must not punish heretics.  My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else.”

Think about the above paragraph in light of the burgeoning prison population today in America.  I wonder if the majority of criminals are in the situation Chesterton describes – like Jean Valjean, they steal to get bread, as it were; all but forced into a life of crime they deep down really don’t want.  Who are the evil philosophers of anarchy of our day who really responsible?  Maybe pushers of drugs and alcohol.  Maybe “free-thinking” advocates of public amorality (which really just seems like an excuse for old-fashioned immorality).

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