“Have you thought what you’re going to read at university?” asked Edmund, the natural condescension of an undergraduate reading Jurisprudence at Oxford somewhat tempered by a respect for Eustace’s brains, which were generally acknowledged to be superior. “Biology?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Eustace, “it’s my best subject, and it is interesting. But I’ve been wondering about history recently. Or PPE. I don’t suppose it matters all that much, in a way. I mean, what I really want to do is go into politics. PPE sounds jolly useful, but I suppose the main thing is to start in on activism and speaking.”
“Politics?” Edmund looked uncertain. “Are you sure?”
“Well, you used to be a king. I should think I could manage being a cabinet minister, at least.”
“Oh, be serious!”
“I am being serious, Ed. I - well, I suppose I want to make people’s lives better. Make society a fairer place. That sort of thing.” He paused. “I think I need to work on the whole ‘giving speeches’ part, though.”
“Hmph,” Edmund snorted, “you can’t make people’s lives better by act of parliament, you know.”
“Oh, rot,” said Eustace crossly, “only someone who’s never had to worry about paying the doctor’s bill could think that. What about the National Health Service? What about old age pensions? You’re not going to want the workhouse back, surely?”
“Well, the NHS is all very well and good, but I just don’t like the idea of the state meddling in people’s lives. That’s all.”
“And I’d rather have the state meddling, as you put it, than having the strong stamping all over the weak, which is what you get if the state doesn’t take an interest.”
“You sound like a Marxist,” said Edmund, indignantly.
“Funnily enough,” said Eustace, “I am a Marxist. Have you only just noticed…? And don’t bring Stalin into it, I think that’s an abominable perversion of socialism. But that doesn’t mean I have to like capitalism either. I’m a gradualist.”
“I suppose I should be glad you’re not totally mad,” said Edmund, still looking thoroughly disconcerted. “But Eustace, how can you? I remember all that rubbish you talked to Caspian about republicanism. You’re not going to tell me…”
“Oh, I talked a lot of rubbish to Caspian when we first met, but I’m still a republican,” said Eustace, grinning faintly.
“Eustace! You put Rillian on the throne of Narnia! Aslan told you to! Doesn’t that give you a hint that he might not approve of republicanism?”
“I’m a Marxist,” repeated Eustace. “There’s a process of development to history; Narnia’s in a feudalist stage, and Rillian was obviously a better person to have wielding executive power than the Green Lady. I’ll take a king who recognises his responsibility to his people and who rules with their consent over a foreign imperialist slave-holder any day, thank you very much. Besides, Caspian was a progressive force, in his own way. He closed the slave markets, and he used his council, unlike Miraz, and he stopped a genocide and put an end to the oppression of the non-humans. Doesn’t what’s right for Narnia’s right for Britain today.”
“I suppose you want a revolution?”
“I don’t want a violent revolution. Like I said, I believe in gradual change and reform…. But come on, Edmund, I’ve heard your war stories. You really don’t get to play the pacifist card.”
“There’s a difference between overturning the social order and acting under properly constituted authority to get rid of a usurper,” said Edmund primly.
“Yes, well,” said Eustace, “your properly constituted authority was Aslan telling you to. I’m not sure what you could count as an equivalent in this world...”
At that moment, the door opened, and Lucy came in.
“I dug out that book you wanted, Eustace,” she said cheerfully, “Are you all right, Ed? You look like there’s a bad smell.”
“Eustace has been telling me about his socialist views” said Edmund, disdainfully.
“Good for him,” said Lucy briskly, and passed Eustace the book. “There you go, Christianity and the Social Order. And Fr. Hall says that The Acquisitive Society’s awfully good.”
Edmund put his head in his hands and groaned. The world had gone utterly mad.