Purely Political, By James Buckley
At the turn of the 21st century, Time magazine had difficulty deciding who to choose as “Person of the Century.”
In the end, it turned away from honoring British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for his critical role in saving Western Civilization. Instead, the magazine gave the nod to Albert Einstein, whose mathematical observation that E = mc2 led to the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and not coincidentally, Japan’s total surrender and the end of World War II.
The controversy, as it turned out, was essentially whether “saving Western Civilization” was a worthy endeavor at all. And, curiously, even though Time passed on Mr. Churchill, the magazine’s top choice was probably even more responsible for saving the now-despised (by the left) civilization that brought us modern medicine and air-conditioning, along with myriad ways of making life better and easier.
Twenty years on, the argument about whether Western Civilization was worth saving is over and the consensus is … It really wasn’t and isn’t. Among well-known and loud critics of everything Anglo and/or “Western” are a slew of U.S. congressional representatives and academic “thinkers” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, better known as “The Squad”), who seem ready to chuck the entire Renaissance/Enlightenment journey and to venture where … others (such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba?) … have gone before.
And, it seems, the entire Democratic Party is going along for the ride.
Which brings us to Mr. George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, a devoted “Democratic Socialist” for most of his short but productive life. (He died in 1950 at the age of 46). He was born in 1903 in India (where his father worked as a minor official in the Opium Department) as that country was firmly in thrall to the British Empire. The Blair family returned to England in 1907, allowing Eric to attend both the elite schools of Wellington and Eton.
Curiously enough, at Eton, the soon-to-be George Orwell found himself under the tutelage of Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World,” a book that stands as one of a brilliant dystopian trio of 20th-century British works; the other two being “1984,” and “Animal Farm,” both written by George Orwell.
I don’t believe “Brave New World” reaches the literary heights of either of Orwell’s classics, but one has to give it to Huxley, his prescient fiction foresees a world where a popular drug “Soma” lulls the population into a submissive stupor (legalized marijuana anyone?) and whose technological prowess allows the State to control its citizenry via “entertainment machines” (what we’d now see as video games) leading to hours of leisure time, and not coincidentally, subservience.
Huxley also foresaw “artificial intelligence” and that the State would corral science and technological techniques for its own purposes, via such things as “feelies.” It would, of course, also censor any negative or by implication, damning information that may have turned up or been overlooked (such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media sites do now). One other prognostication by Mr. Huxley was that much of North America (fly-over country) would become an international park, where city dwellers (let’s call them the ruling elite) could vacation among the unenlightened (the religious middle class).
Huxley’s “Brave New World” was, apparently, the inspiration for George Orwell’s “1984” novel, and in it, things aren’t much different as far as State control goes, though life in “1984” was definitively harsher and crueler than Huxley’s “peaceable” drug-induced Brave New World.
I’ve been under the sway of Mr. Orwell’s vision of the future since first reading “Animal Farm” and then “1984” as a teenager. Knowing that, and having been forewarned, here are some of Mr. Orwell’s more acute observations from, first, “1984”, then “Animal Farm.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
In case you have been wondering why Antifa and Black Lives Matter black-clad and other masked-up groups spent much of the summer of 2020 destroying statues and burning down buildings, Orwell knew that was coming. “The most effective way to destroy people,” he wrote, “is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” Thinking about denying and obliteration our own understanding of our history, brings us to the 1619 project that suggests America’s original sin of slavery was the founding doctrine of the United States and not the 1776 Declaration of Independence.
“The people will believe what the media tells them they believe.”
And, you know how well that works, as the Russian collusion fakery not only lasted through more than three years of former President Donald Trump’s presidency, but also that probably more than 50% of Democrats continue to believe the absurd fabrication, thanks to the collusion between major media outlets and the Democratic Party.
Orwell cynically notes that “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” He understood how important it was (and is) to convince subjects of tyranny that they are happier with their tyrant than without. Hence: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
You’ve read of academics and theoreticians proposing that math is a “racist” construct and that if students answer that two plus two is five, they shouldn’t be corrected? Well, Orwell covered that too. Read this portion of a conversation between O’Brien, one of “1984’s” top inner circle leaders, and Winston, the novel’s protagonist and a prisoner:
O’Brien: “You are a slow learner, Winston.”
Winston: “How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
O’Brien: “Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once …
“I enjoy talking to you, Winston. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
Another observation worth pondering:
“Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” If you change “orthodoxy” to the phrase “political correctness,” you’ll have a deeper understanding of its merit and its menace and why it’s so damned frustrating to try to speak with someone with an “orthodox” mindset.
“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
And finally, Winston explains his job as a records “editor” at the Ministry of Truth, where he labors daily, rewriting history so those records will accord with the party’s current version of what constitutes truth: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right.”
The animals at Manor Farms were overworked but thanks to pigs named Napoleon and Snowball, the animals’ revolt against the farmer was successful and they gained their freedom. The animals called their movement “Animalism” and renamed “Manor Farm” “Animal Farm.”
Napoleon and Snowball wrote and approved of the Seven Commandments that all members of Animal Farm would henceforth adhere to:
1) Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2) Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3) No animal shall wear clothes.
4) No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5) No animal shall drink alcohol.
6) No animal shall kill any other animal. (“without cause” was added later)
7) All animals are equal.
However, that didn’t last, as Napoleon and Snowball began walking on two legs, sleeping in beds, drinking alcohol and killing dissenters. They changed the Seven Commandments into a shorter maxim:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others; having four legs is good, but having two legs is better.”
Snowball explains the changes to the befuddled farm animals who’d seen what had been happening to their short-lived freedoms and now feared their two-legged revolutionary heroes: “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
Sound familiar in the face of today’s $6 trillion budget-busting bonanzarama?
Oh, and in the U.S., as more and more athletes began to kneel during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one could only note that in “Animal Farm”, the Animalist national anthem, the song of their rebellion, “Beasts of England,” was abolished. It was forbidden to sing it any longer.
Well, things could change, but the U.S. is definitely heading in a direction no one could have foreseen, say, 10 years ago.
No one, except maybe George Orwell.
Cross your fingers and hang onto your beliefs.
Change is coming.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident.