Thursday, September 15, 2005

On Orwell

Apparently a few years back I once told Joel that Orwell didn't matter. It is easy to imagine the hubris that coughed the phlegm. After all, Orwell never lived to embrace the totality of dark regimes, how naive O'Brien appears in light of the mass production of corpses. Yes, I likely said something just that stupid, though I honestly don't remember. it is difficult to consider an author more needed these days than Orwell. His cautionary tales about the primacy of language in the political sphere aside, his essays which castigate those empowered and abandon the trust as protector of the vulnerable. I have read four of Mr. Orwell's books this year and another, Christopher Hitchens' fine book about Orwell's centrality, about the man. I seldom read in clusters of genre and author as I once was disposed. Yet, this year, of all other years, I have striven to accept and embrace this courageous soul who risked life and limb, depicting and protecting what he deigned the essential human values. Forgive me my hagiography, indeed I now hold Orwell next to Solzhenitsyn and Grass as Humanists of word and deed, a rare feat in any lifetime.

Perhaps it was most unsettling that Orwell's one significant lapse[1], his nonchalant listing of individuals he considered to have Stalinist leanings, that allows him his humanity, and for such example allows Justice Hitchens to arrive and supercede his own otherwise unblemished scholarship. That said, only cats land on their feet -- every time, and Orwell often made human errors in considering what he imagined "inevitabilities." Who can accomplish otherwise? His reasoning that unless the UK reorganized itself for military socialism, it was fucked. This didn't account for ongoing lend-lease with the Yanks and Hitler's strive for a second front.

I find it fair to state that Orwell was better with journalism and essays than at fiction. this must be qualified to consider that I haven't read all of his novels, yet I imagine the point will stick. 1984 for all its power, still reaches one as a series of postcards, scribbled feverishly, alternated with snapshots of the ominous. The horror of Big Brother is not Room 101 or the regime's omnipresence, but rather, it is its saturation of language and the subsequent contamination of emotion. If one pauses to consider our bifurcation of reality in this media theatre, it is indeed those who own, not the language (we haven't achieved that level of servitude) but the phrases with currency, those that marketing gurus claim connect to the reptilian brain: as if that was desirable route to observe! No, Orwell understood the greatest challenges but not, perhaps, the serial ravages of the noose merchants, those that outsources empathy on a permanent basis generations back.

[1] As opposed to his lesser failings i.e. homophobia (which I suspect that like all British, he was only being over-compensatory), his distrust of Scots and Jews and his penchant for an idealistic didacticism.

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8:58 PM  
Blogger edward parish said...

Perhaps Orwell was a visionary just like say Arnold Beckman,Arthur C.
Clarke or Jules Verne were in their own ways. Without putting to much
emphasis on the Orwell quest of 1984, he as well as many others, must
have some gift to be able to dream of what the future may bring. No one
unless they are of the scientific field and can do calculations, can be
absolute with predicting the future, although I must conclude that
Orwell did perhaps come very, very close. The same may be said of the
world of science fictions predictions that are now coming true. For
Arnold Beckman, he was a pure genius like so many others from the field
of electronics.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel called last night and we discussed 1984 with respect to the essay and the mention of brief, tactical nuclear exchange between the three powers but that, despite the publication in 1948 and the (near) awareness of the Shoah (with Nuremburg, etc) , why a dearth of Zyklon showers? Joel remarked that he always felt that such was implied. I would like to return to the book to reconsider but I felt that Orwell's model was the purges of Koba (the hunt for Goldstein: pickaxe, where is thy sting?), not the long knives nor mounds of spectacles.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Buster Hyman said...

What would one say of the future of pandemic Asian bird flu on the shores of the US of W? That my friend would be a true vision with a way to narrow the massive loss of life. We have nothing to fear but fear itself? Our ex neighbor on Market Street will be 101 this year, she still tells the haunting stories of how many died in her block in a week from the influenza outbreak. Hope I can get just one more pint of Guinness down before my time comes to be. Cheers...time to sleep.

9:46 PM  

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