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Academic Freedom by Lawrence Fedewa
There are two keys to understanding these demonstrations:
- First, these student protests are flourishing in an environment fostered by the faculties at these institutions; and
- Second, the faculty preaches dogmas which mark a generational shift in values.
The fundamental analysis therefore must begin with the faculty. Student behavior is primarily an acting out of faculty teaching. Administrators, while generally sympathetic to the students, are caught between angry students and their Boards and other supporters demanding a stop to these outrageous demonstrations.
What is the faculty teaching and why?
An ideology has developed over the past two generations which has several names, such as the New Left, secular humanism and others, as well as several differing versions. The dedication to this ideology on the part of its true believers cannot be overestimated. It is based on a series of high moral convictions which are common to most variations of the new doctrine:
- the absolute equality of ALL human beings, no matter their age, race, gender, physical capacities, religion or social position;
- a central reality of this dogma is the existence of a universal racism in the America;
- the absolute obligation to oppose ALL limitations on human behavior whether religious, civil law, or cultural prejudice;
- to protect and foster government control of all institutions
- any means of furthering these ideals is justified, including physical violence and terrorism, since there is a war against traditionalists for control of society.
These high moral goals motivate the feeling of superiority which is characteristic of the New Left, as well as the ferocity with which they attack their opponents. In the most dedicated adherents of the New Left, there is a religious fervor not unlike that which motivates the radical Islamists. Those who disagree must be defeated at any cost, even at the cost of their destruction. The New Left are not as violent as the Islamic extremists, but there are similarities.
The New Left’s 2008 victory
In 2008, they finally won their long battle for control of the American government. They elected Barack Hussein Obama as President with a Democrat Congress to back him up. It took the Great Recession to do it. But the New Left — spawned by the crisis of 1968, hardened by 40 years in the wilderness, and preaching an expanded view of human equality, anti-war idealism, anti-business bias, an anti-family and anti-religion world-view – the New Left now finally controlled the federal government of the United States of America.
The New Left’s reaction to the 2016 election of the deplorable Donald Trump
The main reason for the extreme reaction of the New Left to the election of Donald Trump is that they were convinced they had finally won their generational battle with the silent majority. They were so intoxicated by the victories of Barack Obama – especially after he defeated businessman Mitt Romney in 2012 – that LOSING was unthinkable! They had been confident that they now controlled the future of America.
The New Left values dominated, they believed, the new American culture, never again to be denied. The Democrat Party, one of only two major political parties in the United States, had become the vessel of the New Left, and was considered by all the New Left press and pundits to be firmly enthroned as the majority party for the foreseeable future. Their agenda had already skipped over the 2016 election and concentrated on what their next priority, climate change, meant to the world.
Then the deplorable Donald Trump won the presidency! His Republicans won both Houses of Congress, and most of the governorships and state legislatures! The man who had threatened to undue most of what Obama did was now in the position to do it!
How could this happen? Their answer: The New Left had allowed the Old Left to control the Democratic nomination until it was too late. Throughout the campaign that followed, they were continually referred to as “the status quo”, and most gallingly as “the establishment”! That critical mistake, they opined, opened the door to the silent majority – who finally spoke.
Does it mean, they asked, that we are now destined to return to the shadows, that we never really won the hearts and minds of the American people? That America is condemned to live forever in free market capitalism, restricted immigration, a monetary economy, a war-like world? Must we now accept the possibility that all our beliefs about the society and the nature of human beings have been false?
The New Left enclaves: universities, big cities, and the media
In New Left enclaves, such as the universities and the big cities and the media, the outcome of the election just cannot be accepted without a fight. “Send out the students, the activists, the camp followers – TV will cover. Somewhere someone will figure out a way to destroy the opposition, reverse the election, and return the nation to sanity.”
Opposing the university’s New Left
This is what we are up against in the universities and in American society. The only way to regain control of the hearts and minds of our youth is to teach them ourselves the meaning of the Constitution, the value of capitalism limited by laws, and the moral values of our religious heritage. Most of all, it is up to parents, coaches, and clergy to arm our own youth with the understandings to stand up against the faculties who proselytize the doctrines of the New Left in our schools. This begins with local school boards, with student-centered financing of education, with sharpened protections of free speech on our campuses — especially publicly funded institutions — and by protection of students who are in effect whistle-blowers on extremist teachers and professors.
All such activities must be conducted with a careful view toward protecting the freedom of speech even of the extremists. That can only be done with a liberal use of freedom of choices by individual students, namely, careful selection of schools and colleges and scrutiny of required courses, and of parents supporting school choice. Persecution of violators, however defined, would simply desecrate the mandates in the American
Constitution. Witch hunts are not recommended. We can only fight excesses of freedom by providing more options of freedom. But fight it we must – or we will lose another generation of young Americans!
(Dr. Larry Fedewa has his own podcast Dr. Larry Wednesday following the Donelson Files, from https://drlarryonline.com/the-new-left-in-american-colleges/#more-789)
Iowa Consistency by Tom Donelson
Kirk Ferentz has become one of my favorite coaches and two decades ago, I became a Hawkeye fan. For many Iowans, Iowa is their professional team and Saturday is their day to love their Hawkeye with tailgate parties beginning in the morning.
Kirk Ferentz is not the greatest coach in college football but he is a good coach and Iowa understand that in Ferentz, they have a coach that fits their state and their expectation. The reality is that most college teams are Iowa and not Alabama. Alabama is a super team that expect to win championships and very few schools actually are truly contenders. Most teams finish 8-4, 9-3 or maybe a few will win 10 games and make a bowl game. Iowa is one of those teams that almost every year goes to a bowl games while winning an average of 8 games. Since 1979, Iowa has had only two coaches, Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. Fry has won 143 games over 20 years and retired with most victories of any other head before Ferentz won his 144 victory the first game this year. Ferentz and Iowa have been competitive since the turn of the century including winning more games than SEC power Tennessee and as many as Notre Dame. Over the past five years, Iowa has defeated Nebraska four times and all of the victories by double digit. Nebraska was once a leading power and when it joined the Big 10, it was presume that Nebraska would add another power team to the Big Ten. Instead, Nebraska has drifted back to the pack in a weak Big Ten West. This year Nebraska is off to a 0-4 start and now is starting to rebuild. Scott Frost, the new head coach and a former Nebraska star, want to rebuild Nebraska to its glory days of Tom Osborne but the question is Nebraska can actually return to its glory day or will they be a eight, nine or occasionally ten victories and occasional major bowl game and will Nebraska be satisfied with being like Iowa?
For four decades, Iowa have had two head coaches, big victories and a few bowl wins, averaging nearly 8 victories per year. Bowl victories in the Ferentz years included victory over SEC powers such as Florida and Louisiana State, so Iowan fans have managed to enjoy their team, knowing that that at least team will have a winning record and go to a bowl game. Iowa fans travel to bowl games and many bowl games love to have Iowa knowing the fan base shows up.
Most college teams are like Iowa and not Alabama, teams that will have good years, a few bad and maybe magical year. Iowa in 2015 had a magical year finishing the regular season 12 -0 followed up by a pair of 8-5 records which included a victory in the Pin Stripe Bowl in 2017 along with a big upset of Ohio State 55 to 24.
Alabama fans expect their team to be in the playoffs and Clemson fans have similar expectation. Notre Dame fans for years have had similar expectation and yet since the turn of the century, Notre Dame has not been much better than Iowa and while Notre Dame have been to a final, Alabama merely crushed the Fighting Irish and this year, they are looking to be in the playoffs again. The Irish name gives the advantages when selection time comes but Iowa program has been as good as Notre Dame over the past two decades.
In the 1990’s, Tennessee was a National Champion and now they are no better than Iowa as a program. Notre Dame was a national powerhouse but haven’t won a national title since 1988, and the meantime, Iowa has had only two coaches who led their team to success, bowl games and consistency. Iowa has settle for consistency and sent players to the NFL, and Fry assistant coaches have become head coaches in their right including Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder and Kirk Ferentz.
The lesson for college fans is to be satisfied with what they have. Iowa has developed a successful program that has won 489 wins over the past four decades, several bowl victories and sent several of their players to the NFL. The problem that many schools are not as satisfied with who they are as they fire coaches and start all over. Nebraska is now in the same position as Iowa but fans will not forgive Frost if he doesn’t return Nebraska to the glory days of National titles. Bo Pelini was fired despite averaging 9 victories and winning at 70% rate. After getting fired beating Iowa, Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst arrogantly responded, “We are supposed to beat Iowa.” Last year, Eichorst got fired after Nebraska lost their third straight to Iowa, all by lopsided fashion and Nebraska was only 19-19 after Pelini was fired. What Iowa gives their fans is consistency and stability, virtues rarely appreciated.
What Makes A Great Movie by Tom Donelson
My daughter published a piece on her website on what makes a good movie. She wrote, “A good story is real. Subtlety is good….A good story isn’t how a perfect kingdom is run but how a King tries really hard to make sure his kingdom doesn’t fall apart.” My daughter relayed to me an Indian story about a king dressed up like a commoner to see what the common man and woman thought of his leadership. What he found was that they would never trust their king as long as their king’s cheating wife still lived in the palace. What he learned surprised him. We found that the Kingdom was threatened from within and that was the surprise.
Good stories begin with everyday people living in normal times forced to rise to an occasion that is seemly beyond their control. My daughter observed, “And for one moment they see beyond the everyday. They tell their story. They fall silent. The silence is important.” The good storytellers do not explain beyond what is needed and allows the audience to participate in their life and put themselves in the narrator shoes.
These common individuals are simply people just doing their jobs. In Gladiator, Maximus was not interested in promotion or the offer of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius- all he wanted to do was to go home. Maximus was willing to accept the offer of his Emperor only because it was job- a soldier’s job is to obey his emperor. Maximus followed his penchant to follow duty and honor over mere glory. Maximus’ stoicism was contrasted to the Emperor’s son, who became the new Emperor after killing his father. Throughout the movie, Maximus obedience to the virtue of Old Rome of honor, duty and integrity is contrasted to more frivolous boy- Emperor. That is why it was a good story and a good movie. We followed this man until his heroic end for we really cared what happened to him. We put ourselves in his shoes, following his every step and applauding his strength and character. The ending did not deviate from the story.
In the movie, BraveHeart, Mel Gibson’s William Wallace was the common man forced to fight. All he wanted was to stay home, farm and raised a family. He only fought and pillaged when the English tyrants took from him all that he treasured – his wife. His future died when she was executed and he first wanted vengeance and then freedom, for he realized that only when Scotland was freed from the English yoke could he and others like him live their life as they see fit. When he screamed “Freedom” at the end, we were screaming with him. King Edward finally saw that he could not win for the death of Wallace merely created a martyr for the Scots to rally around. Even today, Wallace is still a hero to the Scots and reminder of a day in which Scotland was independent of London.
A story that failed was Minority Report. During the Movie, the Tom Cruise character was caught in a web that he helped to create and supported. In a society where even a thought could get you arrested, Tom Cruise found himself guilty of plotting the murder of a man he did not even know. The movie wondered how far a Society would go to maintain law and order. Do we really arrest a man for thinking about doing a crime or do we wait until the deed is done? Can an individual change his own future?
Tom Cruise found himself trying to change his own future while escaping from the local authorities. In the end, he faced his own mentor, who was responsible for his fate- we were left with many questions. Then Spielberg ruined his movie with his concluding narrative. With a saccharin ending, Spielberg informed the audience that all will end well and that humankind learned all the right lessons. Up to that point, we were never sure what was learned. In real life, heroes do not always do what is right and we do not always learn the right lesson. In Orwell’s 1984, there was no happy ending as Winston Smith surrendered to Big Brother. In Minority Report, Cruise’s mentor died at the end but his plan for the future of humankind was still in doubt. Uncertainty created unease about the future. At this point, the failure of the mentor’s vision was obvious but there was no guarantee that the lesson was learned. Instead Spielberg used the last five minutes to undermine what was a good story. He eliminated the uncertainty and in some way, went against the grain of his own movie.
The one movie that Spielberg did succeed was Schindler’s list. Oscar Schindler was a failed businessman who saw a golden opportunity. He could use cheap Polish Jewish workers to staff his factory. He convinced the German authority of his business savvy and immediately got his own plant. What happened was that this failed businessman found success, using slave labor. As the war progressed, he started seeing his workers not as Jews but human. He also knew that his workers were doomed. His conscience began to distress his inner soul as he realized that he had to do something, so he began a list of “needed workers” and convinced the cruel German prison camp commandant to allow him to keep these workers under his purview. The story detailed his effort to save his workers and get them through the war unharmed. He became their Moses and in the end, he succeeded at great risk to himself. Initially, he made income that he could only dream of but he ended the war as he began- broke. The money that he initially made was used to ensure the survival of his Jewish worker. After the war, he continued his prewar business failure but he did win something bigger.
My daughter loved the book and the movie version of Bridget Jones. As she wrote, “She’s not spectacularly smart. She’s not royalty. She doesn’t have millions of dollars or a perfect cellulite free ass. She’s a spinster alcoholic who has to find a new job after an affair with her boss ends unpleasantly.” Katharine found Bridget Jones someone she saw in every day life and could identify with. A good story combined with an everyday person struggling with everyday life.
Good Movies tend to sell themselves and bad movies just fade away very quickly. A good movie, like art, does not need to be explained. As my daughter discerned, “If Picasso had to put an essay next to Guernica saying ‘Look, this is what this is about.’ It would have stolen all the thunder and magic from the painting. And, just look at it, you know it’s about war. No one ever had to tell you that.”
Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was the perfect story of what happened when avarice took over from idealism. Kane spent the early part of his life, fighting for what was right but he became corrupted by his own importance and gave up his political career for his mistress. While the movie implied that Kane’s early childhood was responsible for his later actions, the reality was that his self-destructive behavior was his alone. Christian Kopff, the author of The Devil Knows Latin, wrote, “To give the Devil his due, I used to believe that no one who could rise to political prominence would be likely to risk it all for a tawdry love affair. History has taught me to appreciate Orson Welles’ prescience.”
Kane risked everything on one affair and in the end; he thought he was above all the rules- only to find that he was not. At the conclusion of his life, Kane became a bitter man and mere reactionary, not much different from the men he hated all his life. His last dying words went back to a time of innocence long since gone as he whispered Rosebud- the name of his sled as a young boy. As the sled burned in the fire, we saw the worth of Kane’s life – a life of promise betrayed by Kane’s ego. Welles’ genius was not just being a good storyteller but his vision as a filmmaker set the stage for many filmmakers after this movie. His technique would be copied and aid in future storytelling. Welles was the young genius who would never climb this mountain again but then, most director and producer would die for just one movie like Citizen Kane.
Space Odyssey told a story of our possible origin. The combination of brilliant filmmaking that was ahead of its time and story of man’s dependence upon technology was beautifully told. When the computer Hal rebelled against the crew and sabotages the mission, we cringed at the helplessness of the crew, as they have to go it alone hundred of millions of miles from home. The concluding scene left much to discuss and discern. We were left with questions that could not be easily answered. Man’s origin was a mystery to the filmmaker and to us in real life. The search for who we are is man’s eternal quest and Space Odyssey shows that search skillfully.
I must admit that I am big Indiana Jones fan and the Jones Trilogy represented the best of action features. We were presented with a college professor, who was not perfect and occasionally bended a few rules for his profession. Indiana Jones found himself in many adventures but the first one, Raiders of the Lost Ark, set the tones as we were treated to one thrill ride after another. The message that even Jones failed to grasp until the bitter end, there were some things better left untouched. As one of Jones’ colleagues reminds him, man was not met to discover the ark. Jesus reminded us in the gospel, “rendered the things that are God unto God” and the ark was that one item belonged to God. When Jones asked the government agents that hired him at the end of the movie about the fate of the ark, we see the absurdity of government bureaucrats as they put the Ark in a storage unit somewhere; hidden away from the world- forever lost. In Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail, Indiana Jones was forced to give up the grail to save his life. Again the message of the ark held for the Holy Grail as well. There are some things that man was not met to have. The ark had unspeakable power and the Holy Grail gave the gift of eternal life but man was incapable of handling the power of the ark and man was not met to live forever on this earth.
Casablanca was one of those classic movies that stay with you, even today. The multiplayer of suspense combined with great dialogue sucks you in. You can’t escape as you really learned to care about the characters including the corrupt police chief. The main character, Rick Blaine, was a tired and cynical club owner, pretending to be oblivious to the world around. The world was engulfed in war but he created his own island at Ricks, his nightclub. At the movie end, Blaine regained his idealism and made the supreme sacrifice as he sends Ingrid, the girl of his life, on the plane with her husband. Bogart’s last speech was masterfully delivered as he sent Ingrid way but as Claude Rains told Bogie, “She did not believe you.” And we know that this was true. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Nazis as the bad guys.
Another movie that I enjoyed was Moulin Rouge in which was criticized for being too slick for its own good but as my daughter reminded me, “Moulin Rouge: Clever. Beautiful cut. Spectacular color, costumes aided by good dialogue. The icing of the cake? That both Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor are believable in their roles.” To me, it was a story of love gained and love lost. We saw the pain of McGregor own words as he became a writer but a writer of tragedy, his own. It has been said “it is better to have been loved and lost than never to have to have been loved at all.” Somehow, McGregor may find such sentiments ludicrous as he wallowed in his own pain. The death of Nicole Kidman’s character ended both the innocence of the age as well as the dream of McGregor and his bohemian friends. Convinced that all you needed was love, reality intervened with death and poverty.
Okay, I am asking too much of Hollywood to be true to a book, even a classic. But Peter Jackson was able to make a classic movie out of the Lord of the Ring by allowing the story to stand of its own merit. He stayed true to Tolkein vision. Troy fails miserably for it attempts to take the supernatural out of a story that requires the supernatural. The battle between Paris and Menelaus was one example of the failure of the movie Troy and how it changed the tone of the movie and the characters. Homer had the two men battle it out one on one but as Menelaus was ready to finish off Paris, Aphrodite saved him. In the movie, Paris is made to look out as a coward as he begs his brother to save him and Hector kills Menelaus. In Homer’s world, Paris was many things among them reckless and selfish but not a coward. In Troy, he is all of that and more. He was a sniveling little brat who manages to start a war and bring ruin to Troy. Hardly a sympathetic character. Orlando Bloom’s Paris was a brat who should have been spanked and sent to bed without supper.
Brad Pitts’ Achilles was a moody, conflicted doomed hero but Homer’s Achilles was less complicated and more selfish as he was willing to allow his disagreement with Agamemnon to nearly doom the Greek mission. However, the boys in Hollywood did get some things right. Homer would have recognized Hector played by Eric Bana. Hector was as heroic in the movie as in the book and King Priam played by Peter O’ Toole almost rescued the movie with his portrayal of the good but doomed king. O’ Toole’s Priam was a good king but he made crucial mistakes that doom his kingdom just as he did in the book. The most touching scene of the movie that by itself would be one of Hollywood great scenes was when Priam confronted Achilles to ask for the body of his son back for a proper burial. This scene had power that could stand the test of time if it was not placed in the middle of this movie. The scene would be forever lost to classic archives for it is the middle of a muddled mess of a movie that can’t seem to decide to be what my kids classify as a popcorn movie or a serious classic.
Homer may even enjoyed Sean Bean portrayal of Odysseus. Odysseus is a cleaver warrior and his idea of a Trojan horse proves decisive in the movie as it does in Homer’s tales. The movie version of Odysseus also portrayed a king who was benevolent on one hand but is willing to serve egomaniacal Agamemnon for he understood that his people and all of the Greeks benefited from Agamemnon vision of a united Greece. He was a realist, not polluted with empty idealism but understanding of the real world.
The movie Troy failed as a spectacle for the screenwriters failed to understand how the Greek gods were a central part of the Greek world. There was a time that Hollywood could handle such a movie for directors such as Cecil DeMille understood that when you do a story about the Bible or the Greeks, God or gods mattered. DeMille could transplant the central thesis of the Bible or any classic because he understood the power of mythology-, which was central to great story telling. So when old Hollywood did a spectacle, it was designed to last beyond the present generation. Peter Jackson did that with the Lord of the Rings and Wolfgang Peterson failed to do that with Troy.
So if you were expecting some resemblance to Homer vision of Troy, then be prepared to be disappointed. If you were looking for some great war scenes, gratuitous violence and have a somewhat of a fun time, then you might be satisfied. And if you like to see Brad Pitts buttocks then you will get a few cheap thrills in the process.
George Orwell, Writer and Prophet By Tom Donelson Part four
Orwell on Writing
Orwell was English through and through. In his essay, Politics and The English Language, as he stated, “Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon words.” Orwell preferred English words to the use of foreign words and found that foreign words “are used to give an air of culture and elegance.” Snobbery is another word to describe such writers in Orwell’s eyes. Orwell declared war on Pretentiousness in writing and felt that often writers used abundance of useless words and felt that simplicity was a skill that was often neglected.
Then in the political sense, there were those words that were not misused but purposely misused to difficult to obscure their true meanings. Words like fascism, socialism, democracy and freedom often had multiple meanings, which as Orwell noted, “can’t be reconciled with one another.” As Orwell complained, “In the case of words like democracy, not is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.” When countries such as former East Germany or North Korea uses words like Democratic to describe their country, it is an attempt to deceive. Certainly, North Korea is no democracy nor is China truly a “People Republic. Words lose their meanings when they are deliberately misused. In 1984, Orwell made the elimination and twisting of language to change meanings one mean by which the Party controlled the populace.
For Orwell, conciseness and simplicity was the key to successful writing and to maintain correct meaning. It was not just about communicating but language was the means to pass on truth and if the truth in language was compromised, so was truth.
So why did Orwell write? Orwell stated that there were four reasons to write:
- Sheer egoism
- Esthetic enthusiasm
- Historical impulse
- Political purpose.
Orwell observed about writers belong to a class who are determined to live their own life and felt that more talented, “were on the whole more vain and self centered than journalists, though less interested in money.” Ego does drive writers and from personal experience, seeing our book in print does feed the ego and give boost to one ego. As for esthetic enthusiasm, to share ones belief or one experience is a driving factor in writing as well as for the sheer art of writing. Writers are driven by the craft itself.
Then there is the need to use writing as a mean of discovery the world around us, to find the truth and then write them for future generation. Writers are observers of the world and even the fictional writer details the reality around us for fiction does have basis in facts.
Finally, there is the political purpose, the need to promote and to convince. As Orwell got older, this latter reason drove him. To defend democratic socialism and to fight totalitarianism became a driving force in his life. As the gathering storm of war approached in the 30’s; the rise of Communism and Fascism forced Orwell to take a stand. As Orwell observed, “It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think one can avoid writing of such subjects.” Orwell goal was to turn his writing into art and to expose the truth of the world. For Orwell, detachment could not always be reconciled with political writing. In the end, his desire to persuade and warn became his main motive and in his last book, 1984, was his final masterpiece. It was the book that predicted a bleak future in which human dignity was crushed by a totalitarian state. Humanity ceased to exist and people were merely clog in a machine. There was no rage but mere obedience. This was Orwell fear of the future but for the past nearly 60 years since his death, Orwell vision has yet to come to pass. It does not mean that it could yet not materialize but for the most part, freedom and liberty has triumphed. Words still have meaning and the artist is still among us, writing.
George Orwell Writer and Prophet Part Three by Tom Donelson
Orwell the Essayist
Orwell on Gandhi
Orwell essay on Gandhi was an interesting reflection upon the Indian founder as much as Orwell own views on the nature of man and pacifism. “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent,” begins Orwell discussion of Gandhi. For Gandhi, pacifism was a form of warfare as Orwell notes, “way of defeating the enemy without hurting him and without feeling or arousing hatred.” Gandhi’s goal was to win India’s independence but he also understood that there were ways to do so without engineering centuries of hatred. A nation that is born in violence and begin in revolution may sometimes find itself in perpetual violence and revolution. The French Revolution went from the overthrow of the monarchy to the establishment of Napoleon with intervals of violence spasm that featured the guillotine.
For many pacifists, to even take sides was a violation of pacifism and Gandhi took sides. While he was a practicing pacifist, he still was a stretcher-bearer during the Boar War and as Orwell notes that Gandhi “was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take side… He did not take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins.”
Many pacifists often view life through a lie and fail to see the logic of their own position. Gandhi did see the logic of what he was proposing and the consequences of his action. In 1938, Gandhi told a reporter that the Jews should commit collective suicide in the face of Nazi persecution. Such an action would have aroused the world to the horror of Hitler. And when he urged a non-violent resistance to a Japanese invasion of India, he admitted that such an action would result in the death of millions of Indians.
As for the Jews, Gandhi felt vindicated in his original opinion when the full cost of the holocaust was revealed after World War II. In Gandhi mind, the Jews died anyway so why not do it in a spectacular fashion? Cold? Yes, but it was also what Gandhi asked of his followers, to volunteer their life and that of their neighbors for the cause of peace. For most pacifists, such an admission is inconceivable for many pacifists view their action through the prism of their own experience and rarely see the consequences for the nation as a whole. They don’t see the millions who will be sacrifice for their faith nor do they really care. Gandhi did understand what he was asking and yes, he did care about the probable result.
Where Gandhi, like most pacifist, fail to understand was the true nature of 20th century and now 21st century totalitarianism and viewed his struggle through his own experience with the British government. When he called on the Jews to commit collective suicide to arouse the world, it only works as Orwell observed, “If the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing.” As Orwell asked in his essay, how could such a strategy work if opponents are taken in the dead of night to be tortured and killed? How can your strategy work in countries where the voices of the media and protest are silenced? As Orwell writes, “The Russian masses could only practice civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would not make a difference.”
Pacifism and non-violence as a strategy can work within the structure of a democratic government with an open press. It can’t work on an international stage where it ceases to be pacifism and becomes appeasement, as Orwell would note.
Gandhi believed that all could be approach on an individual basis through his philosophy and changed; he also considered close friendship dangerous. Gandhi viewed close friendship as something that could lead to wrongdoing. Orwell writes, “If one is to love God, or to love humanity as a whole, on cannot give one’s preference to any individual person.” Of course, some would consider just an attitude as cold and callous. But then leader of mass movements, in particular religious movements, find themselves choosing between the greater good and their close friends or family. Under those circumstances, loyalties to close friends are to be abandoned. In the Bible, Jesus warns that family would rise against family because of faith. Gandhi understood that concept and believed it.
Orwell had an “aesthetic distaste for Gandhi” and questioned Gandhi saint hood; he did consider Gandhi a success as a politician. He freed India from British rule and after the Second World War, there were more than enough British who ready to grant India their independence. Much of this has to be credited to Gandhi, whose peaceful resistance made it easier for the British to let go. Gandhi may have failed in keeping South Central Asia from separating into a Muslim and Hindu sphere of influence, he was successful in freeing both Pakistan and India from British rule and did so without much bloodshed. Unfortunately, not even Gandhi could stop the sectarian violence between Hindu and Moslems after Independence and he became a casualty of it.
Gandhi genius was that he understood the British and their system of law. He knew that he could manipulate those laws and traditions to his benefit and he succeeded.
Orwell on Charles Dickens
Orwell wrote, “Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing.” Orwell noted that Dickens criticism of society “is almost exclusively moral.” In Dickens writing, Charles Dickens does not write a thesis of what, if any, new system of government needed to be put in place to correct the deficiency of the society that he wrote about.
Dickens view of the French Revolution is indicative of this attitude. His book, A Tale of Two Cities, begins with the understanding that those who lost their head in the beginning had it coming. The French aristocracy deserved their fate for their past action and they dug their own graves, so to speak. Dickens view was that if the wicked noblemen behaved differently, then there would be no revolution. Dickens was not, however, a revolutionary for he viewed revolution as a monster that devoured its own. His intensity toward the guillotine portrays his own feelings that this revolution got out of control. On this point, Orwell writes, “The one thing that everyone who has read A Tales of Two Cities remembers the Reign of Terror. The book is dominated by the guillotine- tumbrels thundering to and fro, bloody knives, heads bounding into the basket, and sinister old women knitting as they watch.” While these scenes are only a small part of the book, the passion that went into these incidences shows Dickens fear of revolution.
Dickens view that the new revolutionary produced new oppressors and Dickens saw the 20th century with prescience and clarity. Dickens own view of humanity was that education and morality taught at a young age would cure much of society problems. He was not interested in uprooting English society but merely to change its heart.
In a Christmas Carol, Scrooge is presented as a man whose own present was created by his past as oppose to a man responsible for his action. And Dickens believes in redemption. Just as Gandhi believed that non-violence could change people, so too does Dickens believe in the power of second chances. The book centers on Scrooge own salvation. Interesting enough, within Scrooge salvation comes life. Instead of dying within a year as predicted if he did not change his way, Scrooge goes on to live and become like a second father to Tiny Tim, whose life is also extended through Scrooge salvation. Human nature is changeable and all can be saved, even the worse of us.
Dickens feared tyranny and in many ways, saw life through his middle-class settings. He hated aristocrats, big landowners, nationalists and even peasants but why? Orwell answered, “A first sight, a list beginning with kings and ending with peasants looks like a mere omnium gatherum, but in reality all these people have a common factor. All of them are archaic types, people who governed by tradition and whose eyes are turned towards the past- the opposite of the rising bourgeois who has put his money on the future and sees the past as a dead hand.”
So what can we gather? Orwell writes of Gandhi as a man who understood his opponent, the British. Maybe Gandhi viewed England as a nation of Charles Dickens, men who believed that with education and little spiritual change, all could be made right with the world. The Dickens of the world feared revolution and believed in evolutionary change within the hearts of men and Gandhi counted on that to free the Indians from the British. Sentimentality can be a curse or a blessing and in the case of Gandhi, he used the sentimentality of the British to advance his cause. Of course, he was lucky to pick an opponent who actually had some sentimentality. There are many in this world that sentimentality is weakness to be avoided. Thus we see nations whose leaders snatch their political opponents away in the middle of the night. For such nations, sentimentality is a vice not a virtue.
Orwell on Kipling
George Orwell was the classic anti-imperialist. Rudyard Kipling was the classic defender of British imperialism. Dickens believed in redeeming England through education and moral teaching at home, Kipling believed in changing the world in the image of Great Britain. Kipling viewed imperialism as a sort of forcible evangelizing as Orwell noted, “You turn a Gatling gun on a mob of unarmed ‘natives’ and then you establish the Law,” which includes roads, railways and a court-house.”
In contrasting Russian writer Leo Tolstoy with Kipling, Orwell writes, “Tolstoy lived in a great military empire in which it seemed natural for almost any young man of family to spend a few years in the army, whereas the British Empire was demilitarized to a degree that continental observers found almost incredible. Civilized men do not readily move away from the centers of civilization.” Throughout the 19the century, at most 1 percent of the British actually served in the military and this within an empire that spanned the globe. The British government sphere of the national GDP was less than 10 percent which is one third of the United States government share is today. Maritime powers, in particular, tended to be less militaristic then their land based opponents. Kipling writes of Empire and war, even though he never served but as Orwell noted, he did understand the barbarity of war. Orwell quipped that Kipling was “half-civilized” and thus was able to transport himself from the boundary of London and write of the untamed world beyond the English isles. For Kipling, British imperialism spread civilization – bearing the “White man’s burden.”
While Orwell does not care for Kipling views, he writes of his 19th century opponent, “One reason for Kipling’s power as a good bad poet I have already suggested- his sense of responsibility, which made it possible to have a world-view, even though it happened to be a false one.” As Kipling writes, “East is East and West is West. The white man’ s burden.” Kipling believed in the superiority of the English culture and way. He did not see the Imperialism as a sin but a necessity, a view that Orwell rejected.
Of course, today we live in a world in which cultures appears to be colliding. While it is political incorrect to state that certain cultures are indeed inferior, Kipling would disagree, for some culture are superior to others. Does anyone really believe that a totalitarian Islamic fundamentalist regime is equivalent to a capitalistic Democratic state? Kipling believed that the British offer many colonies a new way of viewing the world. India today exists as a parliamentary democracy in part because of its British upbringing. Ditto, the United States. One does not need to accept Kipling 19th century colonial attitudes and racism to believe in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon culture when contrasted to its totalitarian opponents.
Gandhi used Anglo-Saxon thoughts and ideas to oppose the British. How could the British truly believe in liberty and freedom if they deny this to the hundred of millions of Indians under their control? Kipling and Gandhi, in some respect, are the same side of the coin. Both understood the strength of English culture but Gandhi understood its weakness more; which is why his view eventually triumphed over Kipling imperialism. Still, there is irony that both men understood that there were aspects of British culture that could be transplanted into Indian society.
George Orwell, Writer and Prophet part Two
The Fiction of Orwell
Orwell’s two classic fictions were Animal Farm and 1984 but he wrote others. His first fictional piece was Burmese Day and this touched upon his experience in Burma. As Orwell believed, colonializaton affected both the imperialist and the natives. The opening we are introduced to U Po Kyin, a Burmese magistrate. U Po Kyin was corrupt magistrate who learned that the best way was to play both ends with both the oppressors and his own people. U Po Kyin sided with the British and became a parasite upon the European masters. To gain movement upward, U Po Kyin was willing to sacrifice anybody that gets in his way- European or native. As Kyin observed when questioned whether faking evidence against a leading rival Dr. Veraswami would work, Kyin replies, “No European cares anything about proofs. When a man has a black face, suspicion is proof.”
The main character was Michael Flory and close friend of Kyin rival, Dr. Veraswami. Flory was a timber merchant but Kyin viewed Flory as weak man who will not defend or fight for Verswami. Flory had his weakness, a sexual affair with the local Ma Hia May, which would in the end destroy him. Dr. Veraswami biggest desire was to be ushered into the European club where he figured, correctly, that he would be become invincible and under protection of the British. There was movement to allow one native and Dr. Veraswami and U Po Kyin vied for that spot for the prestige that joining the club presages. Both understood that membership in the club would allowed either men to booster their own power. U Po Kyin in particular wanted that spot and even sets up a riot in the local town to gain that spot. U Po Kyin used his entire angle to gain his ultimate goal but what we saw was the evolution of Michael Flory.
Flory was ambivalent about imperialism. He profited from the system and he had been using Ma Hia May as his own sexual toy but he was a man who rather shy away from a fight as oppose to joining it. U Po Kyin counted on that when opposing Flory’s friend Dr. Veraswami and he knew that most European did not want a native in the club. The book centered on Flory changes as he became more courageous in defending Veraswami and during the riot, led in dispersing the crowd. Flory change of character came as a result of falling in love with Elizabeth Lackersteen causing jealousy from Ma Hia May, who in her own way loved Flory. This despite that Flory treated her more as a slave than a equal. Elizabeth did not feel the same way about Flory, even though they dated. She also was going out with an officer who transfered in from India. It would be women who destroy Flory. Ma Hia May blackmail Flory (with the aid of U Po Kyin) about their affair and the affair finally was expose after Flory became a hero during the riot, his chance with Elizabeth was gone. What we witness was U Po Kyin working behind the scene and working everyone like a puppet. Even when all appeared lost or if U Po Kyin was stymied, he always had one ace. After the riot and Dr. Veraswami’s reputation was enhanced due to his friendship with Flory, Ma Hia May exposed her affair. She did this on the advice of U Po Kyin.
In the end, all was lost for the major characters. Flory public disgrace led to his suicide and this ensured U Po Kyin victory over Dr. Veraswami as his protector was dead. Dr. Veraswami joined second-rate club of fellow Indians and one European drunkard and his position in the community ravaged. U Po Kyin died a rich and powerful man but before his pagoda was built. This portended a religious defeat as he was left to wander in the afterlife. It is Orwell way of saying if you lose your soul, what you gained on earth is meaniless. Orwell final dig at colonialism was through a conversation between Dr. Veraswami and Flory. Dr. Veraswami tells Flory how the natives were lazy and only the British made things work. Even the natives blame their own for their failures. There are few heroes and few heroic acts in Burmese days.
Coming up for Air was different from his other works. It detailed the story of George Bowling, a middle age and middle class bloke who was disilusioned about his own life and stifled marriage. On the horizon, he saw a war coming with Nazis Germany and as a World War I; he understood the horror of war.
His disillusionment of his marriage was detailed when George thinks, “When we were first married I felt I’d like to strangle her, but later I got so that I didn’t care. And then I got fat and settled down.” Like all middle age men, he looked in the mirror and discovered not the man he was but the man he had become. “One night you go to bed, still feeling more or less young, with an eye for the girls and so forth,” George says to himself, “And next morning you wake up in the full consciousness that you’re just a poor old fatty with nothing ahead of you this side the grave except sweating your guts out to buy boots for the kids.” What we see was the drudgery of middle class living with nothing to look forward and on top of that, a major war in which mass destruction and havoc just upon the horizon.
There was a need for humans to sometimes believe in the worse and certainly George Bowling somehow took aim at this urge after a meeting of local leftist denouncing the fascist, when he stated, “The Fascists are coming! Spanners ready, boys! Smash others or they’ll smash you!” He observed or engages in wishful thinking when he concludes, “What’ll will happen to chaps like me when we get Fascism in England? The truth is it probably won’t make the slightest difference.” Orwell’s middle class were trapped in grind and no hope for advancement. Was there a difference for the George Bowlings of the world whether a democratically elected government rules or the fascists? There was dark side to Orwell view, as stated previously that he felt he was on the losing side of history.
Bowling himself was afraid of the future and he seems surrounded by people who refuse to see the future. His friend Old Porteous mind stopped working “at about the time of the Russo-Japanese War. It’s a ghastly thing that nearly all of the decent people, the people who don’t want to go round smashing faces in with spanners, are like that. They’re decent, but their minds have stopped.”
So as Bowling asks, “The last thing I remember wondering before I fell asleep was why the hell a chap like me should care.” It was Orwell’s little man who was trapped in a world that he didn’t control. Like Winston Smith in 1984 or Mike Flory in Burmese Days, George Bowling did not control his fate but was shaped by the forces around him. When Bowling went back home to revisit his past, he saw what he had become. He ran into his old girlfriend but she had aged, as he had done. When he returned from his trip home, his wife accused him of cheating and he probably wished that he did. So Bowling existed in a middle class trapped, waiting for apocalypse with Germany.
Animal Farm was what Orwell calls a “fairy tale.” Animal farm began with detailing the oppression of farm life under man and the rebellion that freed them. Led by the pigs, the farm animal begins to reorganize their defenses against the human counterattack and simultaneously begin rebuilding the farm. The two leaders of the rebellion were Snowball, who represented Trotsky, and Napoleon who resembled Joseph Stalin. It was no accident that Napoleon was Europe first fascist and Orwell equated Stalin with Nazism and fascism. In Orwell mind, if you oppose Fascism, you had to oppose communism.
What happens is that after Snowball became a hero when he led the counterattack against the farmers who attempted to retake the Animal farm. Through the effort of Napoleon, Snowball became a non-person. Napoleon exiling Snowball was reminiscence of when Stalin exiled Trotsky, whose leadership helped shape the Red Army during the Civil War in 1920 vs. the White Army. Snowball was flushed from the pages of history and Orwell’s point that totalitarians needed to control history would be made stronger in 1984.
Snowball’s exploits were twisted not as the historical exploit that they were but as act of collaboration. Snowball becomes a bogeyman that becomes a threat to the revolution, thus giving the other animals someone to hate along with the human farmers. When things go wrong, Napoleon simple blamed a non-existent Snowball just as Stalin would blame his opponents of being allies of Trotsky, who was living overseas and truly powerless to influence events in the Soviet Union.
Over time, Napoleon took control and changes many of the rules and history of the revolution. George Orwell in both Animal Farms and 1984 jump on two themes- the totalitarian government attempt to control both the language and history for to control language and history is to control the memory of the people.
In Animal Farm, Napoleon continues to update the original commandments: All Animals are equal but some Animals are more equal than others as the Pigs consolidate their leadership. Equality that was the goal of the revolution no longer existed as it no longer existed in the Soviet Union.
In the end, Napoleon negotiated with the enemy and in the concluding scene; he made his peace with the local farmers and they with him. The revolution betrayed but as Orwell shyly writes, “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs? The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” In 1939, Stalin engineered the Soviet-Nazis pact that allowed Hitler to start World War II and Stalin sent troops to conquer half of Poland. Just as Napoleon was not indistinguishable from his human counterpart, Stalin proved to be no different from Hitler. Animal Farm came out in 1943 when the Soviet Union was our ally against Hitler’s Germany but Orwell’s point was that one dictator was no different than the others. Animal Farm almost was not released due to its criticism of our Soviet ally but Orwell proved prescient when discussing communism and when in 1956, Khrushchev announced Stalin’s crime, he merely proved what Orwell already knew- Stalin was a monster.
1984 was Orwell darkest and most famous book. Winston Smith represented the everyday man as he rebelled against the state. Smith works in the Ministry of Truth and he is working on the tenth edition of Newspeak. Orwell, following up on a theme explored in Animal Farm, believes that the state must be control language to control the population. Newspeak allowed the state to determine the definition of words and change the meaning of words. In the era of Big Brother, Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength. Slogans replace thoughts and two-minute hate fest replace reason against Emmanuel Goldstein, the leader of the opposition against Big Brother.
The other aspect was that the state controls all sexual and marital relations. Marriages were marriages of conveniences and love forbidden. The state wanted to control all aspect of a party member life and emotions as well. As Smith found out in his torture at the end of the book, what the Party wanted nothing more than control and power. Power was the goal and nothing more. There was no pretence about doing good.
Winston envisioned himself as a rebelling against the government and believed the hope lay with the proletariats. This was an illusion for the proletariats could care less and if workers did, they could not do much anyway. When Winston and Julia had their affair, this too was an act of rebellion as they declared their love for one another. In the end, there was no revolutionary force, there was no Goldstein and Smith faced the full brunt of the state. The state broke Smith and in the end; he betrayed his Julia and all emotions of love removed from his innerself. In the end, Smith “truly loves” Big Brother.
Orwell died of TB in 1950 and died before his time. In the 1930’s and 40’s, Orwell was a voice in the wilderness similar to Whitaker Chambers for both men understood the true nature of the enemy we faced but from different perspective. Chambers became a conservative and religious whereas Orwell stayed a socialist.
Christopher Hitchens notes that in Orwell times, “all ‘cultivated’ people loathed the USA, Which was regarded the vulgariser of England and Europe. “ During the war, it became apparent that there was significant difference between the British and the Americans in the area of wealth. The average American soldier was middle class and for some Brits, the average American soldier was considered, “Overpaid, over sexed and over here.” (The GI own response was that the Brits “underpaid, undersexed and under Ike.) Orwell wrote, “it is difficult to go anywhere in London without having the feeling that Britain was now Occupied Territory.”
Orwell, like many British intellectual and writers, had dual feeling with America. As Christopher Hitchens noted that Orwell “always took American literature seriously.. and he came t the conclusion that its success as a new literature had something to do with liberty.” On the other hand, Orwell distrusted America’s commercial and mercenary culture and its “imperial ambitions.” Orwell had a blind spot about America. In one of life’s great irony, Orwell could not obtain the needed antibiotic in England required for treating his TB for it was manufactured only in America. As Hitchens concluded, “the American subject was in every sense Orwell’s opportunity.”
9/11 forced some on the left including Christopher Hitchens to reexamine the need for America power as there are worst enemies than American crassness or “imperial design.” Many of the left are now Democratic Socialists with emphasize on Socialism and Democracy takes a back seat to the Socialism. Many University are resembling a totalitarian vision as freedom of speech takes a back seat to safe spaces and eliminating “hate speech.” The Left in America is moving toward the Road to Serfdom predicated by Hayek and feared by Orwell.
George Orwell, the Prophet and Writer by Tom Donelson part One
Orwell: Prophet and Writer
George Orwell was a prophet who understood his times and his enemies. The purpose of this essay is to explore this Englishman and his impact on both the right and left. Most recently Christopher Hitchens explored Orwell’s impact and his effect even today in his book, Why Orwell Matter. Hitchens, who had his own epiphany as result of September 11th, finds that he is rescuing Orwell “from a pile of saccharine and moist hankees; an object of sickly veneration and sentimental overpraise.”
Moral and mental glaciers slightly
Betray the influence of his warm intent
Because he taught what the actual meant
The vicious winter grips its prey less tightly
Robert Conquest’s poem about Orwell signifies Orwell strength- telling the hard truth. He didn’t flinch from the reality of the world or pretend what was not true was true. In the 30’s, Orwell would discover the truth about Communism long before others in the intelligentsia did.
Orwell began his career working for His Majesty Government in Burma as a police officer but very shortly, he repudiated his country imperialism. Hitchens writes, “Orwell’s decision to repudiate the unthinking imperialism that had been his family’s meal ticket. (His father was an executive in the degrading opium trade between British India and China.) may be represented as Oedipal by those critics who prefer such avenues of inquiry. But it was thoroughgoing and, for it time, very advanced.” Orwell first published piece dealt with how British tariffs were decimating Burma economy. Interesting the socialist Orwell first piece would be exploring how tariffs badly affected a third world country- in effect taking a free market view of trade. Throughout his life, this socialist saw the fallacy of state-ownership and centralization. Another aspect was Orwell obsession with power and sexual repression, whether in Burmese Days or 1984. (Orwell was not a libertine in his life and had rather conservative thoughts on sex including opposition to abortion and homosexuality. But he was no prude.)
Orwell own experiences with colonialism first hand led him to oppose imperialism and colonization. He sympathize with the natives and as Hitchens wrote, “His rooted opposition to imperialism is a strong and consistent theme throughout all his writings….in general he insisted that the whole colonial ‘racket’ was corrupting to the British and degrading to the colonized.”
Orwell did understand the implication of growth of English on the South Asia continent. He wrote, “The growth…of an English language Indian literature is a strange phenomenon, and it will have its effect on the post-war world, if not on the outcome of war…at present English is to a great extent and business language of India.”
Indian writer Salman Rushdie wrote, “The prose writing- both fiction and non-fiction- created in this period by Indian writers working in English, is providing to be a stronger and more important body of work than most of what has been produced in the 16 ‘official languages’ of India, the so-called ‘vernacular languages’, during the same time; and, indeed, this new and still burgeoning. ‘Indo-Anglian’ literature represents perhaps the most valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of book.” Orwell quipped, “On the average, too, Indians write and even pronounce English far better than any European race.” While Orwell opposed imperialism and Hitchens backs Orwell position but the spread of English in India shows the actual benefit of British imperialism. English is becoming a unifying language for all of India, a land that as Rushdie noted has 14 official languages. As Orwell showed in 1984, language matters and English has become the language that united India and India also adopted the British parliament system. Finally, the British gave India a national identity, which did not exist before colonialism. While there was a cultural India before the British arrival, India as a nation did not exist until after the British left India.
The intellegencia of the left had a love-hate relations with Orwell. Mary McCarthy admired Orwell but feared his anti-communism would have led Orwell to support the Vietnam War. Other noted leftist Norm Chomsky and Norman Mailer viewed Orwell as one of their own. Hitchens feel that Orwell would not have supported the Vietnam War or become a neo-conservative just as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz would. Hitchens felt that Orwell would have been a capricious leftist. Orwell in one essay, concluded that “a socialist United States of Europe seems to me the only worth-while political objective.”
It is hard to say how Orwell would have matured and changed as the cold war progressed. There is no doubt that he was anti-communism and while he supported socialism, he understood that the bureaucracy that accompanies socialism threatened the whole enterprise. Podhoretz changed over to conservatism during the 70’s when it became obvious the political left were no longer interested in defending America or in opposing the totalitarian Soviet Empire. Some on the left merely became fellow traveler. Maybe Orwell would have become a Scoop Jackson liberal- a hawk on foreign affairs and government interventionist at home. Certainly, during Orwell time, there were many leftist or former communist going right such as James Burnham, who help influence Orwell’s 1984 with his book, “The Managerial Revolution.”
Orwell understood the power of collectivism and hoped that socialism could be made to work but instinctly understood that maybe it just couldn’t. He favored the underdog and believed that socialism was the economic theory to help the underdog. Maybe as he grew older, he would dispense with this notion that socialism was the great savior of the lower class and the middle class and fear its collective nature.
There is no doubt about Orwell anti-communist views. Animal Farm was based on Joseph Stalin’s Russia and many of Orwell’s negative view of communism came as result of his experience in the Spanish Civil War. In his book, “Homage to Catalonia”, Orwell detailed the subversion of the Spanish Republic by Stalin’s agents and how Stalin’s people attempted to eliminate the independent left. In the town of Catalonia, there was full attempt of putsch resembling the Moscow show trials. Andres Nan, a local leftist leader, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered as part of the civil war between Marxist and the independent left. Orwell himself was on the elimination list complied by the communist even though he was unaware of it. Orwell, who was severely wounded by a fascist bullet, left Spain along with his wife before the order could be carried out.
The siren of communism never tantalized Orwell and this alone showed the man’s independence. When others had to experience the horror and drudgery of communism before switching, Orwell never was tempted. He knew at the beginning about Communism’s evil.
Orwell 1984 was prescient in another way. He had a general idea of how the world may eventually be organized. In 1984, we see the world split between Oceania, East Asia and Eurasia. Based on some geographic reality, Orwell envisioned a North American led bloc competing with Europe or Russian lead bloc and an oriental Asian bloc. Today, we are witnessing such a world with an Anglosphere world forming around the United States and including Great Britain as well as Australia and an East Asia bloc led by a resurgent China. The European continent is debating the European Union and the implication that this bloc may yet compete with the United States even though presently, EU is being threatened with populism as many European nations are no longer blindly willing to follow the EU bureaucrats but the threat of a Asia bloc led by China is a serious threat.
Orwell, at heart, was a pessimist. In some way, his vision of darkness resembled those of Whitaker Chambers, the author of Witness and the key witness against Algier Hiss. Chambers truly believed that he joined the losing side when he turned away from communism and went to the right. Orwell’s own writing climaxing with 1984 showed a similar foreboding. Orwell’s own vision was that in the end, all might be lost. When Orwell reviewed F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, he wrote, “Professor thesis is that Socialism inevitably leads to despotism and that in Germany, the Nazis were able to succeed because the Socialism had already done most of their work for them….By bringing the whole of life under the control of the State, Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stick at nothing in order to retain it…..In the negative part of Professor Hayek’s thesis there is a great deal of truth…. That collectivism is not inherently democratic, but on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.” Maybe, Orwell believed that he was on the losing side and like Winston Smith in 1984, he could see the bullet aiming for his head.
Of Thorns by Lauren Bies
I thought of you today
Between sun showers and rolling deep dusk skies
Halting my steps into past moments of benedictions
You, so bloody with thorns, refusing to take off your crown
Feeling my stride upon dried leaves you trampled
I vowed to never think of you
Ms. Bies is in Ireland and presently a Graduate student at Trinity College, Dublin Ireland. M.Phil. in Film Studies and the Media Arts. She has been a guest on Donelson Files and will be on our program over the next four weeks, plus look for her pieces on other issues.
The artist as genius, as divine, as mystiﬁed by Loredana Gasparotto
I have recently begun to put up my paintings for sale, without much result. I’m told that “I need to promote myself and appropriately sell my product.” I’m told that “marketing myself and my product are crucial elements in building my brand.”
It appears that an artist’s notoriety and marketability has nowadays become more important than the artwork itself. Or maybe this has just been going on for at least the past 100 years.
I don’t like this proposition at all. Call me a romantic, but I always thought of art as something more than just a product for sale. Are we back to those times where artists were commissioned work and had to work under the constraints of their employers? Although our employers, nowadays cleverly call themselves “the rules of the market.” If my success as an artist depends on how much I sell, what happens to the idea of being a genius or divinely inspired? Do I become just a wheel in a well-oiled machine? A salesperson, aiming at “becoming somebody” instead of doing something meaningful? And when did we turn artists into celebrities?
In my short research, I discovered that the connection between inspiration and divinity began in ancient times when poets and prophets were believed to be inspired by a guiding, holy being or spiritual helper, which the Romans called genius. This entity communicated to the world through chosen individuals. In the Renaissance, that source of inspiration became identiﬁed not with a pagan god or muse but with the Christian god. At this point in history, artists began to be described as “divine.” Furthermore, this link with the divine enhanced the status of the artist, and in the 16th century, the image of the artist as genius emerged. The artist became to be regarded as an inspired and exceptional individual. However, from the last century, the attention has been slowly shifting from the artist’s original creative work to his personality.
The artist as genius, as divine, as mystiﬁed. Who is the artist? Is the artist’s personality and eccentricity what drive his/her success today? It appears to be so. Just look at Andy Warhol or Madonna for example.
If we are to judge contemporary art by the artist’s fame and our proﬁt-making standards, it would seem appropriate to dismantle the art’s aura of superiority and judge it as merely as a commercial product for sale, a product conforming to the underlying supply and demand laws.
And so be it, if art has lost its real value and meaning, even the concept of the artist as “divinely inspired” needs to be ofﬁcially declared obsolete.
(The art presented are Loredana’s art)