1984 Essays Power

1984 Essays Power-54
In his commentaries, columns and criticism — he wrote that the unquiet age in which he lived had forced him to become “a sort of pamphleteer”— he found something original to say about everything from the dehumanizing nature of imperialism (“Shooting an Elephant”) to Leo Tolstoy’s strange, late-in-life attack on Shakespeare (“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool”) to the beauty and deathless vigor of the natural world (“Some Thoughts on the Common Toad”).Ultimately, though, many of Orwell’s sharpest, most memorable essays were about the uses and abuses of language.So long as I remain alive and well, I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.

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Creatures who believe that the diktats of an unhinged leader are not only legitimate, but “will not be questioned” by the hoi polloi.

Consider this passage, from the 1941 essay, “England Your England”: One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty.

(It’s worth noting here that, for all his combativeness, Orwell is far from a puritanical scold.

One would be hard pressed, for instance, to read his unsentimental homage to the English pub in the essay “The Moon Under Water,” with its sweet, unanticipated ending, and not respond with something perilously close to “A Orwell never apologized for his politics — specifically, he did not apologize for being a Democratic Socialist in the postwar British vein — but instead bolstered his beliefs by exploring everything, absolutely everything, through a political lens.

Take a passage like this one, from an essay exploring why H. Wells (one of Orwell’s boyhood heroes) could never grapple with the true nature of totalitarianism because he “was too sane to understand the modern world”: Because he belonged to the nineteenth century and to a non-military nation and class …

1984 Essays Power Luther'S Ninety Five Thesis

he was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity.In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it.Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it.But it’s precisely because it’s a universal modern impulse that patriotism (or rather its crazy inbred cousin, nationalism) carries such force.In many countries, an intense, xenophobia-fueled patriotism is the only expression of even nominal power available to the poor, the disenfranchised, those left behind.But succinct as it might be, it fails to acknowledge that Orwell’s prose, for all its clarity, was rarely mere glass.At various times, particularly in his essays, language assumes all sorts of roles: scalpel; microscope; mirror; weapon.The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.Orwell’s essays — more so than his novels — endure as a tonic, and an admonition: Be clear in your arguments. Above all, be skeptical of demagogues and of rhetoric grounded not in verifiable facts or demonstrable results, but in hoary appeals to blind nationalism, scapegoating and racial tribalism.Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them.The people who have shown the best understanding of Fascism are either those who have suffered under it or those who have a Fascist streak in themselves.


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