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  • George Orwell

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    Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

    In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

    All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

    At fifty everyone has the face he deserves.

    Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.

    John Stuart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

    The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

    The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

    Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

    A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Mark Twain

    Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    All generalizations are false, including this one.

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

    Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

    The Public is merely a multiplied "me."

    Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

    Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

    In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.

    Otto Von Bismarck

    When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

    I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.

    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

    Be polite; write diplomatically ;even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.


    A witty saying proves nothing.

    If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

    When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

    Karl Marx

    Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.

    All I know is I'm not a Marxist.

    The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    Some important lessons from George Orwell

    By Nick

  • Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

    Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

    Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.

    If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

    Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.

    Note: Orwell differentiates Nationalism and Patriotism below, its a must read:
    By 'nationalism' I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human
    beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions
    or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled 'good' or
    'bad'.[See note, below] But secondly--and this is much more important--I mean
    the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing
    it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of
    advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with
    patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any
    definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction
    between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.
    By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular
    way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no
    wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive,
    both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is
    inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every
    nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, NOT for himself
    but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own

    Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.
    Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is
    also--since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself--
    unshakeably certain of being in the right.

    All nationalists have the power of not seeing
    resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend
    self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of
    inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own
    merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of
    outrage--torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations,
    imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of
    civilians--which does not change its moral colour when it is committed
    by 'our' side.

    In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one's own mind.

    The reason for the rise and spread of nationalism is far too big a
    question to be raised here. It is enough to say that, in the forms in
    which it appears among English intellectuals, it is a distorted
    reflection of the frightful battles actually happening in the external
    world, and that its worst follies have been made possible by the
    breakdown of patriotism and religious belief. If one follows up this
    train of thought, one is in danger of being led into a species of
    Conservatism, or into political quietism. It can be plausibly argued, for
    instance--it is even possibly true--that patriotism is an inoculation
    against nationalism, that monarchy is a guard against dictatorship, and
    that organised religion is a guard against superstition. Or again, it can
    be argued that NO unbiased outlook is possible, that ALL creeds and
    causes involve the same lies, follies, and barbarities; and this is often
    advanced as a reason for keeping out of politics altogether. I do not
    accept this argument, if only because in the modern world no one
    describable as an intellectual CAN keep out of politics in the sense of
    not caring about them. I think one must engage in politics--using the
    word in a wide sense--and that one must have preferences: that is, one
    must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even
    if they are advanced by equally bad means. As for the nationalistic loves
    and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the make-up of most
    of us, whether we like it or not. Whether it is possible to get rid of
    them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle
    against them, and that this is essentially a MORAL effort. It is a
    question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one's own
    feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable
    bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and
    power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of
    inferiority towards the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those
    feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognise that
    you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes.
    The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary
    to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an
    acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a MORAL effort, and
    contemporary English literature, so far as it is alive at all to the
    major issues of our time, shows how few of us are prepared to make it.

    See Orwell's full essay: Notes on Nationalism

  • posted by Nick at 5/27/2004 05:31:00 PM |

    Excellent post. It is important that we keep in mind the psychological issues involved in poltitics. For example, the part about understanding our own prejudices and not denying them, but struggling with them, is something I have believed for some time. This sort of critical thinking is sorely lacking in political dialogue today at all levels.
    "What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself."- Maslow

    I think one of the first steps is to destroy political language. Terms such as "democrat" and "republican" build needless walls between citizens. The challenge is to lead people who use politicized language to deconstruct those terms. For example, Liberal became a bad word, even though it can mean 8 different things ranging from Porky Pig to middle class industrialists in the 1830's. In other words it means nothing, it's like a political version of a racial slur. Yet, I'll label myself anarcho-left ideologically, but that only describes my ideal ends. It has nothing to do with what needs to happen before we can live in a decentrilized, dynamic utopia. We never will see it either unless we are able to look to each others mutual goals and values. THere is very little use in discussing "should be's" or "should haves", yet that dominates most political discussions. Our challenge is to take back the public mind, and to begin discussing the "what do we have?", "what can we do with it?" It's common sense.
    I tend to agree with that very much. What is required is a psychological change more so than any sort of ideological program.

    I have been thinking that the problem lies in creating an environment in which such a transformation can take place. Can it take place under the current socioeconomic conditions of the US? I tend to doubt it, which is to be expected since I come at the problem froma materialist POV (my philosophical viewpoints change with the seasons so I may think different come Fall).

    I am still ambivalent on whether to describe myself as a liberal Democrat. I just view the Democratic party as a means to an end. Right now, my best guess at overall strategy is for progressives to take over the Democratic party the same way the Radical Conservatives took over the GOP.

    However, I have my doubts that this can succeed because philosophy does impact political tactics and vice versa.
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