Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 01:16:56
20 September 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Think Orwell

Author: Paul E. Richardson

May/June 2014
Page 4   ( 1 pages)

Summary: Some thoughts on where we are going.


“You are a slow learner, Winston.”

“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

George Orwell, 1984


We have seen this before.

Yet somehow our faith in progress, our belief that things will get better, makes us think that this time it is different.

Surely this is an anomaly. Surely there is some rational explanation. Surely we can't be going down that same fruitless path of East-West enmity.

Surely in our hyper-connected age, there are no borders to the free flow of knowledge. The Truth will eventually break through any restrictions on freedom of speech or the press, won't it?

And yet, restrictions on the press grow tighter, dissenters are pilloried and unanimity glorified. (“Don't yell at me,” the writer Boris Pasternak once said when he was heckled at a public meeting for having the temerity to claim that writers should not be given orders. “But if you must yell, at least don't do it in unison.”)

Surely in our hyper-attentive age, aggression will be met by international resolve and rebuke. Bullies will retreat, won't they?

And yet, those in power turn provinces and countries into chess pieces, manufacturing threats where there are none, molding external enemies from the mud we thought had been sloughed off decades ago, fabricating “cosmopolitans” and “fifth columnists” out of compatriots who dare to raise a finger in question. And diplomats are flummoxed. How do you deal with someone who ignores treaties they have signed, who does not play by rules that they themselves have vociferously defended?

Yes, we have seen this all before in history. Some bits of it here, other bits there. Assembled, those bits create a profile that goes by many names, usually reprehensible, often murderous, and always sad.

What then, are we pawns to do?

First, watch, listen and read. Then read some more. As Mark Twain once wrote, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

Second, share what one learns through words and action. Especially with those who do not listen, watch or read. Especially if what one learns comes from another language that few know.

Third, remember that no nation and its leaders are the same. Joseph de Maistre famously wrote that “every nation gets the government it deserves.” That is much too fatalistic. Often nations get governments that no one deserves.

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