What would Orwell say today?

George Orwell first published his essay “Politics and the English Language” in 1945 and Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949. Both works address serious issues Orwell observed in the world of his day, which, to most of us, must seem forever ago.

However, see if these passages from “Politics” do not ring true today, perhaps more conclusively than ever.

“When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases…one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.”

“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.”

I’m pretty sure I know what Orwell would say were he around to take in our depressing political landscape, the degeneration of our language, the cheapening of our culture, and the ascendency of the most debased and unprincipled among us to positions of power. One shudders to imagine what will have unfolded by Twenty Eighty-Four.

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