Orwell Matters; Politics Doesn\'t

All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

As his response to the problem of politics, John Hasnas gave a nice pop culture reference taken from the '83 Matthew Broderick flick WarGames. After playing out all the possible outcomes for Global Thermonuclear War, Joshua the Computer concludes:

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

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While it's clear what Orwell

While it's clear what Orwell means in "Politics and..." he's occasionally guilty of the things that he preaches against. I'm an admirer of Orwell's, but I once wrote a paer pointing out the instances in "Shooting an Elephant" (a highly questionable essay with a dubious political message- far inferior to "A Hanging") where Orwell might criticize himself.

The two which I think are basically inexcusable are his uses of "pretentious" latin phrases, namely "in terrorem" and "in saecula saeculorum" without providing the reader so much as a definition. Especially when the latter just means "forever and ever" and has no functional advantage aside from mere pretension (as far as I can tell.)

He also uses the passive voice ("the elephant was going to be shot") a few times. I think these examples reflect more on "politics" than they do "Elephant", though. His point that one should seek to avoid these things is good. His essay is the bible of "snoots" (my favorite writer David Foster Wallace's term, in an excellent essay he wrote about this very subject) everywhere, and I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

He was a democratic socialist though, and for that Orwell I say "rock on."


Matt - In regard to

Matt -

In regard to Orwell's occasional use of Latin phrases, it's important to keep in mind that he did write in a different time, with essays that were largely aimed at a British audience whose university training (at that time) pretty much universally included training in Latin. So while archaic to modern (and especially American-educated) ears, Orwell's use of Latin was not automatically pretentious at that time.

True Mark, but in Politics

True Mark, but in Politics and the English Language, he specifically cites Latin usage as being pretentious and largeless worthless- designed to cirumvent meaning instead of serve it.