Saturday, September 23, 2017

1984 is Not an Instruction Manual

I know it's been awhile since I last posted. The political climate knocked me back and left me unable to create. So, fittingly I'm coming back with this article on George Orwell.

[But first I want to share that it was a dream that got me back in the blogging saddle. I awoke this morning in that hypnagogic state between dream and waking to see a track runner jumping over a hurdle. On the hurdle were slats with the names: Pete, Orwell and two others that don't apply to this post. I quickly wrote them down and when I got up did a bit of research that led me to writing this article. Pete Wehner and George Orwell]

George Orwell’s classic book “1984,” about a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime, has seen a surge in sales, rising to the top of the Amazon best-seller list in the United States and leading its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed. (New York Times, January 2017)

The country has been reading George Orwell’s 1984 because he struck a nerve. What exactly is that nerve? Is it the fear that we’re going down that path that will lead to war or our loss of freedom? But how much freedom do we actually have now? We have been sliding into a haze of forgetfulness, driven into divisions by the power hungry men of the world, while we bicker among ourselves. Time for a change.

Peter Wehner (First Things 9-7-16) wrote about Orwell and the lessons we can take from him.
Orwell wrote in Homage to Catalonia,
“…no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan...having seen only one corner of events. And, beware of exactly the same thing when you read any other book.”

“This doesn’t mean that objective truth doesn’t exist,” writes Wehner; “it simply means that neither you nor I can fully ascertain it.” Quoting his friend, Steve Hayner, “We need to make room for other perspectives. We “should hold more lightly to our capacity to perceive truth.”

We are all so sure we know the truth, because we’ve experienced it--or god forbid, we've been told what is truth without experiencing it. Like the story of the group of blind men exploring the large elephant (traceable to the Buddhist text Udana 6.4, dated to about mid 1st millennium BCE.) we only see the part our experience and senses allow and come to completely different conclusions. “Humans have a tendency to project their partial experiences as the whole truth, ignore other people's partial experiences.” Wikepedia

Wehner goes on with this take away, “to be open to accepting that views besides our own have validity, or at least are worth listening carefully to. We might be wrong, or partially wrong, or less than fully right, even on matters we feel passionately about, and that, as a general matter, we should speak with a touch less certitude and a bit more humility.” How often have we prejudged people we could have learned from? 

Orwell at one point in his life dressed in rags and went to the slums of East London to live with the homeless and poor, where disease, overcrowding, alcoholism and crime existed in overabundance. This experience defined his writing career—thereafter he used his words to fight social injustice and authoritarian rule. 

Orwell showed courage in telling the truth as he saw it—acknowledging that it was only one man’s truth. "Given where things are just now," as Wehner points out, "our country is increasingly divided, our politics despoiled, and the animosity directed against those not in our tribe being sky-high—we need Orwell's sensibility now more than ever.

(quotes taken from Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.)

What do you think? 


#GeorgeOrwell #tolerance #truth #dreams #1984