Reverence for totalitarianism in the West goes back a long way. Plato, in “The Republic” outlined the first ideal society. All the Greek philosophers came from the elite of society, and thought of democracy as little more than mob rule.
Many Western intellectuals in the intervening centuries had a similar attitude. Democracy is indeed messy. The Athenian democracy was chaotic and often dangerous to its participants. Many leaders met death at the hands of an enraged assembly. Many fine men were persecuted and killed, and evil men like Alcibiades often prospered.
To this day, democracy is a little undignified. Elections and debates sometimes seem like a third grade recess. At its best, such as “Queston Time” in the UK parliament, the give and take has dignity and sometimes genuine humor. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case.
The crusade to build the perfect society has gone on in the meantime, with its odd and harmless failures like the Shakers and its gruesome failures like the French Revolution. A blog is hardly the place to mine all this history. And so we will start with the man who most clearly delineates this conflict in this and the last century, a most fascinating individual named George Orwell.
Orwell is most readily thought of as a critic of Communism. Various sources will primly remind you that Orwell was in no way a conservative, but in fact a socialist. This isn’t really true either. Orwell was a kind of cultural conservative, but in politics he was an orthodox Communist, by his own words.
How did a thoughtful, well-traveled man who had seen the widest variety of human existence and wrote about it with great insight and empathy react when he encountered the most base excesses of Communism? That is where the great rupture of our time begins, as we will see when we examine the taxonomy of the left.