Orwell On That Which Is “Not Done”

I have been reading through the four-volume collection of George Orwell’s letters and essays. Volume III has struck me with a number of things.

He noted that there was little official censorship in Britain, but it wasn’t needed because publishers would not print things offensive to the ruling class. This fell under the English custom that certain things are “not done”. During the war, publishers would consult with the Ministry of Information which would suggest, or recommend, that certain items be left out- not order or demand, but just recommend- and they would go along.

A certain kind of politeness where troublesome, uncomfortable or difficult things are left unsaid, or where actions that might offend are avoided, seems to be a big part of the middle-class and above English, and also American, culture. Orwell didn’t care for this; he talks about in “The Road to Wigan Pier” how refreshing he finds the bluntness of working-class people. I personally don’t care for the bluntness or lack of tact of working-class people; often it’s just as manipulative as phony politeness, on top of being ugly and rude. The Spanish term is “maleducado”, which somehow sums it up perfectly. It may be the Scandinavian in me but there is a lot to be said for keeping your mouth shut.

From a social and political standpoint, however, this has become highly destructive. The system controls public discourse largely by fencing off certain areas as not acceptable for discussion because they are rude, offensive, or hurtful. The first good example I can think of this is not race, but communism. A great part of the ant-McCarthy movement was that bringing up somebody’s Communist Party affiliation was gauche, mean, and unsportsmanlike. Joseph Welch’s famous rejoinder to McCarthy at the Army hearings amounted to that he had needlessly damaged the career of a young Army officer by asking about his history of Communist Party membership. Inasmuch as such affiliation was to be regarded as an exercise in idealism, to imply it was anything else or to attribute anything sinister to it was an appalling breach of etiquette.

The next obviously is race; the basis of Brown v. Board is that segregation reduces the self-esteem of black students, or in plain language that it hurts their feelings. Hurting a person’s feelings is rude and a breach of etiquette. And it is this idea, really, that all “anti-racism” is based upon; racism hurts black people’s’ feelings, which is wrong, and it makes them angry and creates social discord. Whether racism is true is hardly argued at all in this context; whether segregation is good for whites and might possibly be good for blacks as well is left unconsidered.

Later this was applied to homosexuals. Interfering with their sexual behavior was cast as needlessly cruel, and probably coming from very base motives.

If anything is to be done to oppose leftism, this imposing set of taboos must be broken. Note that I write anonymously; I’m not eager to fall on my sword just yet. And yet even anonymous bloggers, after making arguments that can only in reasonable objectivity be called racist, will then say “of course I’m not a racist.”

The truth may not be what people want it to be, what the powerful say it is, or fundamentally comforting. People ought to be able to have honest freedom to draw their own conclusions. Social harmony is desirable, but social harmony based on lies and intimidation is no such thing.

 

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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3 Responses to Orwell On That Which Is “Not Done”

  1. reynaldo says:

    “I personally don’t care for the bluntness or lack of tact of working-class people; often it’s just as manipulative as phony politeness, on top of being ugly and rude. The Spanish term is “maleducado”, which somehow sums it up perfectly. It may be the Scandinavian in me but there is a lot to be said for keeping your mouth shut.”

    Excellent point. Very true. We don’t need to “reality” of the blunt working classes neither.

  2. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: School’s in Session Edition

  3. slumlord says:

    Better their blunt truth than the pretty lies of the middle class. Still its better better yet to be polite and truthful.

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