It’s always necessary to remember that our heroes are human—Orwell, above all others, would have insisted on that.
He witnessed and reported on what blood-wet havoc stems from our maniacal making of heroes, from our masochistic need to be herded and lead.
It is clear that the thicker the fairy tales are piled, the more easily one can swallow them, but this seems so paradoxical that I have never been able to understand the reason for it.” In .
The masses’ inability to think for themselves struck him as a crime against their own humanity.
“The most elementary respect for truthfulness is breaking down,” he wrote in a 1938 letter, about the duplicitous English reporting on the Spanish Civil War, in which he’d fought for six months, and during which he was shot through the esophagus.
“It gives one the feeling that our civilization is going down into a sort of mist of lies where it will be impossible ever to find out the truth about anything.”Like every robust thinker, Orwell had his contradictions, the most pronounced of which was the fact that he was both an intellectual who despised intellectualism and its attendant snobbery—“The direct, conscious attack on intellectual decency comes from the intellectuals themselves,” he wrote in his 1946 essay “The Prevention of Literature”—and a common man who had reservations about common men.
In January of 1940 he wrote this to his publisher, Victor Gollancz: What worries me at present is the uncertainty as to whether the ordinary people in countries like England grasp the difference between democracy and despotism well enough to want to defend their liberties.
One can’t tell until they see themselves menaced in some quite unmistakeable manner.
Unlike, say, “Nietzschean,” the term “Orwellian” gets attributed to the steadfast enemies of Orwell—autocracy, hypocrisy, state-mandated falsity: the “slogan-world,” as he calls it in his novel —and never to Orwell himself.
During the NSA revelations in June, we were hourly harassed with the adjective “Orwellian,” and those wielding the word certainly didn’t mean an incorruptible reverence for values, truth, and liberty.