O is for Orwell and Miller

O is for Orwell?

You can look up stuff related to Orwell on the Interweb yourself. I was having a chat with Yusuf Toropov who suggested I do a post on Orwell for the AtoZ Challenge. I don’t know much about the chap, but here’s a pic I found of him:

Keith Chegwin (R) and Orwell

Seriously, though:

Let’s look at Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and George Orwell’s 1984. John Proctor of The Crucible is a man with only his name left, and he will either hang, or relinquish his title – a thing by which he is ascribed identity by the members of the community – by signing a false confession.

Orwell’s Winston has perhaps more to protect, his uncertainty under interrogation more psychologically pernicious to him. Proctor’s choice is stark, Winston’s less so, although both situations equally harrowing.

Principles in themselves may not be worth dying for. But the fact that The Crucible is an allegory for the HUAC and McCarthyism takes things further than Proctor’s dilemma. Unlike his hero, people such as Miller protected their colleagues rather than themselves if called to testify.

Orwell fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. He saw how Europe was turning, with Hitler and Mussolini already in power. However, 1984 suggests that regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, totalitarianism is a no-no. We don’t live in a totalitarian society today though. Right?

Well, there’s a disgrace (a collective noun) of extra-judicial executions being undertaken by the superpowers; arrests are rarely made, but instead poisons, bombs and long-range drones take out suspects.

Our privacy is being undermined in ways that we wouldn’t have understood thirty years ago, to the point that authorities can discern how well-informed you are on certain topics if they feel the need, what newsletters you subscribe to, what articles you read – at least online. Even the media can violate privacies with relative impunity, exposing celebrities and whoever else. 

Whistleblowers are imprisoned or forced to flee, and held up as traitors.

These are issues worth fighting for because they harm innocent people, cause collateral damage and undermine national sovereignties across the planet.

BTW, I write about Privacy for my P tomorrow too!

But Orwellian activity from governments has been going on for decades – since long before Orwell’s time. A look at the behavior of the governments before and during WW2 – the war that was “just” – proves this. Nastiness was not limited to the tyrannies.

Both Miller and Orwell put their lives and livelihoods on the line for what they felt was just, and they wrote about it all too. They could see this stuff coming. 

Whatever your own views on principles alone being worth dying for, many years back I heard Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers declare in an interview:
Even if you’re a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.

Looking it up now, it seems it’s been credited to Gandhi by the folk of the InterWeb. 

But I think the Manics – given their own wonderful politics – were probably citing Orwell. Wise words anyway.

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