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How Orwell Anticipated
© Jack Cashill
Although best known for his novels, 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell was a political essayist of the first order. Writing sixty years ago or more, he all but predicted what might be called “the Obama Delusion.”
This is, of course, a paraphrase of the title of Richard Dawkins’s bestseller, The God Delusion, God being a likely role model for the new Messiah.
Dawkins, in turn drew this title from that classic of soft-core Buddhism, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
"When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity,” observed author Robert Pirsig lamely, “When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion."
Given the credible evidence that God created the heavens and earth--and unlike Obama’s humble slice of it, He did so without help from Tony Rezko--believers in God need not worry about their sanity.
Barack Obama believers, however, ought to. Even the most ardent among them are hard pressed to name a single Obama accomplishment worthy of their praise, let alone their passion.
Such empty fervor might be forgivable among that great mass of Obama faithful who have a high school education or less—Obama’s second strongest demographic.
Harder to forgive are those with a postgraduate education, Obama’s strongest demographic by far. The same people who made The God Delusion a bestseller routinely fail to see the delusional impulse in themselves.
Orwell was on to these people a long time ago. Writing in the late 1940s, he saw in the left’s rejection of fixed ideals a compensatory urge “to behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.”
When dominant in the arts and letters, as they had been in Britain and America for at least a generation, progressives demanded conformity to their ever-shifting values.
“A modern literary intellectual,” Orwell wrote, “lives and writes in constant dread—not, indeed, of public opinion in the wider sense but of public opinion within his own group.”
This literary group, writ large, derived its leftward orientation from those intellectual forbearers “who had no immediate prospect of attaining power.”
This powerlessness, in turn, encouraged them to be “utterly contemptuous of kings, governments, laws, prisons, police forces, armies, flags, frontiers, patriotism, religion, conventional morality, and, in fact, the whole existing scheme of things.”
That disorienting New Yorker cover, which showed Michelle and Barack as flag-burning radicals, was alleged to be a figment of contemporary right wing imagination. That “figment,” however, has existed for at least a century and, as Orwell suggests, is more than merely imaginative.
Indeed, in his embrace of internationalism, illegal immigration, anti-war activism, abortion, black liberation theology and gay rights, not to mention his refusal to wear an American flag pin, Obama would seem to be the very incarnation of what Orwell called “the whole-left wing ideology.”
As Orwell acknowledged, intellectuals have always had a hard time selling this ideology to ordinary citizens in Britain or America. This has not stopped them from trying. In his timeless 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language," Orwell considered their sales tricks.
“Political language,” Orwell argued, was “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
To be fair, rhetorical hot air has sustained many a career in both parties, but no ship in American political history has sailed further on “pure wind,” on the pufferies of “hope” and “change,” than Obama’s.
Tough questions, even on the most basic issues of life and death, force Obama mostly just to fill space and kill time until, as Orwell observed, “The concrete melts into the abstract.”
There is no clearer illustration of Obama’s rhetorical evasiveness, than his response to Rick Warren’s question on abortions at Saddleback church.
“At what point,” asked Warren specifically, “does a baby get human rights, in your view?” Obama, it should be remembered, has defended partial birth abortion and blocked the passage of the Born Alive Protection Act in Illinois.
“Well,” Obama pontificated emptily, ”I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”
“But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion,” Obama dodged heroically, “because this is something obviously the country wrestles with.”
“One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue,” Obama blathered on like this endlessly, running out the clock without ever answering the question.
Finally Warren conceded, “Okay. There's a lot more I'd like to ask on that, but we got 15 other questions here.”
“Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning,” Orwell noted of the Obamian style, “and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.”
If the left succeeds in selling the henhouse, the more perceptive Obama voters will quickly come to see how delusional they have been.
They will see no great leveling, no elimination of classes, no happy embrace of the have-nots by the haves, no hope, no change they can believe in.
What they will experience, as Orwell himself did in Spain and elsewhere, is the lash of “a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip.”
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