Feb. 21, 2009
Reading George Orwell's masterpiece all over again provides fresh insights into the natural rebellion of the human will, frail as it is, against totalitarianism of every stripe. It also reminds one how many different stripes the totalitarian tiger wears. The United States at the present day is a long way from a totalitarian reality, but Orwell's novel is a healthy reminder that one thing every impulse to total power has in common is a consummate skill at evoking the existence of a permanent enemy or crisis. The benefit of all-encompassing power is security purchased at the price of liberty.
In the polarized lens of the Left, this permanent enemy as evoked by conservatives was the war on terror. For the new cultural Left now in power, the "enemy" is capital and the imminent crisis or "catastrophe" is economic disaster. There are many ways to get to overweening government control. In one scene late in 1984 between Orwell's hero, Winston, and his nemesis in "the Party," O'Brien (English novelists always liked Irish-surnamed villains), this exchange occurs:
Winston: "But how can you [the Party] control matter? You don't even control the climate or the law of gravity? And there are disease, pain, death . . . "
O'Brien silenced him with a movement of the hand. "We control matter because we control the mind."
Today's champions of unlimited government, oddly enough, do claim they can control the climate and they have plenty of access to young minds, which begs the question, if government could control the climate, would one wish it to?