Reports are out that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four is having peak sales on Amazon, followed at a distance by Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. Allegedly, this is due to those of the political persuasion trying to understand what’s going on in the world this year.
One hopes they will learn something. Of course, that presupposes they will not merely sit on the book, in hopes of absorbing it fundamentally. It is probably not possible to discover the political leanings of the buyers (though never discount the amount of spying done by commercial enterprise), but rumor has it they are likely to be Progressives disappointed at the ascension of Donald Trump.
Has no one considered the spectacle of people on the Progressive Left avidly reading a book which is all about the bad effects of a Socialist dictatorship? The ruling ideology of the Party in 1984 is English Socialism, INGSOC. And, they haven’t noticed? It borders on a delicious ludicrousness.
If, indeed Progressives are the ones ordering, it would be thought the book they would probably favor as a guide to Utopia is Brave New World. In that, there is not merely “free”, but *compulsory sex, drugs, and centrifugal bumble-puppy – I mean, Rock-n-Roll. And all religion is abolished, families are taboo, and everyone is conditioned from before “decanting” to obey their Betters. But that dystopia, created by the vile capitalists who worship Our Ford (Henry), is a Corporationist’s dream. (It is also much closer to the present reality than Orwell’s Warning, per Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, published in — 1985! At least, according to his son, and others. )
Conservatives tend to fret over Big Government, and Liberals froth at Big Business. The reality is they are become one and the same, for the same set of people manage both. (The recent popular revolt to the contrary – we haven’t seen the end of that, merely the beginning.) The sad and sorry truth is the corruption of society is not the result of efforts by the Left or the Right, excepting insofar as the Left or the Right is a tool of the elites. The Elites thrive on and profit from “creative destruction”, and it is amusing(?) they hide behind the Right while using the Left, and vice versa, for their ends – the Corporate State..
Both Orwell and Huxley, even add Sinclair Lewis (It Can’t Happen Here), all would know what’s happening. And uttering low, sad chuckles at the insanity of it all.
Since the Good Thinkers have discovered Orwell for the first time all over again, perhaps they will also find his essays, “Politics and the English Language” and “What is Fascism?” Of course, having read these, they may denounce them as being “fascist”.
More worrisome for Americans is neither Nineteen Eighty-four nor Brave New World. Being set in England, they do not really resonate with Yanks. It Can’t Happen Here is a nightmare of, for, and by Americans, and rings truer, with as much plausibility (and lack thereof) as Elmer Gantry, the “religious novel” by Sinclair Lewis.
Truly frightening to non-political fanatics is, not a book, but a movie. William Randolph Hearst’s production of Gabriel Over The White House, starring Walter Houston, is a 1933 flick which was written with FDR in mind, and which received much political advice and consent from Roosevelt himself. Hearst was a New Dealer, and a newspaper maggot… err… mogul, and the model for Citizen Kane. It was conceived and made between the Election of 1932 and the Inauguration in March 1933. Movie Mogul Louis Mayer correctly saw it as a slap at his fellow Republican Herbert Hoover , and delayed release until Hoover was out of office.
It is a bit of elitist wish-fulfilment phantasy which sees nothing wrong with using strong-arm tactics to coerce businessmen into correct social action (and which blurs the line between businessmen and bootlegger gangsters.) The body of the President, possessed by the Angel Gabriel, rules by executive Orders and has the bootleggers tried and shot by the National Police Force (in fashionable fascist art deco uniforms) under the Statue of Liberty.
He then forces foreign countries to pay their neglected debts from WW1 under the threat of annihilation, and dies after setting the USA in “good shape” (Gabriel goes back to Heaven). Good, except for leaving you wondering how the next generation was going to handle having the Constitution chewed up and spit out.
Here is a surprisingly good review by Diamanda Hagen (surprising, isn’t it?)
Discerning readers will note how this could easily be utilized as a metaphor for Trump, yet it was conceived by “Progressives”, and tends to illustrate the usurpation of powers by every President since before Teddy Roosevelt (the original Progressive President).
It is amusing (!) to note how, in their fainting fits over “reactionary fascism”, Elitists are usually the ones who advocate extra-legal coercive measures to implement their Utopias, almost as if realizing they will not be enacted any other way.
The lessons are clear.
Elitists believe in purifying the society.
Elitists believe in commercial hedonism.
Elitist believe in coercion and the suppression of dissent.
Elitists believe in seduction or swamping (dissent in oceans of distraction).
Elitists make sure no one will dare think differently.
Elitists make sure no one will want to, or be able to think differently.
Of course, it is different factions of the Elite in these instances, coalitions competing for power using different tactics, but they are of the same (Patrician) class of the Wealthy, Powerful, and Privileged (and their stooges).
One is not more destructive than the other. Both stand convicted of trying to rule Man by forcing (or enticing) humanity into a Procrustean mold cast in some dark Satanic mill.
While Traditionalism is not without its own problems, they are small potatoes compared to the outrages of Ideology at full gallop. Traditionalism is in fact that Thing which Elitist Ideology is in revolt. Providing a safe, stable society wherein Children can grow up fat and happy, where Women remain unmolested by social perverts in public restrooms, wherein homes and local societies are not ravaged by the belligerent “creative destruction” of Neoliberal or Neoconservative depredations, where order and liberty stand firm against chaos and tyranny, where the decadence of atomic individualism is not a precursor to the total state, these are the ideals of Traditionalism. Sometimes, and far more often than one would like, the ideals fail of accomplishment. We live, after all, in a Fallen world, and humans are not angels. But we can try. We do not abandon the ideals and embrace their polar opposites.
There is, for now, a rebellion against Elite Ideology down among the Have-Nots, by the discarded economic ‘losers’ who have been passed over by the Neolib/Neocon New World Order.
The present worldwide revolt of the peasants (“Good luck storming the castle”.) may not succeed, but it may rattle the Elites into temporarily backing off from their agenda of total control. At least long enough for the rest of us to gain some breathing room and space to fight back more effectively. The old game of “lets you and him fight” has been employed for decades (probably for millennia) by the power-hungry who latch on to the notion of “Divide and Conquer, Unite and Rule”. Pitting the Loony Left and the Rabid Right at each other is good both for distraction and for keeping natural allies from recognizing they have a common enemy. Dividing into factions on social and cultural issues, while sweeping economic issues under the table, the Elites have gained a great deal of control over the world economy. It has worked well. For them and their minions. Not so good for the rest of us.
In recognition that the peasants are becoming more aware (thanks, in part to the Internet, and in part of the overreach of their greed), the latest iteration of the Elites strategy involves the tactic of, “both sides are admittedly bad, but ‘theirs’ is worse.” While moralists may object to the forced choice of The Lesser Of Two Evils, rightly proclaiming that the “lesser evil” is still Evil, no one is yet to the point of proposing “None Of The Above”. We are admonished to “be realistic”, but people are seeing where “realism” has got us, and are not amused. (And in the Recent Unpleasantness, the supposed alternate choices of Stein and Johnson were almost deliberately contrived to repulse any person of intellect, the one being the definition of Attention Whore, and the other of Clueless Ideologue.)
Nevertheless, the outlook has silver linings. The squabbles between branches of government, between the levels of government, within the factions and Parties, may actually produce a Good Thing. There is no real reason why we must choose between Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World, nor should we have to live in It Can’t Happen Here or Gabriel Over the White House. The real world is not a novel, or a film, or even a stage. We are capable of choosing our own destiny. But we have to work for it. Writhing and reeling, rejoicing in Sore Loser or Sore Winner histrionics, or spending our lives on the Internet, is not enough.
This scene (from 1984) illustrates what is the problem: The Elites do not see power as a means, but as an end.
For those who are fond of such things, a few movie links.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has had three film incarnations, including one for the Beeb (BBC) back in the ’50s’. With Peter Cushing as Winston Smith.
Brave New World (one of several adaptations).
Nineteen eighty-four (the 1956 version with Edmund O’Brien, not all that good, Hurt and Burton did it better.)
Clips from Gabriel Over the White House.
[EDIT: All my links didn’t take with the original post, so I am having , immediately, to go back and insert working ones. If you find a dead link, let me know, please.]