WWII was unique in terms of wars because the perpetrator's commanding officer was not a military commander, yet a rhetorical propagandist. He never lifted a finger to shoot, torture or rape anyone, preferring to energize his subordinates with threats levied by his other subordinates. In fact, his focus was indirectly on destroying the Jews, Gypsies and intellectuals, with a primary double-focus: restoring German's national identity, and creating a superhuman race. Anti-semitic prejudices were strong in the 1920's and 30's from Germany's loss in WWI, and from being forced to make reparative payments to the Allies via the Treaty of Versailles, leaving their money hyper-inflated. Their quality of life was horrifically low, and buying bread was often a feat. The Germans (and others) built up a resentment for the financially successful Jews, despite their banking being compulsory. Although Hitler's anti-Semitic mantra was incredibly vitriolic, his pro-German mantra was the polar opposite. Accounts of Gentiles meeting him for the first time often recount him as being kind and caring.
Were all these propaganda, torture, and murder tactics illegal? No, because there was no specific international law stating that one country couldn't wage a Holocaust against itself or others. Plus, it was an atrocity, not a war, at least not until the other countries finally stepped in. (This is why it's so difficult to reconcile, even in the 21st century). "At the recent trials in Kharkov some attempt was made to fix on Hitler, Himmler, and the rest the responsibility for their subordinates' crimes, but the mere fact that this had to be done shows that Hitler's guilt is not self-evident. His crime, it is implied, was not to build up an army for the purpose of aggressive war, but to instruct that army to torture its prisoners. So far as it goes, the distinction between an atrocity and an act of war is valid. An atrocity means an act of terrorism which has no genuine military purpose." (p. 510) To wage war on the Jews, Gypsies and intellectuals would be to engage in military combat with them. The latter group was unarmed and disinterested in violent warfare, at least until the Nazis progressed, but even then the Jews, Gypsies and intellectuals were a culture of people, not an organized military body. The Holocaust was thus a straight-forward genocide, hell-bent on obliterating cultures, yet first defaming them in a synthetic attempt to regain "true-German" national identity and pride via propaganda and banal hatred. (What I still find baffling is how the Nazis drew all their lines: half a million Jews were German. Plus, if the Jews were the money authority, why not enlist their help to reinvigorate the economy instead of demonizing them?) This is where Nazism was the most tactical fit for those Germans who couldn't rectify their national humiliation. Nazism is a form of fascism--which is highly militaristic in itself--and believes in biological racism, and social Darwinism, and when Hitler preached it in those bars and public forums, it struck just the right chord with the hurting German working class. Sadly, it struck such a strong chord with them that down the road he could convince them to torture and abuse their fellow man and woman, without him ever leading by example.
Utopic ideals are inherently flawed because multiple people can't subjectively imagine non-existent places identically. Utopic ideals are a safe-haven for relativists because each ideal is so theoretical and subjective that each person can design their own flavor of a utopic ideal without the risk of actually realizing it. Any time in history someone or group has striven toward a purely imaginative, non-existent place (commonly known as perfect), others have responded unconvinced and critical of it's ineffectiveness.
If Utopic ideals exist solely in one's imagination, how does one arrive at their content? Well, Orwell suggests that they are simple and subjective reactionary responses to our individually immediately pressing matters. He even goes as far as saying that humans don't write well about a similar concept--happiness--because, as far as I can deduce, our truly happy events are as individual as Utopias; incapable of reproduction.
That's not to say we can't be moved in positive ways when reading positive literature, but that's different, because that's a positive response to the tone, plot, and character development, not an affect deliberately targeted. Utopias futilely but deliberately target an synonymous subjective "truth" within another individual. "But it just makes sense!" we say. "Doesn't such-and-such just sound so logical and obvious to you, too?!" Anyone targeting to create specific affects and emotions in another is thus quite troubling because subjective "truths" are nebulous and non-transferable on sheer merit of their subjective nature. Affects happen; they can't be forced or prescribed. If we want others to understand our vision, we're better off being objective.
The innate limitation of imaginative positivity has, according to Orwell, limited it to being written about only via contrast, because that way at least establishes some point of reference with others. "This is why the conception of Heaven or Utopia varies from age to age." (p. 507) This simply states that what allows us to imagine happiness is the existence of real-life anti-happiness. Note that the real-life experience of happiness is not on the table, nor is it affected by the existence or absence of this theoretical happiness we've been talking about. Imaginative happiness exists as a projection of what gives us subjective relief from everyday, practical stressors. Actual happiness is indeed different; its reconciliation takes the form of fulfillment because it's the mergence of our selves with outer reality rather than our subjective imagination back onto itself. Utopic ideals of happiness are thus inherently self-absorbed. "The wiser course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness." (p. 509) Hence, the most practical application of Utopic ideals is the reaffirmation of the true utility of objective tools.
One of the human race's most significant limitations is its affinity for self-destruction. This is simply a recast of a common argument that politics, religion, technology, old-world and new-world discrepancies, as well as international commerce have affected humanity's ability to move forward. Part of the problem is our inability to come to a consensus of the very meaning of progress. New-world cultures believe it to be technological advancement, international trade, and economics, while old-world cultures believe it to be tradition and superstition, and ironically, the stalwart ability not to change and be affected by fickle materialism. Agrarian cultures like those in Africa and New Zealand ascribe to this modus, aiming to avoid the hustle and bustle of technological advancement and maintain the simplicity and purity of their natural ways. (I'd like to point out that none of the 700 Native American languages had a word for emotional depression.)
I'm not excusing away humanity's self-destruction with a convenient and cowardly dose of relativism. I most surely think humans should judge one another on both an individual and cultural level, however, they should do it from an informed perspective, not from fear or tradition or profit. No, we don't do this right now. Since new-world cultures are based in technology and economics, they mutate informed perspective toward the special interests of their economic belief system. It's a built-in ulterior motive. The problem with economic advancement is that once you start on the path, there's no going back. It's a one-way road because the home culture is heavily encouraged to participate (and thus, believe) in it, and international relations quickly and irreversibly become involved. There are no real economically isolated areas left anymore, as North Korea even trades with China.
While economic proliferation generally increases the standard of living, it doesn't have anything to do with our standard of understanding. The geniuses who developed economics may have been able to understand human nature clearly and effortlessly, but that gift does not automatically transfer onto the masses whom practice their economics. Thus, the masses have screwed up human nature and will continue to do so until they--as a whole--accept that although they can somewhat easily understand the intellectual products the geniuses create, they as the masses need to do the intellectual legwork to understand their fellow man on deeper level than assets, inflation, debts, gains and losses.
Humanity's staggering reluctance to generate a working and more pluralistic definition of progress has turned many throughout history into pessimists, who say that since humanity hasn't improved throughout time, despite all the great people who've passed through, it will never improve. They prescribe that we are doomed to our own devices. Subjectively I want to nod my head at this, though knowing what I know about the addictive elements of technology, as well as humanity's weakness toward group-think and peer pressure, I don't think we've seen all the colors on our palette. I think we've seen plenty of our weaknesses and credulity toward believing what charlatans have to say, but I don't think we've given our potential an honest shot, because of our belief in the human-centric dualism of morality: humans are good and/or bad. This is where I sympathize with old-world cultures, who understand that life is a shade of grey. Our lives aren't just about our lives, or in other words, we are more than our moral value judgments of ourselves in relation to the world in which we live. Now, current cultures talk of "making our destinies," but if you unfold that statement you can read: "making our individual destines hopefully on the path to good." It's very human centric and spiritual, and I find that the majority's definition of progress--no matter which flavor--is saturated with human-centricity.
Orwell's take on all this lies in Socialism and Utopianism. "Nearly all neo-pessimist apologetics consists in putting up a man of straw and knocking him down again. The man of straw is call Human Perfectibility. Socialists are accused of believing that society can be--and indeed, after the establishment of Socialism, will be--completely perfect; also that progress is inevitable." (p. 501) Socialism is often perceived as being Utopian, but it's at base a simple ideology of striving toward betterment. This is not a political discussion of that statement's the accuracy or validity, simply a recanting. Orwell here stumbled upon one of humanity's general's diseases: Human Perfectibility. Why are these two terms even combined? Can one legitimately qualify the other? Quoting the first line of John Gray's Straw Dogs: "Most people today think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans?"
I think it's more than possible that this is one of our primary ingredients to our self-desturction. I think this observation is looking at a real piece of our own history, devoid of any timeline or whoever was in the position of power.
As the modern philosopher Kristhoffer argues, truth and politics are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It's a variant of his argument that "individualism" and "conformism" are on a tether, with a tug in one direction pulling equally and immediately away from the other. The majority of people in society choose conformity and its untruths because the very act of banding together in a social collective makes conformity a more convenient, accessible option. To construct a society of individuals who engage one another based on informed choice, functionality and level of objectivity requires a much more deliberate and disciplined point of view. Studious not in dry, dislocated academic terms though, but in terms of building practical and intellectual wealth, rather than social wealth, which is simply lubrication.
Most people are turned off by the vocation of a lifelong pursuit of building intellect, though the preconception that one will alway be doing painful, arduous and disagreeable work is simply not true. Habits are only those things in the beginning stages; once the habit forms those subjective responses are minimized or even shed, which is quicker than one thinks. Point is, whether individualism versus conformism is on the table, or truth versus politics, becoming more objective-based allows people to function more stably and interdependently with others because they have more tools of understanding others' point of view, plus, they have more tools of communication to bridge gaps. Ascribing to a more individually truth-based orientation rather than a conforming political-based orientation thus can facilitate social relations, contrary to the popular thought that says thinking divides people and creates no-win, endless, and purely theoretical debates with no practical, real-world value. This is one of the most asinine arguments humans have made, in my opinion.
There's a lot of grey area between conformist and intellect, and it's a preconception that one has to be one or the other. Not true. One can decide to be more individual, truth- based through dedicating themselves toward more domestic intellectual practices. They will surely not be as intellectually adept as a true intellect, but they'll develop better, stronger, clearer tools along the way. Society wouldn't believe that everyone lifting weights in the gym is striving to be a professional bodybuilder, right? Then why do they think everyone everyone who wants to improve the clarity of their mind wants to be a high-level intellect whom they (mis)think will be socially unproductive? If one chooses higher- level intellectual path, that's even more in their favor, but the caustic assumption that any flavor of intellectual development is impractical gives society an allergy to the very part of us that makes us sentient beings.
The effect of this allergy is building stock in politics and conformity. Sure, it feels good and almost everyone around you thinks similarly, however the moral and intellectual compass becomes determined by a nebulous and fickle group mentality whom you don't live with or share fears or dreams with, nor does it have any singular accountability. This last characteristic is especially important because without a singular nucleus of accountability, or a place where one can isolate exactly where their thoughts and behaviors derived, they don't have a way of truly integrating their own thoughts into themselves. Their self becomes nebulous and reactionary, rather than proactive and produced by the sweat of their own will. It's easy to criticize politics, but not so easy to argue why, without an intellectual basis. That alone should be society's incentive for improving their intellectual capabilities, rather than simply developing the rhetoric, financial usury, and sexual and non-sexual power paradigms that politics relies on to keep the leash on its participants nice and tight.
Orwell's insight in this matter says, "to be politically happy these days you need to have no more memory than an animal." (p. 496) He mentions multiple flip-flops of public opinion regarding social matters. Part of this accountability lies within the propaganda machines, ascribing their exploitative "version" of the truth, for money and power's sake. The other part of the accountability lies in the public's lap, because they believe these mutually exclusive statements. This is one of the key tools the IngSoc party utilizes in Orwell's novel 1984, where history is changed to serve the party's wants, even if a conflicting statement was made just as vehemently the day prior. Thus, political happiness is, and always will be, at war with individual truth and the uncomfortable glimpse at reality it requires and produces. But then again, you can't change your own reality and become a master of it without looking at it. As of yet, humanity is not willing to pay that price on a large scale, so we continue rewarding social and political charlatans.
The 'colour issue,' or racism, was acknowledged as a worldwide problem back in the early 1940's, when Negroes had begun to lose faith in the Democratic party. I'm wondering why they had any faith in it in the first place, considering the political parties were never really designed to give free and unbiased respite for anyone who agreed with them, only whites. White Democrats favored the Ku Klux Klan, after all, and until presidential intervention worked to eliminate them in the late 1800's, men in power kept the Negro 'in check.' Frederick Douglass did great things for Negro awareness, however the colour issue was slow to die, as we see it still lingers in modern day.
When the Negroes turned away from the Democratic party and toward the Republican party, they essentially turned toward Big Business. In theory this is a fantastic idea because the free market always rights itself due to competition and ebbing and flowing wants and needs as well as resources and labor. The market is an invisible hand, as Adam Smith says, right? In theory, yes, though that applies to the participants within the marketplace. The invisible hand does not pluck those out of depravity and plop them into the marketplace; one has to be participating in the marketplace for the invisible hand theory to apply. "The coloured worker cannot be blamed for feeling no solidarity with his white comrades. The gap between their standard of living and his own is so vast that it makes any difference which may exist in the West seem negligible." (p. 493) This is why drinking out of the same water fountain is so significant; it says that everyone is subject to the same conditions and availed the same resources. Hence, the separation carries a demeaned meaning. The Negro standard of living was lesser than the White standard of living, depriving them of opportunities and a clean slate to participate in the free market, so, hopping from the Democrats to the Big Business Republicans isn't going to immediately mend others' civic orientation with them.
In the early 1940's the colour issue had already been present for hundreds of years. What was the continual problem? "There is no solution until the living-standards of the thousand million people who are not "white" can be forced up to the same level of our own. But as this might mean temporarily lowering our standards the subject is systematically avoided by the Left and Right alike." (p. 493) Lowering the standards in this context doesn't mean self-deprication, yet implies simple resource theory. If there are ten of something and two people to divide them among, there are no scenarios that can result in the sum exceeding ten. Hence, if Negroes are to be given an opportunity to enter the market freely, allowed a similar standard of living (which consumes resources, jobs, real estate, etc.) then there are less for others to consume. This isn't a pity-scenario, because the market is based in competition, with the more economically effective participant obtaining more resources and wealth. True economics is thus not prejudicial or biased, it's an organism pertaining to unlimited human wants filtered through limited resources. So the more any one of us have, the less others can have, should the wealth still be worth something to purchase with (based on inflation, international market, blah blah blah.) So if the Negro standard of living were allowed to increase, it would indeed shock the system, and others' standard of living would decrease, but only until the system--since a true free market is self-correcting--rights itself. Negro prevention in the market is short-term thinking anyway, because the more participants a truly free markets has, the stronger it is.
This is a challenge to this day, no matter how blue-in-the-face economists are about allowing the market to function without regulation or other prejudice. Orwell suggests that, "And there is one small precaution which is not much trouble, and which can perhaps do a little to mitigate the horrors of the colour war. That is to avoid using insulting nicknames." (p. 493) Domestically, this would be an effective start considering our mentality probably follows our words more than our words follow our mentality. If something keeps coming out of one's mouth, whether or not one believes it, they validate and legitimize it, therefore paving the road to true belief. So when Orwell says we need to stop using insulting nicknames, despite how socially 'harmless' they may seem, I commend him, because he's suggesting a way of cleaning up our minds.
Can propaganda be harmless? In that, is there a way to construct it where neither the subject or object are denigrated or demeaned? Propaganda utilizes sensationalism and emotional rhetoric to boost an ideology or particular value set to sway as many people as possible with the least amount of substantive effort. This pandering to emotions is what I describe as 'least amount of substantive effort' because true swaying of a group would entail the individuals coming to an intellectual understanding about the cause and making an informed decision toward it. Propaganda does not like informed decisions because they are critical, using subjective thus anti-intellectual fallacies like bias, prejudice, and omission to deliver its package. So by these terms, can propaganda avoiding demeaning one side in favor of another? No. Across history it has taken the easy way out (no surprise) and tapped into people's primitive desire to identify and channel their emotional duress onto an enemy or opposing force. What would propaganda look like without this negative channelling? Without the prejudice, bias, omission, or crowd-swaying? It would look like a marketing campaign, promoting a value or skill set by merit of its own virtue, rather than by the perceived depravity of the opposing side. Propaganda thus develops esteem via breaking down the opposing side, leaving the audience to 'by default' conclusions. The Nazis did this very effectively through drilling into people's mind that the Jews, Gypsies and nonconforming intellects were vermin, feeding, breeding, and soiling everywhere they spread. The Nazis were left with the "logical" conclusion that their ideology was by default cleaner and better for humanity, with a minimal education about their own view required. That's how powerful propaganda is; it doesn't require risk and exposure on it's own part, it simply requires a pointed finger and a silver tongue.
In the early 1940's Orwell noticed the indirect effects of omission-based propaganda in the relationship between Britain and the United States. American soldiers' "extra-territorial rights" granted them amnesty in British courts, allowing the Americans to act like destructive fools, while Britain's soft-soaping policy (a hush-hush policy) publicly hid the anti-British feeling within Americans, with "no notion of the kind of thing that Americans are brought up to believe about us." (p. 489) These untruths were omitted from being "ventilated," to use Orwell's words, creating a long-term problem between the two cultures. "Our official soft-soaping policy does us no good in America, while in this country it allows dangerous resentments to fester just below the surface." (p. 489) The propaganda was based in the positively-intended thought of the British not criticizing their allies, however, that invited a very negative consequence on the individual social level. The longer the soldiers acted in accordance with their government's peace-based policy of not critiquing allies, the larger the gap drew between the cultures of these allies.
Lionel Fielden's book, Beggar My Neighbour, is more propaganda than advertisement because of the antithetical effects it inadvertently produces. Like many people in the early 1940's, Fielding wanted India to be a free and independent country, though when you look a little closer, his reasoning reveals it to be a pipe dream given the international context and the unoriginal thinking.
At that point in our history, Western and Eastern civilization were siblings that wanted to play with the same exact toys. Sure, they both wanted freedom in whatever their version of it prescribed, but the world had shrunk to a point that no longer could they both be wholly satisfied with their lifestyle. The West, being complex with its technology, culture, money and progress viewed Eastern countries like India as obsolete because they weren't optimizing resources or striving for economic success. Eastern ideology is more simple, more ancestral, lacking the West's hypersensitivities and assumptions. Conquering India wasn't a universal solution, and the British ideally wanted to cherry-pick India's destiny for them, leaving them their independence to de-industralize and be neutral in war while infusing Western sentiment. It makes as little sense as it sounds, which is why Orwell describes Fielding's book--which holds this view--as propaganda instead of advertisement, which is simpler, more direct, and less nebulous.
How was independence defined in the early 40's? Just as strength in the schoolyard awards one with almost absolute certainty from being attacked, it was defined by the proliferation of aeroplanes. But India couldn't defend itself, so it didn't really matter if Britain was the country to subjugate them, because behind them were Germany, Russia, and Japan. It's not like Britain was unique in its imperialism. Even non-imperialistic countries would have something to say about India's impotence, they'd just voice it in terms of "education." Eastern countries that don't convert to Western are seen as wild-cards; if we don't convert them to our way, instilling them with better, more functional values, someone else is going to come along and disease them, creating a threat to us. India's compulsion toward simplicity and neutrality were seen as virtues in the abstract, but in the early 40's, the Western world just couldn't leave it at that; Britain had to involve herself. Page 480: "Either power politics must yield to common decency, or the world must go spiraling down into a nightmare of which we can already catch some dim glimpses. And the necessary first step, before we can make our talk about world federations sound even credible, is that Britain shall get off India's back. This is the only large scale decent action that is possible at this moment."
How? Isn't the West like a steam roller once it gets going? Yes, which is why the ordinary citizen (a common theme for Orwell) needs to be informed and educated about India on its own terms. Not cherry-pick information, but all the information, allowing the Britain citizen to see how India has been mistreated and that their time-tested way has honor. Insulting how they smell, look, or the habits they choose is simply degrading them via slander. Plus, the West had its fair share of historical filth and hypocrisy, considering the luxurious Palace at Versailles didn't even have functioning toilets for around a century, and the attendees prior to that improvement didn't exit the premises to relieve themselves.
Fielding suggests the struggle between the East and West is one of spirituality versus materialism, however, spirituality never exists within a vacuum, as it abstractly suggests. It gets infected. Gandhi was not a universal pacifist, and his political awareness (he was a lawyer) informed him that conflict will always arise, affecting his point of view as to the course of India's international presence. Pacifism thus wasn't the message within his passive resistance. Thus, the East may not have participated in the West's traditions and beliefs, but they weren't savages, which is Orwell's point to the British; learn from these people, don't shove your education and values onto them. Your values, if you are a normal, everyday citizen, have most likely been infected by others coercing them onto you in the same fashion as Britain wanted to infect India. Orwell says the people who are most apt to exploit and infect others are sleepwalkers. Unaware that they trample values instead of act intelligently and wisely, they take refuge in popular social ideologies.
The British Socialists in the 1940's made their appraisal of literary intellect a function of political agenda. The first certainly doesn't necessitate the second, yet they were stitched together. Orwell is clear that good writers produce art that is accessible to the common man, representative of the common man's reality. This doesn't mean that writing is always on the side of the underprivileged, nor that one need be underprivileged to write. There are multiple nuances of common man. First, there's the meaning that represents the man who makes himself, who is largely unaffected by the musings of wealth and politics showmanship, whose values are more domestic than abroad, more familial than abstract. Then there's the nuance that represents the common man within all of us. This represents our drive to survive, our sex drive, and our compulsion to use technology in some form to adapt to the world around us. These are common things because they are universals, and although political agendas are certainly not universal, good writing perennially delves further into how these basal drives are acted upon, manipulated, and levied against us by other individuals, and larger governing bodies. Fiction may be definition be "not real" because it never directly happened, but the phenomena which it is based are very much real.
The Left had a form of pretension (ironic, no?) that basically believed if a writer was high-brow and interested in technique rather than simply content, he was intellectually reactionary, rather than gritty and progressive. As if an interest in technique dislocates one from reality. I can see how this may be valid in an academic sense where the same lesson plan is driven into students over and over and over, but we're talking about public intellectuals writing about social, political and economic issues. High-brow writing pushes the envelope on what we see as art, requiring our intellects to stretch further and further, which all humans are capable of. It was thought in the 1940's by the Left that these types of writers were bad because they didn't represent the "common man" as well as those who simply settled for the popular literary devices that everyone was used to.
What is difficult to reconcile is how the Left thought being reactionary wasn't progressive. Isn't good writing tapped into social milieu, therefore reactionary by nature? Literature observes, recasts, and if it's good enough, forecasts. But the very reason it taps into the common man in all of us is because of those universals of love, hate, sex, revenge, etc. Just because they're experimented with doesn't mean the writer is disconnected, nor does it mean, on the inverse, that if a person has a different political affiliation, he or she is a bad writer to the same extent. These appraisals and assumptions simply don't reconcile, and looks from my purview as simply a method of obtaining and manipulating political power. The Socialist movement alienated the literary intelligentsia because they couldn't use them as megaphones because the writers were being writers, rather than lobbyists. Thus, the Socialists saw them as an enemy because they weren't an ally. Page 473: "In the years following the last war the best English writers were reactionary in tendency, though most of them took no direct part in politics. After them, about 1930, there came a generation of writers who tried very hard to be actively useful in the Left Wing movement. Numbers of them joined the Communist Party, and got there exactly the same reception as they would have got in the conservative Party. That is, they were first regarded with patronage and suspicion, and then, when it was found that they would not or could not turn themselves into gramophone records, they were thrown out on their ears. Most of them retreated into individualism." Orwell said the next generation of writers were thus generally pacifistic, which as a previous post shows, ignores the basal fact that war will and must happen over time because human cultures are not universally compliant. Due to this dislocation, these new writers weren't as directly aware of Fascism's vitriol, which ultimately relinquished the writer's primary function, that being social sensitivity. The Socialist's allergy to high-brow writing fulfilled their own prophesy through insulating and disconnecting the literary process which could've helped the common man communicate with one another about the woes of self and civilization.
If a society changes from being money-ruled to some-other fundament, would the compulsions of the people change? What would the citizens' incentives be at that stage? Gissing thinks that it would make no difference because people would still have no training or education in acting more wisely. From a practical standpoint, his reasoning is flawless; to authentically act according to beliefs and values, you need to have real life knowledge of what those beliefs and values entail. Simply removing money and expecting people to immediately act more wisely is like taking away the bottle from the drunk and expecting them to immediately acquire healthy habits.
Gissing views capitalism as a poison even if you have wealth because it directs yourself away from yourself. Unlike personal growth, where you develop equity in your abilities, confidence, and relationships, wealth is determined and gauged by money, which is completely outside of the individual. Yes, wealth is a device used to gauge our wants and needs through the production of concrete objects and socially observable mechanisms, but he'd be willing to scrap the whole system because of the compulsions it produces. Since he's an artist, judging simply from what Orwell wrote about him, I don't think Gissing would think that any money-based society could function as well on a practical level on one calibrated via individual wit and tenacity. This is a critique philosophers have made since history was first recorded, though, just filtered through a literary mind.
Page 471: "The only worth-while objective, as he sees it, is to make a purely personal escape from the misery of poverty and then proceed to live a civilized, aesthetically decent life. He is not a snob, he does not wish for luxury or great wealth, he sees the spuriousness of the aristocracy and he despises beyond all other types the go-getting, self-made business man; but he does long for an untroubled, studious life, the kind of life that cannot be lived on less than about 400 pounds a year." Gissing's certainly a purist, and although that doesn't make him unique in any way, he carries a distinct distaste of the working class which is peculiar in those who despise wealth. He calls the working class "savages." You'd think that someone who despises aristocracy would have a soft spot for the underclass like Dickens or Orwell himself, but Gissing has no pity for those who don't succeed economically, and thinks they should stay far away from political power. Objectively though, he's spot on, in that just because they receive no social privileges doesn't mean they're suited for politics. I'm curious as to his vision of a political system sans money, because although a simple system like bartering didn't have money, it had a social means of passing goods and services back and forth. When individuals do this, they engage in a power structure, sometimes a power struggle, oftentimes resolved on a large scale by setting up a government to regulate its passing from one agent to another. Gissing senses this inherent flaw in overarching power systems, identifying how it diseases each of the social classes in different ways, yet this "aesthetically decent" life needs a much stronger base than the allowance of individuals to sit and be intellectual. Since not everyone wants to be studious and intellectual, and many if not most enjoy the social scale of money, the new system of government which lacks money would have to be very incentivizing to capture this concrete, materialistic demographic.
To quote him directly: "It is because nations tend toward stupidity and baseness that mankind moves so slowly; it is because individuals have the capacity for better things that it moves at all." I can't agree more with him, and think that maybe it's not the economic structure he detests, but the citizens compulsions that cause that compulsion toward economics to manifest. People create government, not the other way around, so it's possible that he's
Does civilization become more open-minded with the progression of technology and culture, or is man hopelessly reduced to an inclination for destruction, no matter the window-dressings? Jonathan Swift's hardline prejudice against humanity is different from Ted Kuczynski's prejudice, who said that technology was to blame for man's ignorance and destruction because it inebriated him in a way that was unnatural and unnecessary. Swift doesn't blame man's issues on technology, but he also doesn't attribute him with the flexibility Kaczynski does. Thus, Kaczynski is inherently more optimistic because he believes people can be saved from themselves, so long as they turn away from the current modus of viewing technology, and Swift is more bleak, believing that no matter the technological progress, forms of governments, or breakthroughs in medicine, at base man is still a confused, destructive animal.
Swift's observation lies in a fundament of how power is domestically exerted. On the civilian front, power isn't so much as exerted--because you'd damage the product that you need to 1) protect you, 2) build your economy, and 3) build your ego through praise, history, and artifacts--but rather displayed. This display of power is political, which is why the fundament of domestic power is positioning rather than executing. Swift refers to the tribes within his own novels, and how the lowest form of animal is the graveling, sniveling favorite, "whose employment was to lick his master's feet, and drive the female Yahoos to his kennel; or which he was now and then rewarded with a piece of ass's flesh. This favourite is hated by the whole herd, and therefore, to protect himself, keeps always near the person of his leader." (p.454) The dynamics of modern individualism relinquish this very compulsion, as well as the reward system which incentivizes it, right? Wrong. This power play is still active because the whole concept of equality is a sham, both due to our natural constitution, and our fickle desires. Humans have never wanted true equality, nor have they ever been capable of true equality, which a simple investigation into Communism will demonstrate. This doesn't mean the other side of the coin is automatically true, that people should be prejudiced based on their fundamental traits, or that they enjoy it when they're the victims of prejudice. The sniveling, graveling minion acts out of fear, as Swift points out, not because he's fulfilling some kind of masochistic purpose or fetish, but because he's chosen not to be a bold individual. He can't even feed himself, which is why he's rewarded with a piece of "asses flesh." You may think we've evolved our power paradigm, but we've simply improved medicine, technology, and agriculture. The compulsion of the weak and strong still act along the same power lines, because some people are naturally stronger at politics and social leading (manifests in alpha behavioral cues), while others are naturally more submissive. There are shades of grey in between, but the point is that the social milieu may have changed for the better in terms of leisure and life expectancy, but that doesn't necessarily mean the fundamental power paradigm has improved. There are still users, manipulators, sociopaths, and enablers.
A simple exchange between the two on page 456 suggests the increasing credulity that comes with the progress of civilization, which is the polar opposite of the popular thought that civilization breeds intelligence:
ORWELL: It's called petrol. But don't you find that the mass of the people are more intelligent than they were, or at least better educated? How about the newspapers and the radio? Surely they have opened people's minds a little? There are very few people in England now who can't read, for instance.
SWIFT: That is why they are so easily deceived. Your ancestors two hundred years ago were full of barbarous superstitions, but they would not have been so credulous as to believe your daily newspapers."
You'd think that those who believe in barbarous superstitions would be less apt to recognize garbage laid before them, and in some instances, when the mind is completely shut off, they will. But, they lacked the naiveté that assumed the world is and should be an honorable and clean place. You'll be amazed what you can be convinced of when naiveté is in your toolkit. Not to say the barbarous superstitions are reasonable, but the acceptance of the dirty, effort-laden world developed a certain bullshit meter within them. They could still be bullshitted, but you had to work harder for it, which is different from nowadays, when the talking heads on television strongly influence opinion and decision-making processes almost immediately.
The broadening of technology, medicine and agriculture simply broadens civilizations access to resources. However, there's a modern disease spreading that says just because it's easy to use, anyone could've created it under the same conditions the actual creator was under. It's assumed that each of us--given the right opportunity--can produce the same caliber paintings, breakthroughs in engineering, chemistry, physics, etc., as those who've already produced them. Simply put, this is an untruth. Our civilization is predominantly comprised of users, exploiters and manipulators, with the creators, developers and adaptors comprising a small fraction. We assume they are the same category because of an addiction to human entitlement, and that we're all great by nature. However, this assumption serve one function alone: to nourish human civilization.
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