"The greatest mistake is to imagine that the human being is an autonomous individual." (p. 593)
In the advocacy of intellectual development, I'm urged draw out this point. Yes, I think our thoughts, ideals and traditions can change and improve, however most of us are influenced by our social and cultural milieu. This is related to a post a week or so back where I argued how a writer's product is heightened by their immediate support system, both actively--via praise--and passively--through reducing distractions and building an environment conducive to writing. I disagree with Orwell on only one aspect of this argument, and that's where he asserts how philosophers aren't free inside. Philosophers have a genetic social defect which precludes conformity, but I'm not talking about academics gallivanting as philosophers, I'm talking about natural philosophers like Nietzsche, Socrates, Schopenhauer, & Kristhoffer. All that aside, those who aren't autonomous are indeed affected by the cultural surroundings through either determining their morality (a common person) or via affecting and effecting their ability to exercise independence through expression of their adept skill (higher-level intellects).
Thus the maverick argument, "I'm going to change the system from the inside" has an inherent limitation. People's habits become affected from the second they enter a new system, and even their strongest habits have things appended to them. For Orwell, talking is one of the primary determinants of one's beliefs and values, and he concludes someone on a desert island couldn't be creative. To him the freedom of speech is the well of creativity, which harks to that same previous post which indicated how writers need freedom to explore and create, but rely on a social system to provide them with the trove of material. It makes people in general sound like victims, but it's not at all victimhood because what we're talking about here are three main categories of intellectual orient: common banality, uncommon creativity, and autonomy. Inside a social system, the first two are affected by the culture. Most people are common and bane, following society's values and traditions because they're safe, secure, and can be spoken concretely in front of any ice cream shop, water cooler, or gas pump. Some people excel within this category (financial gurus), making them uncommon, but they're still bane because they're simply exploiting the logistics of the system. The second group--the social minority--are uncommon though creative, which simply means they use society's devices as information and knowledge to channel through their intellect, though never creating anything out of thin air. The last category are the autonomous individuals, who are often shunned by society because they can't conform. If they're not shunned it's because they can produce money, and only then are they given the resources they want and need (though are still separated from "normal" functioning society) to progress their studies and of course, the business' bottom line.
Knowing this, how strong can a social person's skill set be, if it requires just the right balance of information and neglect? I don't think many people even care about this question because they're more so concentrated upon the benefits of the particular society, and how to get ahead in it. This was the basis of Orwell's conversation with the young man in this selected reading. The young man claimed that he'd be safe to live his life as he pleases, so long as he was publicly known as a pacifist; one who wouldn't be a threat to the Fascist regime. This balance is humbling, and I thereby look at the plethora campaigns for free speech, civil rights, etc., as window dressing for a concern that 99% of people don't even know drives them anymore. If we work toward knowing what drives us, we can claw and scratch our way toward independence, which as Orwell points out, will simply make us aware of how truly oppressive conservative social institutions can be.
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