War exists in actuality, but not as distinctly as our beliefs indicate. The propaganda surrounding war convinces those involved in war they themselves are the "good guys," and their enemies the "bad guys." This applies almost universally, with a brief look at the Nazis revealing the horrific phenomena how subjectivity can effectively drive war. Further, from the outside, it's simple to believe that the soldiers are all politically charged, passionate, and energized by the feel of bullets in their fingertips, though real, honest accounts of war reveal that everyone with a gun is scared. Soldiers indeed have political notions, but we're kidding ourselves if we think they're thinking politics each time they send a bullet to the other side. Soldiers are often cold, hungry, and uncomfortable, unlike the war propaganda posters suggest, with their own basal survival instincts surfacing, taking priority--and rightfully so--over political doctrines. If you've ever been in a fist fight, a similar phenomena occurs; when engaged, you're not intellectually thinking about the whys and hows, you're simply fighting to win, or running away. Soldiers have thus been used to levy their government's ideology, rather than placed on a battlefield to convey their authentic beliefs, as propaganda misleads. No matter how much indoctrination exists, when on the battlefield--as many first-hand accounts have demonstrated--it's chaos, with a thin and potentially corruptible perception of good-guy, bad-guy veil spanning all corners.
Page 433: "A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just." Modern war has resolved this through technologically dislocating enemy combatants, preserving their higher functioning at the expense of almost automatic dehumanizing of their enemies. Point is, war is ugly no matter how enlightened or ignorant you are. It's the universal equalizer.
Political propaganda is dangerous because of its wide audience. Not only are soldiers and investors targeted, but the general population, whom, if we remember, aren't the ones facing the bleak frontline horrors. Hence, they're the most gullible. They really do believe, thanks to multiple forms of media, that the other side must be dysfunctional if they don't agree with them. That they have a defect preventing a truer appraisal of the good-guys bad-guys paradigm. Orwell places a lot of blame on the British Left-wing intelligentsia because they swung from "war is hell" to "war is glorious" without much reasoning. (Politics isn't about reasoning though, it's about positioning.)
Page 434: "As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety...We have become too civilised to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself."
The function of war is to redefine social truths, and unfortunately for humanity, ideals are still passed on as truths if they're false. Atrocities thus aren't perceived as atrocities if you commit them, but are seen as instituting justice, and "obviously" reasonable. Again, go back to the Nazis; their ideologies were so ubiquitous that, combined with a desire to regain German identity from having lost it in the Great War, they truly believed their actions saved humanity. To them, killing was a function of saving. At this level, blaming propaganda isn't enough, it's simply a device to market socially approved values as products. The Nazis were very civilized, in that the approved beliefs (read: truths) were everywhere; National Socialism was totalitarian at heart. Public values determined your private values, and the only capitalism that was encouraged was that which benefitted the public sector. So you were the business manager, not the private marketeer. The Spanish Civil war was similar because Franco was unapologetically totalitarian.
Orwell learned a lot about civilization through his altercation with a boy falsely accused of stealing; when the boy was stripped naked to check for the goods--finding none--the boy had no issue standing there naked. Page 438: "One of the effects of safe and civilized life is an immense over-sensitiveness which makes all the primary emotions seem somewhat disgusting. Generosity is as painful as meanness, gratitude as hateful as ingratitude." The boy wasn't civilized; how can that be good? Civilization's inherently beneficial, right? This event turns the cube on the power mechanisms of civilization, exposing it as a mutater of primal, innocuous behaviors and truths, with subjective, exploitative leanings.
The question "Does truth exist?" is really better asked, "Does objective truth exist?" It seems that one word is so often dropped out of this conversation that no one recognizes that it is the key to the conversation. Orwell mentions how objective truth doesn't exist for the Nazis, but only their theories and beliefs of purity. Each discipline--Orwell uses Science--has a qualifier: German Science, Jewish Science, etc. "The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past." This manipulation contorts abstract ideals into tools, mutating objectivity into subjectivity, and in the Nazi's case, merciless, often gleeful destruction which, through relinquishing the reflective intellect, relinquishes our ability to understand things weren't always, and don't have to be, this way.
Totalitarianism is thus a superstition, a religion, guaranteeing nothing but fear and instability within individuals, resulting in the decay in our very ability to believe we can be better.
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