Monday, March 21, 2005

Political Meaning What

Anton had papers all weekend, which kept me off the computer almost entirely. The good news is that I survived, I'm not completely computer dependant. The bad news is no new blog posts. So here's a couple to satisfy that craving.


I'm currently writing an essay on George Orwell's fiction (Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four for those two people who didn't know who he was, you know who you are). Specifically the role of language in politics in the books. Of course, life works in funny ways and something in life reminded me of Orwell's statements. I found the following passage from Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" regarding the deterioration of the English language, which illuminates much of what I've found to be the trouble with overtly political conversations (such as this one here).

"The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have
each of them meanings which cannot be reconcilled with one another. In the case
of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed upon definition
but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides...consequently the
defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy and fear that
they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearers to think he means something quite different." (Orwell 162)

I think this goes some way to explaining why our arguments are so fruitless most of the time. Without an agreed upon definition, we each cling to our own view and reject what the other person is saying based on our own private definitions. This is where language has "devolved" to, and the most frightening thing is that Orwell saw this happening, and the political and ideological forces in our world don't want us to agree upon any one definition. I'm convinced that while Orwell may not have been as prescient as, say, Huxley in foreseeing the way things turned out, not that I think he was really trying to do that in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but in many ways he was as shrewd observer of the human condition and makes some very important statements.


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