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“Twitter and Facebook speed up communication, but slow down thought” (1)
I must admit that I came into this election year with the lowest of all expectations for my party and my country.
On a personal level, I vowed to pay less attention to news…at least the finer details and (mind numbing) chatter associated with so many stories blasted out in the daily news cycle. Unfortunately, this meant significantly less time on RedState. (I seem to have acquired a sensitivity…a near allergic reaction…to repeated multi-hundred comment threads that suck all of the oxygen out of the site. Sure, there are nuggets buried in each but I now gag at the thought of wading through so much…other stuff…that I usually just move on.) My intent is to spend more time reading “substance” (as defined by me, of course) and it is that path, along with my more remote view of today’s news, that brings me here today with Orwell on my mind.
(Quick note: I highly recommend the VDH Works and Days column that the opening quote was lifted from.)
Yesterday morning, while reading the book and essay referenced in the title above, I came across the following passage:
“Contrary to popular belief, the past was not more eventful than the present. If is seems so it is because when you look backward things that happened years apart are telescoped together.
But if you were alive during the war [WWI], and if you disentangle your real memories from the later accretions, you find that it was not usually the big events that stirred you at the time. I don’t believe that the battle of the Marne, for instance, had for the general public the melodramatic quality that it was afterwards given. I do not even remember hearing the phrase ‘battle of the Marne’ till years later. It was merely that the Germans were 22 miles from Paris – and certainly that was terrifying enough, after the Belgian atrocity stories – and then for some reason turned back.
If I honestly sort out my memories and disregard what I have learned since, I must admit that nothing in the whole war moved me so deeply as the loss of the Titanic had done a few years earlier. This comparatively petty disaster shocked the whole world, and the shock has not quite died away even yet.” (2)
The first segment has a somewhat unrelated but local (Redstate) appeal to me…and may be a good example for other topics. As we sit here today, looking back through the flattening filter of 2009 and “Climategate” there is – and will increasingly be – the sentiment among right thinking people that it was always clear that Mr. Gore’s Global Warming was an obvious hoax. But that misses the largely ignored discussions among the great continuum of deniers to partial acceptors to believers that took place in 2006 in out of the way places like RedState. (And for some of us…deniers that is…as far back as the mid to late 1990s.)
The larger point I take from Mr. Orwell is that the importance of certain events (or issues) is often assigned long after the fact. What he doesn’t necessarily touch on is that the “assigners” most likely have an agenda. In his example it may simply be the winners writing the history for their own consumption…and largely harmless. In other arenas this phenomenon may be the cynical process of selectively focusing a candidate’s distant past for modern consumption.
To be more specific (with no endorsement intended), let’s look at the exposure of a candidate’s marital issues from more than a decade ago…laced with un-provable, targeted, inflammatory language…pushed out into public view just prior to a critical primary election. It is worth noting that in times contemporary to these alleged events, this same press worked feverishly to muddy the waters around marital infidelity and worse (sexual harassment, what constitutes sex, and direct accusations of rape) to protect a politician of their liking from negative public opinion. In particular, this past manipulation was very much like the present example; it sought to manipulate WOMEN VOTERS.
Unfortunately, this kind of stuff works and, as I said above, my expectations this year are very low. My only hope resides in what I call the “Doctor Scenario”. That is meant to contrast the urgency between normal, healthy times, when one can take the time to fully assess the character of their general practitioner and weigh his number of ex-wives versus the marginal quality of his abilities and the time critical moment in life when one is being wheeled into the emergency room and doesn’t (shouldn’t) really give a rat’s rump how many ex-wives the best surgeon on staff has or what they may say about him. Which situation are we in today? As a voting bloc, I don’t expect women to defy human nature and the blatant manipulation of their emotions; I just hope enough of them do to do the right thing. (Again, no endorsement here but I do lean Newt…or at least a proper, extended primary race…at this moment.)
To be clear, I believe a candidate’s past should be part of the full assessment of his positions and his character. But that alone is not…cannot…be the full measure of the that person today. Whether in marriage or business people change. They are necessarily tied to their entire past but each stand before us today in circumstances unique and critical to our future as a republic. This decision is too important…is should not be swayed by the shallow, cynical manipulations of a biased media machine that is really working for the other team.
To get even more serious, I return to 1940 and Orwell:
“I don’t quite know in what year I first knew for certain that the present war was coming. After 1936, of course, the thing was obvious to anyone except an idiot” (3)
I’ve touched on this before (4) but the point should be stated as bluntly as possible: Our country and our world will be in worse shape in 2016 than it is today…no matter who occupies the White House a year from now. We are well beyond quick fixes; the questions we are answering this year have to do with the stability and trajectory of that future condition. It must be said with very little uncertainty that a second Obama term will find us in a continued, accelerated socialist death spiral. If you cannot see this today…for even all but the most extreme cheerleaders in the media hint at it frequently (at the very least, it shows in their eyes)…then you may very well be Orwell’s idiot. As for a Republican administration from the current viable crop, I don’t pretend for a minute that I wouldn’t be sitting here in 2016 greatly disappointed with what a President Gingrich or President Romney had done for four years but, at worst, the death spiral would be less steep and there would at least be some upside potential.
My greatest fear, however, it that the massive debt, uncertainty, and lack of leadership here and around the civilized world has already dealt war into the cards and that in 2016 all of us, like Orwell then, will know for certain it is coming. And then we will look back and realize that the big events…the misuse of TARP, the rape of the Chrysler bond holders (5), the quiet implementation of Obamacare under cover of blackmail/waivers (6), did not sufficiently stir us at the time but we were greatly exercised over the uncorroborated claim from the most biased of sources of a decade old request for an “open marriage”. Will our view through that filter allow us to see 2012 clearly or will that be re-written by then for our most comfortable consumption?
Once again, my expectations for my party and my country are very low in 2012.
Proud Redstate Member since April 2006…?
(1) Why Read Anymore? by Victor Davis Hanson, January 16, 2012 http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/so-why-read-anymore/
(2) Facing Unpleasant Facts – Narrative Essays (by George Orwell), Compiled by George Packer, pg 52.
(3) Facing Unpleasant Facts – Narrative Essays (by George Orwell), Compiled by George Packer, pg 56.