Friday, April 07, 2006

Thought for Food

Another keeper from George Orwell:

All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are "enlightened" all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our "enlightenment," demands that the robbery shall continue. A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling's understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases. It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, 'making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep'.

From the latest in a splendid series of posts built around Kipling's life and work by Neo-Neocon.

The framing of the argument is dated now. But the argument remains.

Coincidentally, Mudville Gazette today quotes from another Orwell essay.

Suppose in 1940 you had taken a Gallup poll, in England, on the question “Will Germany win the war?” You would have found, curiously enough, that the group answering “Yes” contained a far higher percentage of intelligent people—people with IQ of over 120, shall we say—than the group answering “No”. The same would have held good in the middle of 1942. In this case the figures would not have been so striking, but if you had made the question “Will the Germans capture Alexandria?” or “Will the Japanese be able to hold on to the territories they have captured ?”, then once again there would have been a very marked tendency for intelligence to concentrate in the “Yes” group. In every case the less-gifted person would have been likelier to give a right answer.

If one went simply by these instances, one might assume that high intelligence and bad military judgement always go together. However, it is not so simple as that. The English intelligentsia, on the whole, were more defeatist than the mass of the people—and some of them went on being defeatist at a time when the war was quite plainly won—partly because they were better able to visualise the dreary years of warfare that lay ahead. Their morale was worse because their imaginations were stronger. The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory.

Emphasis added.