I haven't read Animal Farm or 1984 since high school, and I first encountered George Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism" in college. It was a long time ago.
I've only recently re-read "Notes on Nationalism" due to the embroglio over at Glenn's Place on the issue of "tribalism" -- which Glenn and others seem to believe is the same as Orwell's description of Nationalism. Which I dispute. Vigorously.
In fact, when I was in college, "Notes on Nationalism" was a powerful document that justified in my mind -- and the minds of many of my peers -- our fierce anti-war, anti-draft, anti-military, anti-authority and anti-establishment rage. After all, we were not like those who were so succeptible to the nationalist manipulations that underpinned the rulers who made the wars that destroyed the people at home and abroad.
Not us. We were better than that.
And at the time, I am reminded, I was a fierce individualist as well, for a time rebelling against practically everything and everyone, occasionally making more than a spectacle of my ostensibly independent self.
I think "notorious" is probably the correct word to describe my behavior in those days.
"Outrageous!" according to the straights and the fuddy-duddies.
"Provocative," I was deemed more than once.
"Hilarious!" from time to time.
"Get a job! Idiot!" well, there alway has to be a nay-sayer.
But that was then. Now, things are much calmer, quieter, far more conservative -- at least in the way I live my life. I never ceased fighting the straightjacket of middle class and Middle American expectations though, and I never entirely fit in to any large institutional environment, though I've been employed by or associated with -- or fought -- many of them.
When I read Orwell back in the day, and when I do now, I saw and see echoes of my own beliefs and perspectives. "How did he know?" Of course, he didn't. He was his own man who saw things the way he did, shared it as well as he could.
He's called a Socialist Libertarian, and which aspect of his politics you glom on to depends on your own special needs and desires. The combination of the two, however, is dissonant.
Socialism has taken a bad rap during the last generation, and it is widely considered the equivalent of Stalinism. On the other hand, libertarianism remains the same puerile nonsense and self-indulgence it's always been, but many, many libertarian economic and social ideals have become standard practice (while others, such as liberalized drug laws, have not.)
But Orwell's libertarianism was not the puerile nonsense that is bruited about today. It was, simply, personal liberty from overweening state control. Not license or self-indulgence, but privacy and autonomy. In other words, freedom to withdraw from the sociopolitical systems and be left alone.
That's quite a different thing than the common libertarian approach of constantly trying to impose one's own self-obsession on everyone else. As I have often put it, and will do so again, the Libertarian Motto is: "I demand the Liberty to impose My Authority on You."
The freedom to withdraw and be left alone that Orwell valued is nothing like that.
And the fact that he also admired Socialist values of common interest, purpose, and service -- just not the forced imposition of them -- is often ignored in the hagiographies of the libertarian cultists who see him as an accurate Foreshadower of the Future, and thus a Great Man. And a Libertarian.
So what I will try to do in future posts is explore some of the aspects of Orwell that have become distorted, explore some of his Future Vision, and I'll try to explore alternatives.