Quote Book – [38] – People & Politicians

The suppression of individuality – the sense that one is listening – is even more pronounced in our politics.  Television, newspapers, magazines, are a cascade of words, official statements, policies, explanations, and declarations.  All flow from the height of government down to the passive citizen: who can shout up against a waterfall? More important, the language of politics is too often insincerity, which we have perhaps to easily accepted but which to the young is particularly offensive.  George Orwell wrote a generation ago: ‘In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.  Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.  The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism.  A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details.”  In this respect, politics had not changed since Orwell wrote.  And if we add to the insincerity, and the absence of dialogue, the absurdity of a politics in which elected officials find sport in joking about children bitten by rats, we can understand why so many of our young people have turned form engagement to disengagement, from politics to passivity, from hope to nihilism, from SDS to LSD.