Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading lesson

George Orwell had some small amount of respect for Rudyard Kipling, therefore George W. Bush is a hero and the Democrats are unfit to govern. This is so because in 100 years everyone will remember the name “George W. Bush” while Denis Kucinich and his lot will be forgotten. It’s right there in Orwell’s essay. You can read it yourself. Trust me on that. And btw, Orwell says Kipling’s not a Fascist so neither are today's Conservatives. Thus goes the “logic” of William Kristol.

Of course Kristol regularly finds evidence that the Democrats are fools, knaves or traitors in the cooing of pigeons or the honking of taxi’s or the pitter patter of raindrops on the windowsill, and more likely than not pulls some dead white guy out of his ass to agree with his reading of the portents, so neither his conclusions nor his “logic” are remarkable. But Orwell was an interesting writer and it’s usually a hoot when a Conservative pulls poor dead Orwell out of his ass to justify some kind of policy that normal readers would recognize as an “Orwellian Nightmare,” so I looked up the good George’s little essay on Kipling to see what it really said and how it actually relates to our current political climate. It’s yet another example of the “intellectual” somersaults Conservatives will turn in order to pretend that the Fascist looking back it them in the mirror is Winston Churchill. Kristol’s attempt to use Orwell’s “defense” of Kipling gives great insight into the mind this particular Conservative pissant, and Conservative pissants in general.

Let’s start with Orwell’s description of Kipling:

It is no use pretending that Kipling's view of life, as a whole, can be accepted or even forgiven by any civilized person. It is no use claiming, for instance, that when Kipling describes a British soldier beating a 'nigger' with a cleaning rod in order to get money out of him, he is acting merely as a reporter and does not necessarily approve what he describes. There is not the slightest sign anywhere in Kipling's work that he disapproves of that kind of conduct--on the contrary, there is a definite strain of sadism in him, over and above the brutality which a writer of that type has to have. Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.

Yes, yes, Kristol seems to be saying, we Conservatives are jingo imperialists, morally rotten, and aesthetically disgusting, but like Kipling according to Orwell, we are not Fascists. And the left, well, Orwell nails them:
But because he (Kipling, read Kristol) identifies himself with the official class, he does possess one thing which 'enlightened' people seldom or never possess, and that is a sense of responsibility. The middle-class Left hate him for this quite as much as for his cruelty and vulgarity. 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.

So you see. We don't dislike Bush because he is an imbecilic piece of shit and his policies have proven disastrous. We dislike him because he's a paragon of responsibility. That and because we are hypocrits. Both left and right want the same material things and in order to get them we have to exploit the poor folk at home and abroad. The only real difference between left and right is that the right take responsibility for their actions while the left live in a fantasy land. That’s why the right must govern, however incompetently, and the left can only whine in opposition.

Fortunately, Orwell’s argument that freedom for me requires slavery for thee and thou is just so 19th century. With education, democracy and rule of law, we can overcome the master/slave economic relationship that requires the poor of one country to slave eighteen hours a day to make shoes for the poor of another country. The history of the United States offers strong evidence that rule of law and intelligent economic management can balance regional differences. The European Union’s unwieldy march toward freedom and economic justice provides a current example of how that fight can be won. It’s really not that difficult to figure out intellectually. Pulling it off politically is quite another matter.

And here, Orwell nails Kristol and his empire-building buddies. You know, the realists, the responsibility-takers:
Kipling (read Kristol, Conservatives in general) spent the later part of his life in sulking, and no doubt it was political disappointment rather than literary vanity that account for this. Somehow history had not gone according to plan. After the greatest victory she had ever known, Britain was a lesser world power than before, and Kipling was quite acute enough to see this. The virtue had gone out of the classes he idealized, the young were hedonistic or disaffected, the desire to paint the map red had evaporated. He could not understand what was happening, because he had never had any grasp of the economic forces underlying imperial expansion. It is notable that Kipling does not seem to realize, any more than the average soldier or colonial administrator, that an empire is primarily a money-making concern. Imperialism as he sees it is a sort of forcible evangelizing. You turn a Gatling gun on a mob of unarmed 'natives', and then you establish 'the Law', which includes roads, railways and a court-house. He could not foresee, therefore, that the same motives which brought the Empire into existence would end by destroying it.

Yea, I’m sure it’s satisfying for a Conservative like Kristol to pull a dead white guy of Orwell’s stature out of his ass to tell him how superhumanly responsible he and his fucked up warmongering, torturing economy destroying, American hating buddies are, but it requires a lot of skimming or he’s likely to find Orwell’s up his ass in a sense that’s not so pleasant.