“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
That passage is from C.S. Lewis (“God in the Dock” 1948)
Hmm…1948 seems to have been a time when a number of authors noted that tyrannies were on the rise, even though a world war had just ended.
George Orwell’s quotes from his novel “1984”, which was published in 1948, are circulating at a rapid rate today.
Yes, Orwell is known to have supported democratic socialism, but he was well aware of the tendency for it to quickly morph into authoritarianism. He had witnessed it in the world he lived in.
Orwell understood how language is used to manipulate and fool societies. A seemingly innocent redefinition of a word can change laws or regulations without legislation or public approval.
In 1946, George Orwell protested not just sloppy use of language but intentional misuse of language for political purposes in his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” He warned that the worst thing one could do with words was to surrender them.
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” he wrote. “Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
These days we are under constant word assault. We are told what science is settled and must not be questioned. That method is actually anti-science. The scientific method encourages questions.
Another author who penned a novel in the early 1800s that issued a warning comes to mind. Remember the story about a scientist, who had good intentions, but in fact, created a monster?
Perhaps we should heed the timeless warnings written by authors of another time…
Diana Erbio is a freelance writer and author of “Coming to America: A Girl Struggles to Find her Way in a New World.” Read more in her series Statues: The People They Salute and subscribe to her Substack Newsletter which includes a Daily Quiz Question.
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