Nordic female equality, socialism, and Orwell

Almost two thousand years ago, the Roman historian Tacitus observed the unusually prominent place of women in the Germanic tribes; for example, in a battle, the women would be present, lustily cheering on the men.

The Germanic belief in the high status of women has taken on a somewhat different form today. Fjordman writes:

If you want to see how the USA will be if Hillary wins the election, take a look at this. Norway’s center-left government has issued a warning to 140 companies that still don’t have enough women on their boards of directors: Appoint more, or be dissolved.

LA replies:

I was just watching John Edwards on CSPAN campaigning for president, talking about why he supports the DREAM Act, which would, he said, provide college tuition for all immigrants, on the basis that all people must be treated equally. The Democrats want every human need and desire you can think of to be handled by the federal government.

It becomes hard to avoid the conclusion that the impulse toward socialism is a constant of modern society. Once a society has enough wealth and stability to make it seem possible to provide for the equal satisfaction of everyone’s needs and desires, there will be an undying push by at least part of the society to make it so.

Which only underscores Orwell’s remark that the sad duty of intelligent men is to keep repeating the obvious, namely that the attempt to produce equalty of outcome for everyone in society leads inevitably to the kind of oppression and tyranny Orwell portrayed in Animal Farm.

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Jeff C. writes:

You write: “Which only underscores Orwell’s remark that the sad duty of intelligent men is to keep repeating the obvious.”

You realize Orwell was a socialist, right?

LA replies:

Yes, now that you remind me. But how does that change what I’ve written?

Jeff C. replies:

Because of Orwell’s belief in socialism, I infer that his definition of “intelligent men” is radically different from yours—yet you use his quote to support your position, when it only does so if you take it out of context. Funny is all.

LA replies:

It’s nice the way you imply bad faith on my part.

Do you know that context of Orwell’s remark?

Jeff C. replies:

I don’t think you did it deliberately, so it doesn’t imply bad faith.

I don’t know the context of Orwell’s remark, but I imagined it had to do with pointing out the evils of Soviet Communism—which he wanted replaced with the very system you rail against. See this:

“The other crucial dimension to Orwell’s socialism was his recognition that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Unlike many on the left, instead of abandoning socialism once he discovered the full horror of Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union, Orwell abandoned the Soviet Union and instead remained a socialist—indeed he became more committed to the socialist cause than ever.”

LA replies:

Then there is a profound contradiction in Orwell’s thought which he would have had to resolve had he lived longer. The egalitarian tyranny in Norway described by Fjordman is on a continuum with the egalitarian tyranny portrayed in Animal Farm. Orwell still imagined some kind of “democratic socialism,” in which equality of outcome would be compatible with freedom. But even the left has since then realized that this is false and has dropped the old forms of state-ownership-based socialism, and it’s likely that Orwell would have too.

However, the left has since 1989 gone for modified, more subtle versions of socialism which are still, though less obviously, a profound threat to freedom, such as national health insurance which involves state control rather than state ownership but is still essentially socialistic; such as non-discrimination laws which culminate in an administered society and the denial of the basic freedom of association; such as government through court decisions and unaccountable bureaucracy; such as transnational instruments and bodies that eliminate national sovereignty; such as multiculturalism which eliminates a nation’s historic culture as the basis for its common life and values.

Given Orwell’s concern about freedom, would he have gone along with these modified forms of socialism? Would he have supported the European Union? Would he have supported Britain’s Sexual Orientation Regulations which remove any right of people not to associate with homosexuals in the provision of good and services? Would he have gone along with the tyrannical laws against “hate-speech”? We cannot know the answer, but, again, based on his profound commitment to human freedom, I would think not. Therefore Orwell, had he been alive in the late 20th century, might well have become, say, a neoconservative, as Norman Podhoretz once argued.

Paul K. writes:

You probably know this, but the quote, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men” appears in Orwell’s review of “Power: A New Social Analysis” by Bertrand Russell, originally printed in January 1939 and available in “George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters” (1968), p. 375-6.

A number of essays in the collection are available through Google books, if you are familiar with this very useful database. Here is a link to the book, and then do a “search in book” for the word “restatement” and you should bring up the essay.

LA replies:

I did not know (or perhaps forgot) the original quote. What intrigues me is that Orwell, like me, is describing this situation—where the first duty of intelligent man is to keep repeating the obvious—as a bad situation, not a normal situation. It’s a situation in which normal understandings and normal rationality have broken down, overwhelmed by ideological distortions of reality, with their accompanying slogans, hatred, conspiracy theories, etc.

Personally, I would like to think that had Orwell lived another 50 years, he would have gone beyond even neoconservatism and become a real conservative!

Paul K. writes:

I’m convinced he would have. He had too much decency, courage, love of country and intellectual honesty to do otherwise.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 13, 2007 12:31 PM | Send

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