Neil Postman’s son, Andrew, writes for The Guardian, an article in which he suggests that, given the mess in which our world is, in the age of Trump and post-truth, we could get more insight about it from his father’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, than from Orwell’s book 1984, as it was intensely (and effectively – as proven by the sudden increase in the sales of this book) suggested lately.
I share here a few excerpts of this brilliant article, in the hope this will motivate you to read it in its entirety.
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The central argument of Amusing Ourselves is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).
“We were keeping our eye on 1984,” my father wrote. “When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.”
Unfortunately, there remained a vision we Americans did need to guard against, one that was percolating right then, in the 1980s. The president was a former actor and polished communicator. Our political discourse (if you could call it that) was day by day diminished to soundbites (“Where’s the beef?” and “I’m paying for this microphone” became two “gotcha” moments, apparently testifying to the speaker’s political formidableness). Continue reading “Andrew Postman – My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World”
This essay was published in originally published in the Evening Standard on January 12, 1946, and later included in the indispensable 1968 anthology George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Vol 3.
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First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water. Continue reading “George Orwell – Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules on How to Make A Percect Cup of Tea”
“Notes on Nationalism” is an essay completed in May 1945 by George Orwell and published in the first issue of Polemic (October 1945). In this essay, Orwell discusses the notion of nationalism, and argues that it causes people to disregard common sense and become more ignorant towards factuality. Orwell shows his concern for the social state of Europe, and in a broader sense, the entire world, due to an increasing amount of influence of nationalistic sentiment occurring throughout a large number of countries. (Source, Wikipedia)
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NOTE: The idea of publishing here Orwell’s text on nationalism came to me while reading today one of the most interesting text on the situation in the Middle East, Chemi Shalev, ‘The increasingly dystopian dialogue of the deaf about Israel’s Gaza operation‘ (I would really encourage you to read this article; thanks to my friend Manu Rusu for this link). I think the topic is still very relevant, not only for the Middle East and Europe in general, but also for the Eastern European context in which I live.
Here is the first part of the text, as a teaser (emphases are mine).
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Somewhere or other Byron makes use of the French word longeur, and remarks in passing that though in England we happen not to have the word, we have the thing in considerable profusion. In the same way, there is a habit of mind which is now so widespread that it affects our thinking on nearly every subject, but which has not yet been given a name. As the nearest existing equivalent I have chosen the word ‘nationalism’, but it will be seen in a moment that I am not using it in quite the ordinary sense, if only because the emotion I am speaking about does not always attach itself to what is called a nation — that is, a single race or a geographical area. It can attach itself to a church or a class, or it may work in a merely negative sense, against something or other and without the need for any positive object of loyalty.
By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Continue reading “George Orwell – Notes on Nationalism”