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Rolling Book Review: Churchill & Orwell; Rambling Thoughts on Today and 1930s

by John on 06/20/2017

book cover churchill orwell(Rolling book reviews are thoughts and ideas while in the midst of reading a great book.  It gives me a chance to throw out some ideas that are percolating. But hopefully you will pick up the book and join the rolling review.)

Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks is fabulous.

I have finished 5 of the 17 chapters while driving, walking the dog, and working out.

Ricks examines how these two men helped create the fight for freedom in the 20th century.

Here’s what has hit me, so far.

A biographical revelation: both men should have died as young men.  Fate or Destiny kept them with us.  Churchill was hit by a car getting out of a New York City cab looking the wrong way – like many Americans still do in London today.  Orwell was shot in the neck during the Spanish Civil War and escaped death by a fraction of an inch.

However, the biggest revelations are the lessons of the 1930s that resonate today.

First, in my view not Ricks’, you could compare Hitler of the 1930s to Putin today.

Churchill was ridiculed for opposing Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.  While Hitler charmed the UK, he built a massive military and Air Force to fight the UK and the rest of Europe.  Putin, you can say, is building a massive cyber warfare machine to fight the United States.  Politically and diplomatically, Hitler and his representatives in London always made sure that Churchill never had a role in Chamberlain’s government.

Is there a direct similarity to the White House today in handling the Russian intrusion story?  Maybe.  We don’t know yet.  And while there is no concrete evidence yet of this Administration’s collusion, there are signs of a hands-off policy toward Putin’s rule and possible Russian collusion that is suspicious.  Is Ukraine and Eastern Europe today similar to Western Europe back then?  Maybe.

But chew on this.  If Putin is involved, then aren’t we already in a war?  He has unleashed the equivalent of a military and an Air Force with his cyber-attacks.  That leads to these questions: Are we at war and we don’t know it?  Are we appeasing and can’t see it?

Second similarity to today: the current Syrian Civil War resembles, in part, the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.  Orwell fought against the fascist Franco. However, the opposition was as splintered and divisive as the Syrian opposition today – with a strange new Russian twist.  As Stalin purged his Soviet-style government of Trotskyites, he was also getting rid of Trotsky followers who were allegedly fighting alongside against Franco.  Orwell was caught in the middle being deemed a Trotsky follower.  So, yes all civil wars are, to use a modern day phrase, FUBAR.

A third similarity is how Orwell and Churchill called World War II a fight for freedom of thought.  Like today, many commentators felt the world and liberal democracy was over.  The only real choices, they said back then, were Fascism or Communism.

Today we are in a funk when it comes to our own democracy that fails to address the problems of the modern world and its consequences on everyday life for most Americans.  We are truly in a battle today to find what works as our society ages and technology takes over our economy and way of life.

Orwell pointed out back then: fascism and communism both fight against freedom.  That word freedom has been ruined today.  We have a so-called Freedom Caucus in the GOP that is really not for freedom but more about implanting their order.  We have a wing of the Democratic Party that wants everything for free with little or no responsibility.  We live in a time when people take advantage of their “freedom to do” whatever they want while forgetting they are impinging on others “freedom from”.

A fourth key point: understand that Churchill and Orwell were liberal thinkers, as in free thinkers, not in the same meaning as the liberal wing of US Democrats.  Instead, both men swore off stifling ideologies.  Churchill was a conservative who jumped from party to party.  Orwell, a leftist, believed that Fascism and Communism were not real free choices. Both men supported democratic (small d) socialism – rejecting the freedom killing Fascism and Communism.

So where is my head?

Connecting the 1930s and today is daunting.  So many fears from that era became reality from 1938 to 1945 throughout Europe and Asia.  Sure, we survived and we had many decades of prosperity.  Still, the cost to our parents and grandparents was great as many lives were ruined for nearly two decades.  Granted, many of us have had great lives thanks to the fight from freedom they endured – for us.

Are we going through those struggles now?  Maybe.

After all, isn’t today another battle for freedom of thought?

Instead of government, political leaders, or special interests just stifling our ideas and voices, in addition, they give us altered facts, innuendo, and a form of mind control that works so easily on the uninformed.

Also, I’m formulating a new theory/idea based on what is happening.  It is this: Get ready for a new form of liberalism.  It will look nothing like the liberalism of the 1950s or 1960s.  It will disregard the extremist wings of both political parties, espoused by too many uninformed Americans who fail to see, like Brits in 1930s, what is coming.

Pick up the book and join me.


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