I was searching my home computer today for an old file I needed and I came across The Lion & Unicorn, an essay written in 1940 by George Orwell, that I had downloaded maybe a couple years ago. Although his overall point, that capitalism could not compete against either communism or fascism, has clearly proved wrong, there are some wonderful points inside and the phrasing is just great. A few exerpts:
First, the first couple sentences of the essay:
As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.
They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.
You just don't see great writing like that these days. Unless I'm reading the wrong things.
This next one is just as true for America today as it was for England in 1940. And it is something for all of the apologists to remember.
In England, such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a certain point. The English electoral system, for instance, is an all but open fraud. In a dozen obvious ways it is gerrymandered in the interest of the moneyed class. But until some deep change has occurred in the public mind, it cannot become completely corrupt. You do not arrive at the polling booth to find men with revolvers telling you which way to vote, nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery.
Here's one the old CCP would be wise to remember. I have often thought along these lines myself.
At this moment, after a year of war, newspapers and pamphlets abusing the Government, praising the enemy and clamouring for surrender are being sold on the streets, almost without interference. And this is less from a respect for freedom of speech than from a simple perception that these things don’t matter. It is safe to let a paper like Peace News be sold, because it is certain that ninety-five per cent of the population will never want to read it
Another one for the apologists:
One knows in advance more or less what they will say. They will start by refusing to admit that British capitalism is evolving into something different, or that the defeat of Hitler can mean any more than a victory for the British and American millionaires. And from that they will proceed to argue that, after all, democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism. There is not much freedom of speech in England therefore there is no more than exists in Germany. To be on the dole is a horrible experience; therefore it is no worse to be in the torture-chambers of the Gestapo. In general, two blacks make a white, half a loaf is the same as no bread.
Actually, I think that all this really goes to show is that human nature just doesn't really change. Probably I could find some ancient Roman writers saying basically the same things two thousand years ago.