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Churchill and Orwell

I am currently reading Churchill and Orwell by Thomas Ricks, a book that explores the substantial contributions these two made to the defence of freedom and individual liberty in the twentieth century.

I had not seen Churchill and Orwell placed in a similiar category before. However, Ricks details curious resonances between them, not least their willingness to step outside the party line (right and left wing) in pursuit of truth.

Both suffered for their courage and recklessness.

Churchill inhabited the political wasteland during the 1930s because of his outspoken opposition to the policy of appeasing Germany, and Orwell’s expose of the Stalinist-aligned Spanish Communist party in Homage to Catalonia led to his name being put on a wanted list.

The pursuit of truth is usually hemmed in by tribal allegiances; not so for Churchill and Orwell.

It is encouraging to be reminded of people who dare to follow this pathway, and who are willing to see beyond the black and white.

But there is more to this pursuit. Sometimes, it alters the course of history.

It is not far-fetched to assert that Churchill’s determination to oppose Nazism after the fall of France in 1940 changed history; especially so as his political colleagues were determined to make peace with Hitler.

Noting that before WW2 and the Holocaust the evils of Nazism were much less apparent, what was it about Churchill that allowed him to discern Nazism’s essential nature when so many others did not?

From a religious perspective, Churchill’s assessment of Nazism was akin to that of a prophet.

Prophets don’t magically predict the future; they discern the ‘signs of the times’ (i.e., accurately determined what was pushing history forward) and then lay out the consequences of allowing that dynamic to proceed.

A hefty dose of prophetic commitment to truth would be welcome today, especially in helping people discern the forces that currently shape society.

If asked to nominate such, I would highlight consumerism (the belief that what is needed to live well can be bought), and the corresponding notion that the best measure of a society is its economic growth.

I would add an exclusive focus on self (the conviction that what fundamentally matters is what I see and what I need), and a growing fear of the ‘other’ (Muslim, refugee, terrorist…) coupled with resurgent nationalism.

What would you nominate?

Understanding these forces is critically important in shaping a different future.

We often doubt the impact we make as individuals, but I believe that in searching for truth, in adding our insights, we make a difference.

Churchill and Orwell’s experience cautions us about the cost of this but their achievements underline its enduring value.

Thank God for both of them!