Re-Reading Orwell

is a fascinating experience.  He clearly saw the sickness of high-Victorian imperialism, and got the diagnosis mostly right.  As, for that matter, did Lenin.  And, like Lenin, Orwell couldn’t forsee that the capitalist economies, far from being wrecked by war and the loss of empire, would simply rebuild their “prosperity” on the shifting sands of easy credit.  When Lenin railed against “finance capitalism,” he had companies like IG Farben in mind.  He had no idea that Lehman Bros. would wield far more power than industry ever would, or could.

I wonder what Orwell would say now?  For all he railed against the “bearded sandal-wearers, fruit-juice drinkers, and nudists” that gave “the movement” a bad name among the British bourgeoisie in the 30s, his version of Socialism was scarcely less barmy and utopian than theirs.  He saw quite clearly that embracing Socialism would require abandoning the Empire, which would make England once again a poor, shivering, insignificant country on the periphery of Europe… but he thought his fellow countrymen would do it anyway, because social justice.

Sadly, I think the opposite is far more likely.  As the false prosperity of easy credit recedes, the empire-builders will get busy again.  Only this time, there’ll be no high-Victorian blather about a mission civilisatrice Han Chinese technocrats don’t go in for the Yellow Man’s Burden.  And while I personally am quite looking forward to asking Our Betters “what about Booooooosh!!?!!” every day — who says you can’t have fun in a reeducation camp? — I feel sorry for the poor bastards in Africa and Central Asia who will spend their days toiling for folks that think King Leopold’s Ghost is a how-to guide.  Heck, if I were a betting man, I’d put a few bones down on a Russo-Chinese War breaking out here in the next two decades.

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