“The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction… The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”–George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Part 2.

Well, Darryl Campbell argues that people are getting what they already know out of reading Orwell’s books, and not in a good way. He writes:

“Never mind that, for most of his life, Orwell advocated nothing short of a socialist revolution in England! As far as these people were concerned, Orwell’s works amount to nothing more than an anti-government, anti-change screed.” 

“Orwell’s works… cannot really be understood without some semblance of historical and intellectual context.”

He argues persuasively, and I do agree that people may be reading more of libertarian philosophy into Nineteen Eighty-Four than was really Orwell’s intention. He was a bitter, disillusioned Socialist, not a Capitalist. However, I do disagree with Campbell on Animal Farm.

Animal Farm is not really political. It’s based off of the Soviet Union, but that’s just superficial. Really, it is about much deeper things than that. It is an allegory about human nature. And therefore it is, in my view, always relevant to any undertaking. Campbell argues that Orwell’s modern-day political opposites use Animal Farm‘s lines to oppose things Orwell himself would have supported. But of course! The point of Animal Farm was that even noble endeavors can go badly wrong.

(Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan)

 (Couldn’t resist posting this, but you don’t have to watch it to understand the post)

The Gunslinger linked to this piece by Robert Weissberg in American Thinker, and I’ve been trying to write about it for a while now. I encourage you to read it all, but here’s the basic point:

 “After auditioning countless political terms, I finally realized that the Obama administration and its congressional collaborators almost resemble a foreign occupying force, a coterie of politically and culturally non-indigenous leaders whose rule contravenes local values rooted in our national tradition. It is as if the United States has been occupied by a foreign power, and this transcends policy objections. It is not about Obama’s birthplace. It is not about race, either; millions of white Americans have had black mayors and black governors, and this unease about out-of-synch values never surfaced.

The term I settled on is “alien rule” — based on outsider values, regardless of policy benefits — that generates agitation.” 

It would be easy to dismiss this as racism, despite the author’s denials. And perhaps he really is a racist, I don’t know. But let’s take him at his word and suppose that he isn’t. What is it he senses from Obama that seems to him so foreign?

In his article, he lists numerous supposedly non-native things Obama has done, such as various appointments, his association with Bill Ayers (which isn’t much), his bowing to foreign leaders, his acknowledgments–Weissberg calls them apologies–for various things that America has done in the past, etc. 

But he is wrong. These things are not un-American; rather, they are merely the behavior of one who does not believe in American exceptionalism–at least not deeply. A simpler way of putting this is to say that Obama has a distinct lack of nationalistic feeling.

Now, let me make it clear that this does not (necessarily) mean Obama is lacking in patriotism. The distinction is a subtle one, and I find I cannot improve upon George Orwell’s description of the difference:  “Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation…”

Orwell, who was no nationalist, was a tad harsh in his language, but he spoke to a core truth. Nationalism is a feeling not merely of pride in one’s country, but rather a desire for–and it sounds worse than I mean it to–conquest, perhaps even for empire. And nationalism places far higher importance upon symbols and traditions than does the kind of pacifically patriotic cosmopolitanism that Obama embodies. To the nationalist, a bow to a foreign leader, or the failure to wear a flag pin, is of great significance, yet to the non-nationalist these things hold no meaning.

To this extent, Weissberg is correct in his assessment that Obama is not like “us”, if we take “us” to be the largely nationalist readers of the American Thinker. But this does not mean he is foreign. On the contrary; the philosophy of Obama’s is one that is common here, especially in the cities. This particular feeling of patriotic love of one’s own country, but lack of a desire to export it, is not foreign. It is merely the typical attitude of the cosmopolitan intellectual.

(Because this attitude is so common in the cities, it is no surprise that the nationalists have such low regard for them. When Sarah Palin spoke of “pro-America” parts of the country, it was to the nationalistic, rural areas that she was alluding, as opposed to the cosmopolitanism of the cities.)

And here we begin to see the true nature of the divide between right and left, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. All these titles are merely masks for the divide between nationalism and cosmopolitanism. That is the difference.

If one had to sum up what Weissberg sees in Obama in a single word, it would be not “foreign”, nor “alien”; but rather “internationalist”.