Don't worry: Sherpa's not about to start getting political on your buttocks. But Sherpa is a child of the '80s, and has the parachute pants to prove it. Orwell's book may have been first published in 1949, but it was on every overly earnest high school speech team member's lips back in the Heady Days of Reagan. Or it would have been, had I had my way about it.
Around New Year's Day, 1984, I even took to greeting friends and family with, "Good Morning, Mr. Orwell." It's a wonder I survived to tell about it.
I was recently moving boxes in my basement, and found a gallon-sized plastic baggie of political and novelty buttons from those days of whine and poses. The ones that jumped out at me? "Question Authority," "Big Brother is Watching," and "There is no gravity, the Earth sucks."
Words to live by, my friends, words to live by. Well, more the one about "Big Brother," and less the rather unscientific observation about gravity.
And, hopefully, I have lived by these words, albeit more quietly than when I was younger. And louder. And more perfect.
I had a regular stump speech as a hot-shot student speechifier. It was an award-winning 8-minute fully polished rant against Newspeak, the doubleplusungood ways that Big Government and Big Business attempt to change the way we think by changing our language. In Orwell's dystopian world, things aren't that bad, they're just "ungood." From there, it's just a stone's throw to our own world of slippery language, in which one government's nuclear-tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is another's "Peacekeeper." One person's "bad breath" is actually a scary-sounding diagnosis of "Halitosis."
In his essay, Jeff applies a jaundiced Orwellian lens toward the Taliban. Not only that, but he pulls off quite the trick and manages to sound downright positive while doing so! I like how he puts things:
Inevitably, Afghans will choose freedom rather than ongoing oppression. So eventually, the Taliban will lose. Some day, extreme, intolerant Islamic fundamentalism will be as popular as Nazism – because both depend on coercion and cruel tyranny to survive.In Orwell's world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, three super-governments (think of these as stand-ins for the U.S./U.K., Russia, and China) vie for world domination, but are each so powerful that no two can overwhelm the remaining one. War is perpetual, alliances are always shifting, and civilian populations at home--lacking any source of information but a conveniently forgetful, government-owned and -operated propaganda machine--are lulled into compliance by cheap, jingoistic jargoneering.
I also believe the Taliban will be defeated – whether NATO remains there or not.
I have no way to prove this hypothesis today. I simply believe it out of faith. I have faith because I believe in intelligence and virtue. And history shows that these human attributes tend to triumph over oppression.
WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. (Truly and truthfully, could Fox News or MSNBC do any better?)
I share Jeff's faith in the human ability to withstand and eventually overthrow oppression. I hope, however, that our own base tendencies do not blind us to our own weaknesses, and the inherent weaknesses of the governments we empower. "We the People" is our blessing, and our curse. Even at our very best, "We the People" can be no more perfect than we are ourselves.
I'd like to believe that every U.S. soldier--enlisted, non-commissioned officer (NCO), or officer--would have recognized and protested the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, but they didn't. I'd like to think that our political leaders might recognize that the people most likely to pay for chest-thumping, sword-rattling, cowboy-calls for terrorists to "bring it on" might be our very own soldiers. I'd like to think that phrases such as "Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)" aren't attempts to change the way people think about engaging in wars with muddy strategies or shifting policy goals.
Don't worry, I'm decisively and personally still in the game. I love my country, love my flag, love my weapon, and love my Apple Pie. I even love my neighbors, although I don't always like them. Like every other citizen-soldier, I regularly put my safety and comfort--and the safety and comfort of my family--on the line for what I hold most dear. There are easier choices. There are other temptations.
But I'm Here, and, let's face it, probably headed There.
Because, above all else, I'd also like to think that Orwell was wrong.