I thought I was reading about the episcopal church, rather than communism, for most of this article…
A young friend of mine from North Yemen saved up every bit of money he could to travel to Britain to study that branch of sociology that teaches how to spread Western expertise to benighted natives. I asked to see his study material and he showed me a thick tome, written so badly and in such ugly, empty jargon it was hard to follow. There were several hundred pages, and the ideas in it could easily have been put in 10 pages.
Yes, I know the obfuscations of academia did not begin with Communism — as Swift, for one, tells us — but the pedantries and verbosity of Communism had their roots in German academia. And now that has become a kind of mildew blighting the whole world.
It is one of the paradoxes of our time that ideas capable of transforming our societies, full of insights about how the human animal actually behaves and thinks, are often presented in unreadable language.
The second point is linked with the first. Powerful ideas affecting our behavior can be visible only in brief sentences, even a phrase — a catch phrase. All writers are asked this question by interviewers: “Do you think a writer should…?” “Ought writers to…?” The question always has to do with a political stance, and note that the assumption behind the words is that all writers should do the same thing, whatever it is. The phrases “Should a writer…?” “Ought writers to…?” have a long history that seems unknown to the people who so casually use them. Another is “commitment,” so much in vogue not long ago. Is so and so a committed writer?
A successor to “commitment” is “raising consciousness.” This is double-edged. The people whose consciousness is being raised may be given information they most desperately lack and need, may be given moral support they need. But the process nearly always means that the pupil gets only the propaganda the instructor approves of. “Raising consciousness,” like “commitment,” like “political correctness,” is a continuation of that old bully, the party line.