Denial Of The Truth
When English journalist and author George Orwell (1903-1950)
fought as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), he was
disturbed to encounter totalitarian leanings on both sides of the
conflict. He wrote the following passage while still in Spain. Throughout
his literary career, Orwell remained preoccupied with the dangers
of totalitarianism and fascism, and later took up this theme in
Animal Farm and 1984, the two novels for which he is best known.
you look up the history of the last
war in, for instance, the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
you will find that a respectable amount of the material
is drawn from German sources. A British and a German
historian would disagree deeply on many things, even
on fundamentals, but there would still be that body
of, as it were, neutral facts on which neither
would seriously challenge the other. It is just this
common basis of agreement, with its implication that human
beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism
destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies
that such a thing as "the truth" exists. There
is, for instance, no such thing as "Science."
There is only "German Science," "Jewish Science,"
etc. The implied objective of this line of thought
is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some
ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past.
If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never
happened," well, it never happened. If he says
that two and two are five, well, two and two
are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs,
and after our experiences of the last few years that is
not a frivolous statement.
But is it perhaps childish or morbid to terrify oneself
with visions of a totalitarian future? Before writing off
the totalitarian world as a nightmare that can't come true,
just remember that in 1925 the world of today would have
seemed a nightmare that couldn't come true. Against
that shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be
white tomorrow and yesterday's weather can be changed by
decree, there are in reality only two safeguards.
One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes
on existing, as it were, behind your back,
and you consequently can't violate it in ways that impair
military efficiency. The other is that so long as some parts
of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition
can be kept alive.