Orwell’s Mantle


Last week, the Dish pointed to Hitch's introductory essay to George Orwell's diary. In the latest issue of The Humanist, Anthony Lock makes the case that Hitch deserves the mantle of Orwell's heir, despite the former's protestations, focusing on their critiques of totalitarianism in all its forms and guises:

Christopher Hitchens died on December 15, 2011, never having won the Orwell Prize, awarded to those who succeed in Orwell’s stated aim "to make political writing into an art." (He was awarded a posthumous memorial prize at this year’s ceremony in May.) Hitchens was known to dismiss claims to Orwell’s mantle by listing Orwell’s struggles both in life and as a writer, claiming no desire for either. Nevertheless, it seems that he was incredibly happy to receive such a comparison, and his love of Orwell was so strong that it would be dippy to say that he wouldn’t have felt some verisimilitude for such a title. But his personal concerns about "being one’s own thinker," and even humbleness when comparing himself to Orwell would have been fighting with him on this.

Still, Hitchens deserves the mantle of Orwell simply because his contributions to thought have been the most Orwellian since Orwell. There are many who have employed the blueprints Orwell gave us, but the simple practicality of Hitchens’ "pricking bubbles" principle, whether it be applied by voters, politicians, academics, or bon mot-spilling essayists, is one everyone, everywhere needs to know dearly. Everyone should be aware of what controls exist over their thoughts and opinions, both external and internal. It is an essential part of developing a critical mind. And in an age of increasing information, it becomes more critical by the day.

To paraphrase Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, if there is hope, it lies within you.