Facing, Free Thinking, Facing Free Thinking

George Orwell had a higher speed of mental respiration—mentation—he’d develop immunity to ideologies of the left and right more quickly than the common western intellectual. This is called “facing” and in his masterful book “Why Orwell Matters” Christopher Hitchens describes it this way:

“I knew,’ said Orwell in 1946 about his early youth, ‘that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts.’ Not the ability to face them, you notice, but ‘a power of facing’. It’s oddly well put. A commissar who realizes that his five-year plan is off-target and that the people detest him or laugh at him may be said, in a base manner, to be confronting an unpleasant fact. So, for that matter, may a priest with ‘doubts’. The reaction of such people to unpleasant facts is rarely self-critical; they do not have the ‘power of facing’. Their confrontation with the fact takes the form of an evasion; the reaction to the unpleasant discovery is a redoubling of efforts to overcome the obvious. The ‘unpleasant facts’ that Orwell faced were usually the ones that put his own position or preference to the test.”

It’s the self critical faculty that matters—the growth of consciousness is unpleasant but beating the obvious has its up sides—one may say its virtues—for leaving a clotted meeting of self appointed utopians of any stripe is always a relief. Not long ago I attended a memorial event honoring a poet whose life had been devoted to the study and practice of Buddhism. The people who came were among the most covetous and egotistical souls imaginable. It was enough for them to say they were selfless and then quite literally strip the paintings from the dead man’s walls. I saw I didn’t like them; moreover I didn’t have to.

One dislikes supernatural propaganda when confident. Overcoming the obvious is how you build that confidence.
Resisting evasion is everything. Example: the Frankfurt School imagined late stage capitalism drifting toward nihilism and exhaustion. But the obvious drift of history disproves this—one can scarcely argue with the Cato Institute’s response that culture has grown more sophisticated and diverse as a consequence of free markets and the availability of niche cultural texts for niche audiences. Do you understand this is not a rah rah for capitalism per se—at least on my part—but a resistance to not putting one’s preference as a free thinker to the test.

And I’m in mind of this tonight now that Donald J. Trump has told the American people that they might cure themselves of the coronavirus by injecting bleach into their veins. This is Trump’s method for confronting an unpleasant fact minus courage.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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