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Hi Blog. Tangent today on something that made me think. I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the following segment from NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “Churchill, Orwell And The Fight Against Totalitarianism”, dated May 22, 2017. Gross interviewed Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks, who said the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell still resonate today, and who discussed the caliber of the generals serving in the Trump administration. Ricks, the author of the new book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom”, and writer of the blog The Best Defense for Foreign Policy magazine, had this to say at the very end of the interview. Gross sets up the question:
GROSS: I want to quote something that you write in your book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom.” And again, this is a book – it’s a kind of dual biography and looking at how their political views evolved and how it was reflected in their writing and their hatred of both fascism and Stalinism.
So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”
So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.
RICKS: That’s the last line in the book. And if – I’m glad you read it because if there’s anything I have to say I learned from this experience of reading and re-reading thousands upon thousands of words by Churchill and Orwell over the last three and half years, it’s that. That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.
And it’s – you can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.
COMMENT: The point of this exchange was to conclude with how this fact-based (as opposed to opinion-based) dynamic has broken down over time, especially in current American politics. And having lived in a society for an extended period where the search for the truth is less important than understanding power, and the existence of an objective reality is constantly doubted if not outright dismissed, I think it’s a good idea to keep this segment in mind on a personal level. Periodically renew your commitment to fact-based inquiry towards an objective reality, and undertake decision-making with the flexibility to change your mind when presented with the facts. Dr. Debito Arudou
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