A Fresh View of George Orwell (Salon)

The essential promise of Politics and the English Language was that “if you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.” Does this ring true in 2013? From the US State Department’s carefully-worded missives to the tightly-constructed soundbites of Whitehall Britain’s counterpart to the White House, our contemporary political discourse is replete with evidence that it is perfectly possible to obfuscate by plain speaking, and journalism is right in the thick of it. — Houman Barekat

If I could radically improve three things about public education, both through formal schooling and in informal learning, improving our collective analytic, communication, and creative intelligence would be my triad. These are forms of literacy that make civic participation comprehensible and feasible, but we’re undermining our public sphere by treating them as optional extras.

Addressing common concerns and sharing common spaces aren’t simply about knowing the components of the current order or how the system is supposed to work. They aren’t about the facts alone. They’re also based on shared meaning, and shared meaning emerges from conscious relationship.

We’re all in relationship as co-passengers on our respective continents, but being co-located isn’t enough to build community or to ensure that we understand each other enough to work together. In societies divided by class, culture, and interests, shared meaning has become a chimerical vision that we appeal to in order to induce others to comply with us rather than the thing it is: a process of discourse, negotiation, and learning that moves us forward together.

Simply said: I see no possibility of flourishing collectively without it.


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