Orwell on Truth

Orwell on Truth

You probably have seen this quote before, but it is worth repeating and worth discussing.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

– George Orwell

This quote by Orwell on truth is well known, but we should focus less on using it as a cudgel against a political enemy du jour and more on its enduring message. Then we need to turn that message toward ourselves and ask what our attitudes are toward truth and other speakers.

All societies have a relationship with truth. No society has a perfect relationship with truth. All societies drift closer to and farther away from truth. And all societies drift closer to and farther away from hating those who seek and speak truth. Too many people fear the difficult work of seeking truth and they fear the truth itself. Intellectuals have always been a target of hate—not just by the power structure, but by the masses in general.

So, instead of using this Orwell on truth quote or any other quotations because a rival political party is currently in power, reflect on the deeper meaning that the quote expresses. Instead of using quotations to attack, use the ideas they contain to build a better society.

The problem that we face is not “the other side hates me.” The problem is that everyone is quicker to dismiss than they are to listen, so everyone is uncomfortable when other people speak.

Truth is found through searching and dialogue. A corollary to Orwell’s quote is “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate open conversation.” Central to all forms of oppression is the need to prevent people from openly discussing ideas and  issues. Totalitarian oppression prevails when enough people side with that effort to silence other voices. When all other voices are silenced, then only the voice of totalitarianism is heard.

We all need to ask ourselves what we value and why and how we can make our world a better place. How far have you drifted from truth? What is your attitude toward those who speak it? We all need to be more open-minded. We all need to be better at listening to others.

See also: Martin Buber on Encountering Others and If You Think Trump Is the Problem…


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