News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Brief addendum to my essay yesterday on Orwell.

Orwell strikes me as being someone who doesn't have very well developed interpersonal skills. He failed constantly with women, the most obvious sign. At the same time, he shows a distinct sensitivity for the use of words, a knack for catching people when hiding behind words, the various games people play when using words to misrepresent their meaning either deliberately or out of laziness and habit.

When I was younger myself, my own interpersonal skills were atrocious, and I seem to have had the same knack and some of the same sensitivities to fractured logic. In other words, when your interpersonal skills are weak, unlike most people, there is for some of us a temptation not to develop them at all except in the most clumsy and plastic form necessary for communication (Bill O'Reilly comes immediately to mind). To get rid of them in a sense; to suppress one's own emotions and make a concerted effort, often successful, to completely ignore the emotional reactions of other people.

The benefit is that you don't feel a puppet in the sway of others because their emotional reactions don't affect you. But the same time, since your brain is not paying attention to all the various signs and signals that are being thrown at it, one develops a certain inner calm or peace of mind. I don't mean a state of grace, but the peace of mind deriving from smoking weed which blocks minor stimuli thus enabling you to focus intensely, without even trying, and thereby become all the more attentive to what people are doing when they speak.
Because, again, you're not paying attention to what people are communicating via body language et al; you're simply paying attention to their words. This tendency makes anyone a virtuoso for picking apart weak sentence structure, noticing inadvertent meaning trapped in boggled sentences, and so forth. By pointing these errors out, the virtuoso, here inevitably a species of antisocial monomaniac, easily gets the upper hand on normal people because, during coversation normal people suffer from a heavily divided attention in order to integrate themselves into the usual matrix of communication forms ranging from clothing, timing, expresion, posture, reaction to people in the immediate environment, and so on.

This sort of monomaniac, even as virtuoso, of course tends to be rather unpleasant to be around because he completely ignores the normal cues being sent and functions like an idiot savante with tendency to sadism. At the same time, by being out of touch with so much of what constitutes social interaction, the virtuoso of speech patterns and logic, unless capable creating his own ideas, becomes a sucker for ideologies.
He dislikes normal people due to their inability to speak or think clearly. Out of sympathy with the perspiring, guffawing reality which constitutes mankind, he's lonely and unappreciated and roves the realm of fantasy, developing a preference for mankind the concept, for the heretofore unrealized potential of mankind (if only he/she/it would listen). Being unfamiliar with how people, normal people that is, make decisions and react to other people's decisions, and wholly ignorant of how the average person's consciousness functions and makes decisions, not to mention clueless as to what makes people tick in the workplace and happy home, something like communism or socialism may be peculiarly attractive. After all, so many leading lights of the left have historically been, and remain today, famous for being evil-tempered pricks up close yet having hearts of gold and their eyes on the stars.
Hopefully I've somewhat reconciled this contradiction in a general sense, and in particular regarding Orwell's reputation as the "wintry conscience of his generation."

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