Monday, October 20, 2003

The New Republic's resident hyper-ventilating windbag Leon Weiseltier writes this sentence:

It is true that national feeling, which exists in abundance even in 'post-Zionist' Israel, is a scandal for the hallowed fluidity that the contemporary catechism prescribes for human affairs, but there are worse scandals. It might even be argued that national feeling, and group membership, and the engagement with tradition, and the preservation of peoplehood--all in a critical spirit, of course, and diversified by alienation and other affiliations, and vigilant about the corruptions of self-love--is all another blow against the philosophical casualness of the age. Anyway, the problem of the spirit of the age is not a Jewish problem.
Thanks, Leon. It's all so clear to me now.

George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" should be required reading in whatever school of writing Weiseltier and his ilk graduated from. Here's Orwell on the Bible:

I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

Here it is in modern English:

"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."
Snicker, snicker. But wait! Even better. Here's Orwell on Stalinist academics:

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism.
Indeed! So, ladies and gentleman, I bring to the one and only Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, in plain English:

Jewish nationalism is really bad. But these days, when nobody gives a shit about anything, it's not that bad. Besides, everybody else gets to be nationalist, so why can't the Jews?


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