My colleague is, I believe, writing a list of books that have not changed his life, so while he is doing that I will go ahead and do the dull boring plodding literal humourless N&C I had in mind, which is partly an adaptation of my own list and partly a reaction to a new one as well as partly a reaction to Norm’s reaction. See how dull I am? Sigh. My colleague is the one who gets to make all the jokes around here, while I just trudge along, saying tedious flat-footed obvious things all the time. It’s so unfair.
Yes sure enough, there’s his list now, and it made me shriek with laughter. You see how unfair that is? I mean, what, was I behind the door when they were passing out the twisted senses of humour? Was I home with a cold that day? Huh? Oh never mind. Fine. I’m used to being dull and boring. Well I would be, wouldn’t I.
Okay that’s enough of that. I had someting terribly important and earnest to say. No I didn’t – I had an urge to go on messing around with the subject, that’s what I had. I felt like revising my list slightly, or making it a list of eleven. I also felt like explaining, and expanding, and urging other people to do a damn list so that Norm can have a shot at falsifying his hypothesis.
For one thing I wanted to note that I ran together the categories of books that changed my thinking, and favorites or best. Very sloppy. I meant, of course, something like: the ten books that did most to change my thinking. Anyway that list isn’t those ten books, at least not as far as I know. It’s just, as I said, some of the books that have changed my thinking quite a lot, but I don’t know how high on the meter they are.
Which raises the question of what we mean by changing our thinking. Jam Today said ‘Most books you read don’t change your mind. They confirm your opinions. That’s why you read them.’ But I see it a little differently. I don’t take ‘change our thinking’ to mean necessarily ‘turned our thinking upside down’. I think it can mean for instance augment our thinking – extend it, enrich it, add to it in some way, without necessarily causing us to have completely different opinions. A book can change our thinking simply by showing us what can be done with writing, for example. That’s a big part of the reason Hazlitt and Keats and Thoreau are on my list.
But the one I decided to add – I meant to have it in the original ten, then changed my mind for some reason, but on futher thought, changed it back again – because he in fact did do something to shape my thinking. I notice it when I read things like for instance this ridiculous article about how terrible science is and what a disaster it’s been – not just in some ways but overall. It may be partly due to number 11 that I think, when people talk that way, ‘Really? Are you sure you mean it? Do you really want to do without supermarkets and industrialized agriculture and transportation and appliances and factory-made clothes and hospitals and medicine? Really? Really? Have you ever tried living that way? Do you have any idea what it’s like? Do you really, honestly, want to grow and raise all your own food, make all your own clothes, have no recourse when you get sick? Are you sure? Or is that all just talk that you don’t actually mean a word of.’
Right, Orwell, obviously. He was good at that. He was good at nailing bullshit, stuff that people were saying because it was the right-on thing at the moment but that they didn’t actually mean. I left him off partly because he’s not always a very good writer, I’ve noticed lately. I think he’s a bit overrated now. His style could be quite tired and flat and even hackneyed. But his way of calling people on their poses has stuck with me for decades. I was addicted to the four-volume Collected Essays Letters Journalism and Shopping Lists or whatever it was called, when I was at university; read it over and over. And it did change my thinking, or perhaps prevent it from being changed too much in a fatuous direction.
So for a treat I’ll give you a little of that absurd article.
It is difficult for those of us steeped in the propaganda barrage of Big Science to even question such social norms as the mass-vaccination of children in the U.S. Mass vaccination of infants — a product of the “advancement” of technology — is such an “obvious” improvement that one rarely questions it any longer…And yet, legitimate alternative researchers are now linking childhood vaccination with a number of serious auto-immune diseases…Even so, it has been known for many years that a huge number of illnesses and deaths are “iatrogenic” casualties; they are caused by modern medicine’s normal “scientific” intervention into the disease and healing processes; more than one hundred thousand people die unnecessarily each year in U.S. hospitals of malnutrition caused by hospital diets, unnecessary pharmacological and medical interventions, and diseases contracted during their stay there. Yet still the Left promotes what can best be described as industrial medicine.
Okay – the question irresistibly arises – how clueless can you get? Has this guy ever heard of tuberculosis? (Orwell certainly had.) Cholera, typhoid, typhus, tetanus, diphtheria, syphilis, gangrene? Is he aware that a mere infection in a superficial cut could kill you before antibiotics? Does he have any idea how many lethal diseases there were kicking around in the world before about 1920? Does he not know the mortality statistics? Does he not wonder why the normal life span got so much longer in much of the world in the past century? Does he have any idea what he’s saying? So. Someone needs to have a little chat with him. Tell him for instance that antibiotics that worked against TB were developed just too late for Orwell. They were available while he was still alive, but his case was so far advanced that they didn’t do him any good. Tell him what a pleasant death Orwell had, then tell him about all the people who didn’t die of TB after 1954. Then let’s hear some more of his nonsense about ‘industrial medicine.’