Acting Like an Idiot

George Orwell was an idiot.

Yes, he wrote the two most impactful novels of the 20th Century: Animal Farm, mocking communism, and 1984, showing the horrors of future totalitarian government. Give him credit there.

But he also did something highly foolish. He went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. He joined a small army of anarchists fighting against the fascist government. The anarchists had no airplanes, no artillery, no military ranks, no hope.

On his way to Spain, Orwell talked with another famous author, Henry Miller, and told him his plans. Miller replied: “You are an idiot.”

In Spain Orwell was handed a 40-year-old rifle and sent to the front. He got shot in the throat but survived. The rebels lost the war.

On the positive side Orwell wrote a book about his experiences. Almost no one read it.

Orwell was an idiot in other ways too. Read Orwell’s Nose by John Sutherland for the details.

I have also been an idiot at times. During the Libyan revolution several years ago, I developed a desire to help the rebels fight against Gaddafi and his henchmen. I read about an old man who found and defused land mines, which the government was planting like date trees.

I used Google to find the best mine detectors money could buy. I read about how to use them. I pictured myself operating one in the desert.

Then something happened that stopped me from going — I don’t remember what. Maybe I realized that I lack courage. Legal reasons may have stopped me — at some point during the war, I read, to my amazement, that it is a crime in Australia for a citizen to fight in a foreign war without Australian government approval. Another possibility: The rebels won the war at lightning speed, with big help from NATO and none from me, while I was still thinking about going.

I consider myself an idiot for even contemplating risking my life on “the shores of Tripoli,” as in the U.S. Marines Hymn. Since the time of the revolution, Libyan rebels have relentlessly killed each other.

I wish I were never an idiot. But things happen. My thinking goes screwy.  

If you have never been an idiot, wait awhile. As long as we breathe, we have opportunities. If you have been an idiot, rejoice that you lived to tell about it. Maybe someone else will benefit from hearing about your experiences.


Photo by Shraddha Agrawal on Unsplash

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