In his column in the Sunday Telegraph Christopher Booker specializes in reporting the idiocies and horrors that are flooding over us from Europe. The latest comes from a German-owned energy company called npower — all in fashionable lower-case letters. This company invites children to “save the planet” by becoming “climate cops.” Children are supposed to spy on their parents, relations and neighbors, and catch them out for such “crimes” as leaving the TV on standby, putting hot food in the fridge or failing to use low-energy light bulbs.
As so often, George Orwell got there first. In 1984, that masterwork of our times, children are enrolled in the Spies, whose model was evidently the Soviet youth organization, the Komsomol. They are taught to denounce and to brutalise, so that in the eyes of Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, “Nearly all children nowadays were horrible.” In Soviet Russia, the young Pavel Morozov was held up as a most praiseworthy example for the young. At the age of thirteen, this boy had denounced his father for reading the forbidden Trotsky, and the father was duly shot. Family members then murdered Pavel in retribution. Even Stalin is supposed to have called Pavel “a little swine” for having his father executed. Orwell made use of this monstrosity too. Winston writes about Comrade Ogilvy who joins the Spies at the age of six, and “At eleven he had denounced his uncle to the Thought Police after overhearing a conversation which appeared to him to have criminal tendencies.”
By chance, I am reading a new and very fine book, The Forsaken, which tells the story of the thousands of Americans who emigrated to the Soviet Union, men and women who mostly were to pay for their naivety by losing their lives in Gulag. The author, Tim Tzouliadis, only just manages to restrain his rightful indignation at the murderous behaviour of the Soviets and the abject way that the American authorities did nothing to save their own citizens. In this book, a teacher is recorded praising Vasiliev, a boy in his class. With vigilance worthy of a real Bolshevik, the teacher is quoted saying, this Vasiliev “has acted like a real hero. He conquered family prejudices and denounced his own father.” Vasiliev was wearing a new suit in class, his reward for having reported seeing his father reading the banned works of Trotsky.
The totalitarian mind-set dies hard, and it has evidently found a fruitful new incarnation in npower and its “climate cops.”