I have just finished reading David Lebedoff’s 2008 book The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War. No, this isn’t a book review—it’s a bit late for that—only some loose reflections on what Lebedoff wrote, as it relates to our present circumstances. (…)
So why are they “the same man”? Lebedoff argues that in the first place they both believed that one must choose decisively between this world and the next. Orwell, who did not believe in an afterlife, chose this world, sought its improvement, and found moral inspiration in the decency of ordinary people. Waugh had his sights on the next world, and so could treat this one as an arena of imperfection, folly, and comedy. He took his morality from the Church.
And then, both looked forward into the world of the later 20th century, and did not care for what they saw.
What they mainly saw was meritocracy: the rise of an exam-passing elite.