Monday, February 18, 2008

The Road to Wigan Pier

Which contains a prescient quote about our lives and times, and more videos

George Orwell is a rather smashing bloke, and he proves it again and again. For many people, he is simply the author of one satire and one dark novel that rail against the Great Satan, communism. 1984 and Animal Farm have been milked for all they are worth whenever a handy anti-left quote is needed. But Georgie Porgie was a lot more complicated than that, he was not the supremely anti-leftist literary genius that left-bashers with no imagination of their own could periodically dip into for a fresh nugget.

His Down and out in Paris and London talks about time spent as a menial in a Paris hotel, and as a London vagabond, and is possibly more valuable as a book than the other two. A Hanging and Shooting an Elephant hit you like a punch in the solar plexus. "A Hanging" makes capital punishment personal, and that perhaps is the most effective argument against it (for the record, the Choultry is against it). "Shooting an Elephant" is merely touching, and about a horrible dilemma faced by a young and sensitive anti-imperial functionary of Empire.

Apart from Douglas Adams, Orwell appears to be the only other person to have written an essay on making tea, both versions (Adams' can be found in The Salmon of Doubt) are delicious. And finally, Reflections of Ghandi(sic) is one of the most well-balanced evaluations of the Mahatma, taking a nice line somewhere between vilification and hagiography.

Anyway, the point of all this is That Man Keynes and His Homosexual Intrigues (TMKAHHI) (who is well known to some of you) points us to the following from The Road to Wigan Pier (1937):

It hardly needs pointing out that at this moment we are in a very serious mess, so serious that even the dullest-witted people find it difficult to remain unaware of it. We are living in a world in which nobody is free, in which hardly anybody is secure, in which it is almost impossible to be honest and to remain alive. For enormous blocks of the working class the conditions of life are such as I have described in the opening chapters of this book, and there is no chance of those conditions showing any fundamental improvement. The very best the English-working class can hope for is an occasional temporary decrease in unemployment when this or that industry is artificially stimulated by, for instance, rearmament. Even the middle classes, for the first time in their history, are feeling the pinch. They have not known actual hunger yet, but more and more of them find themselves floundering in a sort of deadly net of frustration in which it is harder and harder to persuade yourself that you are either happy, active, or useful. Even the lucky ones at the top, the real bourgeoisie, are haunted periodically by a consciousness of the miseries below, and still more by fears of the menacing future. And this is merely a preliminary stage, in a country still rich with the loot of a hundred years. Presently there may be coining God knows what horrors— horrors of which, in this sheltered island, we have not even a traditional knowledge.

Splendid, no?

That's that about Georgie Porgie. Peruse this post at Presentation Zen. It has a bunch of videos from the TED talks.

Al Gore's talk is a hoot, especially the first 4-5 minutes that he spends laughing at himself. The man has changed so much. You would think he would be a shoo in for President in 2009, wouldn't you?

Majora Carter's talk is depressing and inspiring at the same time. If you can watch only one of the videos (each is just shy of 20 minutes long), this is the one. It will hopefully show the links between discrimination, race, crime, poverty, urban stagnation etc. in new ways. Definitely, definitely, check this one out.

Hans Rosling's talk should result in jaws dropping. If there be such a thing as an ideal way to present statistics, it is this, it is this, it is this.

1 comment:

varali said...

Homage to Catalonia is superb too.