[I was without a doubt what is commonly referred to as a “nerd” in high school. I spent my lunch hours in the library and woe be it to me if it was arbitrarily closed and I had to wander the halls of my rural Michigan school dodging the bullies, cliques, and budding sadists and sociopaths who were “looking for a little fun” which I might provide them. (I had to keep moving to prevent getting cornered).

Thus, spending time in the library was actually a healthy choice for me, mentally and bodily. And it was in the library that I discovered the likes of George Orwell. I remember really enjoying his short novel, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” (1936).  I haven’t read it for many years, but I distinctly recall being impressed by his descriptions of the beginnings of commercialization/propaganda and its effect upon the mind of the hapless consumer. I thought, wow he really nailed it:  don’t people realize that most of the things they think they want are products they have been told (in various ways by various methods) they need?

Although he was British and long dead, he was a kindred spirit (when you are a loner – forced or otherwise – you are grateful when you come across a kindred spirit).  He was attempting to find the truth (ugly though it may sometimes be) and broadcast it, not unlike his character Winston Smith in his novel “1984.” (By the way, I love that “1984” is suddenly popular again. I hope its renewed reading will prompt readers to ask questions, seek answers and apply them to the present.)   jbm 3/25/2017]

Shooting an Elephant

“All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.”

“And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all.  The people expected it of me and I had got to do it…”

“Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.  I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”

“And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”

“I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it [shot the elephant] solely to avoid looking a fool.”

Reflections on Gandhi

“…to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity…and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics…for his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant.”

“…but at any rate the gentleness with which he was nearly always handled was due partly to the feeling that he was useful.”

“In judging a man like Gandhi one seems instinctively to apply high standards, so that some of his virtues have passed almost unnoticed.”

“…he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached.”

“Even when he was fighting what was in effect a color war, he did not think of people in terms of race or status.”

“…even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive.”

Why I Write

“But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class.”

“In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.”

“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”

“Good prose is like a window pane.”

Looking Back on the Spanish War

“One of the essential experiences of war is never being able to escape from disgusting smells of human origin.”

“Here we are, soldiers of a revolutionary army, defending Democracy against Fascism, fighting a war which is about something, and the detail of our lives is just as sordid and degrading as it could be in prison, let alone in a bourgeois army.”

“People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold, or, above all, too tired to be bothered about the political origins of the war.”

“We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious.  For the truth is very simple.  To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself.  War is evil and it is often the lesser evil.  Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases.”

“One of the effects of safe and civilized life is an immense oversensitiveness which makes all the primary emotions seem somewhat disgusting.”

“I saw in fact history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’

“This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.  After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history.”

“Enough to eat, freedom from the haunting terror of unemployment, the knowledge that your children will get a fair chance, a bath once a day, clean linen reasonably often, a roof that doesn’t leak, and short enough working hours to leave you with a little energy when the day is done.”

“It is merely that privation and brute labor have to be abolished before the real problems of humanity can be tackled.”

England, Your England

“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” [one of the greatest opening lines ever written! jbm]

“He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.”

“One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty.”

“And above all, it is your civilization, it is you.  However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time.  The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul.  Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.”

“It is not that anyone imagines the law to be just.  Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.  But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone takes it for granted that the law, such as it is, will be respected, and feels a sense of outrage when it is not.”


Copyright: 1946 by George Orwell
Copyright:  1945, 1946, 1949, 1950 1952, 1953 by Sonia Brownell Orwell
You will find 50 George Orwell essays here:   http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300011h.html
photo credit: vernon richards