I don’t think that there is a need to reveal my absolute love for George Orwell. I already did this last year when I wrote about my two favourite books: “1984” & “Brave New World” (the latter by Huxley).
Discovering Orwell was just as shocking to me, as finding out about the “Dead Kennedys”. The punk rockers had already written about all the topics that I was writing about in my teens. It was very surprising to find out that the same issues were addressed back then.
The same conflicts but with different names, the same disappointing politicians but with different names and so on and so on.
It made me realise that certain issues are timeless and that certain issues are bound to never be solved as it goes against human nature to resolve them. It is as if thought society’s critics are a broken record from the dawn of civilisation into eternity. Only the names, faces and clothes of the trapped protagonists change, doomed into never-ending repetition.
Their story and concerns remain the same. And it is therefore wise to ask, if there is any point in pointing out societies flaws at any given time, when these flaws remain largely the same.
It was bizarre for me, as someone who has continually criticised “big brother” through my artistic work, to all of a sudden open up “1984” a book I had previously never read. It was the final revelation to me, that anything worth addressing has already been addressed.
All you need is to read what has been written and read about what has been done in the past. Maybe it is because so few do this, that “new” writers and artists are needed, to remind people of what has been said before, giving the same words a new wrapping and relevance by swapping out names and fashions.
The world can’t be saved, there is no solution, there is no utopia, there never was. There can only be peace through totalitarianism, which is imprisonment, there is no equality, and there will never be such a thing as there is no equality in nature. And if we were to be forced into equality, it would be through a shared misery. There would always be someone on top of the pyramid, administering all those enslaved in equality below them.
And just like we do now, those at the bottom would think of themselves as free.
It should therefore come as no surprise that I smirked my way thorough “Animal Farm”, but it was a smirk tinged with sadness and defeat as I knew that what I read was not just the past, it was today and it will be the future.
” The animals were not certain what the word meant, but Squealer spoke so persuasively, and the three dogs who happened to be with him growled so threateningly, that they accepted his explanation without further questions.”
” They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out.”
” The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
The highlight of the edition that I got in my possession, was actually Orwell’s preface, called “The Freedom Of The Press”. This is something that I encourage anyone who might read my entry to check out. Let me quote:
“If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.”
“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.’
“For though you are not allowed to criticise the Soviet government, at least you are reasonably free to criticise our own. Hardly anyone will print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals.”
” So long as the prestige of the USSR is not involved, the principle of free speech has been reasonably well upheld.”
” On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency.”
” The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine.”
“But now to come back to this book of mine. The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: ‘It oughtn’t to have been published.’ Naturally those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper.”
” One does not say that a book ‘ought not to have been published’ merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it) does harm to the cause of progress. If it did the opposite they would have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are. The success of, for instance, the Left Book Club over a period of four or five years shows how willing they are to tolerate both scurrility and slipshod writing, provided that it tells them what they want to hear.”
” In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses.”
” But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is ‘freedom for the other fellow’.
“Voltaire: ‘I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it’.”
“…the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practise.”
“…there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods.”
” In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought.”
“…but by holding heretical opinions they ‘objectively’ harmed the regime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations.”
” These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you.”
” Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interest of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the falsification of history.”
” To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance.”
” The word ancient emphasises the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice.”
” Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain.”
” If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
“..it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this preface.”
And it is to draw attention to that fact, that I’ve quoted Orwell’s preface to such an extent here on my blog 😉 Here are two quotes from Orwell’s Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of “Animal Farm”:
“…it taught me how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries. My wife and I both saw innocent people being thrown into prison merely because they were suspected of unorthodoxy.”
“…men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”
Now look at these quotes and blank out “Russia” and “USSR” and see how much it resembles the issues that we face today.