GEORGE ORWELL, CHE GUEVARA & ASDA – THE BRITISH REVOLUTION
WHY GEORGE ORWELL IS ALWAYS IN MY THOUGHTS
A short while back – I got obsessed with reading George Orwell. The man is no doubt a genius – both his novels and essays are outstanding work.
Two passages really stuck with me, both during and after the Orwell-fest and I have wanted to share them for some time. However, I could not be bothered to type them all out until now.
The reasons being as follows:
1) I have been interested in starting a project that involves some form of comment on social position and British society – particularly how democratic our state is and where we might want to look at making changes.
2) The other week, we watched Che part 1 and 2. Lovely stuff – really powerful films, principally because Che is a very interesting chap indeed. Watching them lead onto a search to buy some of Che Guevara’s writings, and a lot of thinking has ensued since learning more about his life and political views. Namely – do we need our own revolution. Not in a Cuba style of course, but a revolution none the less against capitalism and the power of the state over the individual. This seemed to tie in with my Orwell-fest thinking.
3) I was at Brighton Marina the other day, utilising Asda’s facilities (without putting any money in their massive coffers of course) and I took the image shown above. This made me think about points 1 & 2 above leading to a new more exciting point 3! This final point is still not fully formed and is being gently caressed in a sketch book into the start of a new project.
DO WE NEED A REVOLUTION
So, with these three points rattling in my mind, and feeling a photographic project about a British revolution is approaching, I felt the time was Nigh to recount the wise words that Mr Orwell chatted, that struck a cord with my own thinking. So here goes…first passage is from 1984 and the second, from Down and Out in Paris & London. They are quite long, but I bothered to type them out, so you can ruddy well take the time to read them!!!
Incidentally, if you have not read either book – do it immediately. Especially Down & Out, which, is probably one of the best books my eyes have ever graced.
Behold the words of wisdom:
DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS & LONDON
It is worth saying something about the social position of beggars, for
when one has consorted with them, and found that they are ordinary human
beings, one cannot help being struck by the curious attitude that society
takes towards them. People seem to feel that there is some essential
difference between beggars and ordinary ‘working’ men. They are a race
apart–outcasts, like criminals and prostitutes. Working men ‘work’,
beggars do not ‘work’; they are parasites, worthless in their very nature.
It is taken for granted that a beggar does not ‘earn’ his living, as a
bricklayer or a literary critic ‘earns’ his. He is a mere social
excrescence, tolerated because we live in a humane age, but essentially
Yet if one looks closely one sees that there is no ESSENTIAL
difference between a beggar’s livelihood and that of numberless respectable
people. Beggars do not work, it is said; but, then, what is WORK? A navvy
works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A
beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose
veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite
useless, of course–but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.
And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is
honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded
compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a
hire-purchase tout–in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite.
He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what
should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and
over in suffering. I do not think there is anything about a beggar that
sets him in a different class from other people, or gives most modern men
the right to despise him.
Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?–for they are
despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail
to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or
useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall
be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social
service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ‘Get money, get it
legally, and get a lot of it’? Money has become the grand test of virtue.
By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could
earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable
profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a
businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that
comes to hand. He has not, more than most modem people, sold his honour; he
has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible
to grow rich.
Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered.
Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim — for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives — is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal.
Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again.
Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.
Lovely Stuff. Think on.