George Orwell: Insights from a Man Who Saw It all

The Thirties and Forties were anything but the good old days.

Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

In the U.S. we saw a great economic depression that produced 25% unemployment. In 1930s Europe times were equally tough, so that the entire free world was vulnerable to the Soviet propaganda machine. A second world war proved to be sufficiently earth-shaking so as to almost make us forget what preceded it.

If the global earthquake that was WWI cracked the foundations of modern Europe, WWII left it in shambles.

I am of the conviction that everything has pros and cons. Hence, if we seek we can we find a positive in these global wars. Yes. They proved to put an end to the Age of Colonialism. South American, African and Southeast Asian nation states would at last be released from their colonial bonds to create their own destinies through self-rule. The colonialist meta-narrative was dead.

Unfortunately, not all of these peoples were prepared, and in the midst of their own internal power struggles, the major powers re-defined what was happening in each new nation through a new meta-narrative, through the lens of the Cold War.

George Orwell, a journalist, had the opportunity to see up close what was occurring in many of these national power struggles. He had also seen Colonialism up close, and the false hope of what the 1917 Russian Revolution brought to fruition by Lenin and Stalin.

What follows are a handful of quotes that I found at Wiki Quotes, with the aim of helping you get better acquainted with this keen observer of 20th century political machinations. Most famous for his last two book, 1984 and Animal Farm, there’s much more available in Orwell’s articles and letters.

Here’s a taste. You will find a link at the end to the Wiki page dedicated to this astute mind.

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George Orwell publicity photo. Public domain.

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”

“Every war, when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.”

“The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.”
— From a review of The Men I Killed by Brigadier-General F. P. Crozier

“Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.”
— On Bertrand Russell’s Power

“A joke worth laughing at always has an idea behind it, and usually a subversive idea. Dickens is able to go on being funny because he is in revolt against authority, and authority is always there to be laughed at.”
— On Dickens

“There is something wrong with a regime that requires a pyramid of corpses every few years.”
On the “current Russian regime” (1940)
(cf. Solzhenitsyn: A Profile in Courage)

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Why I Write

“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.”
Original (unused) preface to Animal Farm

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— Preface to Animal Farm

“I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one’s intelligence.”
Letter to Richard Rees (3 March 1949)

For a good follow up see Orwell’s Shooting An Elephant, summarized here.

George Orwell: Wiki Quotes

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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