Tag Archives: The Lion and The Unicorn

Thought Crimes

Today, Wednesday 25 June, was George Orwell’s birthday. While always unlikely that someone with a love of such strong tobacco would make it to the age of 100 – never mind 111 – we at ten minutes hate see no reason not to mark the occasion.

Make an incredibly intense pot of tea, or pour out a dram or three of Jura and join us in saying, ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. Orwell!’

TokyoRich:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I feel the same way about George Orwell as I do about Tony Benn. Both are posh gits done well. They really set an example for anyone that has a conscience. A lot of the time, class conflict, north vs south, developed world vs. emerging economies and the like are painted as issues that have rigid boundaries, which creates unnecessary prejudices. Going back to Marx, one of the cheapest shots at him is that he was funded by Engels who enjoyed the fruits of capitalism because of his businesses. What Orwell, Benn and Engels show though, is that if you have the right attitude — a conscience about global injustices — and are willing to take the time to create a critical framework through which to view the world, your background doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

In nonfiction, Homage to Catalonia really tore away the romanticism of the Spanish Civil War for me, which was important.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying was a great piece of fiction. Perhaps it isn’t a masterpiece, but the way it deals with armchair socialism is entertaining and still makes me feel guilty.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

No favourite image.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

My desk at work.

public relations

Our Man in Abiko:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I can’t remember now whether it was Orwell or Mark Twain that turned me on to the possibilities of writing, I often confuse the two. Both were at heart journalists, both armed with a keen eye for hypocrisy and a matter-of-fact style that targeted pretension as much as injustice. When I read Orwell, I think “I want to write like this.” And yet I can’t, at least not as well. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

I like his essays the most. Why I Write should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the written word and adding a few of their own.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

He wasn’t the most photogenic. When I try to picture his face, all I can see are the tea-ring stained white and orange covers of the ’60s Penguin paperback editions on my Dad’s shelf. That’s what he looks like to me.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” (The opening line of The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius.)

John Maguire:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I admire the fact that Orwell was a master craftsman who loved his work. He wrote with conviction, passion and authenticity. His writing questions, provokes and encourages the reader to think.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a socially critical exploration of opting out of the system. I think this really resonated with me because at the time I was working in a bookstore and writing poetry like the main protagonist Gordon Comstock. I also had a somewhat romantic vision of the writing life, I still have rose-tinted glasses but prefer contact lenses these days.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

A photograph taken in 1946 by Veina Richards. I love the way he is looking at his son with such pride.

George Orwell

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with 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.”

J. C. Greenway:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I think, following on from what Rich said above, it is the way he broke free of his upbringing. Men of Orwell’s class weren’t meant to speak out about the injustices of the world and give the unheard a voice, they were bred to do a job and to keep quiet about any unsavory aspects of it. He recalls in his essays being quite taken with Kipling’s tales of Empire-building as a child and in The Lion and The Unicorn muses that in more peaceful times he might have been a vicar.

Yet he was transformed by Burma, Wigan and Spain into something far beyond the imaginings of the average Old Etonian. He actively sought out situations and people that he wasn’t familiar or comfortable with to broaden his view of the world and to inform his writing. I think that is why he has remained so relevant today.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

The Road to Wigan Pier. Although they were a few miles up the road from Wigan, the book echoes the stories my family told of the ‘Hungry Thirties’: terrified of the sack, hiding from the rent man, unable to afford the doctor for anything that wasn’t imminently life-threatening. My own grandfather and his brother walked from Liverpool to London and the South Coast to find work. And yet theirs was a world unknown to most outside the Northern industrial centres.

Orwell’s gift is to take the myths created to keep the system running – miners keeping coal in their baths, the Dole being so high it encouraged the poor to marry – and destroy them with calm analysis and journalistic style, while never losing his compassion for those trapped within.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

Having attempted to make tea according to the steps laid down in ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, it has to be this one.

george-orwell-drinking-tea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Mark Woff:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

Orwell taking a bullet in the neck for anti-fascism is a source of inspiration. I also admire his understated, dry humour.

For balance,  I am not so keen on the ex-policeman’s liking for lists of wrongdoers. I suppose I can understand where he was coming from, but still.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Inside the Whale and other essays… tied with 1984, of course!

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

orwellcigtea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.” (Politics and the English Language)

 

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Everywhere you look

Everywhere you look, on all fronts, the cunts appear to be winning.  We, the right thinking people of this land, are being out manoeuvred and out gunned at every turn.

It used to be the case that you could rely on a core of people in the world to instinctively know the right side of an argument, who you could use as a litmus test to demonstrate that all was well.  I think here of Hunter S. Thompson and George Orwell, there are other examples, about whom it could easily be said: ‘if he/she agrees/disagrees with it, it must be correct’ as you went about your daily business.  Now all you can rely on is that everybody with a voice today uses it to come out with statements that no one in their right mind could hold to be correct.  The well publicised ‘death of ideology’ at the end of the Cold War seems to have mutated into a less well publicised murder of dissent.  To the extent that you have to ask…

“Where are the punks?”

Punk is the same age as me, but only one of us survived to celebrate our 30th.  The aesthetic got co opted; the ethos lost in a cloud of hepatitis-infected spit, safety pins and Sex Pistols reunions.  The hip young gunslingers now move closer to their first hip replacements, jostling the Zimmers for position in the establishment they once deluded themselves could be eviscerated with nothing more than razor sharp wit and a razor trimmed haircut.  The past is eating itself, as drama school rejects compete to replace the easy listening singers that the Beatles kicked out of the charts; The Kinks inspired Blur are replaced by the Blur inspired Kaiser Chiefs, in an ever decreasing circle of hell populated by careerist knock off merchants and rampant self-publicists.  Mika, Lily Allen and Kate Nash are not only allowed to live but to describe themselves as ‘musicians’ and be hailed as some kind of dynamic new voice in rock because their publicists set up MySpace pages.

Where is the anger?  Where is the outrage?
Why should you care?

Get another round of tequilas in.  Fight for your right to party, duuuuuuude.  The old battles have been fought and lost, you’re free to get on with your true vocation: drinking, shopping and fucking, all to a soundtrack of bland ooooohs and aaaaahs, hits of Soma provided by our sponsor for when the screaming in your brain becomes too loud….

Because it is not cool to care.  The last youth movement with a touch of the small ‘p’ politics about it was the loose gathering of nut jars that came together to try to fight the Criminal Justice Bill.  Once that motley crew of Loadsamoney style entrepreneurs, Do-It-Yourself-ers and Spiral Tribesmen had been overcome by surveillance, brutality and trumped up charges, it was understandable that few others would try to stick their heads above the parapet.  So we left the fields that should have been ours to party and protest in whenever we fancied and headed back to legality.  The baggy trousered philanthropists allowed themselves to be meekly herded into club nights with door policies more exclusive than Garden Parties at Buck House, where the big name, millionaire DJs turned the booths into altars for their own ego worship.  Music events became ‘brand dissemination opportunities’, sponsored by beer makers, a fantastic entrée to the youth market for the breweries who were starting to worry that their wares were going to appear like yesterday’s news next to the bright shiny ecstasy pills that the kids seemed so keen on.

They need not have worried.  For this is now a generation drunk on hedonism itself, not caring if the poison that it imbibes to get to that location has been bought in a wrap or over a bar.  Just get trashed, wasted, battered, fucked up.  This is the only goal worth pursuing.  The age old need to prove how much liquor you could hold has been surpassed by the urge to globally publicise pictures of you laying in the gutter in a pool of vomit.  Your politics is something you show with a coloured wristband, not something you FEEL.  Feelings themselves are messy things that can be treated with a kind of emotional Domestos, that kills all original thought dead.

God, how 70s, didn’t we leave all that embarrassing posturing behind with the three day week and footballer’s perms?  Just keep dancing, snorting, screwing – poking and preening at each other like a heaving mass of baby mice in a testing laboratory’s cage.  No need for any of that scary commitment stuff – why commit to an opinion when another one will come along in a minute?  How shameful to take a position when opinions are reduced to the status of a trend, something that can quickly become out of date.  Could you really be seen dead in last season’s trousers…?

Orwell believed with The Lion and the Unicorn that if he could speak over the heads of the self appointed intelligentsia, the ordinary men and women of Britain would hear his call to arms and right would prevail.  Joe Strummer tried the same thing: ‘London Calling… to the far away towns… war is declared and battle come down…’  And I would do the same, attempt to reach some mythical, silent majority if I had any faith in their existence.  But how can I have when I know, deep down, that they have been killed off by a real majority who voted for Hitler, loved Thatcher and who encourage their daughters to read Jordan’s ‘auto’ biographies because fucking a footballer is the best career path open to them?  The only thing that truly moves England’s dreamers is the relative upward or downward movement of the value of the pile of bricks that they rot their lives away in, drowning the regret in a vat of cheap wine, abdicating responsibility for righting the ills they created by delegating all control to a focus group version of benign fascism that rules us.

First published March 2008 in issue one of whaaat?

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