Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Country Right or Left 1940-1943, by George Orwell

Anyone following the recent Terry Lane controversy in Australia, where he cited fake video material of apparent chronic human rights abuses to boost his anti-Iraq war line (he was duped, but should have double checked his facts), will find the following Orwell quote from his war diaries of utmost pertinence.

‘Everyone is dishonest, and everyone is utterly heartless towards people who are outside the immediate range of his own interests and sympathies. What is most striking of all is the way sympathy can be turned on or off like a tap according to political expediency.’

To Terry Lane’s credit, he confessed that he believed the video material was authentic because he wanted to:

“I was completely taken in … I fell for it because I wanted to believe it.”

These two quotes are interesting to juxtapose, showing how things have not changed much in sixty years. I confess to doing the same thing, believing certain things because politically it fits your world view.

This second volume of the Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus edited collected works runs at some 500 pages and features many of Orwell’s famous essays. It’s a mixture of mostly politics and literature. His review of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler is especially interesting, as Orwell confesses to actually liking Hitler, as a charismatic personality, but despising him politically.

The essay on Mark Twain was also an eye opener. Orwell in it demonstrates that Twain was always one who followed and supported those in power. I thought his reputation was one of a die hard democrat. Here’s a quote:

‘In Roughing It there is an interesting account of a bandit named Slade, who, among countless other outrages, had committed twenty-eight murders. It is perfectly clear that Mark Twain admires this disgusting scoundrel.’

Well, as an unabashed Orwell fan, you can never go wrong with a volume of his essays and letters and reviews. Many of them I re-read here, and got more out of them the second time around. Especially his war book The Lion and the Unicorn.

Every home should have the collected Orwell on its shelves!

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