Wednesday, October 3, 2012
George Orwell Diaries
6.3.40: From a letter from Lady Oxford to the Daily Telegraph, on the subject of war economies:
“Since most London houses are deserted there is little entertaining. . . in any case, most people have to part with their cooks and live in hotels.”
Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99% of the population exist.
6.14.40: The Germans are definitely in Paris, one day ahead of schedule. It has to be taken as a certainty that Hitler will go to Versailles. Why don’t they mine it and blow it up while he is there? Spanish troops have occupied Tangier, obviously with the view of letting the Italians use it as a base. To conquer Spanish Morocco from French Morocco would probably be easy at this date, and to do so, ditto the other Spanish colonies, and set up Negrin or someone of his kind as an alternative government would be a severe blow to Franco. But even the present British government would never think of doing such a thing. One has almost lost the power of imagining that the Allied governments can ever take the initiatives.
Always, as I walk through the Underground stations, sickened by the advertisements, the silly staring ( idiotic, yard-wide ham-pink) faces and strident colors, the general frantic struggle to induce people to waste labor and materials by consuming useless luxuries or harmful drugs. How much rubbish this war will sweep away, if only we can hang on throughout the summer. War is simply a reversal of civilized life, its motto is “Evil be thou my good”, and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.
3.23.41: Yesterday attended a more or less compulsory Home Guard church parade, to take part in the national day of prayer. There were contingents of the Auxiliary Fire Service, Air Force cadets, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, etc., etc. Appalled by the jingoism and self-righteousness of the whole thing . . . I am not shocked by the Church condoning war, as many people profess to be – nearly always people who are not religious believers themselves, I notice. If you accept government you accept war, and if you accept war you must in most cases desire one side or the other to win. I can never work up any disgust over bishops blessing the colors of regiments, etc. All that kind of thing is founded on a sentimental idea that fighting is incompatible with loving your enemies. Actually you can only love your enemies if you are willing to kill them in certain circumstances. But what is disgusting about services like these is the absence of any kind of self-criticism. Apparently God is expected to help us on the ground that we are better than the Germans.
In the set prayer composed for the occasion God is asked “to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to help us to forgive them; to give them repentance for their misdoings, and a readiness to make amends.” Nothing about our enemies forgiving us. It seems to me that the Christian attitude would be that we are no better than our enemies, we are all miserable sinners, but that it so happens that it would be better if our cause prevailed and therefore that it is legitimate to pray for this. . . . . I suppose the idea is that it would be bad for morale to let people realize that the enemy has a case, though even that is a psychological error, in my opinion. But perhaps they aren’t thinking about the effect on the people taking part in the service but are simply looking for direct results from their nation-wide praying campaign, a sort of box barrage fired at the angels.
4.27.42: From the Italian radio, describing life in London:
“Five shillings were given for one egg yesterday, and one pound sterling for a kilogram of potatoes. Rice had disappeared, even from the Black Market, and peas have become the prerogative of millionaires. There is no sugar on the market, although small quantities are still to be found at prohibitive prices.”
One would say that his is stupid propaganda, because if such conditions really existed England would stop fighting in a few weeks, and when this fails to happen the listener is bound to see that he has been deceived. But in fact there is no such reaction. You can go on and on telling lies, and the most palpable lies at that, and even if they are not believed, there is no strong revulsion either.
We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe top grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgment have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponents point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.
The Indian nationalist is sunken in self-pity and hatred of Britain and utterly indifferent to the sufferings of China, the English pacifist works himself up into frenzies about the concentration camps on the Isle of Man and forgets about those in Germany etc., etc. One notices this in the case of people one disagrees with, such as Fascists or pacifists but in fact everyone is the same, at least everyone who has definite opinions
Everyone is dishonest, and everyone is utterly heartless towards people who are outside the immediate range of his own interests. What is most striking of all is the way sympathy can be turned on and off like a tap according to political expediency.
All the pinks, or most of them, who flung themselves to and fro in their rage against Nazi atrocities before the war, forgot all about these atrocities and obviously lost sympathy with the Jews etc. as soon as the war began to bore them. Ditto with people who hated Russia like poison up to June 22, 1941, and then suddenly forgot about the [purges, the G.P.U. etc. the moment Russia came into the war. I am not thinking about lying for political ends, but of actual changes in subjective feelings,. But is there no one who has both firm opinions and a balanced outlook? Actually there are plenty, but they are powerless. All the power is in the hands of paranoiacs.
4.29.42: Yesterday to the House to hear the Indian debate. A poor show except for Cripp’s speech. They are now sitting in the House of Lords (the Commons being severely damaged in an air raid). During Cripp’s speech one had the impression that the house was full, but on counting I found only about 200-250 members, which is enough to fill most seats. Everything had a somewhat mangy look. Red rexine cushions on the benches – I could swear they used to be red plush at one time. The ushers shirt fronts were very dingy. When I see the dreary rubbish going on, or when I read about the later days of the League of Nations or the antics of Indian politicians, with their endless changes of front, line-ups, demarches, denunciations, protests and gestures generally, I always remember that the Roman Senate still existed under the later Empire. [This is the twilight of Parliamentary democracy] these creatures are simply ghosts gibbering in some corner while the real events happen elsewhere.
9.10.42 Lecturing last night at Morley College, Lambeth. Small hall, about 100 people, working-class intelligentsia (same sort of audience as Left Book Club branch). During the questions afterwards, no less than 6 people asked “Does not the lecturer think it was a great mistake to lift the ban on the Daily Worker” – reasons given, that the D.W.’s loyalty is not reliable and it is a waste of paper. [Only one woman stood up for the D.W., evidently a Communist at whom one or two of the others expressed impatience (‘Oh, she’s always saying that”!) ] This after a year during which there has been ceaseless clamor for the lifting of the ban. One is constantly being thrown out in one’s calculations because one listens to the articulate minority and forgets the other 99 per cent. Cf. Munich, when the mass of people were almost certainly behind Chamberlain’s policy, thought to read the New Statesman etc., you wouldn’t have thought so.
4.17.49 : Cranham Hospital:
Curious effect, here in the sanatorium, on Easter Sunday, when the people in this (the most expensive) block of “chalets” mostly have visitors, of hearing large numbers of upper-class English voices. I have been almost out of the sound of them for two years, hearing them at most one or two at a time, my ears growing more & more used to working-class or lower-middle class Scottish voices. In the hospital as Hairmyres, for instance, I literally never heard a ‘cultivated’ accent except when I had a visitor. It is as though I were hearing these voices for the first time. And what voices! A sort of over-fedness, a fatuous self-confidence, a constant bah-bahing of laughter about nothing, above all a sort of heaviness and richness combined with a fundamental ill-will- people who, one instinctively feels, even without being able to see them, are the enemies of anything intelligent or sensitive or beautiful. No wonder everyone hates us so.
Orwell’s last entry but one. He died of a massive haemorrhage of the lungs on Saturday, January 21, 1950. His funeral service was arranged by Malcolm Muggerage at Christ Church, Albany Street, London. He was buried at All Saints, Sutton Courtney, Berkshire.