The George With A Point


Orwell Utopia quoteIn yesterday’s podcast I mentioned something that a certain George Orwell once said and thought it was publishing here at greater (thought not great or full) length.

It comes from an essay called Why Socialists Don’t Believe In Fun and the whole thing is well worth the read.

However, I particularly like the last part. It also particularly adaptable. With a couple or word and/or tense changes, there are many situations in the world of today that you could apply it to…

Socialist thought has to deal in prediction, but only in broad terms. One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see. At this moment, for instance, the world is at war and wants peace. Yet the world has no experience of peace, and never has had, unless the Noble Savage once existed. The world wants something which it is dimly aware could exist, but cannot accurately define. This Christmas Day, thousands of men will be bleeding to death in the Russian snows, or drowning in icy waters, or blowing one another to pieces on swampy islands of the Pacific; homeless children will be scrabbling for food among the wreckage of German cities. To make that kind of thing impossible is a good objective. But to say in detail what a peaceful world would be like is a different matter.

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness. This is the case even with a great writer like Swift, who can flay a bishop or a politician so neatly, but who, when he tries to create a superman, merely leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms. 

The Scottish Independence Podcast Episode 15 – Krys Kujawa

k1The most popular sport in our country is still football by far and whether we like it or not, there are strong political undercurrents to what goes on in the stadiums.

Although players certainly get too much publicity, fans are often shunted to the side and treated as 2nd class citizens.

Therefore, with such a momentous decision coming up for Scotland in 2014, those in favour of a Yes vote would be making a grave error if they ignored the discussions on the subject that are taking place in the stadiums and between the supporters that make up a large part of the population of Scotland.

In that light, for the Scottish Independence Podcast I have decided to do an occasional series with supporters from as many different teams as possible to find out what discussions are taking place around the stadiums and in the clubs and how this might affect the referendum. I want to look at who is for and against and why that might be. They won’t be consecutive, just mixed in with the other ones.

If football isn’t your thing don’t worry as we won’t be talking about the matches themselves.

For the first of these I spoke to Krys Kujawa who is the host of the Celtic podcast The Paradise Report.

We talked about how approaching football supporters as a block group all with the same opinions is an error. We talked about how the situation looks among the Celtic support and some of the historical and current reasons for that situation and also what might be done to persuade more of them to vote yes. It was also necessary to talk about what many feel is the increasing criminilisation of football supporters.

Hope you enjoy it.

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen online here on the show’s homepage.

Orwell & The BBC

The BBC wesbite has a section about Orwell and whilst it has some information about his decision to leave, specifically his resignation letter. I think both the letter and the site however are missing out the major points in his decision to leave.

What Orwell saw at the BBC during war time helped him to create the Ministry of Truth after all.

Anyway, I think some of the more important points about is decision to leave are included in this little audio clip, reproduced with kind permission from the author Michael Shelden whose Orwell book is probably the best biography of him that is out there.

For more on the BBC you could try listening to this.


Milliband Wins Award

Well, it is me who is giving out the award and it is for the outstanding example of doublethink so far this year.

Just to remind you, the definition of Doublethink as defined by Orwell is…

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you… Ed Milliband (bold is mine)…

“This government have abandoned the pretence that they can govern for the whole country. They have betrayed Middle Britain.

Oh No, Not Another Brave New World / 1984 Comparison

Actually this isn’t a comparison as such, nor is it another ‘Who was right?’ article. I was looking for a post somewhere which compared what the two had said about each others work and couldn’t find one so I decided to do it here. As you will see, whilst both taking pains to praise the work of the other, they also both maintained that their own nightmare vision was closer to the truth.

Orwell of course died long before Huxley and was therefore did not have the chance to see how the fame and importance of the two books (particularly his own)  grew steadily throughout the 20th century. Therefore I will give him the first word here…

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a sort of post-war parody of the Wellsian Utopia, these tendencies are immensely exaggerated. Here the hedonistic principle is pushed to its utmost, the whole world has turned into a Riviera hotel. But though Brave New World was a brilliant caricature of the present (the present of 1930), it probably casts no light on the future. No society of that kind would last more than a couple of generations, because a ruling class which thought principally in terms of a “good time” would soon lose its vitality. A ruling class has got to have a strict morality, a quasi-religious belief in itself, a mystique.

Before Orwell died however...

In October 1949, as George Orwell lay dying of lung disease in a London hospital, he received a letter from Aldous Huxley. Huxley had just read Orwell’s recently published 1984.

To get a letter from the older, more eminent Huxley was a big deal for any writer, but for Orwell it held special meaning because Huxley was the author of Brave New World (1932), the visionary novel with which 1984 was being roundly compared. Huxley had also been one of Orwell’s teachers at Eton.

Huxley was overwhelmed by 1984, telling Orwell “how fine and how profoundly important the book is.”

But while he agreed that the future would be dominated by totalitarian regimes ruling sheep-like subjects, Huxley did not share Orwell’s violent vision of torture, “boot-on-the-face,” sex repression and endless war.

“My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and that these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World … . Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

Later, in the introduction to the 1958 work Brave New World Revisited (Full text available here), which is a non-fiction piece in which Huxley considered if society had moved towards or away from the society he had described in Brave New World,  Huxley gave special mention to 1984 in his introduction…

  George Orwell’s 1984 was a magnified projection into the future of a present that contained Stalinism and an immediate past that had witnessed the flowering of Nazism. Brave New World was written before the rise of Hitler to supreme power in Germany and when the Russian tyrant had not yet got into his stride. In 1931 systematic terrorism was not the obsessive contem­porary fact which it had become in 1948, and the fu­ture dictatorship of my imaginary world was a good deal less brutal than the future dictatorship so brilliantly portrayed by Orwell. In the context of 1948, 1984 seemed dreadfully convincing. But tyrants, after all, are mortal and circumstances change. Recent developments in Russia and recent advances in science and technology have robbed Orwell’s book of some of its gruesome verisimilitude. A nuclear war will, of course, make nonsense of everybody’s predictions. But, assuming for the moment that the Great Powers can somehow refrain from destroying us, we can say that it now looks as though the odds were more in favor of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984.

        In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effec­tive, in the long run, than control through the rein­forcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manip­ulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children. Pun­ishment temporarily puts a stop to undesirable behav­ior, but does not permanently reduce the victim’s tend­ency to indulge in it. Moreover, the psycho-physical by-products of punishment may be just as undesirable as the behavior for which an individual has been pun­ished. Psychotherapy is largely concerned with the de­bilitating or anti-social consequences of past punish­ments.

        The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by punishment and the fear of pun­ishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable, pun­ishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable be­havior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipula­tion, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization. Babies in bottles and the centralized control of reproduction are not perhaps impossible; but it is quite clear that for a long time to come we shall remain a viviparous species breeding at random. For practical purposes genetic standardization may be ruled out. Societies will continue to be controlled post-natally — by punishment, as in the past, and to an ever increasing extent by the more effective methods of reward and scientific manipulation.

There is also film of Huxley talking about this which includes the text of a letter Huxley wrote to Orwell…

The Sleeper Must Awaken


In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy. Any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution. The sort of things that are working against him are the concentration of the press in the hands of a few rich men [and] the grip of monopoly on radio and the films.

With the exception of not mentioning the TV, that all seems very current, doesn’t it? It was actually written in 1946 by George Orwell as part of the essay The Prevention of Literature.

However, please don’t take my printing of this as an expression of “nothing changes”. Things do change, as Orwell pointed out here.

Maybe what hasn’t changed, and what we should be trying to find a way to mitigate,  is this by David Brin…

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.

Scotland Sunday Photos 8 – Jura & Barnhill (the house where Orwell wrote 1984)

I have always been an Orwell nut and when I found out that 1984 was written on the Scottish Island of Jura in a house right at the top of the island I thought I would like to go and see it. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity and here are some of the photos.

This was before everyone had a digital camera so these are scanned from prints hence the quality is a bit worse than the other ones in the series

Here is the house where he wrote the book…

The house is actually several miles after the ROAD finishes so Orwell wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted space to write the book. It would probably be harder to find anywhere in Britain where you could be further away from anyone else. You have to walk all the way along here…


Here are some other shots from around Jura.


Another missing the point moment, and this one is a beauty.

One of the most ridiculous gaffes in literary history was made by the first American publisher to receive the manuscript of Animal Farm who rejected it because ‘there isn’t much of a market for animal stories in the U.S. at the moment’.

The picture below was taken when Orwell received the news and had just decided to go and see the publisher in person.

Other great missing the poing moments can be found here.


It is a lazy and untrue statement when we say “nothing changes”. Orwell put it well here…

In fact, there are new ideas. The idea that an advanced civilization need not rest on slavery is a relatively new idea, for instance; it is a good deal younger than the Christian religion. But even if Chesterton’s dictum were true, it would only be true in the sense that a statue is contained in every block of stone. Ideas may not change, but emphasis shifts constantly. It could be claimed, for example, that the most important part of Marx’s theory is contained in the saying: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” But before Marx developed it, what force had that saying had? Who had paid any attention to it? Who had inferred from it — what it certainly implies — that laws, religions and moral codes are all a superstructure built over existing property relations? It was Christ, according to the Gospel, who uttered the text, but it was Marx who brought it to life. And ever since he did so the motives of politicians, priests, judges, moralists and millionaires have been under the deepest suspicion — which, of course, is why they hate him so much.

However, certain things do make you think nothing much has changed. I present to you a song written in the late 50’s or early 60’s. An interesting thing about this video … and it might just be me… but if you listen carefully to what he says between 18 and 21 seconds then I think some people in the audience start clapping and cheering because they took him seriously and didn’t realise he was taking the p*ss.

Tom Lehrer’s Send the Marines