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(DV) Greenwell: Conversations With Orwell





Conversations with Orwell
by Michael Greenwell
April 9, 2007

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The Following did not occur but by god how much do I wish it did. The place where it does not occur is in a TV studio... 

Presenter: Welcome, tonight we have a very special guest with us. The recent breakthrough in cloning technology has allowed Eric Blair a.k.a. George Orwell to come and speak to us. We hope to fill him in on recent events and that he can give us his perspective on them. Good morning Mr. Orwell. 
George Orwell: Good Morning. 
Presenter: First of all, I suppose we should start with the man who is, nominally at least, the most powerful on earth and that is the President of the United States, George W. Bush. [Shows him picture]

GO: [I looked] through the photographs in the New Year's Honors List, I was struck (as usual) by the quite exceptional ugliness and vulgarity of the faces displayed there. It seems to be almost the rule that the kind of person who earns the right to call himself Lord Percy de Falcontowers should look at best like an overfed publican and at worst like a tax-collector with a duodenal ulcer. But our country is not alone in this. Anyone who is a good hand with scissors and paste could compile an excellent book entitled Our Rulers, and consisting simply of published photographs of the great ones of the earth. The idea first occurred to me when I saw in Picture Post some 'stills' of Beaverbrook delivering a speech and looking more like a monkey on a stick than you would think possible for anyone who was not doing it on purpose. [1] 
Presenter: You have a reputation as a stickler for the correct use of language so you should be aware that Mr. Bush is not often noted for his eloquence, in fact he admits himself that "I am not one of the great linguists." He often trips over his words and it is not always clear what he is trying to say. Yet when quizzed about this he sometimes appears to revel in it and many Americans seem to think it means he is a more down to earth and genial person, therefore not really a politician therefore more likeable. He even said he has coined new words like 'misunderestimated' and 'hispanically.' 
GO: The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When the general atmosphere is bad the language must suffer. It is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes, but an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration. [2] 
Presenter: What form of regeneration though? In the 50 years since you passed many things have changed. The Soviet Union has collapsed and opposition to capitalistic forms of government have been marginalized for some time, though they occasionally appear to be on the rise again. 
GO: Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics. [3] 
Presenter: Ah, but who is to judge right and wrong? Most politicians believe they have right on their side. Mr. Bush remarked that 'I know what I believe. I will continue to believe what I believe - I believe what I believe is right."

GO: ??

Presenter: How can you or anyone else claim to have the definitive answer on what is right or wrong? Is disseminating your opinions not just a form of imposing them on someone else? 
GO: It can be argued that no unbiased outlook is possible, that all creeds and causes involve some lies, follies and barbarities: and this is often advanced as a reason for keeping out of politics altogether. I do not accept this argument, if only because in the modern world no one describable as intellectual can keep out of politics in the sense of not caring about them. I think one must engage in politics -- using the word in the wide sense -- and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognize that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means. [4] 
Presenter: will the ideas of an individual person not always have a contaminating effect on others? Do the prejudices we all hold not make us all unsuitable to enter into politics? 
GO: I do not know, but I do believe it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority toward the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognize that you have them and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort. [5]

Presenter: Thanks, we'll talk again soon.

Michael Greenwell is a member of He can be reached at:

Other Articles by Michael Greenwell

* Academia Nuts

[1] 'As I Please' 7th Jan 1944 

[2] From 'Politics and the English Language' 

[3] From 'Capitalism and Communism - Two paths to slavery' 

[4] 'Notes on Nationalism' 

[5] 'Notes on Nationalism'