May 28, 2002

ONE OF US :

Orwell has been co-opted to defend almost everything, including the US Star Wars programme and the Falklands war. Is it time to rescue him from his friends? (D J Taylor, 5/20/02, New Statesman)
Orwell, it may be said, is always good value for the armchair strategist. His writings spill over into nearly every area of public life, and if you look carefully enough there is pretty sure to be a quotation to fit any exigency. It would be perfectly possible, for instance, to make him out as both a supporter of war--he was notably hard-headed about the saturation bombing of German cities--and someone who regarded the very act of picking up a rifle as morally indefensible. In either case, the value of his observations rests on his personal experience, unlike most of those currently pontificating on the international situation, of having thrown bombs into trenches with the intention of killing the men in there.

The irony of Orwell's recent role as quotation-supplier to military apologists - an Observer piece reproduced some particularly injurious remarks about left-wing defeatism made in the aftermath of Dunkirk--is that he should be so consistently used to shore up the defences of the right.


What's so difficult to comprehend about that dichotomy? Why can't you dream of an ideal world but choose to live in the real world? Orwell, it's always seemed to me, hated inequality but was realistic about the horror and ultimate futility of the measures that would be required to obviate it. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 28, 2002 7:39 AM
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