That settled the question once and for all. A family with the wrong members in control--that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase. In time of war, on the other hand, it has difficulty in producing all that it needs, because nothing is produced unless someone sees his way to making a profit out of it. But this ignores the considerable agreement that does unfortunately exist between the leaders and the led. It was like the awakening of a giant. The mishandling of England's domestic problems during the nineteen-twenties had been bad enough, but British foreign policy between 1931 and 1939 is one of the wonders of the world. Just because patriotism is all but universal and not even the rich are uninfluenced by it, there can be moments when the whole nation suddenly swings together and does the same thing, like a herd of cattle facing a wolf. Well within living memory it was common for 'the redcoats' to be booed at in the streets and for the landlords of respectable public houses to refuse to allow soldiers on the premises. Only when their money and power are gone will the younger among them begin to grasp what century they are living in. Great strength returns the penny, and there is no way of faking the result. You notice it the instant you set foot on English soil. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. Later, perhaps, they will pick another leader who can grasp that only Socialist nations can fight effectively. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. iv Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there. Few able men went east of Suez if there was any way of avoiding it. They are 'only doing their duty', as the saying goes. which are designed to interfere with everybody but in practice allow everything to happen. google_ad_width = 234; But I honestly doubt whether we can say that we were shoved down the slope against our will. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. v The stagnation of the Empire in the between-war years affected everyone in England, but it had an especially direct effect upon two important sub-sections of the middle class. A foreign observer sees only the huge inequality of wealth, the unfair electoral system, the governing-class control over the press, the radio and education, and concludes that democracy is simply a polite name for dictatorship. Nor need we fear that as the pattern changes life in England will lose its peculiar flavour. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. The sole result was that they brought back a hatred of all Europeans, except the Germans, whose courage they admired. It has happened on such a scale as to make the old classification of society into capitalists, proletarians and petit bourgeois (small property-owners) almost obsolete. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were 'decadent' and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. And public opinion was behind him all the while, in policies that were completely incompatible with one another. Quotes By George Orwell. They could not struggle against Nazism or Fascism, because they could not understand them. Successive wars have shaken it but not destroyed it. There is much in England that this explains. They had to FEEL themselves true patriots, even while they plundered their countrymen. After all, the English have absorbed a quarter of the earth and held on to it by means of a huge navy. Had they done that they would have had to abdicate. Do I mean by all this that England is a genuine democracy? So far as outward appearance goes, the clothes of rich and poor, especially in the case of women, differ far less than they did thirty or even fifteen years ago. It follows that British democracy is less of a fraud than it sometimes appears. At bottom it is the same quality in the English character that repels the tourist and keeps out the invader. But the famous 'insularity' and 'xenophobia' of the English is far stronger in the working class than in the bourgeoisie. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. No Gestapo either, in all probability. And yet somehow the ruling class decayed, lost its ability, its daring, finally even its ruthlessness, until a time came when stuffed shirts like Eden or Halifax could stand out as men of exceptional talent. Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. But it had long been obvious that they would be helpless against any serious attack from the outside. The Vichy government, if it survives, is bound to introduce a stiffer parade-ground discipline into what is left of the French army. War, for all its evil, is at any rate an unanswerable test of strength, like a try-your-grip machine. And linked up with this, though not very obviously, is the lack of philosophical faculty, the absence in nearly all Englishmen of any need for an ordered system of thought or even for the use of logic. What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. The existence of these people was by any standard unjustifiable. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle? The natural instinct of men like Simon, Hoare, Chamberlain etc. Even when they had begun to grasp that Fascism was dangerous, its essentially revolutionary nature, the huge military effort it was capable of making, the sort of tactics it would use, were quite beyond their comprehension. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese. Public education in England has been meanly starved of money, but it has nevertheless improved, largely owing to the devoted efforts of the teachers, and the habit of reading has become enormously more widespread. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. ‘Pure’ pacifism, which is a by-product of naval power, can only appeal to people in very sheltered positions. And with this goes something that is always written off by European observers as 'decadence' or hypocrisy, the English hatred of war and militarism. Moreover, being negative and irresponsible, it does not inspire much devotion.”, “The English will never develop into a nation of philosophers. However unjustly England might be organized, it was at any rate not torn by class warfare or haunted by secret police. Few Europeans can endure living in England, and even Americans often feel more at home in Europe. google_color_link = "08296B"; As a positive emotion it is stronger in the middle class than in the upper class--the cheap public schools, for instance, are more given to patriotic demonstrations than the expensive ones--but the number of definitely treacherous rich men, the Laval-Quisling type, is probably very small. These two seemingly hostile types, symbolic opposites-- the half-pay colonel with his bull neck and diminutive brain, like a dinosaur, the highbrow with his domed forehead and stalk-like neck--are mentally linked together and constantly interact upon one another; in any case they are born to a considerable extent into the same families. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Neither could they have struggled against Communism, if Communism had been a serious force in western Europe. To an increasing extent the rich and the poor read the same books, and they also see the same films and listen to the same radio programmes. [Note: For example: 'I don't want to join the bloody Army, I don't want to go unto the war; I want no more to roam, I'd rather stay at home, Living on the earnings of a whore. Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Patriotism is usually stronger than class-hatred, and always stronger than any kind of internationalism. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. They have to satisfy these tastes in the face of astonishing, hypocritical laws (licensing laws, lottery acts, etc. It has not reached the pitch of disintegration at which humbug can be dropped. Great strength returns the penny, and there is no way of faking the result.”, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, The Lion and The Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius. The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius, Part I England Your England i As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. In the working class this hypocrisy takes the form of not knowing that the Empire exists. has more appeal than a brilliant victory. And considering what energy the self-made men possessed, and considering that they were buying their way into a class which at any rate had a tradition of public service, one might have expected that able rulers could be produced in some such way. But it was not in that spirit that they fought. After all, they belonged to a class with a certain tradition, they had been to public schools where the duty of dying for your country, if necessary, is laid down as the first and greatest of the Commandments. They are 'only doing their duty', as the saying goes. The working man's heart does not leap when he sees a Union Jack. Thereupon the people picked a leader nearer to their mood, Churchill, who was at any rate able to grasp that wars are not won without fighting. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news. They are part of 'the law', which is assumed to be unalterable. The Anglican Church never had a real hold on them, it was simply a preserve of the landed gentry, and the Nonconformist sects only influenced minorities. It was a stagnant period, and its natural leaders were mediocrities. The middle-class families celebrated by Kipling, the prolific lowbrow families whose sons officered the army and navy and swarmed over all the waste places of the earth from the Yukon to the Irrawaddy, were dwindling before 1914. This is perhaps another way of saying that the English are outside the European culture. And even Welsh and Scottish readers are likely to have been offended because I have used the word 'England' oftener than 'Britain', as though the whole population dwelt in London and the Home Counties and neither north nor west possessed a culture of its own. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh. Here one comes upon an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in 'the law' as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate INCORRUPTIBLE. The novel depicts a society in which the people are living under a completely totalitarian government in Airstrip One that, in an abuse of power, rules every aspect of their lives, both private and public. Decades before Hitler was ever heard of, the word 'Prussian' had much the same significance in England as 'Nazi' has today. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous.
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