‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ by George Orwell

I highly recommend that everyone read this brilliant book!

Over the last year, I’ve been getting to know George Orwell and his works, as they relate to his time and ours. We all know the prophetic nature of Animal Farm and 1984. Similarly, there was a lot to take away from ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, an earlier work written in the 1930s between The Great War and the beginning of WWII.

The goal of this book was for Orwell to experience and report on how the poorest working-class Englishmen and women, mostly coal miners, lived in the 1930s. He observed the physical, economic, and psychological hardships they live through day in, day out… A poor diet of tinned meat and sweet candies is one example; and a condition that can still be observed today among the poor. He also astutely observed ‘several million men in England will – unless another war breaks out – never have a real job this side of the grave.’ Saddening that an economic boom is seen as a positive outcome of war… is there such a thing as a ‘positive’ outcome of war? (I grant that defeating Nazis was a positive outcome, but just wish that it had never gotten to that.) Also saddening to realize the military industrial complex continues to lobby governments to keep war going for their profits.

I never imagined Orwell could be wrong in his prophecies. But in ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, he perceived the logical end state of Socialism to be a great, efficient machinery (though to his dislike) and that capitalism as an impediment to innovation. However, with history now unfolded, we know Mao and Pol Pot drove people from the cities and forced them to work fields with barely any tools; whereas the free market has driven innovation as ‘an efficient machinery’. Orwell’s idea of Socialism at this time differed from how it played out in reality. He seems to have realised this later on, leading to his famous novels ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’. (He corrected his prophecy after all!)

Why he disliked the idea of an efficient machinery (regardless of whether it sprung from Socialism or Capitalism) is neatly summed up in these two passages: “…For a man is not, as the vulgarer hedonists seem to suppose, a kind of walking stomach; he has also got a hand, an eye and a brain. Cease to use your hands, and you have lopped off a huge chunk of your consciousness… Mechanise the world as fully as it might be mechanised, and whichever way you turn there will be some machine cutting you off from the chance of working – that is, of living.” Oh how true, even today!

‘Conservatism’ in the U.S.

Reflecting on a New Yorker article on Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society in the U.S., following the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Leo is the man behind Trump’s (in)famous list of candidates advertised during the last weeks of his campaign, while the Republican majority Senate was busy ignoring¬†the nomination of Merrick Garland’s. As the New Yorker article states: “Leonard Leo is now responsible for a third of the Supreme Court.” John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and now Neil Gorsuch.

You see the trend… Leo has successfully deployed three ‘conservative’ justices to the Supreme Court. Leo¬†is quoted asking, “What’s the best way to preserve the dignity and worth of the human person?”, and answering, “You assure all that freedom by establishing limitations on the power of the state.”

I want to ask Leo and all other conservatives who share his definition of “conservatism”, is freedom obtained by limiting the power of the state, only? What about the power of the church? Is freedom obtained by foregoing state-enforced laws and replacing them by church/society-enforced religious laws? Is that really freedom?

Humanities

Along with various career preparations for a life of doing and achieving, the humanities invite explorations in discovery and self, probing questions of being and meaning to season in that knowledge of oneself which is insight, in that awareness of one another which is understanding, in those graces of personality and strengths of character which belong to true education.

~Dr. Lawrence F. Small, Jr.

A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers

… The movements of the eyes express the perpetual and unconscious courtesy of the parties. It is said that a rogue does not look you in the face, neither does an honest man look at you as if he had his reputation to establish. I have seen some who did not know when to turn aside their eyes in meeting yours. A truly and magnanimous spirit is wiser than to contend for the mastery in such encounters. Serpents alone conquer by the steadiness of their gaze. My friend looks me in the face and sees me, that is all…

~Henry David Thoreau

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

…You shall see rude and sturdy, experienced and wise men, keeping their castles, or teaming up their summer’s wood, or chopping alone in the woods, men fuller of talk and rare adventure in the sun and wind and rain, than a chestnut is of meat; who were out not only in 1775 and 1812, but have been out every day of their lives; greater men than Homer, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare, only they never got time to say so; they never took the way of writing. Look at their fields, and imagine what they might write, if ever they should put pen to paper. Or what they have not written on the face of the earth already, clearing, and burning, and scratching, and harrowing, and plowing, and subsoiling, in and in, and out and out, and over and over, again and again, erasing what they had already written for want of parchment…

~Henry David Thoreau

Bob Marley

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You can tell them things you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become significant treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.

 

~Bob Marley