A good book


Paul Jacko

 Good books are not easy to find, and, given our limited lifespan, understandable reluctance to rely too much on the opinions of others and plain laziness, the selective reading is a must.

  Some people I heard of read only classics, presumably Greeks and Romans. Or just Marx? I would concede that some new literature is worth checking though one suspects that 99% of what is so admired by the literati today will pass into oblivion before we reach a half of the century.

I recall a short debate a long time ago with a lawyer about the dearth of time for reading; and I mentioned, without intention of bragging or anything of that sort, an approximate number of books I had managed to read recently. He dismissed it with, “Oh, I don’t read novels.” It took my breath away; I said nothing to that and excused myself to get a stiff drink. The audacity worthy of Barrack! The poor man presumed that I read novels, and only novels, which presumably made him, with his monthly reading of The Australian Law Journal, somehow superior. Were I minded to score a point, I could have asked if Balzac, Dostoyevski, Zola, Turgenev, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Mann, Hugo or Hemingway have absolutely nothing to say to him.

 1984novel Or perhaps Eric Arthur Blair, (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) better know as George Orwell. Beside the two books, which made him world famous, he also wrote Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Burmese days (1934), A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistras Flying (1936), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Homage to Catalonia (1938), Coming Up for Air (1939). Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four came out in 1945 and 1949 respectively.

  I was aware of The Road to Wigan Pier; I vaguely knew it did not please his Left-wing publisher, but never felt any great desire to read it. However, when I happened to see it in a library…

 ignoranceGeorge Orwell was commissioned in January 1936 to contribute to the series of books on ‘condition of England’. Later the publisher Victor Gollancz decided to include the book in the Left Book Club publications, but only the first half; the second, in today’s Orwellian speak, being too politically incorrect, i.e. truthful. At that time Orwell had gone to the Spanish civil war, and his wife did not allow any changes. Gollancz therefore had to write a foreword in which “he twisted and turned to protect his readers and his club’s ideological purity from this rude old Etonian.” (Bernard Crick)

  I think that even the first half is pretty damming to the simple-minded socialists, nevertheless I doubt that they are likely to read the either half. As proficient our ‘intellectuals’ are in the prescribed group-think, an independent thought is beyond them.

George Orwell could almost be describing our contemporary ‘progressives’ : ‘…all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come forward flocking towards the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat‘.

  I am not sure what Orwell had against ‘fruit-juice drinkers’. I guess that it was a description at those times akin to our ‘Chardonnay socialists’, or more recently ‘coffee-latte set’, i.e. superficial human beings, defining themselves by what they consume.

 As far as a fruit juice as such is concerned, the Australian progressives, Labor party and the unions are now very much against it. During its 2012 election campaign, Australian Capital Territory Labor Party promised to eliminate sugary drinks in primary schools by 2017 by offering incentives for primary schools that agreed to stop selling fruit juice and soft drinks. When re-elected, they simply banned them. One could also mention the so far unsuccessful attempts by the unions to force a closure of a fruit drink manufacturer, SPC.

 Or: ‘Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed.’

Progress or no progress, global freezing or global warming – makes no difference to them. The whole book is worth reading; and if by reason of advancing years you are pressed for time, the second half; and if you are really, really desperate, just those excerpts (the page numbers refer to George Orwell The Road to Wigan Pier Penguin Modern Classics 2001):

 p.147 – (about John Galsworthy) “So, having set out to be the champion of the underdog against tyranny and injustice, he ends by advocating (vide The Silver Spoon) that the English working class, to cure their economic ills, shall be deported to the colonies like batches of cattle. If he had lived ten years longer he would quite probably have arrived at some genteel version of Fascism. This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All his opinions change into their opposites at the first brush of reality.”

 One wonders how many, for example, Aborigine Rights Advocates would remain, and how many would turn racist, had they had any contact with the subjects of their concerns. However, they have learned to avoid reality and watch ABC instead.

 p.161 – “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist and feminist in England.”

Communism not so much today, at least not openly, but otherwise any anti-human agenda still draws.

 p.166 – “Sometimes I look at a Socialist – the intellectual, track-writing type of Socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation – and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people orwell_animal_farm furthest removed. The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chess-board.”

Once again he got it right. See Fog of Chaos Malignant Marxists and The worldwide attack on the freedom of speech; and Andrew Bolt A graph to plot Nanny Roxon’s great success.

p.180 – “Presumably, for instance, the inhabitants of Utopia would create artificial dangers in order to exercise their courage, and do dumb-bell exercises to harden muscles which they would never be obliged to use. And here you observe the huge contradiction which is usually present in the idea of progress. The tendency of mechanical progress is to make your environment safe and soft; yet you are striving to keep yourself brave and hard. You are at the same moment furiously pressing forward and desperately holding back. It is as though a London stockbroker should go to his office in a suit of chain mail and insist on talking medieval Latin. So in the last analysis the champion of progress is also the champion of anachronisms.”

 Not chain mail, but lycra.

pp.180-181 – “Therefore, one must say that, taking society as a whole, the result of the transition from horses to cars has been an increase in human softness. Presently somebody comes along with another invention, the aeroplane for instance, which does not at first sight appear to make life safer. The first men who went up in aeroplanes were superlatively brave, and even today it must need an exceptionally good nerve to be a pilot.

Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, a former trade union apparatchik, memorably described pilots as ‘ glorified bus drivers’. That was during the pilots’ strike in 1989, which the unionist Bob equally memorably broke by using the pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force.

But the same tendency as before is at work. The aeroplane, like the motor car, will be made foolproof; a million of engineers are working, almost unconsciously, in that direction. Finally – this is the objective, thought it may never be reached – you will get an aeroplane whose pilot needs no more skill or courage than a baby in its perambulator.”

 We are almost there – see A Flight of the drone.

p.201 – “We have reached a stage when the very word ‘Socialism’ calls up, on the one hand, a picture of aeroplanes, tractors and huge glittering factories of glass and concrete; on the other, a picture of vegetarians with wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half gramophone), of earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth control fanatics and labour party backstairs-crawlers.”

 We don’t seem to have escaped Quakers any more, but we have half-gangster, half gramophone trade union apparatchiks even in our parliaments, not to mention the others. And that picture of glitering concrete still applies in China, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba, though the West-based socialists prefer, for the time being and as a camouflage, a picture of pristine rainforests.



About Paul Jacko

Jacko was born in Czechoslovakia not long before the communist putsch in February 1948. He studied industrial chemistry there and left in 1969 for Australia, where he became a lawyer and established his own practice. He has now retired and beside hunting, fishing, camping, prospecting and playing golf he amuses himself by writing.
This entry was posted in Book Review, Communism, Intellectuals, Labour Party, Politics, Socialism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A good book

  1. Wanting Gya says:

    No wonder bolsheviks don’t like Orwell; and he was on their side, almost, before he saw through them. Traitor!

  2. bay on the moon says:

    great, but the people don’t read now, they twit

  3. Marylin M says:

    What’s the point? Nobody reads anymore, the new generation twits. Still, I read a lot of interesting articles here.

  4. Sharon White says:

    He knew them very well!

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