Archive for January 18th, 2014

Orwell Is Offended By Ugly

Looking through the photographs in the New Year’s Honours List, I am struck (as usual) by the quite exceptional ayn and alanugliness 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.

When you had got together your collection of fuehrers, actual and would-be, you would notice that several ugly ronqualities recur throughout the list. To begin with, they are all old. In spite of the lip-service that is paid everywhere to youth, there is no such thing as a person in a truly commanding position who is less than fifty years old. Secondly, they are nearly all undersized. A dictator taller than five feet six inches is a very great rarity. And, thirdly, there is this almost general and sometimes quite fantastic ugliness. The collection would contain photographs of Streicher bursting a blood vessel, Japanese war-lords impersonating baboons, Mussolini with his ugly hillaryscrubby dewlap, the chinless de Gaulle, the stumpy short-armed Churchill, Gandhi with his long sly nose and huge bat’s ears, Tojo displaying thirty-two teeth with gold in every one of them. And opposite each, to make a contrast, there would be a photograph of an ordinary human being from the country concerned. Opposite Hitler a young sailor from a German submarine, opposite Tojo a Japanese peasant of the old type—and so on.

—George Orwell, “As I Please,” January 7, 1944

 

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Orwell Doesn’t Want To Do The Dishes

Every time I wash up a batch of crockery I marvel at the unimaginativeness of human beings who can travel under the sea and fly through the clouds, and yet have not known how to eliminate this sordid time-wasting drudgery from their daily lives. If you go into the Bronze Age room in the British Museum you will don't wannanotice that some of our domestic appliances have barely altered in three thousand years. A saucepan, say, or a comb, is very much the same as it was when the Greeks were besieging Troy. In the same period we have advanced from the leaky galley to the 50,000 ton liner, and from the ox-cart to the aeroplane.

It is true that in the modern labour-saving house in which a tiny percentage of human beings live, a job like washing-up takes rather less time than it used to. With soap flakes, abundant hot water, plate racks, a well-lighted kitchen, and—what very few houses in England have—an easy method of rubbish disposal, you can make it more tolerable than it used to be when copper dishes had to be scoured with sand in porous stone sinks by the light of a candle. But certain jobs (for instance, cleaning out a frying-pan which has had fish in it) are inherently disgusting, and this whole business of messing about with dish-mops and basins of hot water is incredibly primitive.

Washing-up, like sweeping, scrubbing, and dusting, is of its nature an uncreative and life-wasting job. You cannot make an art out of it as you can out of cooking or gardening. What, then, is to be done about it? I see no solution except to do it communally, like a laundry. Every morning the municipal van will stop at your door and carry off a box of dirty crocks, handing you a box of clean ones (marked with your initial, of course) in return. This would be hardly more difficult to organise than the daily diaper service which was operating before the war. And though it would mean that some people would have to be full-time washers-up, as some people are now full-time laundry-workers, the all-over saving in labour and fuel would be enormous. The alternatives are to continue fumbling about with greasy dish-mops, or to eat out of paper containers.

—George Orwell, “As I Please,” February 9, 1945

Why The Sun Can Never Be Too Careful

On one occasion a Dog-Rib Indian chased a squirrel up a tree until he reached oopsthe sky, where he set a snare for the squirrel and descended. Next day, instead of the squirrel, the sun was caught, and darkness at once ensued—in other words, the sun was eclipsed. “Something wrong up there,” thought the Indian, “I must have caught the sun.” So he sent up a number of animals to try to release it, but they were all burned to ashes. Finally a mole, burrowing through the ground of the sky, succeeded in gnawing the cords asunder. But just as it put its head through the ground, a flash of light put its eyes out, and it has been blind ever since. The sun, however, after this experience, travels more carefully.

—Alexander Porteous, The Forest


When I Worked

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