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

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2 Responses to “Orwell Doesn’t Want To Do The Dishes”


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