Sunday, November 12, 2017
George Orwell Finally Gets a Statue in England!!
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) unveiled on November 7 an 8’ tall statue of George Orwell, the first public statue of the great political commentator. It is in the piazza of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House, where George Orwell worked for two years during World War II. Eric Blair, best known by his pen name, George Orwell was born in India. The Indian state of Bihar opened a George Orwell Museum in his birthplace in Motihari. (See my January 2, 2010 blog). George Orwell is most famous for his anti-Communist, pro-freedom books, Animal Farm and 1984, which are required reading in England, banned in other countries, and provocative to my generation in high school. Animal Farm gives us the classic “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” People who have never read 1984 will recognize some of these words and phrases: Big Brother, Doublethink, GroupThink, Thought Police, Newspeak, and Unperson. The Thought Police are a problem today, especially on our campuses. Orwell’s perspective was formed in the Spanish Civil War. He was wounded fighting for the Republicans. He quickly became disillusioned with Stalin and the dictatorial Soviet Union. George Orwell viewed himself as an antiauthoritarian, democratic socialist. He witnessed the disappearance during the Spanish Civil War of objective truth, what we now call “fake news.” He wrote: “In Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relationship to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories.” He continued: “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history … If the leader says of such and such event, ‘it never happened. If he says that two and two are five - well two and two are five.” His description of fake news prophesizes today’s news. 1984 presages the omnipresent CCTV today. The Orwell Statue is an act of Orwellian Irony. George Orwell abhorred statues, monuments, and even the BBC. He once said: “That seems to be a fixed rule in London. Whenever you do by chance have a distant vista, block it up with the ugliest statue you can find.” He also called the BBC’s atmosphere in his diary as “something halfway between a girl’s boarding school and a lunatic asylum.” He resigned from the BBC in 1943. He wrote in his letter of resignation: “For some time past I have been conscious that I was wasting my time and the public money on doing work that produces no result …. I feel that by going back to my normal work of writing and journalism that I could be more useful than I am at present.” His more productive work was Animal Farm in 1945 and 1984 in 1949. George Orwell stood a gangly 6”2”. The statue has him leaning forward with his hands sticking out, one of which contained his ever-present cigarette. He refused to quit smoking despite the tuberculosis that was killing him. A famous Orwell quote from Animal Farm is the inscription on the wall behind the Orwell statue: “If liberty means anything at all’ it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”