The Germans are definitely in Paris, one day ahead of schedule. It can be taken as a certainty that Hitler will go to Versailles. Why don’t they mine it and blow it up while he is there? Spanish troops have occupied Tangier, obviously with a view to letting the Italians use it as a base. To conquer Spanish Morocco from French Morocco would probably be easy at this date, and to do so, ditto the other Spanish colonies, and set up Negrin or someone of his kind as an alternative government, would be a severe blow at Franco. But even the present British government would never think of doing such a thing. One has almost lost the power of imagining that the Allied governments can ever take the initiative.

Always, as I walk through the Underground stations, sickened by the advertisements, the silly staring faces and strident colours, the general frantic struggle to induce people to waste labour and material by consuming useless luxuries or harmful drugs. How much rubbish this war will sweep away, if only we can hang on throughout the summer. War is simply a reversal of civilised life, its motto is “Evil be thou my good”, and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.

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26 Responses to 14.6.40

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  3. itwasntme says:

    A shocking statement from Orwell here: “…questionable whether on balance war does harm.” His puritanical pronouncements about the “rubbish” of the modern world gives me a better insight into his life trajectory than anything else I’ve read. Perhaps he’s one of those who in some ways courted and enjoyed his being down and out, and even ill. I’ve met those types. I understand and respect the feeling behind his eschewal of modern materialism, but think this entry puts him a bit beyond that into “only the pure suffer” territory, where I will not tread myself.

    If only he could see us today! Imagine the conniption he would have. Good thing he only used words, not IEDs.

  4. AlexS says:


    It’s not because something in modern life disgusts you, that you necessarily go violent or amish.

    Clearly he’s going hyperbolic, but then again, it’s his private diary

  5. Max says:

    And where does itwasntme stand on the 40 days and 40 nights – a follower or a sceptic?

  6. Steve says:

    Max: what?

  7. Max says:

    The Puritan who took off into the wilderness and who scourged the money-lenders. Pro or con?

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  9. itwasntme says:

    Jesus was a great rabble-rouser and purist for whom I have respect. He had several important points to make and knew he was giving his life getting his ideas heard. A necessary man, but a man non the less.

  10. Well, all right! Rubber meets road. Or does it?

    Surprisingly, my first Impression varied somewhat as my eyes read this post because this Impression was not [at first] visual. Instead, the mourning, echoing words of Ecclesiastes 12:8 resonated in the Underground, a futile wake-up call: “Vanity of vanities, said the preacher, the whole [is] vanity.” “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Everything is meaningless!'” “Суета сует, сказал Екклесиаст, всё–суета!” “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”

    One has almost lost the power of imagining that the Allied governments can ever take the initiative.
    War is simply a reversal of civilised life, its motto is “Evil be thou my good”, and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.

    This post validated [to me] the non-metaphorical existence of two entities: Civilized Life (whose motto bears no resemblance) and Uncivilized Life. Over the last couple of years, you have already metaphorically defined each in detail and their relationship. I note that, herein, you see the toothpaste out of the tube. Thank you.

  11. Max says:

    Surely the thing about GO is that he was never one of ‘those sorts’. He was a one-off — a puritan who enjoyed the good things of life, and a socialist who was not a Marxist, but more in the Christian Socialist tradition who hated free market capitalism, intolerant religion, fascism and all their works. He also had ‘a few good points to make’.

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  13. @Max~~
    The word “puritan” in the secular sense is spot-on, especially as Orwell seeks with fervent urgency to play his role in upholding England.

    Ink and Paper had become a foul mockery and an embarrassment; trifling for profits in the midst of the prelude to England’s darkest days was unacceptable in the secular puritan narrative. George Orwell may very well have been emulating Martin Luther; in the secular puritan sense, of course. This is not to imply that secular puritanism a bad thing.

  14. Stephen says:

    But let’s not overlook the basic point here: this is a shocking statement by GO and by my standards unacceptable. War is NOT good, and we don’t need wars to sweep away ‘rubbish’, however we define it. We have politics and civil society to do that if need be. In London in 1940 war was justifiable as a self-defence mechanism and ultimately as a defence of human values.
    I can only assume GO was having a bad day here and confiding dark thoughts in a private diary. I’m not aware of this theme having been a major presence in his published works. Anyone?

  15. Robert Allison says:

    The Nazis have occupied Paris. I would think Orwell would be having a bad day.

  16. itwasntme says:

    Good point Stephen and Robert. Perhaps I have overlooked the sense of exasperation present in this entry. HIs “kill them all, let god sort them out” attitude can certainly be understood when you imagine an SS trooper removing paintings from the Louvre.

  17. Phil Barker says:

    “Good thing he only used words, not IEDs.” wrote itwasnotme. Well, the day before writing this Eric had been to the LDV group conference, and through involvement in that he was trained (and offered training) in IEDs and the like. He also got quite excited about the possibility of arming the working classes through the LDV and the potential for revolution that offered. Whether we call him Marxist or Socialist, Eric was no liberal and was willing to fight for what he believed in.

    Stephen, try the Lion and Unicorn, part 2 section 1 for more in this vein. For example:
    “Zweee — BOOM! What’s that? Oh, only a bomb on the Stock Exchange. Zweee — BOOM! Another acre of somebody’s valuable slum-property gone west. Hitler will at any rate go down in history as the man who made the City of London laugh on the wrong side of its face. For the first time in their lives the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong. It was a great step forward.”
    (from http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79e/part14.html )

  18. Phi Barker~~

  19. itwasntme says:

    While I’m not taking offense at the remark that “…Eric was no liberal and was willing to fight for what he believed in”, I dispute your characterization of liberals as people unwilling to fight for their beliefs. Granted, liberals seem to defend their beliefs with pickets, mass marches and demonstrations, but I would characterize those actions as working within a system to change it as peacefully as possible, rather than an unwillingness to fight. The view that liberals are unwilling to fight is a key perceptual error of those on the right and a misreading of reality. FYI, I’m in the U.S. if that makes any difference in this debate.

  20. Phil Barker says:

    itwasnotme: fair point. No offense was intended and I apologize if I gave any to anyone.

    (Aside: I had in mind when writing that comment two things: first something I read to the effect that out of “liberty, equality, fraternity” Orwell valued the latter two and would compromise on the first; and second, the Phil Ochs song “Love me I’m a liberal”, which characterizes US liberals as not doing the marching, demonstrating, picketing you mention, but Ochs’ view was perhaps a bit jaundiced. BTW, I’m in the UK, and (like Ochs) most definitely not to the right of liberals here or in the US)

  21. itwasntme says:

    Phil Ochs was another purist, and of course in the US he was considered a total commie not to be listened to. His ” Love me I’m a Liberal” was exasperating to us liberals needless to say, but still we remain “moderate”. Eschewing bloodshed and major disruption of society is to be praised as basically conservative in nature, which somewhat turns ideology on its head, but is true nevertheless. I refer everyone to the Civil Rights era for an example. The disruption and bloodshed came from opponents of the movement, not from the movement itself. Likewise the Viet Nam Antiwar movement.

  22. Max says:

    I suppose if no ‘commies’ were to be listened to it would mean closing our ears to old Satre, young Camus, Gorky, and Picasso among many others. On the other hand I can’t think of a single fascist worth a moment of anyone’s time, but I daresay someone canl think of one at least.

  23. Phil Barker says:

    Max: Ezra Pound? The wikipedia article on him has an interesting quote from Orwell about him, to the effect of ‘yes he was a Fascist, out of hatred of Jews and Britain, but that’s no reason for him not to win the Library of Congress’s Bollingen Prize. Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer are also worth a moment.

  24. Max says:

    Yes, you’re right of course. And didn’t Orwell call W.B. Yeats a fascist at some point? At times he did seem to use the word a little wildly. There’s sometimes said to be a link between genius and madness, and Pound seems to be a good example of that – if you think Pound was a genius, that is.

  25. faxnrelax says:

    “War is simply a reversal of civilised life, its motto is “Evil be thou my good”, and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.”

    It occurs to me that GO was simply noting that war causes the foundations of a culture to be reconsidered and, finding so much in his (1940) present culture in dire need of reconsideration, he likely felt that the ultimate benefit would be if society were redirected … that more lives would ultimately be saved by war having altered the course of culture than lost in the altering.

    Consider how little it would take to alter the course of GMOs.

    The American Civil War ultimately proved its worth in the Civil Rights acts of 1963 and 1965 yet, at the time, what a blood-filled exercise!

    (I’m not a dunce; I know that freeing slaves was way down on the priority list of reasons for fighting that war.)

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