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Started Feb 7, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Re: Orwell, Kipling et alia
In reply to b traven, Feb 8, 2014

b traven wrote:

fad wrote:

b traven wrote:

Mawkish doggerel--the poem not the pic. The pic is good.

One of the most difficult things is to explain to the ordinary intellelectual why certain objects of art that do not fit the mold are worthy of attention, and important. That sentimental doggerel can be great art as well.

A mere sentimental popular illustrator, Norman Rockwell, is of lasting importance. His works embody cliches, but if you go to the NR museum you will see moments of your life, or of your emotional life, perfectly embodied. Anyone would. This is no mean feat.

Kipling is like that, but even more difficult to digest and understand. I don't suggest you start with TS Eliot's essay, but rather George Orwell's, which is more accessible:


For instance:

But because he identifies himself with the official class, he does possess one thing which "enlightened" people seldom or never possess, and that is a sense of responsibility. The middle-class Left hate him for this quite as much as for his cruelty and vulgarity. All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible

Orwell was, one need hardly add, a genius. He wrote this being a socialist himself.

Yet it remains true that he has far more interest in the common soldier, far more anxiety that he shall get a fair deal, than most of the "liberals" of his day or our own. He sees that the soldier is neglected, meanly underpaid and hypocritically despised by the people whose incomes he safeguards.

Orwell concludes:

He identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition. In a gifted writer this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality. The ruling power is always faced with the question, "In such and such circumstances, what would you do?", whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions. Where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly. Moreover, anyone who starts out with a pessimistic, reactionary view of life tends to be justified by events, for Utopia never arrives and "the gods of the copybook headings," as Kipling himself put it, always return. Kipling sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like. It is a great thing in his favour that he is not witty, not "daring," has no wish to épater les bourgeois. He dealt largely in platitudes, and since we live in a world of platitudes, much of what he said sticks.

So, yes, this is sentimental doggerel. But it is important sentimental doggerel. And it embodies a robust sense of reality that for most of us is sadly lacking.

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shot in downtown Manhattan.
http://sidewalkshadows.com/blog/ (street photos)
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Pseudo-intellectual, academic twaddle.

Orwell, as I'm sure you know--you being an expert on this as well as, apparently, every other subject--was gravely injured in Spain in '37. It obviously affected his faculties.

b traven

I agree with you 100%.

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