George Orwell & Empathy

14 thoughts on “George Orwell & Empathy”

  1. I’m familiar with Orwell, specifically “Animal Farm,” but this is one that I never read. His timing is remarkable. He writes “if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution, the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal.” A year and a half after this book was published, WW2 began, despite some conflicts on smaller scales prior to 1939. I can only imagine from a miner’s perspective, suspecting that war was on the horizon across Europe.

    Even at my strongest, when I played tennis for 5 hours a day every day in school, I know I still couldn’t be a coal miner, let alone a pregnant one. I don’t think I ever had that kind of stamina to work in a dark, dank environment, as my lungs slowly died each day.

    Also a very timely post given the controversial commentary of Mrs. Clinton on dismantling the coal industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Write On Writers! and commented:
    A timely post by wordandsilence.com.

    I’m familiar with George Orwell, specifically “Animal Farm,” but his 1937 book “The Road to Wigan Pier” is one that I never read. His timing is remarkable. He writes “if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution, the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal.”

    A year and a half after this book was published, WW2 began, despite some conflicts on smaller scales prior to 1939. I can only imagine from a miner’s perspective, suspecting that war was on the horizon across Europe.
    Even at my strongest, when I played tennis for 5 hours a day every day in school, I know I still couldn’t be a coal miner, let alone a pregnant one. I don’t think I ever had that kind of stamina to work in a dark, dank environment, as my lungs slowly died each day.

    Also a very timely post by wordandsilence.com given the controversial commentary of Mrs. Clinton on dismantling the coal industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Kimberly. I’ll post his descriptions of the miner’s day tomorrow. Like many people, Orwell couldn’t help but see the war coming. His two famous novels are good, but (at least for me) they don’t come close to his nonfiction, especially what he wrote during the war. (His series “As I Please” is better than any blog out there today) One of the best collections of his shorter essays and newspaper pieces is this book, which I’d recommend to anyone: https://www.amazon.com/Essays-Everymans-Library-Classics-Contemporary/dp/0375415033/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474650987&sr=8-2&keywords=george+orwell+essays

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is nice Orwell is grateful for his coal and appreciates miners; but he doesn’t seem to really care how those miners suffer. As he said, “And even now, if coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal.”

    That is exactly the attitude that has brought the world to the brink of destruction by global warming. We must have and use oil no matter what happens as a consequence. Miners can go ahead and die from black lung and the ice caps can melt and this world become a sea with wild weather, as long as we can fly our planes, ship our goods and drive our cars.

    Orwell seemed to think he was superior to miners. How odd. He was just luckier.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually don’t know of anyone who cared more about the miners, or the poor, than Orwell. Perhaps there were other writers in the 30s and 40s doing the same as he did, but his sense of empathy and sympathy (and his belief that something should be done for them) comes through every page. When he says “I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal,” he’s speaking cynically for the masses of people he knows just won’t care; he could see the horrid knots humanity puts itself through, in which without coal the miners wouldn’t have jobs (and the rest of the book is about the unemployed), but also, without coal all manner of his own transportation, writing, and publication about them would be radically altered, that without even meaning to be, he is involved in the sin; in the same way that we have internet and fast food and other workers all behind our conveniences, and yet we go on with our internet just the same. And he doesn’t think he’s superior to anybody; he’s one of the few people to at least admit that supposed “superior” people owe their every moment “to the lives of poor drudges underground.” Perhaps his writing only opened other peoples’ eyes to this fact, and didn’t lead to any political change; but even that is more that can be said for most people, who quite literally considered the poor and the miners to be something close to inhuman.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There are so many jobs that we could replace the coal miners with – those workers who slave to bring us our electronic devices spring to mind. I suspect we would also say the same as Orwell that we would also let them do it rather than deprive ourselves. A challenging read

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rebooted this on This Much I Know and commented –
    In the midst of an amazing trip where we have had the privilege of doing and seeing so much, these words from the past ask a question of me that still needs answering today. As I write this on my iPad I am reminded of the plight of those who work in dreadful conditions churning out these technological wonders. Progress still comes with a terrible price just as it did in the time of coal. I need to remember whose labour is providing me with my lifestyle. What changes do I need to make so that my sympathy becomes empathy?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My grandfather was an American WW2 Army soldier. He was 18 when he volunteered to enlist. I still wonder if he knew what that truly meant. And if many Americans also saw it coming our way eventually. Of course not specifically Pearl Harbor, but did they wonder when, not if, we would get brought into the fight?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Last night, when I was thinking about your post, the thought came to me, “Was that satire?” Then I felt stupid. Thank you for giving me this explanation. I’m glad he brought the miner’s plight to people’s attention. It’s too bad something wasn’t done for them, although I suppose their working conditions are better now. Hopefully not killing them.

    I know we all benefit from electricity and gas. And I know that if the world got serious about the world and its melting ice-caps, millions would be affected in a negative way. We really need to go back to horse and buggy days and eat food that is grown near us. We need to go back to sailing ships and no plastic. But I know none of this will happen. The world will die by our own hands. They are fracking in my province and we had an earthquake. They said not to worry about the dam and reservoir in Vancouver. It’s five miles away! They won’t stop fracking until thousands of people die. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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