Book of da Week: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

George Orwell - The Road to Wigan Pier
It’s Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

After the shock Brexit thing from yesterday, we’re taking a look at George Orwell’s legendary polemic about working class life in Lancashire and Yorkshire – it’s the Road to Wigan Pier and it’s keen interest in poverty and social injustice highlight why many British people voted Leave for the EU referendum.

Whether or not Brexit is going to be a disaster or otherwise, only time will tell. What is known is this established classic is a searing insight into the world of poverty in the North of England during the 1930s. Published in 1937, it features themes similar to Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London whilst taking the outright youthful fun of the Parisian section of that book and replacing it with cold, harsh, Northern reality.

The Road to Wigan Pier

Orwell (born on this day in 1903, ironically enough) advanced his depiction of working class life with Wigan Pier. Filth and grime are seemingly etched into the pages as the writer embarks on trips into the coal mines, amongst other research, to relay the appalling poverty people faced in the era of Depression in Lancashire.

Being an intelligent bloke, Orwell isn’t here to lecture everyone on social injustices. As an investigative piece of journalism, he simply lifted the lid on what was going on. Properly this time, too, as his previous look at poverty had been fictionalised in places. This isn’t – it’s pretty harrowing stuff as the misery and boredom of poverty is displayed in its squalid unpleasantness.

Wigan Pier isn’t an uplifting read, that’s for sure, but at the time it did reveal a new world to the higher classes, although his account was more a revelation than a revolution. In the UK, there’s still a big class divide and this has helped (amongst numerous other issues) the UK lumber towards an EU exit which has sent shockwaves around the world.

Consequently, the Road to Wigan Pier (as with many of Orwell’s works) remains an important book: it’ll make you realise how lucky many of us are in this era, but it will also remind you there are folks out there in less fortunate circumstances. Innit.

George Orwell & Politics

We’ll use this opportunity to take a look at Orwell’s political views, considering he was a deeply polemical writer. What was his leaning, you may wonder?

The answer is pretty clear cut but, as always with humans, the situation got bloody messy and everyone (similarly with Albert Einstein and the religious and non-religion sects) wants the genius on their side.

Although the right try to position Orwell with them he was, in fact, a democratic socialist (as he wrote in Why I Write from 1936). Regardless, those on the right often believe Orwell to be the champion of lampooning left wing ideals – it’s a fillip for anyone’s political leaning given Orwell’s legendary status.

A work such as Animal Farm depicts what had turned from a social revolution into a bloody nightmare – it’s not a representation of everything socialism mortifying about the ideology.

Others, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, don’t highlight supposed socialist horrors, but depict state capitalism through socialist eyes in the form of allegories and biting satire. And if you’ve got a problem with that we’re reporting you to the pigs! Er… sorry, we mean the filth.

The Modern Era

As we’ve found, socialists tend to be treated with contempt (at best) by those not of this persuasion. We’re not sure why some people are so terrified of it seeing as it’s grounded in Humanistic thought – you know, compassion and all that. Anyway, having conversed with thousands of right-leaning sorts online over the last five years, we’ve met with some brutal criticism for simply being bloody left wingers.

Just last week our very own Mr. Wapojif was branded as “scum” and informed he should be executed for treason by an online commenter on the Telegraph’s Facebook page. Behold the snippet!

Right wing lunatics

We’re not alarmed by this as it’s happened an incalculable amount of times during the political discussions we’ve had with right wingers online, which sounds like a sentence which belongs from the Age of Discovery, or something. Nor are we implying all right wingers are bloodthirtsy lunatics, but some of them do need to tone down the invective.

It’s a common set of circumstances we keep getting stuck in: the young man above didn’t even attempt to comprehend our comments, was making things up to suit his views (straw man argument), accused us of treason when we pointed out Sir Winston Churchill was an alcoholic, and couldn’t do anything except instantaneously consider his opinion as fact.

In other words, it was a barely intelligible and idiotic response to some pertinent points we’d raised. Oh well, this brings us to our final point in these tumultuous times.

Freedom of Speech

What we’d like to take from his work, and encourage others to follow, is to be objective and compassionate in your reasoning, when questioning stuff, and when debating with people. We’re not sure if civility in discussion ever reached a golden age, but these days it’s given way entirely to people exchanging idiotic slanging matches online, replete with death threats and ad hominem nonsense.

It’s somewhat inevitable in the internet era, we suppose, given the anonymity it provides – it’s all rather new to use, which may also explain the pandemic of narcissism which has exploded due to social media.

What we’re getting at here is a book such as the Road to Wigan Pier highlights the need for us to have common goals to ensure everyone can enjoy life. Freedom of speech is part of that – not attempting to drown out pertinent alternative viewpoints with death threats and accusations of individuals being “scum”.

Ironically, of course, these views do make us part of the fearful progressivists, but there you go. We’ve been brainwashed by the liberal media, what can we say? Ultimately, it’s our effing opinion, be grown up about it and challenge it intelligently if you so wish. OR ELSE!!!!

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