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Pyat

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The Good Old Days! [May. 5th, 2006|11:39 am]
Pyat
Yeah, I just like this passage, for whatever reason. I think the attitude expressed sums up conservatism, and describes nicely the reasons for the current conservative "backlash" people are seeing in various parts of the world.



"What's the use of saying that one oughtn't to be sentimental
about 'before the war'? I AM sentimental about it. So are you if
you remember it. It's quite true that if you look back on any
special period of time you tend to remember the pleasant bits.
That's true even of the war. But it's also true that people then
had something that we haven't got now.

What? It was simply that they didn't think of the future as
something to be terrified of. It isn't that life was softer then
than now. Actually it was harsher. People on the whole worked
harder, lived less comfortably, and died more painfully. The farm
hands worked frightful hours for fourteen shillings a week and
ended up as worn-out cripples with a five-shilling old-age pension
and an occasional half-crown from the parish. And what was called
'respectable' poverty was even worse. When little Watson, a small
draper at the other end of the High Street, 'failed' after years of
struggling, his personal assets were L2 9s. 6d., and he died almost
immediately of what was called 'gastric trouble', but the doctor
let it out that it was starvation. Yet he'd clung to his frock
coat to the last. Old Crimp, the watchmaker's assistant, a skilled
workman who'd been at the job, man and boy, for fifty years, got
cataract and had to go into the workhouse. His grandchildren were
howling in the street when they took him away. His wife went out
charing, and by desperate efforts managed to send him a shilling a
week for pocket-money. You saw ghastly things happening sometimes.

Small businesses sliding down the hill, solid tradesmen turning
gradually into broken-down bankrupts, people dying by inches of
cancer and liver disease, drunken husbands signing the pledge every
Monday and breaking it every Saturday, girls ruined for life by an
illegitimate baby. The houses had no bathrooms, you broke the ice
in your basin on winter mornings, the back streets stank like the
devil in hot weather, and the churchyard was bang in the middle of
the town, so that you never went a day without remembering how
you'd got to end. And yet what was it that people had in those
days? A feeling of security, even when they weren't secure. More
exactly, it was a feeling of continuity. All of them knew they'd
got to die, and I suppose a few of them knew they were going to go
bankrupt, but what they didn't know was that the order of things
could change. Whatever might happen to themselves, things would go
on as they'd known them. I don't believe it made very much
difference that what's called religious belief was still prevalent
in those days. It's true that nearly everyone went to church, at
any rate in the country--Elsie and I still went to church as a
matter of course, even when we were living in what the vicar would
have called sin--and if you asked people whether they believed in a
life after death they generally answered that they did. But I've
never met anyone who gave me the impression of really believing in
a future life. I think that, at most, people believe in that kind
of thing in the same way as kids believe in Father Christmas.

But it's precisely in a settled period, a period when civilization
seems to stand on its four legs like an elephant, that such things
as a future life don't matter. It's easy enough to die if the
things you care about are going to survive. You've had your life,
you're getting tired, it's time to go underground--that's how
people used to see it. Individually they were finished, but their
way of life would continue. Their good and evil would remain good
and evil. They didn't feel the ground they stood on shifting under
their feet.
"

- from "Coming up for Air" by George Orwell.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: melstra
2006-05-05 03:51 pm (UTC)
Have you ever read "The world of yesterday" by Stephan Zweig? He's an Austrian jew who ended up fleeing Germany for South America and committing suicide. But long before that happened he wrote an excellent book which has some very similar sentiments about what it was like prior to WWI (in Austria of course). Definitely worth checking out.
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[User Picture]From: pyat
2006-05-05 03:52 pm (UTC)
I haven't but I have a similar book written by a Berliner called Before the Deluge. It's full of photos and anecdotes about Berlin before the Nazis.
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[User Picture]From: melstra
2006-05-05 04:03 pm (UTC)
Sounds cool-- I will have to look that up too. "Die Welt von Gestern" (World of YEsterday) however, is not so much about photos and anecdotes as it is kind of a philosophical autobiography. Here's a link to the first chapter:
http://faculty.washington.edu/vienna/documents/Zweig/Zweig_Yesterday.htm

And a sample quote: "To-day, now that the great storm has long since smashed it, we finally know that that world of security was naught but a castle of dreams; my parents lived in it as if it had been a house of stone."
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[User Picture]From: pyat
2006-05-05 04:15 pm (UTC)
*bookmarks*
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[User Picture]From: normanrafferty
2006-05-05 04:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this.
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[User Picture]From: pyat
2006-05-05 04:46 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
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[User Picture]From: madmanofprague
2006-05-05 07:49 pm (UTC)
Is it offensive to anyone if I read the last sentance and thought "Suckers!"? :P

For the record, this is the third time I've made this comment. I really want an 'edit' button.
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[User Picture]From: pyat
2006-05-05 09:20 pm (UTC)
And you still spelled sentence wrong! MOOHAHAHAHAHHA!

And yes, "Suckers!" is an appropriate sentiment. :)
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