Thursday 13 April 2017

The people, not the scenery

The Road to Wigan Pier "Mr Orwell [ - ] liked Wigan very much - the people, not the scenery."

Before I read George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, I was given the impression that it contained a scathing attack on the working class of the North West of England, but I was completely misled. Orwell wanted to tell people about the terrible conditions of unemployed miners, and to make a case for supporting socialism in order to counter the 1930s rise of fascism.

The first part of the book describes his travels in the North, visiting the unemployed, living with working class families, seeking to understand what it was like to be in the depths of poverty. It's something that today's privileged politicians and self-satisfied upper and middle-classes could learn from.

The second part contains Orwell's thesis that only socialism can save the country from going the way of Italy under Mussolini. This was tough going in parts, but there were some funny, enjoyable descriptions of middle-class vegetarian socialists, whom Orwell accuses of believing in a classless society only theoretically, whilst clinging steadfastly to their own social prestige.

Unfortunately, in terms of the class system in the UK, very little seems to have changed since Orwell set off to discover the mythical Wigan Pier.

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