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May 15, 2017 | by  | in Books |
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Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays — George Orwell

Orwell is fashionable at the moment, particularly for Nineteen Eighty-Four. People are certain that they live in a time when their fundamental rights are in jeopardy, and a small group of elites are tearing down society, brick by brick, to their profit and our loss. While history never makes an exact copy of itself, it does repeat, so this isn’t a stupid belief.

A good idea would be to learn what Orwell believed, without all the allegory. He was a democratic socialist, a church-going atheist, and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. He believed much of what we believe today, but was able to explain himself better.

The short essays in Shooting an Elephant paint Orwell as a furiously incisive critic of almost everything; literature, wars, politics, education, and even Gandhi. On principle, his writing is straightforward. The title essay is about his time in the imperial police in Burma and the unfair discrepancies he witnessed — and his own role in them. He shot a rampaging elephant dead because white men weren’t meant to be afraid, even though he was. His incompetence butchered the animal, but he was celebrated.

To bring things back to a salient point, I want to argue that politically charged writing is complex. Saying that the Trump administration is like Animal Farm or that we’re living under “Big Brother” is too simple. These terms become just buzz words flung out of emotional frustration that the parallels exist. But what matters is education. What matters is knowing why you’re afraid or mad or leaping into action. Shallow arguments are easily traversed. Be smarter than that.

But that’s a lot of politics. I’ll stop now. In conclusion, I think you should read this book. It’s strongly written by a man brimming with talent, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s really, really interesting.

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