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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Lately I’ve been tearing through mounds of books, suggesting maybe I’m craving some English input. I’ve read some fantastic stories that have kept me up at night deep in thought and would like to share them here.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
I can’t believe I have not read this before, and as usual for such a top-shelf title it found me more than me it. This is Orwell writing in the late 1940’s about a fictional 1984 with a very controlling government actually called “Big Brother”. Some of the following ideas hit so close to home I’ve read and re-read them many times, with varying degrees of alarm:
The problem was how to keep the wheels of the world turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed.
The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine [modern production] without raising the general standard of living.
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses to comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when the weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour without producing anything that can be consumed.
In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society.
The Worst Journey In The World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
This is a first-hand account of Scott’s final and fatal journey to the South Pole in the winter of 1911-12, written by one of his supporting party and containing many journal entires from all men involved. This is without a doubt the most awe-inspiring adventure story I have ever read, in fact it’s quite likely to be one of the biggest and most epic adventure stories ever told.
I was shaking when I read the final paragraph, so certain it was written for me;
Exploration is the physical expression of the intellectual passion.
And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say ‘What is the use?’ For we are a nation of shopkeepers and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: this is worth a good deal. If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long is all you want is penguin’s egg.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
This is a great little book where a hypothetical farm of animals drive our their human masters and set up a society of their own, which is decidedly communist. Things run smoothly for a while and without ruining the tale, I think the final and lone “commandment” of their society sums things up nicely.
All animals are equal… but some are more equal than others