Orwell on subversion

George Orwell in 'The art of Donald Mcgill' talks about the innocence of subversion and how it is one of the essential characteristics of human beings. The following paragraph is taken from his essay where he is musing about the necessity and the origin of the dichotomy of 'Sancho Panza and Don Quixote', 'Jeeves and Wooster', 'Holmes and Watson' etc.

"But though in varying forms he is one of the stock figures of literature, in real life, especially in the way society is ordered, his point of view never gets a fair hearing. There is a constant world-wide conspiracy to pretend that he is not there, or at least that he doesn't matter. Codes of law and morals, or religious systems, never have much room in them for a humorous view of life. Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie, and the reason why so large a proportion of jokes centre round obscenity is simply that all societies, as the price of survival, have to insist on a fairly high standard of sexual morality. A dirty joke is not, of course, a serious attack upon morality, but it is a sort of mental rebellion, a momentary wish that things were otherwise. So also with all other jokes, which always centre round cowardice, laziness, dishonesty or some other quality which society cannot afford to encourage. Society has always to demand a little more from human beings than it will get in practice. It has to demand faultless discipline and self sacrifice, it must expect its subjects to work hard, pay their taxes, and be faithful to their wives, it must assume that men think it glorious to die on the battlefield and women want to wear themselves out with child-bearing. The whole of what one may call official literature is founded on such assumptions. I never read the proclamations of generals before battle, the speeches of fuhrers and prime ministers, the solidarity songs of public schools and Left wing political parties, national anthems, temperance tracts, papal encyclicals and sermons against gambling and contraception, without seeming to hear in the background a chorus of raspberries from all the millions of common men to whom these high sentiments make no appeal. Nevertheless the high sentiments always win in the end, leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic. Women face childbed and the scrubbing brush, revolutionaries keep their mouth shut in the torture chamber, battleships go down with their guns still firing when their decks are awash. It is only that the other element in man, the lazy, cowardly, debt-bilking adulterer who is inside all of us, can never be suppressed altogether and needs a hearing occasionally"


Mexico: Impressions

Barely a week has passed when 3 bikes with 4 riders started on their 5 day trip by driving towards the Tecate border crossing to Mexico. Mexico... The name has a vaguely identifiable ring of romantic imperfection associated with it. For a boy who hails from the chaotic environs of a continuously hyperventilating country, the measured dozes of unsullied oxygen sometime leave a gaping hole of desire. This innocent desire for the occasional mathematical imperfection of sweeping mountain curves, the infrequent sight of fault in the perfectly manicured fauna, the silhouette of a city to resemble, if only intermittently, more a dilapidated crone than a lady in short black dress- this desire makes me appreciate the ragged, jagged, relatively arbitrary world that Mexico has to offer. In its crumbling edifices of randomly packed matchboxes, in the arabesque pattern of its road network, in the decreased field of personal space, Mexico reminds me a lot of India. Saying that I love all of this all the time would be falling into a trap that we desis fall in all too easily. The trap of not loving the country but the romantic idea of it. But I do miss it occasionally. Striving for betterment, perfection, one sometimes misses the age of fault; much like that old television that had to be slapped on the side to improve reception, or that insufferable P.T. teacher who was all too ready with the stick.

So what is Mexico like?

The arbitrarily cracked asphalt is often overloaded with disintegrating pickup trucks with a driver in a shabby checkered shirt and seemingly doped passengers curiously staring at you from the open trunk. Children in tattered attires who haven't been told that every stranger is a pedophile wave enthusiastically at you while you pass them on your motorcycle and young girls with skin tight jeans and a bit too much rouge for a Wednesday afternoon giggle and whisper naughtily if they happen to catch your attention. Traffic follows street laws but things always seem to be hanging in a precarious balance, forever in the danger of snapping into a chaotic disarray if only you grew complacent for a second. There are speed limits but the police is refreshingly inept and corrupt so that the time it takes to get from one point to another depends only upon how much of a badass you can be. Shopkeepers humor you with generous help as you gesticulate with exasperated flourish and try to inquire about the price of one 'churro' in your impotent Spanish. Road workers, from behind the clouds of gaseous asphalt and sunny dust, raise the right thumb in a friendly approval of your foreign presence and meanly attired army men on infrequent check posts show more interest in the volume of your engine than the contents of your bag. Drunk girls with time at their hands and mischief on their minds shout from behind the germinating veil of night 'Do you speak English' as three Indians, quite unsure and slightly flustered, fidget and fumble and finally drift. Local bands bellow their loosely strung concoctions as the hopped up night swirls around them in an inebriated frenzy and the sauced celebrations stretch deep into the dark. And below the starry expanse of the unbridled sky with the swathed sound of the distant water and the intoxicating smell of spirited festivities, one sits on the rampart of simplified life and tries to make sense, and embrace to some extent, a world that is so different from the one that he has left for a little while. A very young boy selling insignificant tchotchkes is happy to sell off a considerable portion of his merchandise for 15 pesos and Bhatele remarks, "He finished off his shop" and we break into spontaneous laughter. He laughs too and stashing away the 15 pesos, moves ahead with the satisfaction of a business well done.

Hopefully I'll stop to reminisce some more for there are such beautiful memories.

About Me

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Like a particularly notorious child's tantrums, a mountaneous river's intemperance, a volcano's reckless carelessness and the dreamy eyes of a caged bird, imagination tries to fly unfettered. Hesitant as she takes those first steps, she sculpts those ambitious yet half baked earthen pots.