Friday, September 06, 2002

FIVE: The various codes which were presented to you at Crossgates – religious, social, moral and intellectual – contradicted one another if you worked out their implications. The central contradiction was between the tradition of nineteenth-century asceticism and the actually existing luxury and snobbery of pre-1914 age. On the one side were low-church Bible Christianity, sex puritanism, insistence on hard work, respect for academic distinction, disapproval of self-indulgence: on the other, contempt for “braininess” and worship of games, an almost neurotic dread of poverty, and, above all, the assumption not only that money and privilege are the things that matter, but that it is better to inherit them than to have to work for them. Broadly, you were bidden to be at once a Christian and a social success, which is impossible. At the time I did not perceive that the various ideals which were set before us cancelled out. I merely saw that they were all, or nearly all, unattainable, so far as I was concerned, since they all depended not only on what you did but on what you were.

George Orwell, "Such, Such Were the Joys…,” in A Collection of Essays (39)

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