In recent weeks, possibly due to the fact I live in a rabbit warren the sun never hits, I have been forced to tune my body clock to something more reliable than the English winter sunshine. I’ve been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to use Radio 4 to wake me up in the mornings. Whether I end up hitting the snooze button or not, it is certainly proving to be excellent company: during yoga, eating breakfast, beginning the day’s research. I confess, I’m becoming a bit of an addict.
Their recent series on George Orwell has been particularly inspiring for me, not only because he is one of my favourite authors, but also because Radio 4’s programs have been both entertaining and insightful in their own right. In particular I point to last Monday’s Start the Week, using Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ as a springboard to discuss political writing.
Orwell’s thesis is that political language in particular, but also academic writing and general literature, have become diseased by rambling, confused sentences, in which the writer is often as confused by what he is trying to say as the reader is in trying to read it! This sloppiness, he claims, stems from laziness of thought. To be concise and omit slang, is to think. He admits to being guilty of it. So do I. So do the participants in the BBC discussion, Joan Bakewell, Tim Montgomerie, Chris Mullin and Phil Collins. But, we all agree, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for better.
The program did a very good job of articulating, not only Orwell’s arguments, but also raises very poignant questions: have our politicians become so reliant on buzzwords that they have misunderstood the system in which they operate? Boris Johnson is an exuberant politician, but would there be room for more than one of him? Can the honest politician – whether you believe Johnson to be honest or not – survive? Call me a hippie but sometimes I wonder if our political system hasn’t strayed – is democracy actually providing us with a fair system?
I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks and highly recommend both the essay and the program!
‘Politics and the English Language’ by George Orwell has recently been republished by Penguin Classics on its own for only 99p. It is available online and in all the best bookshops.
Start the Week with Joan Bakewell, Tim Montgomerie, Chris Mullin and Phil Collins discussing Orwell in politics can be found here.