January 6, 2021

Burmese Days

George Orwell
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Orwell On Britain

  • We could put things right in a month if we chose. It only needs a pennyworth of pluck. Look at Amritsar. Look how they caved in after that. Dyer knew the stuff to give them. Poor old Dyer! That was a dirty job. Those cowards in England have got questions to answer.

  • The British Empire is simply a device for giving trade monopolies to the English — or rather to gangs of Jews and Scotchmen.

  • All Englishmen are virtuous when they are dead.

  • Everyone is free in England; we sell our souls in public and repurchase them in private, among our friends.

Orwell On Burma

  • The official holds the Burman down while the businessman goes through his pockets.

  • Do you say you are here to trade? Of course. Could the Burmese trade for themselves? Can they make machinery, ships, railways, roads? They are helpless without you. What would happen to the Burmese forests if the English were not here? They would get sold immediately to the Japanese, who would gut them and ruin them. Instead of which, in your hands, actually they are improved. And while your businessmen develop our country's resources, your officials are civilizing us, elevating us to their level, from pure public spirit.

  • It is important (perhaps the most important of all the Ten Precepts of the pukka sahib) not to entangle oneself in 'native' quarrels.

  • They say - I believe it's true - that after a few years in these countries a brown skin seems more natural than a white one. And after all, it is more natural. Take the world as a whole. It's an eccentricity to be white.

  • You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable importance is dictated for you by the pukka sahibs' code.

  • These people's whole outlook is so different from ours. One has to adjust oneself.

Orwell On Eastern People

  • The only Eastern races that have developed at all quickly are the independent ones.

  • Whenever you look closely at these Eastern peoples' art, you can see that - a civilization stretching back and back, practically the same, into times when we dressed in woad.

  • But, my friend, what you do not see is that your civilization at its very worst is for us an advance.

Orwell On Education

  • He was a liar, and a good footballer, the two things necessary for success at school.

  • It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated. They develop late when they are already committed to some wrong way of life - he had grasped the truth about the English and their Empire.

  • Like all men who have lived much alone, he adjusted himself better to ideas than to people.

  • Painting is the only art that can get practised without either talent or hard work.

Orwell On Empire

  • They build a prison and call it progress.

  • He had no prejudice against Orientals; indeed, he was deeply fond of them. Provided they were given no freedom he thought them the most charming people alive. It always pained him to see them wantonly insulted.

  • Of course, drinking is what keeps the machine going. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it weren't for that.

  • He had forgotten that most people could be at ease in a foreign country only when they are disparaging the inhabitants.

Orwell On Flory

  • Meanwhile, Flory had signed a public insult to his friend. He had done it for the same reason as he had done a thousand such things in his life; because he lacked the small spark of courage that was needed to refuse.

  • Flory had been fifteen years in Burma, and in Burma, one learns not to set oneself up against public opinion.

  • Flory took to reading voraciously and learned to live in books when life was tiresome.

  • At all times, one European's testimony can do an Oriental more use than that of a thousand of his fellow-countrymen. At this moment, Flory's opinion carried weight.

Orwell On Happiness

  • Happiness is not in money.

  • They were happy with the happiness that comes of exhaustion and achievement, and with which nothing else in life - no joy of either the body or the mind - is even able to be compared.

  • There is a humility about genuine love that is somewhat horrible in some ways.

  • Remember that it's something to have one person in the world who loves you. Remember that though you'll find men who are more affluent, and younger, and better in every way than I, you'll never find one who cares for you so much. And though I'm not rich, at least I could make you a home.

  • Beauty is meaningless until it is shared.

  • What shall it profit a man if he saves his soul and loses the whole world?

  • But it is a corrupting thing to live one's real-life in secret. One should live with the stream of life, not against it.

  • When you have existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom your opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is a must.

  • It mightn't be so bad living on a different planet. It might even be the most exciting thing if you could share it with one person.

Orwell On India

  • In an Indian town, the European Club is the spiritual citadel, the British power's real seat, the Nirvana for which native officials and millionaires pine in vain.

  • No Anglo-Indian will ever deny that India is going to the dogs or ever has denied it - for India, like Punch, never was what it was.

  • In the eighteenth century, the Indians cast guns at any rate up to the European standard. Now, after we've been in India a hundred and fifty years, you can't make so much as a brass cartridge-case in the whole continent.

  • It is so that things happen in India. If our prestige is good, we rise; if bad, we fall.

  • It is a disagreeable thing when one's close friend is not a social equal, but it is native to India's very air.

  • Some fools say that one cannot hate an animal; he should try a few nights in India when the dogs are baying the moon.

  • In India, you are not judged for what you do, but for what you are.

  • This country will never be fit to live in again. British Raj's finished if you ask me. Lost Dominion and all that. Time we cleared out of it.

  • A nod and a wink will accomplish more than a thousand official reports.

Orwell On Life

  • It was a good life while one was young and need not think about the future or the past.

  • When one does get any credit in this life, it is usually for something that one has not done.

  • According to Buddhist belief, those who have done evil in their lives will spend the next incarnation in the shape of a rat, a frog or some other low animal.

  • There is a short period in everyone's life when his character gets fixed forever.

  • Not that most of the people here were rich, but everyone behaves as though he were rich onboard the ship.

Orwell On Suffering

  • No sorrows are so bitter as those that are without a trace of nobility.

  • Satan finds some mischief still, even in the jungle.

  • Envy is a horrible thing. Unlike all other kinds of suffering, there is no disguising it, no elevating it into tragedy. It is more than merely painful. It is disgusting.

  • There is no armour against fate.

Orwell On U Po Kyin

  • U Po Kyin levied a ceaseless toll, a private taxation scheme, from all the villages under his jurisdiction.

  • He was proud of his fatness because he saw the accumulated flesh as the symbol of his greatness.

  • He who had once been obscure and hungry was now fat, rich and feared.

  • He's swollen with his enemies' bodies; a thought from which he extracted something very near poetry.

  • We must persuade the Europeans that the doctor holds disloyal, anti-British opinions. That is far worse than bribery; they expect a native official to take bribes. But let them suspect his loyalty even for a moment, and he will get ruined.
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