Book #16

Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell

In this essay, Orwell discusses the notion of nationalism, and argues that it causes people to disregard common sense and become more ignorant towards factuality. Orwell shows his concern for the social state of Europe, and in a broader sense, the entire world, due to an increasing amount of influence of nationalistic sentiment occurring throughout a large number of countries.

The nationalism Orwell refers to here wasn’t what I was expecting. Yes, it can refer to the faith in your own country’s individual power, independence, and strength, however he states that nationalism can refer to many other things in our lives. We can believe any power unit we’re attached to is unfailingly the best, whether that be our country, our race, our religion, our gender, our football team, or, dare I say it, our stance on vaccinations.

He goes on to detail the behaviours and attributes which show themselves in a nationalist. It really was all too familiar, and very mystifying that we don’t seem to have graduated from these behaviours since this was written in the forties. People arguing blindly that their camp is the only correct and right one, people scorning one another, people finding themselves in danger due to the struggle between power units. It was horribly, horribly relevant.

The other two essays included here were also enlightening. Antisemitism in Britain was particularly interesting with its accounts of British behaviour towards Jews after the war. Again, frighteningly familiar, with Orwell including quotes from people insisting they have no antisemitic views, but who then go on to express antisemitic views. All I could think of was the often thrown out phrase, I’m not antisemitic/racist/sexist/homophobic, but..

Having no interest in sports, I thought The Sporting Spirit would be dull, but Orwell takes a look at how sport can ignite hatred and violence, and the role of the media, even then, in antagonising and conditioning the public.

As someone who tends to struggle with non-fiction, I really liked this. My only issue with these essays is that each and every one could be written today. Humanity has barely improved its narrowmindedness in the years since Orwell has written these.