A Plethora of Georges

By Sherry Shahan

S.S.: I’m honored to preside over such a distinguished assemblage during this round table discussion. Please join me in welcoming our esteemed panel of Georges: George Orwell, political and cultural commentator and novelist of Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949); George Bernard Shaw, literary critic, playwright, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature; George Washington, our nation’s first president. 

S.S.: I’d like to begin with Mr. Washington. Sir, you have been quoted as saying, “Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” Is this point of view valid in 2021?  

Washington: It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty on the supposition he may abuse it. My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.

S.S.: Mr. Orwell? Your satirical allegory Animal Farm criticizes totalitarianism. What is your opinion of an elected official who believes himself to have absolute authority? 

Orwell: One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship.

Shaw: Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.

Orwell: In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.

S.S.: Mr. Shaw, as a founding member of the Fabian Society, a British intellectual movement, you have strived to promote the spread of socialism by peaceful means. Is there a presidential candidate in the next election that would receive your vote?

Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.  

Orwell: All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

Washington: Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

S.S.: Tonight our audience is teeming with celebrated Georges. George Harrison, singer, songwriter, author, and former lead guitarist of The Beatles has stepped up to the microphone.

Harrison: As long as you hate, there will be people to hate. While my guitar gently weeps, I want to tell you, think for yourselves, Piggies. Help!

S.S.:  To our esteemed panel, we appreciate the candor with which you’ve shared your thoughts. Any final words of wisdom?

Shaw: Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.

Washington: It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

Orwell: Big Brother is watching you.

*  While the responses are actual quotes the context has been intentionally manipulated. 

Sherry Shahan watches the world from behind; whether in the hub of Oxford, on a backstreet in Havana, or alone in a squat hotel room in Paris; whether with a 35 mm camera or an iPhone. Her art has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Perceptive Travel, Gargoyle, Harbor Review, Deep Overstock and forthcoming from Terror House Magazine. and Open Minds. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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