The interesting thing about the New Albion was that it was so completely modern in spirit. There was hardly a soul in the firm who was not perfectly well aware that publicity—advertising—is the dirtiest ramp that capitalism has yet produced. In the red lead firm there had still lingered certain notions of commercial honour and usefulness. But such things would have been laughed at in the New Albion. Most of the employees were the hard-boiled, Americanised, go-getting type—the type to whom nothing in the world is sacred, except money. They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket. And yet beneath their cynicism there was the final naïveté, the blind worship of the money-god. Gordon studied them unobtrusively. As before, he did his work passably well and his fellow-employees looked down on him. Nothing had changed in his inner mind. He still despised and repudiated the money-code. Somehow, sooner or later, he was going to escape from it; even now, after his late fiasco, he still plotted escape. He was in the money-world, but not of it. As for the types about him, the little bowler-hatted worms who never turned, and the go-getters, the American business-college gutter crawlers, they rather amused him than not. He liked studying their slavish keep-your-job mentality, He was the chiel amang* them takin’ notes.
One day a curious thing happened. Somebody chanced to see a poem of Gordon’s in a magazine, and put it about that they “had a poet in the office.” Of course Gordon was laughed at, not ill-naturedly, by the other clerks. They nicknamed him “the bard” from that day forth. But though amused, they were also faintly contemptuous. It confirmed all their ideas about Gordon. A fellow who wrote poetry wasn’t exactly the type to Make Good.
*the chiel amang = the young man (Scottish) among
Keep the Aspidistra Flying
George Orwell 1936