He wondered about the people in the typical lower-middle-class houses like those. They would be, for example, small clerks, shop assistants, commercial travellers, insurance touts, tram conductors. Did they know that they were only puppets dancing when money pulled the strings? You bet they didn’t. And if they did, what would they care? They were too busy being born, being married, begetting, working, dying. It mightn’t be a bad thing, if you could manage it, to feel yourself one of them, one of the ruck of men. Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler. The lower-middle-class people in there, behind their lace curtains, with their children and scraps of furniture and their aspidistras lived by the money-code, sure enough, and yet they contrived to keep their decency. The money-code as they interpreted it was not merely cynical and hoggish. They had their standards, their inviolable points of honor. They “kept themselves respectable”—kept the aspidistra flying. Besides, they were alive. They were bound up in a bundle of life. They begot children, which is what the saints and soul-savers never by any chance do.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying
George Orwell 1936
Cribb Comment: I understand the distinct possibility of my misperception of Orwell’s script, but my take on this passage is that it is as multifaceted and convoluted as the rest of his ponderings. The first half of the paragraph appears to present itself in direct full frontal clarity of meaning. The second half of the paragraph, beginning with but in the lives…, seems to display an intricate dual meaning. Satire dominates this section as the most overt theme of interpretation, but a simplistic face value description of pure relevant quasi-truth mixed in with illustrating how a “delusional norm” has been transformed into the “reality of the norm” for the majority of those of lower awareness cannot be denied. They are “bundled up in life” as they have rewritten life to be, but not as Orwell himself would define true objective life. The same applies to them “keeping themselves respectable in their translation of the money-code”. They are also more likely to biologically reproduce, which “thinkers” and those of higher awareness might be less likely to do as a direct result of understanding the actual and non-bastardized reality of consequence and existence. The “truths” of a delusional norm are still “truths” which most often impact heavily on the truths of shared or communal objective reality. I can hear Orwell saying “Which is better? Which creates more suffering? Are the collective accurate perceptions of objective reality and the collective accepted delusions of a rewritten and bastardized reality codependent on one another for balancing each other out and assuring the continued physical survival of the members of both groups given the current condition of existence on our mutually inhabited world?” It would seem that until that comprehensive existence is emphatically changed for the entire world, the answer to this last question must remain yes.