George Orwell Explains It All. In Rhyme.
(You can, of course, read the full text here.)
There is a concept called “Marxist Alienation” that covers the phenomenon that I, at least, have experienced at one of my jobs. I’ve had jobs in the past where I was a system administrator for servers that I did not know what they did. When I made some tentative squeaks in the direction of asking about it, I got shrugs and was asked why I particularly cared, given that my duties involved such things as patches, backups, and working with scheduling to figure out when would be a good two-hour downtime window for maintenance.
(One time, when I was feeling feisty, I went through the lists of servers that had 24×7 service contracts but were in 8×5 data centers and I went to my manager to say “I figured out how to save the company money! We’re paying for platinum service when we could be paying for gold!” and he shut the door, asked me if I had spoken to anyone else about this, told me to *NOT* speak to anyone else about this, delete my worksheets, delete my notes, and NEVER TALK ABOUT THIS AGAIN.)
As such, it was a job where I didn’t really know what I did, really didn’t see how I added value, and was completely alienated from whatever products the company produced because, well, the stuff produced was not produced in the same building as the server room.
I did what I was told and I got paid.
All that to say, the opening couplet to this poem is probably the most perfect couplet in the English Language.
Some additional notes from the poem:
Military men, soldiers tended to have mustaches at this point in time. When he was talking about hair on his upper lip and the clergy being clean-shaven, he wasn’t merely making a joke at the expense of the facially hairless.
“We maim our joys or hide them” is one of those lines that haunts me forever. I love this poem for many, many reasons but one is that line right there.
Eugene Aram is infamous for being one of the first “but he was so polite and quiet” multiple murderers. He was executed… and so he’s walking like Aram between the priest and the commissar on his way to the execution.
An Austin Seven, as far as I can tell, is a car. You probably already knew that, though.
Now, I am pretty sure that you’ve already ready a ton of Orwell, but if you haven’t, he’s really, really good. Not just on politics, but on topics as varied as working in a bookstore or making a nice cup of tea. On politics, his essays on shooting an elephant and witnessing an execution will stick in your craw for years. If you just want some more poetry, you can find other poems here (I like The Lesser Evil).