Orwell and Today’s Society
“Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell discusses the power relationships that exist within the administrative ranks in Burma, India. While on duty, he experiences the racial animosity directly through physical confrontations as well as indirectly through a lack of cooperation. These events occur even though Orwell is working to further their cause for liberation and independence. The novel’s main theme illuminates the personal ideological conflicts that ordinary individuals encounter when dealing with people from diverse cultural backgrounds (Orwell 45). The clash of British and Indian cultures that was forced upon the Asian country by an oppressive colonial regime resulted in an explicit hate and resistance that made it difficult for coexistence. The purpose of this discussion is to outline the experiences of white police officers in minority districts and elaborate on their ethical and social dilemmas sing George Orwell’s novel for reference.
White police officers in a minority neighborhood face a massive task of making ethical, just, and reparative decisions on a regular basis. These officers are normally caught in a dilemma between maintaining their loyalty to the country and the office and seeking to rectify the injustices that have been perpetrated against the minorities (Weitzer & Steven 19). In the novel “Shooting an Elephant”, Flory and Orwell were both caught up in a system that had been designed centuries ago and a deep disgust for its current state (Orwell 260). In the current era, police officers especially those canvassing minority districts are fully conscious of their conflicting roles. As loyal citizens of the state, these police officers are fully become aware that their society upholds high democratic standards. Simultaneously, they gradually develop a fierce detestation of the government (Weitzer & Steven 48). However, most are forced to remain zealous supporters and facilitators of the state’s interests either for financial or political gain (Weitzer & Steven 37). To an extent, white officers doing police work in a minority district undergo difficult situations on a regular basis. They are forced to make hard ethical decisions most of which are influenced greatly by the personal beliefs, understanding or racial and economic differences as well as the structure of the administrative system.
In general, members of the police force are perceived as direct representative of the government. In George Orwell’s case, the said government preferred oppressive tactics that did not rhyme well with the locals. Consequently, any government official was met with open hostility as a sign of dissatisfaction and resistance of the ruling regime (Orwell 145). Similarly, in minority neighborhoods, the minorities handle white police officers with a lot of caution, apprehension, disgust, and disrespect (Weitzer, & Steven 83). The long-standing poor relationship between Caucasians and other minority groups within the Western world and particularly in the United States can be traced back to historical economic and social injustices that benefited the white at the expense of other racial groups.
In conclusion, while theoretically white officers may have the desire and mandate to maintain objectivity and ethics while dealing with other minority groups, it is difficult to implement this strategy within the districts. Minority groups have endured generations of silent oppression perpetuated by different agencies of the state such as the police, banking institutions and urban authorities. Consequently, bridging the racial and economic gap that exists between the minorities and other communities requires a top down effort. White police officers may try to introduce elements of justice and ethics in their profession while in the neighborhood but their experience would be a reflection of Orwell’s while he was in Burma: futile, confusing and frustrating.
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Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.
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Weitzer, Ronald J, and Steven A. Tuch. Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
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