Observations on Animal Farm and its Warnings for Today

If you have read my previous post here, you will know that I read Animal Farm with my 9 year old daughter recently.

For those that are not familiar with it, I won’t go into much detail here suffice to say that the whole book is an analogy of the Russian Revolution in the first part of the Twentieth Century. Further information can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm

I am not a historian, philosopher, economist or political scientist so everything I say from this moment on may have some inaccuracies and is purely a personal, introspective view of today’s social and political environment when compared to this old classic. I am happy for criticisms of this critique and welcome anyone who wishes to contradict or share their thoughts on this.

 

Throughout this remember Boxer the workhorse (I will return to him at the end)who’s motto is:

“If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”

and

“I will work harder.”

I believe that Mr. Jones represents the political system (the swamp) as some commentators and even political figures would have us believe is flawed, corrupt and only allowing for a prosperous few. He represents everything that is wrong with the system. Old Major summarises this as such.

Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.

or

Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.

Politics today from the left and right is becoming more and more from the playbook of Animal Farm. Politics has always had its fair share of propaganda, but it is consistently growing worse.

The Orwellian dictator in Animal Farm is the pig, Napoleon and his propagandist Squealer who – through vague promises and brute force – appeals to the desperate; the animals who are desperate for another way. A better way. Another, better life. However, in reality, was just making his life better and to his benefit.

“Comrades!” he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.”

Changing the principles:

Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you any record of such a resolution? Is it written down anywhere?” And since it was certainly true that nothing of the kind existed in writing, the animals were satisfied that they had been mistaken.

Or worse breaking the rules.

The seven commandments, which were meant to summarise Old Major’s principles kept changing and although the animals thought they remembered them differently accepted them with little questions.

A few days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, some of the animals remembered– or thought they remembered– that the Sixth Commandment decreed “No animal shall kill any other animal.” And though no one cared to mention it in the hearing of the pigs or the dogs, it was felt that the killings which had taken place did not square with this. Clover asked Benjamin to read her the Sixth Commandment, and when Benjamin, as usual, said that he refused to meddle in such matters, she fetched Muriel. Muriel read the Commandment for her. It ran: “No animal shall kill any other animal WITHOUT CAUSE.”

 

Given today’s technological age, it is hard to not have anything in writing, video or audio. Although there were many instances in politics, especially recently where statements were denied and said to be false which seemingly satisfied many without valid objection.

“If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”

It is Snowball however that represents everything at the moment: Snowball firstly was what could be considered a competitor of Napolean, who was subsequently driven out by Napoleon’s attack dogs and lies. It is Snowball that genuinely believed in equality and fairness and had the plans to provide leisure and comfort and the sharing of wealth to all animals.

Like all of Napoleon’s speeches, it was short and to the point. He too, he said, was happy that the period of misunderstanding was at an end. For a long time there had been rumours-circulated, he had reason to think, by some malignant enemy-that there was something subversive and even revolutionary in the outlook of himself and his colleagues.

Or:

Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal.

And Lastly:

Comrades, do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL!

Snowball represents many things today in the eyes of our current political leaders, terrorism, religious ideologies, climate change, globalisation, immigration or terrorism. Depending on what side of politics you sit is what “Snowball” you use and sometimes a combination of them. We don’t have a Snowball’s chance in hell (Pun Intended).

Other quick comparisons, and there are many others:

Foxwood and Pinchfield Farms: China and Russia, trading between them as foes and friends depending on what suits the narrative at the time.

Sugar Candy Mountain: In the book, it was heaven or the hope of something better. The hope the dream of “make XXXXXXXXXX Great again.”

The Windmill:  The building of infrastructure, jobs, a better way of life. This is their saviour and is going to provide the key to making Animal Farm the paradise once promised by Snowball.

As I was reading the book to my daughter I couldn’t help but draw on many of these comparisons on what has occurred and is occurring in our social, legal and political climate today. For those that are not aware Australia has had a federal election in July, the UK had a vote to leave the European Union and I doubt many people don’t know about the entertainment that was the US elections (the Netflix show House of Cards was nothing compared to this, sorry to any US readers).

 

Mostly you see people refer more commonly to Orwell’s 1949 political satire Nineteen Eighty-Four in today’s age. However, I would argue that there has never been a more relevant time than right now to consider the themes of Animal Farm than when it was written and the warnings that it produces.

So that’s it. Now I am sure if I was to hand this up in a political science class it might just scrape by with a pass, if lucky. I have only so much time to devote to this, and it may seem that such an analysis could be pertinent for many different occasions and historical periods. I guess what struck me the most was the changing of the rules and principles. How often do the majority that mattered looked the other way? Just as poor old Boxer did.

All too often we look at our side and none other, be careful of the Napoleon’s in your echo chamber.

“If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”

I will leave this post with three of the quotes that we should consider for the future:

As Boxer is taken away to his death when no longer of use:

The time had been when a few kicks from Boxer’s hoofs would have smashed the van to matchwood. But alas! His strength had left him; and in a few moments the sound of drumming hoofs grew fainter and died away.

The final rule to end all rules:

“All animals are equal, just some are more equal than Others”

What those that are critical of the status quo now may become:

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

But perhaps I am over thinking again.

 

 

References:

Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). Animal Farm. Retrieved December 20, 2016, from http://www.shmoop.com/animal-farm/

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Animal_Farm

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