The third book from that challenge I set for myself and, let me tell you, I’m glad it was a short read.
Orwell’s tale about animals taking over a farm, running the humans off the property and running it themselves, is a well known piece of anti-Socialist literature. Animals, mistreated by their forgetful and oft-inebriated master, decided they needed and deserved a better life than the the one they currently were living. Ideals were put forth, tales of revolution were whispered and encouraged amongst themselves, until a day finally arrived in which the glory of their notions were fully realized. All were to be treated equally, a retirement age set for each so they might enjoy the last years of their lives in a fine pasture, and the work load was dispersed according to each animal’s capability. Rations were of course imposed in order to have fair consumptions of their food production to ensure there were no usurpers. Equality. It was the dream that kept them all going.
As is naturally the state of things, those with the higher intellects and the greater oration skills rose to the top and began delegating; faith in those delegating had already been secured. Subterfuge came into existence as a way of securing power and getting rid of competition, the ideal of the farm now perverted to the ones who wanted to reign and reap instead of cooperate and share. Where it once was considered wrong for animals to live like humans, those who were at the top of the political heap now slept in beds – the commandment on the wall changed to read “No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets“, drank whiskey – the commandment stating “No animals shall drink alcohol to excess“, and walked on two legs – “Four legs good, Two legs better” (formerly: “Four legs good, Two legs bad”).
This book should be a warning to us all about power, that the old adage of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” being not only something we can understand in theory, but that has played out many times through history. It is so very easy to link this to current day understandings as well as the philosophy under which the United States was founded and, indeed, formed through theoretically binding laws/limitations of the Constitution, but for right now I think it is prudent to take look at the literature itself.
Metaphorically this book is not innovative. Truth is, Orwell was blatant in what he wanted to communicate and, I think, in the way he ended it showed us that the danger did not actually lay in pigs or dogs, but in the men who wanted power and the faith from the people so they might continue to have it. As long as that faith remained in place, that self-doubt and incomprehension remained strong in each person, those with power could utilize all at their disposal to achieve whatever means they wanted. As was certainly the case with Socialist Russia, China (yes, it’s not Communist), and Nazi Germany similar promises were made to an oppressed people. The marketing was about identical to what the animals spoke of, the securing of power was first built on faith then fear, and all the while the elite garnered comfort for themselves. It’s a sad tale, really. Notions of looking out for one another, those who do not have as much as ourselves in either constitution or intellectual capabilities, is a wonderful thought but through a political structure like this it is exploited. Truth be told, the most beautiful part about this work is its transparency.
While this is, in my opinion, far from the notion of high art in literature it is strong and a very necessary read. If nothing else this serves as a great reminder to us all that the only thing standing between us and freedom is our belief that someone else who has power can do that which we as mere individuals can not and that the person/system will not abuse this power; that they know better for ALL of us, than we do.
Interesting tidbit: There was a Hallmark movie made of this book?!