“Animal Farm” by George Orwell
A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
In the fight for freedom, it’s ironic how often the very rules that were meant to protect and preserve, evolve into weapons of mass control and corruption. Time and time again, history has repeated itself and shown us that in the face of tyrannical governments and fascist leaders, the human spirit grows resilient and breaks free from the chains designed to hold it back. And yet, misplaced confidence in figures of hope that reveal their true colors when it’s far too late, lands us back to exactly where we didn’t want to be: part of a broken and degrading system.
“Is it not crystal clear, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?”
Animal Farm explores this through the allegory of a group of wrongly exploited and overworked animals that join forces to rebel together for equal rights. The parallels George Orwell drives is pretty evident: Old Major, the wise idealistic old pig who passes on a legacy before his ill-timed death is none other than Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto, anyone?). Snowball and Napoleon, the two pigs that jointly take on the responsibility of leading the farm post-rebellion, though short-lived in their partnership, are Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin respectively.
The rebellion against humanity and the fall of Mr. Jones is similar to the initial uprisings various nations have taken against their authoritarian leaders. What follows the sweet but short victory of overthrowing a corrupt government is the true test of these nations. Without proper governance, resources and aid from political allies, most fall apart and give way to tyranny, violence and suffering once again.
I speak with reference to a post-Gaddafi Libya, its citizens helpless and torn apart by the second civil war. Similarly, the war raging through Syria has led to countless lives of innocent children and civilians being misplaced, lost and with tragedy thrust upon them, hope is but a feeble dream. Most recently, the unrest and massacres taking place in Sudan has horrified the world. Following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir in a military coup, the country has descended to absolute chaos. The nation’s citizens demanded a three year transition period to recover and regroup to free themselves completely from the evil roots of the previous regime. This was cut short by the military leaders who scrapped these agreements, cutting down the time to nine months. This is not enough.
If she could have spoken her thoughts; it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion.
Animal Farm does a brilliant job of bringing these issues to the light in an allegorical manner which makes it easier for us to comprehend, but not necessarily easier to digest. The rampant abuse of power, manipulation of the media, literal rewrite of societal rules and history to brainwash and control the lower classes and intellectually inferior is beautifully broken down through the novella. Every individual drives a purpose that forms an integral part of this revolution; whether it be as leaders of the movement, as determined and hardworking citizens, as influencers and drivers of political propaganda or as the entitled, risk-averse bourgeoise.
This vicious cycle of war and suffering will not end for as long as we fail to learn from our past errors. It is in our very nature to forget what history has taught us but it is simply not enough to sit on the sidelines and pass comments on political crises faced by our brethren nations from the comforts of our plush sofas and sheltered homes.
It is for this reason that I can wholeheartedly proclaim that this piece of art has found a spot in my heart. Literature has a wondrous way of inspiring individuals, rousing their determination and will to fight for the greater good. Perhaps, that is why countries like China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam (amongst others) have banned Animal Farm. They wouldn’t want anyone getting ideas, now would they?
All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
Although Orwell intended for this to be a criticism of Stalinist communism, there are several layers of meaning woven through his prose which can be applied even today.
This book will remain timeless, for as long as we allow ourselves to read it and still wonder, “how do we change?“