"Animal Farm"

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I had a lot of flashbacks to "1984" when I was reading this...just replace the city with a farm and the people with animals. It was written as a satire on totalitarian government and as one web site said: "...to serve as a cautionary tale about Stalinism." The various animals in the story are meant to represent specific people in Soviet society/government.

It was a very easy book to read, written much like a fairy tale really, but terribly disheartening. Orwell believed that every form of government is doomed to degenerate into totalitarianism. After the animals rebelled against the humans and won control of the farm, and theoretically their freedom, it was agreed the pigs should be the leaders because they were the most intelligent of all the animals. The corruption began with a small thing: the pigs decided to keep the apples and milk for themselves because they needed the good food to keep them fit for the mental stress of leadership. They didn't need it, in fact they needed it less than the physical workers, but they say it's for the greater good and they are believed.

The greed and power-grabbing grow as the pigs grant themselves more honor and benefits while the rest must work harder and consume less. It wasn't long before I wanted somebody to stand up and say "Enough!" It's so much easier to see it happening in a little book than it is over time in the actual course of history. Of course nobody stood up and the separation between the leadership and the workers continued to widen until in the end their leaders in the "free" state became indistinguishable from the human tyrant they had served before.

Ultimately, Orwell's view is without hope. He believes it is inevitable that every society will end this way, so even if the workers revolt against their own kind as they did the humans and win, then the same thing would happen. A new group would set themselves apart and use their superior intelligence to deceive and cheat everybody else into believing they are working for the "greater good".

It's all rather depressing. I felt the same reading "1984". In both stories the leaders rewrite history to support whatever greedy new plan they want to implement next. It's infuriating and what makes these books so sad is the authour believed we are all doomed to live in this kind of world. Freedom, he felt, was not achievable.

Another common thread in the two books is the coercing of confessions to crime from the accused suspects and then executing them without knowing or caring if they were guilty. I came away from both books a little more cynical about everything I hear from government. I don't live under a totalitarian regime and I'm grateful for that, but I'm aware that what they tell us is carefully crafted to sway public thinking and accomplish their own agendas, and that truth-skirting is an accepted tool for getting things done. I have a lot of freedoms here though and I believe that people can live freely within necessary boundaries. I value the freedoms to think, speak and choose which Orwell believed were not possible. But I also think I see some of those freedoms beginning to quietly erode and I wonder if it's just a matter of time and if Orwell may prove to be right.

You won't have to invest much time reading this book (if there actually is anybody left who hasn't read it) because it's short, but you will get more out of it if you do a bit of research while you're reading. Orwell may have been a pessimist but he was a brilliant one and is worth studying. I love this book. I hate this book. Any book that can make you feel like that must be good. 


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