When Fiction Is Real

Why every person under 30 should read “Animal Farm”

What could be so interesting about some book written 74 years ago? What relevance could there be to today’s world that could make it a must read? When it comes to literature there could be several reasons that could easily answer the questions here. So, I will dispense with the obvious and easy ones.

The answers I am going to look at are centered around a simple notion (and saying) generally attributed to writer/philosopher, George Santayana; “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

First, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is written by the author as an allegory to just that notion. The story is based on the Russian revolutions that toppled Tsar Nicolas II and ended Monarchy styled government, thus giving birth to Marxism, providing the path into a brutal totalitarian dictatorship version of Communism, led by Joseph Stalin. Orwell had witnessed the Soviet’s methods of brutality and disinformation, which branded him as a criminal (by association) and would have caused him to stand trial in Barcelona, at which he would have surely been sentenced to death, had he not escaped back to England. Later, Orwell expressed his anger at the British government and intelligentsia allying with Stalin’s Soviet Union during WWII, undoubtedly fueling the idea of this story.

Second, it still serves as an excellent visual device to that very notion. In that, I mean to say that reading and understanding the story’s allegorical references to the Bolsheviks methods and results, that had already happened before Orwell’s publication, one could see and recognize the pattern that is the plot line of “Animal Farm” as a political satire born out of brutal and bloody reality that still exist in the world today. Given a chance, The Old Major (think Marx/Lenin) can still inspire Snowball (think Trotsky) and Napoleon (think Stalin) on to their destructive paths.

So why would I recommend this book to anyone under 30? Well, I really recommend it to anyone at all. However, for this article, the recommendation is spawned by the fact that such a large portion, 47% of the likely registered democrat voter, 18-29 age group, polled recently, preferred Socialism to Capitalism (though we don’t have that purely, either). To me, at least a moderate student of history, find that seemingly impossible to believe. Any reading into the purges, the endless five-year plans and myriads of other non-fiction, especially first-hand accounts of life (and the ever-prevalent death associated) in that system, ought to scare the pants right off of a person.

Feel the Burn

Consider the 2016 election. Bernie Sanders (think Snowball) ran as a Socialist, out-right, and by doing so, gained a lot of attention and support. The Burn, as his supporters called him, ran on a platform that espoused a lot of good sounding ideas. He spoke of the income inequality between the classes (think Nicolas II). He spoke of the hardworking class (think Boxer, the endlessly hard-working horse). He spoke of a one-trillion-dollar five-year infrastructure plan (think Stalin). He spoke of guaranteed {mandatory?} 0-3-year-old daycare and free university education (think of the puppies that Napoleon turned into his personal attack force). The likeness between the all these things are too numerous to be flitted away as mere coincidences, thus pointing to the realness of the fiction work.

Let us take a little closer look at a few of the references that I, so causally, just threw out there. Chances are you haven’t read the book recently, so, please, allow me to see if I can bring some clarity to my wild accusations, if they be that.

Who was Snowball and Napoleon in the ‘Animal Farm’ story line? Snowball and Napoleon are partners. They are pigs, literally. They were schooled by The Old Major (the elder, and only, purebred pig on the farm) about the evils of the farmer who owned the farm they lived on. Both Snowball and Napoleon hear the lessons and become enraged at the inequities of their existence on the farm. They start the rebellion of all the animals on the farm and they run the farmer and his family off the farm. The Old Major had some grand ideas, but like him, they were pure…ideas. It would take Snowball and Napoleon after The Old Major’s death to put the ideas to the test, and that, they did. Eventually, Snowball becomes troublesome for Napoleon and Napoleon discredits him and has his attack dogs deal with him.

Let us come back to 2016. Sanders is building his platform with all those same old grand ideas, as if they were new. He is gaining supporters and rising just a little over the other background noises. He is becoming a blip on the radars of public media. He is becoming troublesome for Napoleon. The hounds are released. Interestingly, just like the book, Snowball is removed from the farm.

One other character worth noting here is Boxer, the horse. This is the character that most people, unless you are the Nicolas II type, should be concerned with. Boxer does all the heavy work on the farm, not some, but all. Simply put, Boxer is you. The working class, the middle class, the put-upon class. Yes, the pigs have all the laws and all the rules, but you, ole nag, will be the one to pay for, toil for and die for all the rest of the animals on the farm. Without you, nothing can be done, and as time goes by, you might need something like a windmill on the farm. Boxer will be called upon to sacrifice for and toil for the establishment of such a work, even if he doesn’t know it is so the pigs can do business with other farmers (against Animalism #1, anything with two legs is an enemy).

Boxer is simple and not nearly as educated as the pigs. He dutifully agrees with all the demands in the name of the farm. He is loyal and dedicated to the rules and laws that seem fair and good. He truly believes all that the pigs tell them, even as the pigs set themselves apart not only from the laws and rules, but from the other animals as well, by moving into the farmer’s house (against Animalism # 7, all animals are equal).

Then Boxer is wounded in an explosion at that windmill he labored so hard on. Because of his sense duty he keeps working, even harder…in the name of and for the farm. Finally, he drops in exhaustion. Napoleon calls him a hero to the farm with all the pageantry, while in secret, sells Boxer to the local guy who will turn him into glue (against Animalism # 6, no animal kills another animal). It was a secret prearranged deal so that the pigs could secretly gain money to buy alcohol for them to drink (against Animalism # 5, no alcohol) in the house with beds where the pigs slept (against Animalism # 4, no animal sleeps in a bed), which was off limits to all the other so-called equal animals.

The broken, sick and the dead

Over time, of course, the original Animalisms, a set of seven rules to assure lasting equality among animals, were changed and changed again as the pigs needed to excuse their actions of breaking every one of the original seven. Over time, the pigs were transforming to the very thing they had run off the farm, the farm owner. They became the ruling class of the farm, right on the very back of Boxer, whom they lied to all along. They had told him that they were lifting the burden when really, they were adding not only the burdens of the pigs needs, after all, they had to be kept in the best of everything to keep dispensing justice to all, but also the burden of all the other animals who were doing nothing at all, someone had to provide for them too. Poor Boxer. He gave his all and then ended up as glue.

Eventually, without Boxer to cover the weaknesses of the system that only supports the top, the bottom falls out and the system fails. Those that do nothing can give nothing, they can only continue to be takers, according to their needs. Without Boxer to give according to his abilities, the animals will starve.

Before you wave your flag

There is, of course, much more to the story, but this scant run through serves as enough to make my original point. Reading this particular fiction has real life information that is useful when making political decisions and support. It is useful to know history and the tendencies of man, which is the theme of the story. Certain actions will repeat unless you recognize them for what they really are, not what they claim to be.

I am, in no way, saying you should or shouldn’t believe and stand for this or that, nor am I trying to make you think what I do. In my space, there is room for dissenting ideas and discussions thereof. What I am saying is that when you do stand for something, it would be better to know what it is you are really standing for. Understand the life cycle of a pure socialist system before you stand for it, or a conservative, libertarian or any other system. Your very lives will hang in the balance.

The nature of man is unchanging. If you give a conduit that will deliver absolute power, it will be used against you in the end, and discard you to the glue factory for all your efforts. All your blood, sweat and tears given, or even being celebrated as a hero to the cause, will make it any better when the knacker boils you down to glue.

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