Friday, January 06, 2017
I read Animal Farm in grade school and remember the book and the cover posted here. I don't remember having actually read the book and yet I must have since we discussed the themes in class and I wrote a book report that earned me an A. None of the book seemed familiar to me as I read the book again yesterday and that is even after having seen two movie versions of the book recently. It's the same story with George Orwell's other futuristic book, 1984, which I also failed to remember when I re-read it again recently, and yet I know I read 1984 as well.
That is the problem with teaching seminal books like Animal Farm and 1984 to middle grade students, they have no frame of reference and no experience to make sure the themes stick with them, the children.
As I read Animal Farm, I was first struck by the utter lack of familiarity with the story, even though I could repeat the tale verbatim. Then I realized as I read that though Communism was the basis of the book, the book might as well have been about Socialism or Democracy -- or even a Democratic Republic like the United States. You think I jest?
Napoleon's tactics are evident in U. S. politics and, like Napoleon's increasingly bolder stances, more obvious every day. I see it in the sheep bleating, "Four legs good, two legs bad," whenever anyone questions the status quo. "Four legs good, two legs bad" bleats have become the catcalls of conspiracy theorist, tin-foil hat wearer, liar, mental deficient, and ignorant idiot who will believe anything but the truth, the bleating sheep drowning out Snowball's voice of reason, except the bleating sheep are now televised news reporters who are paid to discredit and drown out the questions and demands for proof instead of conjecture and empty rhetoric. At least Napoleon with his barking dogs had the sense to say as little as possible while the pigeons spread lies and the sheep bleated loud enough to drown out any voice but Napoleon's until the barking dogs were set upon the nay-sayers and chased Snowball from the farm.
Like Napoleon, Obama and Hillary have set the Democrats bleating loudly while the dogs, Pelosi, Reid, Lynch, Holder, and the rest of the DNC pack, snarl and snap at everyone who offers a different view. Bernie Sanders found that out to his as the dogs and sheep cowed Bernie into submission and suffered for faltering in the traces like Boxer as he limped along until his hoof healed, repeating his mantras of "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right" with less confidence and belief.
I thought only Communism could be so duplicitous. I was wrong. Even a Democratic Republic like the United States will become corrupt as Napoleon's offspring spread out in an ever-widening tide of power fueled by mendacity and greed.
That greed can become a goal to strive toward and a virtue would seem impossible. That too is wrong as I have learned during a discussion with a man who believes we have greed to thank for the heights mankind has reached. He points to Michael Douglas's speech in the movie, Wall Street, when Gordon Gecko counts all the ways that greed has drive humanity and society toward ever greater heights. Though not Roman Catholic, I do know that greed is one of the seven deadly sins and marches alongside gluttony, pride, sloth, wrath, lust, and envy. In the Roman Catholic canon, one of those sins will end in an eternal roasting in Hell. But greed is good.
Napoleon would agree that greed is what made him more equal than most, as Squealer demonstrated when he changed the original 7 laws of Animal Farm to reflect Napoleon's new views from his new home in Farmer Jones's house while sleeping on Farmer Jones's bed (without sheets) and eating at Farmer Jones's table from the best of what the rest of the animals worked so hard to produce. Like the Tsars of Russia, the new ruling elite took from the working classes more than their share and bettered the Tsars by getting the working classes to love them as they continued to sacrifice in the name of progress.
Greed is not good. Greed did not propel humanity to reach farther, climb higher, or build greater. Greed is the parasite that demands more, more, more until it hurts as long as it doesn't hurt -- or even touch -- the powerful elite reaching for more, more, more until there is no more. Napoleon had Squealer add a new first law to the 7 laws on which the revolution was founded: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. Napoleon had exceeded Farmer Jones in greed to the point where he and his followers chose two legs over the four they had been born with, donning Farmer Jones's Sunday best and parading their conversion from animal to man for the rest of the animals to marvel.
It is said Obama left his first meeting with the U. S. version of Napoleon and his vicious dogs to find a quiet place where he buried his head in his hands and wept before he became Napoleon's Squealer changing the original laws set down with his Executive Pen where he could and brushing off Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States when the Executive Pen failed him, parading his picture perfect family for Americans to marvel at his Saville Row and Armani Sunday best as he slipped the ever changing rules past the less equal workers. Napoleon at least was wise enough to know not to stop feeding his attack dogs the best available lest the dogs turn and rend his Sunday best, a lesson that Obama never learned or heeded as he tears down Farmer Jones's house before he leaves for good. Of course, Napoleon did not have to face Snowball again while the dogs he had raised from pups turned on him.
Reading Animal Farm again with the experience earned over the intervening nearly 50 years was a cold slap in the face as I witnessed Communism turn into the Democratic Republic of the United States with its slow slide into corruption and lies from Nixon all the way down to Obama. I do not know what Trump's inauguration will bring, and have little hope for a miracle to right the U.S. Ship of State, but I will keep Animal Farm handy lest Trump change the name back to The Manor Farm and dispossess those who worked for and believed in him enough to cast their precious votes for him. At least that illusion, the illusion that a democratic election sealed by Electoral College votes, has not yet crumbled to ashes.
That is all. Disperse.