“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which” George Orwell, Animal Farm.
The last line from the seminal classic Animal Farm has a haunting quality to it; it is like watching a freight train on a collision course. The end result is depressing and inevitable yet you cannot help but look at the awesome power of the destruction.
George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a critique on Stalinism in 1945. Orwell a social democrat was very much opposed to communism as practiced by Joseph Stalin in what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). He hated the idea of centralized power, the worship of personality as opposed to functioning systems, groupthink and the inevitable march towards Totalitarianism.
The system Orwell criticized is long gone, buried beneath the ashes of history as one of the most murderous systems ever created. Under Stalin, it is suspected that somewhere between five and nine million people have been killed. The sacrifice at the altar, for one man’s maniacal ambitions.
It is funny, in a morbid sort of way that a system built to help the masses would end up twisted and wrong in every way imaginable and commit the biggest atrocities in all of human history… I am sure there is a crude lesson here about humanity, if one was inclined to look.
There are two major characters in Animal Farm. The pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, who instigate the original revolution in the name of freedom from oppression. They bring about new laws and commandments, the major one being “All animals are equal”. For a time everything works out but as snowball plans to introduce new changes, Napoleon usurps power and banishes him in an event that mirrors the history between Stalin and Leon Trotsky.
Things start to unravel eventually, Napoleon establishes his own cadre of pigs, they start to wear cloths, eat better foods and they even start to walk on their hind legs mirroring their human oppressors. They also sell one of the animals for their own personal gain.
The original concept and victory of the animals over man is changed in to the worship of the selflessness of Napoleon and his exploits. There is something deeply wrong about people who portray themselves as martyrs, them and their angelic figures but look closer and the only thing you see are horns.
Even the commandments are changed including the “All animals are equal” to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” It is always this way, first it is “we are oppressed”, then it is “we ought to be equal” and when the ego works itself up it is” we are better than everyone else”. The game is rarely equality; the play is always to gain a seat at the table.
By the end, things are as worse if not more so than initially. The original members of the uprising are mostly gone and the pigs have solidified their power and have even formed a business venture with the neighboring humans. At a dinner party, hosted by Napoleon for his human guests things get out of hand and in the ensuing chaos, the poor animals are unable to tell their fellow animals “the pigs” apart from the humans.
Communism is long dead though there are still those we still stand vigil but Animal Farm has lost none of its edge. Though written, as an allegory on Stalinism it still holds true today as an astute observation on the darker nature of man.
This article is not a critique on political systems or individuals but rather on life itself, at the people we have met and ones we will meet. Be wary of those we claim to be your saviors and remember no matter the nature or the system when it comes to power and corruption, the question is not IF but rather WHEN and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do not put your lives into the hands of others.