Current events show why this political allegory is even more true today
It has been over 50 years since I read this book in school. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell was published in 1945. The dystopian novella portrays a group of animals somewhere in England who revolt against their human masters and take over the farm. As the animals become “comrades”, their march towards a totalitarian state is portrayed with wit and dark humor. Spoiler alert: the story doesn’t end well.
I had forgotten, or perhaps never learned, that Orwell was a democratic socialist who was critical of Joseph Stalin. Thus, the author was not a capitalist or libertarian warning about the horrors of a collective society. Instead it was an author who genuinely believed in socialism and thought that the communist dictator in Russia had just perverted the ideal. As I re-read it, the parallels of what is happening today are striking.
Major, the wild boar, who organizes the revolution, captivates the other farm animals by telling them “…our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.” He advocates for a new farm system, “Animalisn” without humans, and run only by animals. After banishing the alcoholic owner, Mr. Jones, and other humans, from the premises, they rush about to destroy any symbols of their servitude. They light a bonfire and burn anything that men had used to enslave them. These included whips, dog-chains, nose-rings, halters, blinders, and castration knives. “In a very little while the animals had destroyed everything that reminded them of Mr. Jones.”
Today we also see that any symbol that reminds us of antebellum slavery are being destroyed. While one may reasonably argue that the confederate flag reminds every African-American of this dark period of our history, other actions make less sense. Jacksonville, Florida was named for Andrew Jackson who was our country’s seventh President. Yes, he owned slaves — so did almost everyone else at that time. Should it be renamed? Should his image be removed from the $20 bill? We are well on our way as his statues come down across the country. More on this in a bit.
The farm animals do not set up a constitution, but do have “The Seven Commandments.”