--2 Lee on Literature: Animal Farm
       
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Lee on Literature: Animal Farm

September 16, 2011, 1:00 pm
By LeeMiller

Earlier this week, Republican Party candidates for the US presidency engaged in their second debate of Sept. 2011--and nearly every statement emitted from a candidate’s mouth contained distortion, hyperbole, exaggeration, misreading or complete falsehood.

Candidate Rick Perry wrote in his book Fed Up! that Social Security is an example of the “fraud” and “bad disease” created by FDR’s New Deal, yet on Tuesday declared that Social Security should be preserved for “generations to come.” Mitt Romney called for immediate repeal of highly flawed “Obamacare,” yet the principal reform (requiring all Americans to buy health insurance) was the foundation of Romney’s own health care reform in Massachusetts. Many would say this is simply politics, and the “spin” is certainly not limited to the Republican Party. But in our age of rapid communication, propaganda has become more powerful and corrupting than ever. “Spin” weaves a great media confusion into pseudo-reality. More and more people sink into the mire of half-lies as the quality of their real lives dissipates rapidly. The disastrous effects of this psychological conditioning are explored in George Orwell’s 1945 literary classic Animal Farm.

 

This short, allegorical tale follows a group of animals, led by two pigs named Napoleon and Snowball, who revolt against the owner, Mr. Jones, and take over operation of Manor Farm. At first, conditions on the newly branded Animal Farm are much better, as labor and its fruits are divided equally. But soon a power struggle develops between Napoleon and Snowball over leadership of the society. Here the propaganda begins to spin toward disaster.

 

Napoleon and Snowball both advocate sacrifice from the other animals so that the pigs can eat more. After all, the pigs need the extra nourishment for thinking and managing the farm. Snowball asserts that building a windmill, a technological advancement, will make life easier for all in the long run. Napoleon is strongly against the idea, simply because Snowball is for it. With the help of a cadre of attack dogs, Napoleon drives Snowball off the farm and then takes credit for the idea of a windmill. When the windmill falls down, the exiled Snowball is blamed for an act of terrorism. Soon every ache and dissent can be attributed to Snowball. The history of Snowball’s valiant fight in the revolution is changed along with the commandments that held the new society together. “No animal shall kill any other animal” is changed to “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” “All animals are equal” is modified to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The horses, cows, sheep and hens don’t believe that the commandments written on the barn wall have changed, yet they have some deep internal dissonance. Something is very wrong, but they suppress it and continue to labor.

 

In the end, the common animals are cold, starving and overworked, yet the official production numbers show that their lives have dramatically improved. Boxer, the hardest-laboring loyal workhorse, dies. Napoleon declares Boxer a great patriot who passed away honorably under the best medical care, whereas in reality, Boxer’s corpse was sold to a glue manufacturer for more hidden profit. Ultimately, the masses are much worse off under Napoleon than Mr. Jones, yet they are conditioned to shudder when Napoleon threatens “You don’t want Mr. Jones to come back, do you?” In private, Napoleon begins to walk on two feet, drink heavily and commiserate with the hated humans who congratulate him on having the hardest working animals living on the least amount of feed.

 

Although Orwell based his allegory on Stalin’s regime in the USSR and Franco’s reign in Spain during the 1930’s, Animal Farm is eerily similar to the distorted American political scene of today.

 

 Lee Miller is the author of the Bengali novel, Kali Sunset (www.clovercreekpress.com), the story of Mrs. Sona Choudhury’s spiritual journey in 20th Century India.

 

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