Animal Farm by George Orwell is a social commentary on corruption and hypocrisy in government. Some online biographies about George Orwell say that the story criticizes the Russian Revolution or Russian socialism, but I disagree. Animal Farm can critique the corruption of any government or religious organization regardless of the country and type of government or religion. It warns against blind acceptance of hypocrisy, corruption, and crime within government or a religious organization as the natural order of social life.
I read Animal Farm in high school and had a vague memory of it, so I wanted to read it again. I am glad I did. While the story used the word, “comrade,” and its main villain was named, “Napoleon,” the story could very well match the crime, corruption, hypocrisy, terrorism, and lies endemic throughout American government, its democratic process, its judicial process, and the majority’s denial of the inequality it practices every day and in every aspect of American life.
In the story, an elderly pig, Old Major, plants the ideological seeds for animals to revolt against humans, who profit from their labor, milk, eggs, wool, and meat. He dies and two other pigs take over as leaders with opposite views. Farmer Jones became an alcoholic and neglected to feed the animals. The animals broke into the food storage. Farmer Jones and his field hands tried to stop the animals. The event erupted into a revolution and the animals chased Farmer Jones and his employees away.
The pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, created Seven Commandments, including the following ideas: anyone on two legs are enemies, anyone with four legs or has wings are friends, no animal shall wear clothes, no animal shall sleep in a bed, no animal shall drink alcohol, no animal shall touch money or engage in trade, no animal shall kill another animal, and all animals are equal. That is eight principles, but I listened to this book on tape, so I don’t know which parts were combined to create Seven Commandment. Animals are not supposed to mimic the behavior of humans in any way. The Commandments, in their original state, were ideal.
Snowball and Napoleon emerged as the most educated and most influential. They had opposing views. Snowball learned how to design a windmill to create electricity to do the work for the animals, so they will work less at three days per week and have warm stalls and warm water. Napoleon had no ideas. The other animals were not as well educated as the pigs. They were divided in their support for Snowball and Napoleon. Rather than debate and decide by vote as Old Major had done when he was alive, Napoleon’s kidnapped puppies ran into the barn and attacked Snowball, but he got away and never returned to Animal Farm. Napoleon’s kidnapped puppies became his personal guards to maintain social control over all other animals. Snowball opposed him and would have been killed if he stayed.
As time went on, life got harder for the animals, except for the pigs and guard dogs. All other animals except for pigs and guard dogs worked harder and received less food. Napoleon and his assistant, Squealer, brainwashes the rest of the animals into believing Snowball is responsible for stealing things and inciting protests from the animals. No one ever witnesses Snowball returning to Animal Farm, but they accept whatever lie Napoleon and Squealer give them to explain missing objects, missing food, and the invasion by humans to blow up the windmill, which Napoleon arranged with the humans.
The Seven Commandments were being altered by Napoleon and his upper class of pigs. Every time the animals remembered the commandments forbade Napoleon’s decrees and behaviors, the commandments were amended to justify the growing inequality, privileges, and violations of laws by Napoleon and his loyal pigs. The farmhouse where Farmer Jones lived was initially supposed to be an empty museum to represent the exploitation of animals by humans. The pigs moved in. Four legs are good and two legs became bad, which discriminates against birds, who all walk on two legs. Animals cannot sleep in beds with sheets, but using blankets are perfectly fine. Animals cannot drink alcohol to excess after Napoleon got drunk and they thought he was dying. No animal can kill another animal without cause after Napoleon surprised the animals with his guard dogs, forced a bunch of animals to confess to things they didn’t do, and then, Napoleon publicly slaughtered them all with his killer dogs as an example to others, who protest or challenge Napoleon’s lies and corruption.
Napoleon and the pigs began making deals with human farmers and selling farm products to human farmers. I think that the invasion to blow up the windmill by a group of human farmers was orchestrated by Napoleon, because he did not fear being killed while the other animals cowered in fear inside the barn. The story ends with the pigs dressing like humans, entertaining humans, drinking alcohol with the humans, playing cards with humans, and arguing like humans. Most of the animals, who witnessed the revolution against Farmer Jones, were dead. This means the younger generations of animals were not alive to know whether living under the pigs was better or worse than living under Farmer Jones. Knowledge of historic events were being erased by the upper class of pigs. The younger generations never saw the original Seven Commandments before Napoleon changed them to justify his crimes and hypocrisy. Only a few old animals knew that wearing clothes were forbidden. When two animals checked the commandments, there was only one Commandment written since all others were erased: all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
I have checked online articles about the life of George Orwell, but I don’t believe Animal Farm is an exclusive critique against the Russians’ brand of equality. I think Orwell wrote this book about England, France, the United States, the Jewish temple, the Christian church, or any stratified social order. Power will be abused in any social structure. Revolutionary leaders promise changes in the quality of life for their followers, but they just erect the same inequality and oppression practiced by the previous regimes. The animals started by calling each other comrades like Russians, but the dictator was named Napoleon like the famous French leader. Furthermore, the laws were referred to as Commandments. The reference to Commandments means this book was also a symbolic critique of the Jewish and Christian religious organizations. This book is not an exclusive critique against Russians; however, I am sure the English and Americans would like to think so. Democracy in the United States is non-existent. Regular people do not elect the president by a majority of votes; the Electoral College chooses every American president. Since wealth can be transformed into power, we can say the wealthiest people in America chooses America’s presidents regardless of the number of popular and electoral voters. It takes campaign money from wealthy people or the ill-gotten gain, inherited from one’s ancestors, to make an American president. Equality and freedom in the United States are lies. Politicians, judges, law enforcement, and juries use nullification to deny certain individuals and groups of people equality, freedom, privacy, due process of law, trials by juries on a regular basis to people in America’s undesirable and disposable populations. People, who witness or expose American governmental corruption die under mysterious circumstances and governmental “investigators” provide unscientific and illogical explanations for those murders “staged” as accidents, suicides, and natural causes, along with staging terrorist attacks, presumably carried out by foreigners on American soil. Every crime that symbolically happened in Animal Farm also happened in real life within American society past and/or present, but the mainstream media will never report it. Like Napoleon and Squealer in Animal Farm, the American government officials and media personalities brainwash Americans with lies, scare tactics, intimidation, and threats of harm. Traditional American customs of imperialism, genocide, enslavement, and racism persist in covert practices and policies to ensure some people are more equal than others. Animal Farm is as much a reflection of the crime and corruption carried out by American politicians, judges, law enforcement, and military personnel from its birth to the 21st century as it was a critique of Russia at the time it was written.
Animal Farm is not just about government. It is about religious corruption as well. The animals would not have called their laws, “commandments,” as Jews and Christians do if Orwell was not using Animal Farm to critique religious hypocrisy and corruption. How many of us have heard of a religious leader, who cheated on his wife, solicited the services of prostitutes, molested a child, or engaged in homosexuality while criticizing homosexual lifestyles? The leadership of Jewish temples and Christian churches are not perfect. When religious leaders fail to practice what they preach, the congregation has to question the legitimacy of those leaders. For example, Jewish law prohibits the practice of magic, witchcraft, and divination, but archaeologists found a zodiac in an ancient Jewish temple in the inner sanctum of the temple, where only Jewish priests were allowed to go. The rest of the ancient Jewish congregation were being taught not to practice divination, but the priests were violating their own Jewish laws. Christian ministers are routinely exposed for one sin or another. There is no reason to think that Christian clerics are the only ones, who fail to practice what they preach. Every religion is susceptible to hypocrisy and corruption by its priestly class and its patrons and none are sacrosanct.
Animal Farm is relevant to all people and all governments. Power is controlled by a power elite with more education and weapons than most other people and maintained under threat of harm, imprisonment, retaliation, poverty, unemployment, starvation, and death. If it is true here in the United States under conditions of fake American democracy, it must exist in most other modern nations as well.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Santa Ana: Books on Tape: 2002.
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