Last week our book club read and discussed George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. Written as an animal version of the Russian Revolution, the book follows the journey of a group of farmyard animals with varying intelligence and skill and their break from the exploitative grasp of the farmer Mr Jones, to their own utopian existence. The book ends rather sadly with the power corrupt pigs exploiting the animals in much the same way as Mr Jones exploited them before, critiquing this model of a self sufficient and equal society. In our book club we discussed whether this model of society would ever work with some members saying it is inherently flawed due to human nature. I am inclined to disagree but this is beside the point. It is not the dampened ending of the story which disheartens me.
Amongst our discussions of whether ‘Beasts of England’ is a musical masterpiece (it is) and the devastating scene of Boxer’s frantic stamping getting quieter as he is driven away (a haunting image) Russell Brand and his recent resurgence in the public eye, this time as a political figure, arose. The demise of the farm was due to the inability of the animals to question the pigs. Their political apathy led to a dictatorship, which once they were in, they had no tools with which to get themselves out. The story highlights the danger of a naive working class echoing Marxist sentiments of class consciousness. The inability of the animals to question the authority blinded them to the possibility they were not working for their own interests.
The sheep especially are the fools of the story – constantly bleating their single understanding of the ethos of the society which surrounds them, with no other knowledge of the laws which they are shaping themselves around. Their single awareness consists of “ Four legs good, two legs bad” which they convert without a thought when asked. And so it is no wonder that these idiots were exploited. Without knowing what they were entitled to, how could they know when it was taken away.
Russell Brand’s video is another mantra our nation of sheep will bleat. We will talk about political apathy. We will talk about the vote. We will say we are the 99%. We ride out these headlines, singing their tune with no real understanding of the riddle of laws and regulations which we bend and twist around. ‘We are the exploited.’ But how? Why? At the last election people around me were placing votes on how eloquent a speaker the candidate was; “Oh we’ll need someone who can give a good speech.” But doesn’t squealer give a great speech? Is that really what we need?
What saddened me most about Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ is that I too am in fact a sheep. I know very little of the laws of this country and yet I am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon of Government slating with no real idea of what I am actually talking about. Unfortunately as this nation of sheep it is just as likely we are being as exploited as poor Boxer and Clover and we wouldn’t even recognise it.
Animal farm is often interpreted and spoken about purely in regard to the rise of soviet Russia. However its problems and issues of power corruption are still very relevant today and by turning the mirror on ourselves instead of blaming everyone and everything around us, we can equip ourselves to do something about it.