Animal Farm

9 04 2010

From my old Tabulas blog, posted April 7th, 2005, I miss reading on the New York subway commute…

“No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. 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

Just finished Animal Farm by George Orwell…many thoughts…many emotions…

One of which was anger, I was angry at ignorance, I was angry at manipulation. It really made me think and somewhat understand how a society such as North Korea can exist without collapsing instantaneously. And in history, I guess we saw it through the Third Reich and Stalin’s Regime.

It’s a helpless feeling, knowing that a whole society can be fooled into believing something that’s not, or failing to believe something that is. Words are a powerful weapon, maybe arguably the most powerful. I love semantics and linguistics, I love studying the origins of some words and the histories behind them. But it’s just utterly scary when the power of words is misused for a selfish purpose. How it can turn mobs of people from what is right. How it can formulate and create histories in the minds of people. And erase the ones that have existed. How it can motivate, manipulate, encourage, and insult. They say the world is all about relationships, but then, aren’t relationships just a collection of word transactions?

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” -Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

I guess the story of Animal Farm, and possibly the historical atrocities, could not have happened if it weren’t for the lack of intelligence or the lack of a will to question the truth. Intellectual capacity, as a predecessor for words (you need to have some intelligence to use words), is something that I believe everyone has. But I guess even the brightest of minds can’t overcome the mob mentality. When everyone surrounding you thinks the opposite, it’s hard to stand your ground. We truly live in a relativistic society. Absolute truth is hard to come by.

Then there’s pride. Another key component in making the Animal Farm tale feasible. But pride is more of an offspring of words. And once pride (in something, e.g. Animal Farm, North Korea, even America) was established by the manipulating power of words, it acted as a perpetuating catalyst to entrench the people in a society of lies and deceit. Such pride acted against the will to question the truth. It reminds me of the incident when the North Korean cheering group (of women) came to South Korea for the Universiade Games (Olympics at the University level). One time, on their way to an event, they stopped the bus they were riding to retrieve a bannar with the picture of Kim Jong-Il. They argued that it was not right to leave a picture of their “leader” outside in the rain. What pride! A pride so apparently scewed to us, but to them, so indisputably the way it should be.

The situations in Animal Farm, Third Reich, Stalin’s Regime, North Korea, and many more seem implausible for it to happen to us. And yet, frighteningly, it does happen. To the best of us. But why?

I’ve said manipulation through words, propaganda causes the creation of such societies, but the motivator? The purpose? At least in Animal Farm, and in North Korea (from the little I know), when the focus of dreams become too personal, too individualized. From the moment a dream of altruistic visions and communal progress become narrowed to personal goals and individual gain and achievement, the possibility for a society, such as Animal Farm, has sprouted. (The Marxist vision was a noble one of Utopia, but human nature has a way of defiling the noble)

People nowadays stress the importance of having a dream and having a goal. But it’s not enough to just have a dream, you have to take a step further and ask yourself, “Is my dream worthy of envisioning? Is what I dream worthy?”

So then, tell me,  Is YOUR dream worthy of dreaming?



2 responses

9 04 2010

(At the risk of being five years too late.)

Manipulation is one aspect of Animal Farm—and one that is partially present even in most “western” societies.

There are a few other aspects that definitely apply even in the west, however. At least, how something started with good intentions can be corrupted over time, how individuals, similarly, can be corrupted by power, and how the same type of people tend to disproportionally often end up in charge (be it in a democracy, a communist dictatorship, a large corporation, a you-name-it).

BTW, if you have not yet read Nineteen Eighty-Four, this would be a good time to do so. The two books are wonderful complements.

9 04 2010
Paul Park

Thanks for the comment Michael. I have read 1984, and didn’t enjoy it as much but did appreciate the commentary it was giving. As for manipulation and corruption in the western world, very true that it exists, in smaller doses (or maybe in guised ways), because as my post diagnoses, the west also has a dearth of truth and a plethora of pride. Thus, the importance of hope. Or more so, in WHAT we hope.

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