October 11, 2011

Meanwhile, Back On the Farm

I was a high school freshman the first time I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Orwell was a dedicated Marxist socialist who took great exception to Soviet style Communism.  He was especially dismayed with the brutality exhibited under Joseph Stalin.  Animal Farm was his anti-Stalin allegory decrying the excesses of the Stalin regime.

The story relates an uprising by the animals of Manor Farm against abuses and neglect inflicted by Mr. Jones.  Just as the 1917 February Revolution forced abdication by Tsar Nicholas II, the animal rebellion forced Mr. Jones to flee Manor Farm.  Other easily identified characters are the pigs (Politburo), led by Napoleon (Stalin).  It was Napoleon who eventually took control after driving Snowball (Leon Trotsky) off the farm.  Napoleon consolidated his power through executions (Great Purge), carried out by his personally trained pack of dogs (Soviet Secret Police).

Some may wonder why bring up an old story about something that happened almost a century past.  Perhaps because the OccupyWallStreet participants remind me of those Manor Farm denizens I read about over 40 years ago.  Today's seemingly clueless protesters are very much like those barnyard inhabitants who, unhappy with their lot, rose up against their perceived oppressors.  Only in this case, evil “millionaires and billionaires” have supplanted Mr. Jones and the humans as objects for their outrage.  As of yet, no clear Napoleon has surfaced, but the dog packs have already made their presence known in the form of union activists.

Many of those marching in the streets, demanding change, would be well served to read Orwell’s story, look about, and decide for themselves if they want to be among the sheep bleating, “Four legs good - Two legs bad.”  I would offer them one other bit of advice.  Consider the admonition of George Santayana from his Reason In Common Sense, Volume One of The Life of Reason:
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Dennis P. O'Neil


  1. Dennis,
    Nicely stated. I doubt however that they will take your advice.

  2. Great allegory Dennis.
    The likelihood of any of the OWSites being able to understand it, zero

  3. Kudos, Saltwater. Great way to relate Orwell's classic to the scene in the streets today! Been a long time since I read the book but have not forgotten its base lessons.

    Unfortunately, it is much easier and takes less thinking and self-discipline to work, strive, sweat and earn rewards than it is to whine, cry and demand someone take care of "me." Those in the streets are sheep indeed and are being led down the slaughter path. Unfortunately, again, all the rest of us are going to have to draw a line in the sand and take a stand to fight and fight hard. Not a pretty picture.