Animal Farm

This post about political animals at ‘India Retold’ reminded me of George Orwell’s allegorical fable- ‘Animal Farm’.

Published in the 1940s, Animal Farm is meant as a warning of the dangers of Communism. Through this tale about a farm where the animals drive out the oppressive humans and establish their own rule, George Orwell criticises the cruelties and hypocrisies of the Soviet Communist Party in Russia.

The Russian people had thrown out the semifeudal system of the Tsars but had replaced it with the tyranny of the Communist Party under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. So ordinary Russians were not much better off.

In Animal Farm, with the help of the dogs, the pigs appropriate most of the power in the new system of governance. However, this power soon corrupts them, and instead of working for the good of all the farm animals, they think only of themselves, eliminating anyone speaking out against them.

Animal Farm is a criticism of the Communist system, but many of the objections put forward by George Orwell can also be applied to the Democratic system as it functions in many countries today.

If we consider the Indian democratic system, we see that though theoretically, power is in the hands of the people, in reality, it is in the hands of just a few. And in many cases, it is not even in the hands of the elected representatives, but lies with the bureaucracy. And this power corrupts those who have it.

In Animal Farm, the animals establish Seven Laws that must be obeyed. These are later secretly changed by the ruling pigs to suit themselves.

One of the laws is – All animals are equal.
This is changed to- All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

This reality we notice in our Democratic system also, where the laws that ordinary people have to observe can be broken by the rich and influential, by those who are ‘more equal than others’.

In Animal Farm, George Orwell shows how language can be manipulated as a tool for control. The animals accept Major’s vision of the New Order, but after his death the pigs distort the meaning of his words to justify their behaviour and keep the other animals in line.

This is the same thing that happens in our Democracy with words like secular, fundamentalism, religion and social justice taking on completely new meanings today to suit those who are in power.

Whatever the system of government- be it communism, socialism, monarchy or democracy- power corrupts those who wield it.

So it is up to us, the ordinary citizens, to be ever alert, ever vigilant that our government is doing its job. That our elected representatives are looking out for our best interests and the best interests of our country. That the rights of the underprivileged are being upheld just as those of the influential are.

Our responsibility does not end after we cast our votes.

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18 thoughts on “Animal Farm”

  1. Perhaps we need responsible citizens even more than we need good politicians.Nice post !I hope that in animal farms, they do not harm disturb law abiding animals who just went out to the lake to have some flowing water 🙂

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  2. Manju, that was well said. We cant keep quiet after voting ! Activism of some form and kind is a much needed effort. And whats to be noted, is that we have so much apathy in our system that voting is itself becoming ‘activism’ ! We can only go up from here..!

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  3. Manju, it seems pigs are destined to take over everywhere!Yes, power corrupts those who wield it and our responsibility does not end with voting. We have to ensure that no matter who is in power, he/she is not allowed to use the system for the purpose it is not meant for. But, I am afraid the politico-bureaucratic edifice has already corrupted everything thoroughly. And I really don’t know whether anything can be done to pull things back, given that the same faces keep appearing all the time in our democratic process.

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  4. I loved this book when I read it 20 years ago…”All animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others” is a line I’ll never forget…I think most people get into politics for power and money and not to do good for the country and its citizens…

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  5. R.K.- Yes, it is necessary for the effective functioning of a democratic form of government that citizens be responsible.Kavi- Good point that there is so much apathy that even just voting has become activism today. I hope that we can change this situation!Gopinathji- Thank you!Vinodji- I am not so pessimistic! I hope that people will realize that it is in their long term self-interest to have a non-corrupt and transparent system of governance.

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  6. Manju, this is a magnificent post. How well you drew parallels from Mr.Sharma’s post. I read Animal farm eons ago. You just refreshed it. “Four legs good, two legs bad.”Awareness is what is importance today and another thing is ‘walking the talk’.

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  7. Bones- We studied Animal Farm one year in college and I enjoyed it immensely. If politicians are in politics just for power, them we have to force them to act in the interest of the public good.Solilo- You are right- awareness as well as ‘walking the talk’ is required!

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  8. The fight like animals for sure . Some of them look and speak like them as well . And I think some of them might be as bright as as well ( I refer to the dumber animals of the Kingdom ) . And I bet some of them smell like them as well ( the stinky ones) . 😀

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  9. Loved this post because of the way you have drawn parallels to the book and today’s societyHad loved the book when I had read it in college and like the others this line has stayed with me too”All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.””language can be manipulated as a tool for control.”this is the most important in my view…and yes power corrupts and corrupts how…apologies for getting here so late…glitches galore with blogger:(

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  10. all animals appear equal.democratic governments help to fantasize this, but we know it is not true. some body rules today and someone else will rule tomorrow. he will have his set of court jesters in his chamber to help him decide or agree with him.opinions will be dished and suggestions will be taken but the man on the throne will rule! Each hand has 5 fingers and some have six. if all were equal, our hands would not be as useful as it is now. so nature has decided it for us that there will be varying degrees of equality. sometimes the index finger is more dominant than the other. some individuals in society will have more importance than the others. some countries will dominate more than the others.some countries will greedily clammer away resources leaving bits and pieces at the foot of the table to others. some countries will rule for some time and the rattle will be passed on to others just like in a relay race. There can never be two heads , there will always be only one. Nature has said it. some countries may not rule all the time but they will be strong. we cannot do away without them, just like the thumb. some countries have symbiotic relationship with the others. some individuals will pretend to be weaker, but they are strong during a crisis. sometimes the little finger will rule – just like smaller countries ( in size) will overpower the others. When many countries will gain prominence at the same time, the earth will make a noise, a violent noise.

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  11. I just love how you come up with varied topics…Indeed worth apprecation,that you came down to your message in a way difeerent from others…As the first commentator said,we need responsible citizens first..We are either too lazy or irresonsible about the political system..We want the politicians to do everything for us,but we are not ready to do our part in democracy.Until and unless we come forward and do our DUTY of being the vigilant citizen you said,we will ahve to deal with the current rotte system…

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  12. Kislay- Yes, politicians and animals do seem to have many traits in common. :)Indyeah- This novel was written seventy years ago, but it might have been written today, so well does it apply to today’s political systems. Some things never change.L.V.S.- As you have observed, greed seems to be a part of human nature. I don’t think bureaucrats or politicians are the only ‘pigs’. Unfortunately, anyone who has some power of any kind becomes one, particularly in public life.

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  13. Anrosh- As you say, inequality is a reality of our lives. If everyone were perfectly equal, perhaps people would have no motivation to improve their situations.Nimmy- Yes, we need to be ready to fulfill our duties as well as to demand our rights.

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  14. @ManjuBecause those in public life live in glass houses their abuse becomes visible to us. Otherwise I think most Indians are prone to abusing whatever power we have in our hands. In the house over our wife, children, maid, mali,…In the office over our subordinates, the peon, guard,…….I dont think politicians landed here from some other planet. They are a product of our society and it shows.

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  15. If I remember right this was a prescribed book at some time in our college.This is a fabulous book and amazing parallel drawn from real life. Meant to lampoon Soviet Communists, it has universal applicability.It also rings true for us in India. Once you have got power, then then the sole focus is on “the loot” and then how to perpetuate their stay in power to the extent the second and third generation takes it as a full time profession.Gandhis, Karunanidhi, Thackeray, Scindia, Pilot, Abdullahs, Pawars and so many more.You must also note how ruthlessly “a reformer” is either put down or absorbed as their own and corrupted thoroughly so that there is no threat.Amazing study of human behaviour.Lest I sound overly critical of our system, this is prevalent all over the world. Power has far too many perks and privileges and too few burdens.

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