George Orwell

Mark's #5 - Animal Farm by George Orwell

On my reading adventures, sometimes I wonder how I managed to make it to 36 years of age without reading certain books. George Orwell's 1984 and Animal farm fall into this category.  Long before my days studying the political transitions of the Czech Republic from communism to democracy, I had a interest, or rather a hatred for communism (I am a child of the Cold War). In reading Animal Farm (originally published in 1945), I felt like I was reading the political policy handbook for nations like communist North Korea.
Animal Farm is an allegory  of a farm full of animals who overthrow their human oppressors to establish an animal utopia based on equality, shared responsibility, and collectivism (i.e., communism).   The story starts with an old boar named Old Manor, who probably represents Karl Marx, imploring the animals of the farm to rise up and throw off the heavy shackles of slavery forced on them by their oppressive owner, the drunkard Mr. Jones who neglects to feed the animals and mistreats them.

Shortly after Old Manor's death, an opportunity arises for an uprising by the animals to drive Mr. and Mrs. Jones from the farm.  At this point the animals celebrate their new freedom, and the pigs take over the 'intellectual' leadership of the commune.  The animals all agree upon and are guided by these seven principles:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal.


As the story progresses, the pigs assume more and more power using manipulation and historical revisionism, as well as the ignorances of the masses to get their way.  Eventually all of the guiding principles are either erased completely or changed to fit the desires of the pigs, as the pigs become more and more like their previous tormentors - the dreaded human beings.  For example, notice these changes:

  1. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets. (after the pigs take over the farm house and begin using the beds)
  2. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess. (yet the pigs are often seen drinking to excess with their wild parties that keep them in bed until late the next day)
  3. No animal shall kill any other animal without cause. (Whenever it became politically necessary to do away with any of the other animals, this became their justification).


Ominously, the book ends with the line, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Orwell was clearly no fan of communism, or more specifically of Stalin.  As a philosopher, political theorist, and author, he wrote Animal Farm and 1984 to both expose Stalin and warn the world  of what would come under communist oppression.  He saw the threat and opposed it.

Today there is a clear and present threat to the future welfare of America and the world - The expansion of Islam.  Yet, instead of heroes like Orwell rising up to raise an alarm, it seems Hollywood and mainstream authors today are not only giving a pass to this threat, but instead they increasingly villianize America, democracy, capitalism, and freedom.

Will a George Orwell arise in our generation?  I hope so.

Mark's #4 - 1984 by George Orwell

First published in 1949, George Orwell's dystopian novel increasingly seems less like a work of fiction and more like a prophetic vision.  This book was disturbing to read on many levels.  Thankfully society as a whole has not yet reached the level of totalitarianism that the book's 'Big Brother' oligarchy has imposed on Oceania (think present day U.K. and the Americas), yet there have been pockets in history and in modern life that do come eerily close to the vision.

For instance, Stalin's communist Russia, or China's Mao Tse Tung's gangs of youth lynch mobs, or Pol Pot's systematic annihilation of the urban and educated classes of Cambodia, in North Korea, every person is property and is owned by a small and mad family with hereditary power, all of which mimic elements of 1984's IngSoc (English Socialism).   Or, for example, when I went to school in Prague after the fall of communism and stayed in a dorm room with a built in speaker (for disseminating information/propaganda) and microphone (for listening in conversations).  Even today there is the ubiquitous 'tele' which controls and 'watches over' the people, or the gross infringement of privacy at the local airport with full body scans, all in name of 'security'.

This is a story about the direction of human society apart from the restraining grace of God on evil.  Imagine a society without God, where sinful human nature is let loose to do it's worst... that society is Oceania.

It is a story about a common, middle-aged protagonist, who works for the outer party, and who secretly desires to fight the system and spark a revolution for freedom, individuality, and joy... While reading the book, I longed for and waited for this to happen.  After all, isn't this what happens in all the great dystopia movies which ultimately turn back for the good of mankind? Perhaps more realistically, this is not the case with 1984.  Instead of a revolution, our protagonist is betrayed, imprisoned, tortured, forced into false confessions, and ruthlessly brainwashed so that, in the end 'Big Brother' wins.

The last lines of the book grimly portray the victory and cruel march of 'Big Brother' on into an indefinite future:

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Finally, one small example of historical revisionism similar to the scenes described in 1984: