All animals are equal,
but some animals are more equal than others.
I have owned George Orwell’s Animal Farm for years and despite my interest in Marxism and all that ‘fight the power’ stuff in my teens, I never got round to reading it. Well I am glad I now have.
The book seems timeless to me, perhaps even more relevant today than it was nearly seventy years ago when it was first published. It very simply and concisely draws up an image of the way society functions; how the majority of people have the minority share of wealth whilst a small, elite and powerful few enjoy all the riches. You don’t need an active interest in political philosophy to see this in action. You can even take the average workplace and find startling similarities between its operation and that of Animal Farm.
Say your workplace is the farm, and you are one of the animals working on it. In the book the animals are working far more than the owners of the farm, however it seems that the owners are getting a much larger share of the produce. The animals get given just enough food and comfort to come back and do more work tomorrow. In the same way you earn just enough to pay for some food, your house and some small pleasures. However, what you earn is not proportional to the work you have put in. For example, let’s say you are earning what is the minimum wage in the UK, £6.08 per hour and you earn this for shovelling popcorn into a box and charging around £5 for it. If you worked for four hours it works out that to pay for your own wage you would have to shovel around 1.22 boxes of this popcorn per hour. It turns out however that you shovel, on average, a minimum of 25 boxes of this popcorn in an hour. This means that you have sold £500 worth of popcorn in four hours, yet you will make £24.32 for doing so. How nice of the farmer to give you some slops at the end of the day!
“It’s an outrage!” you might say, and rightly so. But before you start your grand revolution I must tell you that, as the book demonstrates, this system is inescapable. Most people would probably agree that this system is unfair. The animals in Animal Farm all meet and talk about how unfair it is and how something should be done about it. I am sure you have done the same. I am sure you have stood around, grumbling at having to shovel that popcorn all day in unsatisfactory circumstances, while a few people get to sit up in their ivory tower and tell you what to do. I’m sure that like the horses, sheep, chickens and geese of the book put their faith in the pigs, you have put faith in certain people. Just like the pigs, I am sure they have spoken of change, of justice and fairness. Just like the pigs I am sure they were given some power and it seemed like there was hope after all, that change was to come.
The sad fact is, you give the pigs some power and they start to abuse it. The pigs start to think they are better than everybody else. The pigs start to give themselves more privileges. The pigs lie to the people they left behind and manipulate them into thinking that everything is done for their benefit. Gradually the pigs deny ever saying anything about unfairness and injustice. The pigs had never said anything about better pay, longer breaks and more reasonable working hours. What you have is already more than enough! The pigs surround themselves with idiotic but loyal dogs in order to create a stronger group. Eventually the pigs are hardly what they used to be at all, they have so willingly become like the farmers they had despised, that as it says in the book, “it was impossible to say which is which”.
You see, sadly, things will never change. The mare will always continue to pull the cart as long as you give her some sugar lumps and pretty ribbons for her mane. The pig, once put in a shirt, will begin to act the part of the oppressor. But, although things will never change, I still like to try and fight this system in my own little ways, and you should too, just to say:
Oink, oink! We see you little piggies, and we know what you are up to!