Animal Farm

posted May 2, 2012, 10:56 PM by Joshua M. Patton   [ updated May 2, 2012, 11:00 PM ]
I have read George Orwell's Animal Farm about a half-dozen times and I always reread it during an election year. This book is perhaps the best book about politics ever written. While Orwell originally wrote this book to aim criticism at Stalin and what Orwell saw as the bastardization of socialism, I think that the book is applicable to the American political process today.  

While many comparisons can be made, I shall only highlight the one that I think may be the most important moral in Orwell's political fable: the pigs' transformation into humans. I noticed this during the 2008 election, specifically the hope that was put into then-candidate Obama and the change that he might bring. Obama seemed to be different -- in areas other than his skin color -- even though his electorate placed loftier hopes on his Presidency than any man could actually achieve. Yet, like Napolean and the other pigs changed from four-legged animals living the same as the others to two-legged whiskey-drinking animals that slept in beds, many of those most hopeful about Obama feel that he has changed in much the same way.  They elected a smooth-talking, basketball-playing, pragmatist who, after inauguration, became an ineffective communicator, played golf, and seemed just like the politicians Americans are used to having fuck up their lives.

Senator McCain had also gone through similar changes.  In 2000 he was truly the maverick candidate who seemed to care more about his principles than the "right moves" to be elected. Throughout the Bush-43 Administration and the 2008 election, he had been warped into a shell of his former self.  He backed positions he didn't believe in four or eight years previously.  The 2009 became about the victory, perhaps stemming from a sense of entitlement, and less about what America (or Manor Farm) needed.  It seems that once in the farmhouse, it is hard to avoid eventually walking on two legs.

That is the beauty of Orwell's "Fairy Story." It is applicable in almost any situation despite being specifically critical of Stalin and the Soviets -- the horn and hoof flag described sounds very much like the hammer and sickle of the Soviet flag.  I reread it during election years because it makes it easier, with the details fresh in my mind, to apply to the current circumstances. It hasn't failed yet.