Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lessons of the Cat

by Skald

Ive been thinking of Orwell's Animal Farm recently. What makes it particularly depressing and powerful is its dead-on accuracy. It not only describes a totalitarian communist state.. it mirrors our own American brave new world.

Napolean and the other pigs, like George Bush & the republicans, are masters of manipulation and fear. They slowly erode the newfound freedoms of the animals through the creation and exaggeration of external threats. First, there is a real threat... other human farmers attack Animal Farm. This sews the seeds of fear which the pigs skillfully exploit. They remind the other animals of this attack again and again and again.

They keep the threat of attack hanging over the befuddled animals as they dismantle their freedoms one by one. When Snowball challenges them, they drive him off. He is then puffed up into a threatening icon... the pigs tell the animals that the agents of Snowball are everywhere. Everywhere they are hiding... plotting and ready to strike (sounds like Al-Qaida, eh).

And so the animals gradually submit to control, drudgery, and... finally.. brutal oppression. Some do so mindlessly (the sheep), some do so through "loyalty" (the horse), some through cynicism and passivity (the donkey), some through fear (most of the others).

All submit except one: the cat. Throughout the entire story... from revolution to totalitarian dominance, the cat remains aloof. He ignores all efforts to "reform". He does not concern himself with the games and dramas of the other animals. He cares only for his own life and remains true to his own nature. He cannot be ruled or controlled because he remains outside the system... he never acknowledges the right of other animals to tell him what to do. And so he is the only animal that remains free and the only one who seems to smoothly ride out every event.

There's much to be learned there.


Ryan Garou said...

Funny how something written as a reaction to Stalinism ends up, 60 years later, drawing such notable parallels to neo-fasci ... excuse me, neo-conservatism.

For my money, I think the truly prophetic dystopia novel is going to wind up being Sinclair Lewis'
"It Can't Happen Here"

Kris said...

It's been so many years since I read Animal Farm, that I don't even remember the cat.