Saturday, June 20, 2015

ANIMAL FARM: A Liberal Review

Abraham Maslow's pyramidal representation of the possibilities a human being is capable of in a self-actualized model of living came to my mind as I observed the events in the story of the Animal Farm and its animals. Strangely, the concept of self-actualization is not precisely associated with George Orwell's Animal Farm. Animal Farm is a political allegory. It unveils and analyzes the impacts of an authoritarian society. The characters in this book include both the subjects and subjugators. Nowhere in this book self-actualization becomes a discussion. This the exactly the why behind the reference to this significant stream of psycho-philosophical outlook named self-actualization. It is not the presence of individual growth of the characters that become our point of observation but its absence. If the farm animals represent the Russian proletariat as popular criticism asserts in various reading of the text, something is seriously wrong with such a model.

The only undeniable opportunity the farm animals receive is 'denial'. Denial of consciousness is the worst of it all. And how can we assert a denial of consciousness is only limited to the era of communism in Russia, or to communism itself? When a television news broadcast promulgates a story that in itself is a sheer manipulation of what had originally taken place, aren't they denying the right of the common man to be conscious about the original event? Disinformation is one of the major sources for information in our time. Call it postmodern cultural reality. Everyone goes through loads of disinformation or bullshit on a daily basis. From schools to government offices, from homes to multinational corporations, we have learnt to lie and worst, to live with lies.
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Grand ideals stir rebellion in a farm land called Manor Farm. The farm is owned by the human being called Mr. Jones. He is a man with no fundamental values other than drinking and shirking. One day a boar named Major has a dream. He shares the dream with all other animals in the farm. During the gathering that was convened in the barn Major shares his insights about an ideal society in which every animal is equal and free. Major remembers, almost miraculously, a song that he had heard a young child. The song is titled The Beasts of England and it full of optimism and revolutionary ideas for animal freedom.

I started reading Animal Farm with a prejudice that I incurred through my academic career as a teacher of English Literature. I mean, the allegory stuff. The matter of solidified criticism in the book is the communist totalitarianism in Europe. However, this view received a serious self-analysis as I reached Chapter-3. I realized that George Orwell has created a marvel of literary art with his animals that ran a farm in England. The animals spoke English too, and like many other instances like hoisting a flag or singing an anthem, it didn't feel odd. The "fairy tale" model has worked immensely for Mr. Orwell. A Fairy Story is the subtitle of Animal Farm,and aptly so. This subtitle not just gives a space for philosophical discussions, but it also renders to the story technical perfection. How efficiently George Orwell represented human realities using animals is the key factor any student of writing might find fascinating and useful in this book. 
Animal Farm allegorizes many cultural stereotypes and not just political systems. A novella in size, Animal Farmmade George Orwell popular. George Orwell had written books such as Burmese Days (1934), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigen Pier (1937) and Coming Up for Air, before Animal Farm. Orwell's life changed, as a writer, with the publication of Animal Farm. Another book that followed asserted his popularity. This book was titled Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Animal Farmends with the shattering of hopes and irredeemable desperation. The leaders of the revolution, drained of all the ideological zeal appear to be profit mongering megalomaniacs. They become "too practical", to use a terminology from popular culture. Animal Farmends with an apt scene that exemplifies this.
"The creatures from outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

This scene narrates a confusion. No confusion, however, can be felt as a reader. It's crystal clear that the leadership of the animals have compromised. They no longer resemble the folk that started it all through the Rebellion. Yes, a rebellion with a capital R.
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Three philosophical quantum moments mark the body of the Animal Farmwith transcendental wisdom. I am not sure if Orwell had any intention to tell a story that was oriented in higher consciousness and the awareness of the Source. These three philosophical quantum moments help us tune into an unforgettable wavelength of higher consciousness through the story of animals that play human roles. These three quantum moments appear as follows: 1. Rebellion 2. The seven commandments 3. Banquet with humans.

The Rebellion with a capital R serves the distinct purpose of establishing the harmony with an awareness that comes to Major through a dream-experience. Remember that this book is nothing else but animals pretending to run a world of humans. Plus, it's an allegory. This means, once we succeed in seeing through the maze of meaning in Animal Farm these concepts and nuggets of awareness can be assimilated into our personal lives too. This, I believe is the great historical value of Animal Farm. One receives the visionary idea about a political system that is going nowhere, but to the doom of its inhabitants, and at the same time can see through the meaning, the essence of human spiritual experience. Animal Farm, in this regard, is a deeply spiritual book. The best example for this experience is the scene of Major giving the lecture to the animals in the barn about an ideal society. The society resembles Thomas Moore's Utopia and Carl Marx's socialist state. However, the spiritual side of the book tells us to look into this scene and see why all those inhabitants find Major's concept of ideal society inviting. A harmony is at play here.

The animals of the farm find themselves aligned with Promised Land that until then only existed in Major’s head. In Animal Farm, this Promised Land seems to be within the territory of Manor Farm. Only they have to bring it into life through their active participation. By giving the animals an anthem, Major extols the role of imagining a society where all animals are equal. Major has clearly attained a glance at his higher consciousness. It is from there he receives the dream as well as the anthem song, which he himself affirms to be lost in the chaos of childhood memories. Major represents any individual deriving his or her knowledge from one’s conscience. And conscience, as Dr. Viktor E Frankl points out connects our physical self with higher self. The farm animals feel the resonance with their needs and the dreams shared by Major.
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The Seven Commandments are written on the wall of the barn where Major first spoke of the dream of a society sustained in equality. This happens after the Rebellion. The Rebellion is a decisive moment that acts like a bridge between a dream and its manifestation into reality. As a result, the excited animals of the farm rename the farm as Animal Farm and assemble under the seven commandments.

First commandment reads: “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.” Engraved in the first commandment is the commitment the animals make towards building their new society—destroying humans. At one point, the animals start addressing the way of life they dream for themselves as “animalism”. Battling humans is the central treatise of animalism.

Gradually, these set of maxims undergo subtle changes. Although the rest of the farm animals notice the change, they are unable to place their finger on the problem. As the time passes, the seven commandments that served as the semiotic map in preserving the ideal society dreamed by Major, the boar, undergoes manipulation and abandonment. The pigs appear as the ruling class, with Napoleon, a boar as their head. The pinnacle of manipulation appears as the seventh commandment that originally read: “All animals are equal,” is transfigured into “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This scene evidently portrays the death of a realm imagined and attempted by the animals. Animals in this book are not merely animals; they are allegorical figures. This brings the thematic significance of seven commandments and the equality concept closer to human experience. The idea of a grand social order based on justice and equality is pure energy waiting to burst through and manifest into physicality. The manipulation of the seven commandments is the intervention of self-centered thinking and corruption blemishing the original idea.

Eventually, the banquet with humans transforms the pigs into human-like, at least in the eyes of the observing animals. This event shuts the doors and puts the seal on the ideal notion of a society where everyone is equal. None of the animals in the farm feel aligned with the new notion that humans are better and that animals should work with them in order to progress. Napoleon announces some staggering changes in the running of the farm as well. Here is the time to unveil the spiritual lesson engraved in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
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The pure creative energy that originates from the Source of all Being appears through Major and his dream. However, in its application, the animals fail to access the levels of success they dreamed the project would bring. The result would have been different if the animals had remained truly aligned throughout with the Divine creative energy that creates thoughts and manifests itself through dreams. In other words, instead of letting the Diving creative energy taking control of them, the ruling class of the animal farm takes control of the destiny of the farm animals. Perhaps, the ideal society was just a dream. But one is not sure. Each moment, every one of us covets to take hold of our own ideal worlds. The truth is no one can have it until we let our higher self resonates with the Source energy, call it god, Krishna, or Allah. Only our complete resonance with that energy can let the creation happen with the dreams we had manifested into the physical reality.   

1 comment:

Terri said...

I remember Tio Chip sharing concepts from this book with me as well as others over the years...