In 1945 George Orwell released his iconic novella, Animal Farm. Schools across the country continue to read this book to this day due to its political symbolism and simple/direct metaphors.
This short book only has about 140 pages, but it’s filled with truth and thought provoking scenes. There’s much to be learned from Orwell’s classic. It’s eye opening and definitely changes the way one looks at government and society as a whole.
Here are five major and disturbing life lessons from Animal Farm:
1 – Workers will work harder if they think they’re working for themselves.
The animals on the farm work twice as hard for their new swine leader and eat a lot less because they feel they’re working for themselves instead of a human master.
The pig basically turned the farm animals into free-labor slaves by making the animals think they were working for themselves and not man. They accepted less food and did twice as much labor than they did for the human owner.
The animals were being fooled, of course. They were lied to and made to believe they worked towards their own self-interest when in reality, their new pig leader was taking full advantage of their loyalty.
2 – Creating imaginary, powerful enemies increases loyalty and faith in the leader.
The animals on the farm are constantly fed the stories that a menacing thief and saboteur is destroying their hard work. Not only is their leader lying about this, but he’s the one actually stealing more food for himself and his posse.
If you want to increase the loyalty of your followers, make up an evil enemy. Make them scared and angry at this imaginary foe. They will then allow you to steal more of their freedoms because they’ll trust you to protect them from the false enemy. In return, you as the corrupt leader will get more goods for yourself and more blind trust from your subjects.
Fake, evil enemies/antagonists = loyalty and the submission of freedom.
3 – The fear of losing accustomed comforts will increase loyalty.
In Animal Farm, the farm animals occasionally grow tired and somewhat question the pig’s decisions. In all of these instances, the pig basically says, “Well at least we have it better now than we did with our man owner.” Or, “Hey, we have it much better than those animals on the other farms.” And then all the animals agree for fear of losing their new “freedom” and go back to work.
A lot of times, we don’t question the way things are because we’re afraid of losing some of the goods and services we feel we’re lucky to have. This doesn’t only apply to countries and governments. This is also typically the case with relationships and careers as well. We’re afraid to quit and move on because of the unknown awaiting us after the departure.
From Animal Farm, it’s implied that maybe it’s better to question the situation and try and improve conditions instead of living in misery for fear of the unknown, potentially arduous future.
4 – History repeats.
Good intentions are common in the beginning of everything. With time, however, evil, selfishness, and greed tend to find their way back into all establishments.
How do we avoid becoming the very sinister institutions we work so very hard to escape from? History, corruption, and governments – they all tend to follow vicious cycles. They start out wanting to make a difference and end up wanting only to protect themselves.
Lies, greed, deception, stealing the freedoms of citizens, civil disturbances – it’s never ending.
5 – Think for yourself. Question your leaders, question everything.
Anytime in Animal Farm, when an outlier calls the pig out on his inconsistencies, the pig and his crew quickly create fables to cover their tracks. They blame false enemies, they blame the animals for not trusting their leaders, and they use violence often.
Instead of questioning the pig further, the animals accept the lies and punishment and continue on with their arduous labor and starvation.
We want to believe that our leaders have our best interests in mind. We want to trust that they’ll protect us because we’re their people and because we pay them taxes and have a “democracy.” But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s probably rarely the case.
I’m not just referring to federal, massive governments. This applies to everything – bosses, relationships, partners, friends, team captains, heroes, etc. Learn to think for yourself and don’t always accept everything you hear, see, or read. Question everything.
Animal Farm is short, insightful read and I would suggest everyone read and analyze this metaphorical story. Though it was written in retaliation to a specific government of Orwell’s time, it continues to be applicable and valid in modern society.
Question everything, watch out for repeating history, don’t be afraid to work towards a better life, make sure the enemies aren’t imaginary, and don’t be fooled into thinking you’re working for yourself. Reality can be disturbing, but we can’t be blind to the truth forever.
See the swine for what they are – gluttonous pigs.
Thank you for reading this post. Fight to keep your freedom.
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