“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall
I recently re-read the old classic “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. The first time I read it was when I was in fourth grade. Back then my childlike mind couldn’t spell “political assassinations”, let alone understand the allegories to the Russian Revolution in this book. That is why when a seventeen-year-old me, read it again, I was surprised that a ten-year-old me would even read a book like this.
But I was startled for another reason too. While the killing-your-ideological-opponents-for-your-benefits part doesn’t exactly feel very relatable to me, but the events that happened after the coup did.
For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, here’s what happens:
The animals of a farm one day oust the farmer and run the farm themselves, living with principles of equality, liberty and harmony. Pigs fill the government positions due to their superior intellect. But soon one of the leader pigs tries to assassinate his political rival, forcing him to flee the area. The evil pig then assumes total control of the farm. The rest of the book describes how the farm gradually becomes more like a dictatorship and loses its principles. It ends with the pigs learning to walk on two legs, wearing human clothes and associating with humans.
Safe to say, I will never look at pigs the same way again. George Orwell ought to have thought of a better title for this book. “Animal Farm” sounds less like “A Kid’s Guide to Communism” more like a bed time story. [Note- Read this to your child as a bed-time story if you want to scar him for life.]
I have strayed far off topic. Anyway, one of the thoughts that went through my mind aside from “What kind of kid would be messed up enough to read this at the age 10?” was about how relevant this book to this day.
The pigtator in the story often used his power to quash dissent among other animals. Even now we have various governments and organisations of various countries trying to end all criticism by force.
If we are to mention world leaders who resemble pigs in action and appearance, look no further than the US. US president Trump lashed out at athletes taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and racism. Other members of his party criticised the players saying that they’re lucky they’re in USA; otherwise they’d be shot for protesting.
Seems to me that they don’t want people protesting against the government. This kind of behaviour resembles the pigtator in the story has he uses his elite death squad of dogs to kill anyone who questions his authority.
But why talk about the US, when we have our own problems back here in India?
Here we are ruled by a different body, one that enacts harsher measures against dissenters. Religious “groups” [I say, groups, that way because apparently only terrorists are the ones in Islam. The rest are simply “nationalists”. Ask the KKK if you don’t believe me.]
Back to the matter at hand. Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist and advocate of freedom of press was shot dead outside her house recently. She was a staunch critic of radical Hindu nationalism. Many believe it was her views that led to her demise. The case is eerily similar to the murder of activist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013. He fought against superstition and was gunned down by assailants.
It’s not just assassinations that curb freedom of speech. At any given controversy, people who have different views are called many names. “Commie” “Libtard” “Anti nationalist” and the list goes on.
I wish I could say that I know how to end this culture. Unfortunately, even the book offered no solution. There is no easy way to protect our rights, except fighting for it. Public debates must be held regularly. You should stop defending your ideology and beliefs in the comments section and listen to your opponents issue in public. Only then can you understand one another and grow to be more tolerant people. To speak freely is our right. Maybe if we could treat each other better as human beings and try to understand one another, we wouldn’t resort to our animalistic tendencies and the world wouldn’t fall into chaos as this book foretold.