Written at a time when the evils of communism hadn’t been fully exposed and some still thought it could work in practice, Animal Farm was sure to be an eye opener.
The setting is a “normal” farm–controlled and managed by humans. But one day the animals have had enough of being oppressed and abused as human slaves. They rise up and take over the farm. Their goal is for all animals to be equal–to work for the good of the farm and for the sake of their community. Communism in action, in theory. But what will happen in practice?
I can see why this book has become a classic. It demonstrates that all ideas based around a communist model are doomed to failure from the outset. Humans are basically selfish due to sin–they cannot motivate themselves to work for the good of the masses. There will always be dictators who will rise up and seek to control the workers. Who will make the rules if everyone is equal and how will they be enforced? What happens to those who depart from the agreed standards?
I wasn’t expecting a short read like this to cover so many aspects of life. Previously accepted historic facts are airbrushed out of existence, and the animals in time become convinced that they have imagined things. It reminded me of those who seek to deny the Holocaust or even the death and resurrection of Jesus–both historically proven but now widely doubted or ignored.
The animals are kept superficially satisfied by being inundated with statistics, facts and figures. These tell them why they are better off than they used to be and how things are improving all of the time. Of course, this is not how the animals actually feel–they are hungry and miserable. But, the facts don’t lie, right? Ceremonies and certificates galore compensate for the meaninglessness of the animals futile daily activity. I witnessed this exact phenomenon whilst serving in the police–statistics can be manipulated to say exactly what the powers that be want them to say. A community feels that their neighbourhood is becoming more dangerous and that crime is on the rise. But, have you ever heard a politician or a police chief say that? Of course not, crime is always falling, unemployment is going down and the cities are safer than ever……
From a Christian perspective there is much to be learned also from Animal Farm. We know that communism will fail because of human nature towards selfish behaviour. Those who believe that the early believers in Acts were practicing a form of communism are forgetting that the text tells us that they voluntarily shared their possessions with each other. There was no force involved. Even then there were leaders who instructed the people and organised them. That is the way society has become since the original fall of man–there will be some rich and some poor. The Christian life is about what we do with the resources, talents and abilities we have been given by God, we can use them to bless others. Assuming that a common level of limited wealth would lead to satisfaction is a gross error because it removes our innate desire for innovation and to carry out a hard day of work and reap the benefits. To be able to share with others out of our abundance or even in our poverty.
It amazes me that despite the numerous (and tragic) failures of communist countries worldwide there are still so many people that think it can work. They point to an insignificant aspect of each dictatorship as the reason for the demise ignoring the obvious–communism will never work no matter the circumstances or favourable conditions because it is not part of God’s plan for mankind which has been clearly laid out in the Bible.
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