Thursday, August 9, 2018

The psychopath's ability

Peter Hall's adaptation of Animal Farm in a production by the English touring company Paper Zoo, 2008.

Because I am so deeply, deeply fatigued with the Orwell abuse. Not only because Eric Blair/George Orwell was a committed democratic socialist from his time in the Spanish Civil War to the end of his life, in a continual rage with the wetness of the Atlee government of 1945 because it wasn't socialist enough, but because none of these people has even read the first chapter of Animal Farm carefully enough to understand that Farmer Jones, the book's representative of the English wealthy class, is a drunk and an idiot who deserves to be overthrown—
Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs. Jones was already snoring....
Unfortunately, the uproar [of the animals' revolutionary meeting] awoke Mr. Jones, who sprang out of bed, making sure that there was a fox in the yard. He seized the gun which always stood in a corner of his bedroom, and let fly a charge of number 6 shot into the darkness. The pellets buried themselves in the wall of the barn and the meeting broke up hurriedly.
—and the animals' case for revolution as made by Old Major, the Lenin figure, is a hundred percent true:
“Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength....
“And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones. I am twelve years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the natural life of a pig. But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end. You young porkers who are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the block within a year. To that horror we all must come — cows, pigs, hens, sheep, everyone. Even the horses and the dogs have no better fate. You, Boxer, the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds. As for the dogs, when they grow old and toothless, Jones ties a brick round their necks and drowns them in the nearest pond....
And if you go on to chapter 2 you can find some choice mockery of the Opiate of the People—
The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr. Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work, but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain...
And so on. You might not have remembered—I didn't, at all—what an absolutely radical book it is.

Because this isn't one of those cases like Star Wars or what have you where conservatives take a good story that isn't really ideological at all and turn it into a tract for their views. Animal Farm is an extremely ideological story, completely consistent with Marxian thinking, whose catastrophe comes not because the animals' economic theory is wrong but because the Stalin pig, Napoleon, betrays it, with his brilliantly crafted but deeply evil language abuse ("Some animals are more equal than others"), and rules the animals with all the injustice of Jones, and worse, without bourgeois softness or sentimentality, through terror. Napoleon wins with the ability of the psychopath to ignore (like ex-Sheriff Clarke) everything but pure power. But the injustice the animals fought (the animals of the fable, with their lively language and complex moral sense, not real farm animals) was real, horrible injustice.

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