Given that, unless a truly dark horse emerges amidst a tsunami of voters who finally find their courage and discard their blinders, I’ll need to dull my sensibilities a bit, … so, … I’m about to settle in to abide our continuing dystopia, re-reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Thank goodness for decent whiskey, although Irish is hard to find here so I’ll settle for Scotch.
A prelude first though. An introductory act to set the stage.
“A rant, a rant, my kingdom for a rant”, although not being a king, or a prince, or a duke, or a count, that may not get me much of a rant. So, “Observations from Deep within Dark Shadows in a Blairian World”! What might that mean the week before another ultimate existential presidential election in the United States, where “the sky is really falling this time, … Honest mister”! An election too much like the last one albeit with an even worst Democratic Party candidate, but a Hell of a lot more manipulation by the media and pollsters and Deep State operatives, and Hollywood celebrities basking in their self-proclaimed wisdom. As it was back at the end of the second war to end all wars but which like the first, utterly failed in its mission thus wasting tens upon tens upon tens of millions of lives, now become hundreds upon hundreds of millions, it is again the Russians who are being blamed, although they are no longer Stalinist-communists, or communists at all really. And of course the Chinese, and the Iranians, and perhaps the Venezuelans and Nicaraguans and Syrians and who knows who else too. Paranoia??? Who, .. us? Is there a reason mirror sales are down and those of deceptive self-portraits of ourselves-in-others’-faces are up? And “selfies”, well what can one say about that phenomenon. And what is “sexting” all about (and why didn’t it exist when I had something to sext about?)
Or perhaps the title should be different, perhaps something like “Reflections on a Dank and Dark, All Hollows Eve”, but one where Halloween parties are outlawed under Puritan anti-fun strictures in their modern day, politically correct incarnations, and “tricks or treats” are what our major political parties play at, constantly and consistently”, but that seems a bit lengthy. “Observations from Deep within Dark Shadows in a Blairian World” it is then although, from “Utopia to Dystopia” fits rather nicely as well
Back to Animal Farm!
Sooo, to start: George Orwell, a name associated with dystopia, both in fairy-tales-of-sorts and science fiction. Who and what was he to have become so prescient? A much more eloquent Edgar Cayce perhaps; a more transparent Nostradamus. Or a Cassandra for our times. And politically? Anti-communist conservatives have loved him for three quarters of a century, but so have anarchists and liberals and libertarians. So, what was he?
A “democratic socialist”, of course, what else? Like Einstein and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And, until recently, Noam Chomsky. But, then, we wasn’t even really George Orwell. I’d forgotten that George Orwell was a pen name; that he has really christened Eric Blair and thus, instead of Orwellian, our world is Blairian. That he had transplanted roots that saw first light in South Asia, solid colonialist British Civil service roots, and that he as an “Eatonite”, fabulously incongruous, although not a happy Eatonite. And I’m only at the third page of the 1996 Russell Baker preface. This should be fun.
So, I’ve finished the preface and wonder how Russell Baker could have been more mistaken in his jubilant optimism at the “defeat” of the dark forces Blair and Huxley and Koestler had identified. Indeed, Baker’s heroes are, in fact, today’s villains, virtually identical in all too many respects to the bad guys of the second war to end all wars, just more subtly so and with better narrative creative control. Thus Zionist-Israel, almost incredibly, mirrors the Nazis (how Blairian) and the United States, as it has always been, remains true to the worst of the British, those islanders who have for centuries been as ruthless and deadly as any of the axis powers but have impacted many more people for a really long time, a record the United States seems determined to break.
On to the C. M. Woodhouse introduction. “Woodhouse”, that name has a pleasant populist ring to it but set amidst aristocratic anglophilic echoes. One wonders at its origins, perhaps in the mists, humble, but then, its evolution steadily climbing, until, …. Then again, how is the name “Baker” any different? Blair deserved better “introductors”, although Woodhouse was not bad, just not phantasmagorical or truly prescient, although, unlike Baker who was “prefacing within a decade of Animal Farm’s publication, Woodhouse had a half century during which to observe and ponder, still, it was a meaningful decade, one that introduced us to the GOP’s Joe McCarthy, now apparently a Democratic Party icon. Interesting that for some utterly inexplicable reason, that makes me wonder what one of my childhood heroes, Walter R. Brooks’ Freddy the Pig, would have thought of his literary species-mate and star of Animal Farm (at least as seen from his own mirror), “Napoleon”. And Napoleon, of course, makes me think of bees. No bees in the book though, at least none that I can recall.
So, on to the book itself. It’s been a decade over a half century since I first read it (three score years I think that is), and, more’s the pity, that long since I last read it as well. I was a high school student then, also reading things like Ayn Rand’s mysteriously mystical blend of pseudo-philosophy which, for some reason, had no place for widows or orphans or for the residual detritus of endless wars. I’ve morphed frequently since then, wondering just yesterday whether, in fact, there is anything behind my own mask, or anyone else’s for that matter, except, of course, for very young children, perhaps the only real human beings among us, assuming that being human is a good thing.
“Napoleon”, sheeesh!!! How British to name the villain after the only real threat the British Empire ever faced, yester-year’s “Hitler”, which makes one wonder if perceptions concerning that most infamous of Austrians will ever change. Napoleon certainly has, in every direction possible, not surprising given his complex character and even more complex genius, flaws and all, and his apparently acquired taste for arsenic as a seasoning. But, … in Animal Farm “Napoleon” it is. Ironic given his association as a porcine with Joseph Stalin (who we are told, Blair intended to excoriate in the novel), the Man of Steel (almost contemporaneously with the introduction of Superman) who did to the Nazis what Czar Alexander did to the French in the preceding century. But we all have our ethnic prejudices to “bear”. Perhaps it’s a sort of karma.
“Moses, the tame raven, the spy, a treacherous prophet preaching the importance of accepting things as they are, and of enjoying rewards for such predelictive apathy in the afterlife. A very clever metaphor without varying the name, just the form. “Sugarcandy Mountain”, like the Abrahamic variants of Heaven, in this case seemingly premised on a delightfully addictive poison, a Marxian opiate of sorts for the Animalist masses. Clever fellow that the Moses, the original as well as the Blairian. Damned apples and milk too!!! Especially the apples. Again the fruit at the center of the demise of a fledgling Paradise, the forbidden fruit that the One had reserved to himself now once again reserved to the privileged few, a metaphor morphing into allegory, … but why pick on the milk?
The coup by Napoleon and the subsequent perpetual threat of the return of Jones and demonization of the Trotskyite “Snowball” is, of course, all too familiar, but now, today, it is unexpectedly echoed in the perpetual calls to beware the Russians, and the Chinese, and the constantly replicated Russiagate fraud. As in Animal Farm, truth in the United States has become utterly irrelevant, hypocrisy rampant, and while Stalin is very, very long dead, as is the Soviet Union, they are still all too useful in ways Blair may have foreseen but perhaps tactically misunderstood. I wonder if he believed that any of the international political contenders at the time wore white hats? Certainly none of the principle contenders in the United States have since Blair wrote Animal Farm (although I did like Ike, but I was very young then). Still, saving the worst for last, sort of, journalists today have assumed a role combining the porcine Napoleon’s trained dogs (my apologies to canines everywhere for the comparison) and “Squealer”, the pig.
Done once again, and once again it seems so easy to transpose this inspired collection of metaphors into allegory, and allegory into dismay. The observation “we have seen the enemy and he is us” comes to mind, both in the sense of our gullibility on the one hand (Boxer the wonderful horse), our pernicious bleating on another (the sheep, so reminiscent of protestors for fun and profit who deprive everyone else of the right to an opinion, while not really holding one of their own), the utterly selfish self-propagating elites (the pigs) on one foot (having run out of hands) but especially, those who so consistently distort the truth and rewrite our history (“Squealer”) and make possible every travesty and betrayal, our purported journalists (I prefer not to speculate to what bodily appendage or part I ought to ascribe them). Without them, evil cannot prosper, or at least prosper for long.
Eric Blair is beyond the veil, he has been for a long time, but as is the case with the Trojan princess and seeress Cassandra, with Aldous Huxley, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Gore Vidal and with myriads of other fruitless prophets, possibly watching us, glad to no longer be incarnate among us.
Animal Farm, a depressing fairy tale, but one very worth reading.
Next, a reread of Eric Blair’s “1984”.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic consultant employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.