Animal Farm

OR Boxer in the Bath Tub
 
Author's Preamble, May 15, 2012: 
If they don't get it, those who wear their political persuasions like a suit of clothes will love this or hate this - for all the wrong reasons.  Those who think for themselves - regardless of their political position - and who are capable of looking at more than one side of an issue, will "get it" and judge what is written here on its own merits.
 
I have written a vignette. It captures what was for a me a brief period of time when I experienced a loss of innocence. Not through sexual misadventure - voluntary or otherwise - nor through some other abuse, but through enlightenment.  From a fairy tale about lost hope came enlightenment about misuse of power and unintended consequences. Before I describe my experience of reading Animal Farm, I must first tell the back story of this little book and how it relates to the history of both the United States and Britain.
 
Animal Farm is a cautionary fairy tale written by a socialist who despised and mistrusted communism and it is a metaphor of the communist and other revolutions.
 
Although the term Socialism is now used primarily as a perjorative - this word applies to a movement that was born in the 18th century and overlapped the Utopian movement. These two movements were as much a part of the early Church of Latter Day Saints (in my opinion) as they were in the growth of the corporation Coal Company towns in the east coast - such as Lebanon Pennsylvania and mines in Alaska such as Independence Mine in Hatcher Pass, near where I live now and where I once did historical research. What's more, socialist principles have been (rightly or wrongly) woven into the fabric of government and governmental service in varying amounts.
 
Political parties bearing the socialist banner developed as part of the democratic life of European countries and the United States. The Socialist Party of America once offered presidential candidates such as Eugene Debs who pulled in votes of a million or more. Socialist politicians in elected offices as minority party participants were able to swing larger voter blocks and had strong influence as a result.  Many would argue that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, established in its present form under three successive Republican administrations beginning with Harding, is strongly influenced by Socialism.
 
The communist takeover of Russia that resulted when the democratic "February Revolution", was replaced by the communist "October Revolution" was at first viewed with hope by American and British Socialists. By the 1930s many of these early converts were bitterly and rightly opposed to the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union and few would agee that things were any better under the Communists than they were under the Tsars.
 
Now for the vignette. My reading of the cautionary fairy tale:
 
My Grandmother was a member of the American Socialist party. She was also a freedom-loving, god-fearing patriot who hated communism even more than she hated the John Birch Society.  She had a steely resolve and was relentlessly self-sufficient and resourceful. She worked hard all day long into her late 80's. If she ran out of things to do for herself, she did for others. Late at night she would read by the light of a kerosene lamp. My grandmother loved freedom in part because she was 40 before she had the right to vote.  And she told me that she became a socialist because socialists in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century fought so hard for women's sufferage and for the rights of workers.
 
I was born in 1949, the last full year of the life of Eric Arthur Blair, better know as George Orwell.  Orwell was the author of Animal Farm.  A British citizen, he was a member of the Independent Labour Party, actually a Socialist Party, and is better known for another cautionary tale: 1984 which gets frequent mention from both left-wing and right-wing polemicists today.  Orwell was very critical of Communism and had an in-depth knowledge of various Socialist movements.
 
About 1962, my grandmother had gone to visit her sister in Oregon. Her house, which was on our farm and open to the family, never had running water or a refrigerator and the only electricity in it was from a 60-foot extension cord that ran to the house from an outlet in the yard.
 
To me, the house was full of wonders. My grandmother had accumulated many books, which were her only wealth and those riches were there for my use. The day was hot, sunny and idyllic. I was only beginning to learn to drive tractor, and I had some time off in the middle of the day. I poked around in my grandmother's house. I found Animal Farm, one of the few fiction books there.  I read the entire book in one sitting, perhaps in two hours.
 
As I read, sounds from the outside could be heard at the periphery of my conciousness. I could hear meadowlarks. The sound of the western meadowlark is the sound of summer heat. My uncle was working in a field a little over a half a mile away. His work was marked by the sound of the 2-cylinder "D" John Deere that he was driving. I could hear when he drove into heavy ground as the engine lugged. I could hear when he got stuck and rocked his way out of the wet ground and I could hear when the tractor idled as he stopped to eat his "lunch" - which in farm country - where the work is hard and calories are needed - is a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. 
 
As I read the book, I grieved when Boxer the horse - he of the great heart, who gave all without question or protest - died. By the time that I got to the end where the pigs and the humans gamble and one cannot tell pig from human, I felt that the warmth had drained out of the sunlight and I could sense a transparent but malevolent cloud standing above the roof of my grandmother's house. I saw the acquisition of freedom highjacked by a lust for power much like that which had created the problems that prompted the original revolt. I felt tired and older. I had learned for the first time, that the price of enlightenment can be a particular type of exhaustion.
 
Post-Ramble by Joe the Freedom-Loving God-Fearing Patriot :
 
Joe says I too have read Animal Farm
Reading it made me recall the thoughts and writings of William F.  Buckley, considered by many to be the founder of modern, post-FDR conservatism. Shortly before passing away, Mr. Buckley wrote eloquently of his disappointment in the George H. Bush Adminstration and (in his words), the excesses of the Republican majority that controlled the US House and Senate from 1994 to 2006.
 
The caution in the tale has never left me. When I heard the Who sing "Won't Get Fooled Again", I thought of Animal Farm. When I saw one of the noblest moments in America - the Civil Rights Movement - followed by busing, I thought "Don't Get Fooled Again". When I hear Grover Nordquist talking about "getting government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub", I think about Animal Farm and not being fooled again.  A conservative corrolary of the socialist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century is now occurring in America. A passionate, engaged Right is on the move. Right-wing polemicist radio broadcasts are heard daily in most communities in our country. Liberals are disengaged and complacent.  The ratio of civilian government employees to the general population has dropped by over 40% in 50 years. In that same time period, military spending by percentage of GDP has climbed by about 20% (adjusted for inflation and in today's dollars).  The majority of  state Governorships and Legislatures are controlled by members of the Republican Party - now, for the most part, purged of its moderate and liberal wings. The right will likely control the White House and both houses of congress in a few months. It is time for a far-sighted conservative; a modern day, right leaning equivalent of George Orwell to write an equivalent cautionary fairy tale. 
 
Who shall it be? Joe Scarborough? Alan Simpson?  Kevin Phillips. Mickey Edwards (who writes of "Democracy's
Cancer"), William Buckley? Oh no, the latter died after his best friend - the Socialist John Galbraith
passed away.  What shall it be called?  Animal Corporation? Animal Club For Growth? Animals Loving Freedom?
Who will be the Boxer that is drowned in the bath tub? And will there be a November Revolution followed by
... what? Joe The Patriot, signing off.
 
Federal Employees:
Numbers:
  1962 - 2,485 thousand employees in Legislative Branch - 180 million population
  2010 - 2,776 thousand employees in Legislative Branch - 360 million population
State control by Republicans: Governorships : 29, Legislatures : 31