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Date Posted: Fri, Jan 05 2007, 20:48:04 PST
Author: Tom Luby-THE BLANKET
Subject: Of Animal Farm & Similar Stories
In reply to: THE BLANKET 's message, "The Final Step-Anthony McIntyre" on Fri, Jan 05 2007, 20:27:14 PST

Of Animal Farm and Similar Stories
A reflection upon Sinn Fein's new dissidents



Tom Luby • 1 January 2007

‘Animal Farm’, George Orwell’s magnificent and timeless satire on political corruption and arrogance ends in a way that Sinn Fein’s recently materialized dissidents should take time to read and reflect upon as they prepare to watch their erstwhile leaders ‘suck the PSNI truncheon’ at the forthcoming special ard-fheis. (I was about to write ‘revisit’ instead of ‘read and reflect’ before realising that if they had ever read and understood this book this article would never have been necessary!)

Those familiar with ‘Animal Farm’ will remember that it is set on a farm which is taken over by its much abused animals who, led and guided by the pigs, drive the tyrannical ‘Mr Jones’ the farmer from the farm. With their revolution a success they pin their political proclamation on the wall of the barn, the most important sentence of which reads: ‘All animals are born equal’, and a new era dawns.

All goes well for a while. The chief pig Snowball is a wise and compassionate leader. He teaches the other animals to read and write and the farm is organised well and harvests are bountiful, enough to feed all the once starved animals. But another pig, Napoleon has his eyes on Snowball’s job and he begins a feud with him. Snowball announces plans for a windmill to ease the animals’ labour but Napoleon opposes the idea. Secretly Napoleon has been training the farm’s dogs as attack dogs. During a meeting of animals to discuss the windmill, Napoleon summons his dogs and they chase Snowball from the farm. After this Napoleon takes charge and announces that the windmill idea was really his and had been stolen by Snowball.

Life starts to change for the worse on Animal Farm. The pigs, led by Napoleon, take more and more privileges for themselves and begin to rewrite history, putting Napoleon at the leadership of the revolution not Snowball. The animals must work harder and they are whipped into line by the savage dogs and by other pigs, one of whom, Squealer coins the phrase ‘Napoleon is always right’.

Slowly, the political proclamation is altered but the animals are not that bright and most of them don’t realise what has happened until it is much too late. For instance the slogan ‘All animals are born equal’ is changled to ‘All animals are born equal but some animals are more equal than others’.

Perhaps the most stupid of all the animals is a horse called Boxer who believes everything that Napoleon and the pigs tell him. Boxer gives his all for Napoleon. He is badly wounded in skirmishes with allies of ‘Mr Jones’ who are always trying to take back the farm and he works like a slave to help the farm succeed, despite his bad wounds. But eventually, while working on the windmill, he collapses exhausted. Napoleon sends for a van from the vet but when it takes Boxer away, Benjamin the donkey reads what is written on the side: ‘Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler’. When Benjamin tells the other animals, Squealer arrives to tell them that Benjamin is a liar. The hospital, he says, had bought the van with old writing still on it and Boxer had peacefully passed away in the hospital. The animals accept Squealer's word - after all Napoleon is always right.

I hope, dear new dissidents, that by now you recognise at least a part of your own story in all of this: Napoleon is of course ‘The Big Lad’ who got to power via a similar feud with a rival who was chased off by attack dogs (actually there were several - Billy McKee, Ivor Bell, Ruardhi O Bradaigh, Daithi O Connail, Micky McKevitt); the other pigs are his ‘Think Tank’; Squealer is....well take your pick: McGuinness, Morrison, Gibney, Hartley, Storey, Big Ted, Gerry Kelly and so on; as for Boxer well the name ‘Slab’ springs to mind but there are many, many other candidates residing in the cold clay of Milltown and other cemetery plots around the North who would qualify just as well.

Does the lie about the Glue Boiler’s van not remind you of lies that you were told about decommissioning - or what about the assurance that Sinn Fein would never accept Stormont; whatever happened to the slogan 'Disband the RUC'; why was there never an IRA Convention before the 1994 ceasefire, as promised by McGuinness? Napoleon’s attack dogs are of course the IRA, or at least the internal security unit bit of it and you must admit that altering the slogan about ‘All animals being equal’ is uncomfortably close to saying that the struggle of the last thirty years was never for a socialist republic but really about achieving Catholic 'justice and equality'. As for all the privileges going to the pigs ask yourself how it is that 'The Big Lad' and his family own two homes in Belfast and a luxury holiday home in Donegal, that Gerry Kelly has a villa in Spain and a flat in Portugal, that Storey owns property in Turkey, that Dessie Mackin is a property millionaire - and so on?

‘Animal Farm’ ends with Napoleon hosting a dinner party for his fellow pigs and humans who were once their enemies. They announce a new alliance (call it the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrews Agreement) as the festivities begin but then during a drunken, post-prandial poker game an argument breaks out when Napoleon and one of the humans, a farmer called ‘Mr Pilkington’ both play the Ace of Spades. The animals are watching all this through the windows and suddenly they realise that the pigs are walking upright and are indistinguishable from the humans.

For ‘Mr Pilkington’ read Blair, Bush or Paisley. But it doesn’t really matter since the point of the story is this: you, dear new dissidents, are the animals looking in through the windows at ‘The Big Lad’ playing cards with the people he once persuaded you to risk your lives and your souls to kill, now indistinguishable from the once hated enemy. ‘Animal Farm’ ends on the same depressing note as your own story - with the victory of the pig/humans and the animals realising far too late what has happened to them, the farm and the revolution they began in so much hope and joy. But the real message from Orwell’s work of genius is that none of what happened on ‘Animal Farm’ would have been possible without the stupidity of the animals.

Now do you get it?

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