I’ve read Animal Farm, and 1984. It was at least 30 years ago, but I read them. I remember the gist of each – the theme, the message, the plot — but most of the details are no longer with me.
This comes around because today is George Orwell’s birthday. He was born on June 25, in the year 1903. And, reading about him this morning, I realized I knew very little about his life. He was born in imperial India, specifically, Motihari, Bengal, India. And his real name was Eric Arthur Blair. Early on, with his mother, he moved to England. Of all places, he was then educated at Eton. His family had wealth, and class.
I don’t know, but I always pictured George Orwell as some short, roundish guy from the Bronx. With a comb-over. But that just isn’t the case.
Without going into every detail of his very busy and complicated life, he was, among other things, a teacher, a colonial policeman in Burma, and a soldier who fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. He led a very involved life, with some pretty strong points of view.
In 1947, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Early on the morning of the 21st of January, 1950, an artery burst in Orwell’s lungs. It killed him. He was only 46.
Orwell was a fascinating figure, for sure. And of course, a brilliant writer. I would call him an idealist. And he was warning us. Warning us with all his words about the dangers of totalitarianism (whatever its political form). Of course, we see this message in 1984, and in Animal Farm.
I probably won’t reread these books, as there are 378,014 other books that I have on my list. I remember enough. Especially about Animal Farm.
Yes, the Animals wanted to overthrow the humans because they completely disagreed with how they were running their world. The barnyard wanted equality and fairness. They overtook the farmer. Drove him right out of “Office” and started to run things how they saw fit. The Pigs were in charge. But after time, the greed, the power, and the corruption got “to” them. They started acting exactly as the humans had. Maybe worse. They completely forgot about their Seven Commandments — their core values. And instead, they just whittled it all down to one axiom which they painted on the barn.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
That George Orwell sure had some telling words for us. Us here in 2018. And beyond, if we pigs aren’t careful.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions.” ― Albert Einstein (Essay to Leo Baeck, 1953)”