A little boy, 6 years old, walks into first grade for the first time. He is excited, ready for a new year of learning. The school day goes well for him, and he tells his mother about it after being picked up. The entire drive home, this 6-year-old tells his mom things that he was taught, of which his mom disagrees with. However, the kid still keeps going to school. Day after day, he is taught values his parents do not support, maybe even harmful ones. Then, as the child gets older, first 7, then 8, then 18, his parents realize that he was never really their child. Instead, he was his school’s, their government’s, child. They have a son that disagrees with them, will not listen to reason, and is completely indoctrinated by the teaching he has had since the young age of 6. And, as they watch in horror, they see their child become an adult, then a parent, then a leader. They watch their kid raise the next generation as he was raised. Then, those children grow up and teach others, over and over and over again. This cycle repeats until no one is alive to remember those parents, or their beliefs. Then, the society those good, kind, yet ignorant parents remember, is gone. After all, if you have the youngest generation, power is yours.
If a leader wants to gain full control of their country, this is the formula to do it. Indoctrinate the children, keep them under your thumb, then wait. It may take a few generations, but, unless stopped, this process will always be successful. After all, in James Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, the adopted leader of the farm, Napoleon, follows this tactic in order to gain power.
Animal Farm is, to put it simply, a book about a communist revolution disguised as a children’s story. It follows the journey of two bright and “enlightened” pigs, named Snowball and Napoleon, on their quest to make Animal Farm a haven for enslaved animals. Eventually, Snowball gets run out, and Napoleon is the one who takes control. For years, the other animals of the farm follow him without complaint, even when they themselves are discontent, overworked, and starving. But why? Why do these animals, as strong as they are, not fight back? Well, power comes from the barrel of a gun.
And that gun is nine loyal dogs. These dogs are the puppies of Mr. Jones’, the previous owner of Animal Farm’s dogs. They were loyal to Mr. Jones but were mostly ignored by Snowball and Napoleon. That was, until they had pups. Once those puppies were weaned, as any good power-hungry leader does, Napoleon snatched them up and decided to “educate” them. After all, “education of the young was more important than anything” (27). From birth, those puppies were trained to follow only Napoleon, to only obey what he said, and to always ensure his power.
Throughout the course of the story, Napoleon exploited the animals of the farm through the power the dogs held. Any animal that dared question Napoleon was under the watchful eyes of the hounds, and they threatened and threatened until there was no one left to challenge.
Then comes the gaslighting. In the opening story, the little boy was manipulated and indoctrinated first, then he went on to brainwash others. So goes with Animal Farm. After Napoleon’s main challengers were either scared into silence by the hounds, or killed, Napoleon began convincing the not-so-bright animals of the farm that things had always been this way. Their seven commandments, they were always like that. No, they had those exceptions. Don’t worry about it, you must be mistaken. No one challenged him, since there was no one left to. After that, Animal Farm’s dream, its ideas, was lost.
Leaders are never what they seem. While Napoleon is presented by his staunch followers and by himself as a good, strong, benevolent leader, in truth he is a vicious, pathological liar who only wants control. He never tells anyone the truth, and in fact, many of his followers probably don’t realize how hard it was for everyone else, they only know the good happening to themselves. Napoleon is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, his only motivation being greed. However, the true reason all his lies are accepted is because he has power. And that power comes from his dogs.
In many cases, people, just like the workers of Animal Farm, do not realize they are complying. They see this grand figure, put on a pedestal, preached about like a saint. Then, they see the power that leader holds, and have an almost awe-like fear of them. But in reality, that leader is not who they are presented to be. However, this hold on power is tenuous, but only for a brief window. In that window, they have not taken full control, they have not indoctrinated the entire population, and not everyone has believed their lies. This is one of the only times that these leaders’ influence is vulnerable.
However, with Animal Farm, Napoleon ensures that no one resists. He has the power of the first indoctrinated, the dogs, as well as those he bribes to be on his side. Then, he takes full power flawlessly. After, he gaslights everyone else until no one is left to challenge him.
Animal Farm, while many may see it as an instruction manual for a tyrannical leader, is actually a cautionary tale for the common man, allowing him insight into the process of taking power, and giving him the knowledge to be aware of it. When reading this, and Animal Farm, we should be aware of what the book is trying to tell you. It is telling us to know. It is telling us to understand. And most importantly, it is teaching us to think about what our leaders are doing, which is a burden that should not be taken lightly. While it may be painful, having to acknowledge faults in those we think of highly, the reward is even higher. Now, through this process of thought, a regular civilian can hold more power than even the strongest leader. In Animal Farm, Napoleon could have been stopped, if only one animal truly thought openly. So, why don’t we?
Leave a Reply