By Omar Bihimidine
By Omar Bihimidine
Morocco World World News
Sidi Ifni, Morocco, August 3, 2012
The Social Dimension
The social dimension is clearly omnipresent in the sparked uprisings in the long-oppressed countries. Throughout history, any revolt and protest have stemmed from common social ills, such as social injustice, slavery, oppression, poverty, ill treatment, and repression of freedoms. It is now common practice that these social problems have fueled not only the Arab Spring, but also many other revolutions in Russia and France and in some other countries during their first movements towards democracy. When human beings are socially, politically and economically repressed, revolutions become inevitable. The Arab Spring, the current democratic revolutions, is an instance in point. From the figurative point of view, through his fable Animal Farm, George Orwell makes the point clearer. In the novel, animals, underfed and overworked, revolt against their farmer, Mr. Jones, as their patience has petered out. Similarly, the depressed and oppressed Arabs have done the same and have revolted against their tyrannical leaders (Fink).
1. Social Injustice:
Old Major in Animal Farm draws the attention of the other animals on Manor Farm to the miserable and laborious living conditions under which they live because of the injustices of Mr. Jones and his men’s monopoly of the animals’ produce. On the other hand, Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable and fruit vendor, set fire to himself to draw his Tunisian compatriots’ attention to pervasive social injustice. In Tunisia, levels of unemployment among the youth have increased dramatically, which forced Bouazizi and his likes to move from place to place in quest of a dignified living. They feel obliged to pay the rent, support their family financially, and most importantly lead a respectable life.
Though referring to different allusions, Animal Farm prophesies the same social calamity that befalls nations all over the world. Animals too have fallen prey to Man’s greed. They work for Jones’ welfare, but they get almost nothing in return. Instead, Jones slaughters them as soon as they are no longer able to produce. Just as Man is animals’ only enemy because he has destroyed their lives and dashed their hopes, Gaddafi, the killed Libyan leader, too tormented Libyans, banished many free voices and monopolized the fortune that petrol, Libyans’ natural resource, brings the economy of Libya. Libyans received very little in return for their labor despite the fact that the Libyan land as a whole would suffice to enrich Libyans overnight (Smith).
Similarly, Major, the aged pig in the story, tells the animals the land alone could support them and help them lead bountiful lives. Libyans expelled and killed the tyrannical Gaddafi as soon as they were fully aware that he was the cause of their misery. Animals, representing ordinary people in real life, too expel their farmer for the same reason. Animals and ordinary men all long for freedom and comfort.
Animals in the story undoubtedly refer to average citizens in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt for the simple reason that they continuously complain about the same effects of social injustice and meet the same destiny. It goes without saying that pigs, however, refer to Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi in that they both exploit ordinary animals, average citizens, for the sake of their welfare and that of their families.
As far as animals, such as donkeys and sheep, and ordinary Egyptians are concerned, it is challenging to distinguish one from another with regard to falling prey to social injustice. The ideas and words of the animals in the novel are very similar to those uttered by current protesters in the Arab world. Both animals and common men condemn the undeserved welfare of their leaders and complain about their misery. Both have got slogans; the slogan of Old Major is “Remove Man!”, while that of the Egyptian protesters, for instance, is “Remove Mubarak! “. Jones, for animals, is as tyrannical as Mubarak is for Egyptians, Ben Ali is for Tunisians, and Gaddafi is for Libyans. “Our lives are miserable, laborious and short, ” an inspiring statement uttered by Old Major, alerting animals, convey nearly the same revolutionary message as ” Down with misery, unemployment, and corruption, ” uttered by Egyptian protesters at “Tahrir Square”. ” Our lives are short, ” uttered by Old Major in the parable is indistinguishable from ” We are miserably aged uttered by Mr. “Harimna” during the first days of the historic Tunisian revolution in late December, 2010 (Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger).
Like all enthusiastic animals on Manor Farm, Libyans, Tunisians, and Egyptians once took to the street in protest of social injustices and chorally chanted a song which was indistinguishable from that of ” Beasts of England” which all animals on Manor Farm sing as a result of succeeding in revolting against Man. Animalism, a virtue coined by revolutionary animals and shortly implemented, in addition to newly-sparked uprisings across the Arab world have both stemmed from growing inequality, massive standard-of-living gaps, negligence, abject poverty, inhumanity and so forth.
In general, the social ills in question have finally culminated in the Arab Spring and in the prophecy of Orwell in the novel which is the unfair distribution of wealth, increasing famine rates and food shortage among human beings in the years to come. In a brilliant way, George Orwell prophesied a bleak future for common men and the Arab spring is living proof to this. Injustice of all sorts, harshly condemned by Orwell, is implied in many of his historic quotes. Among the latter is “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever,” said George Orwell (Brainy Quote).
Just as Mr. Jones makes of the animals on Manor Farm as slaves who work for his welfare and are made to produce eggs, milk and meat for him and his wife, Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi enslaved Libyans for 42 years and practiced against them and their families the most outrageous and inhumane injustices ever. His family had absolute power over the Libyan people for four decades. This clearly reminds us of a master-slave relationship. The largest majority of Libyans make up the rank-and-file who have been exploited by Gaddafi to produce only what they need to sustain their miserable lives. He didn’t allow them to get richer for fear that they would one day equal one of his affluent family members (Smith).
Gaddafi as a tyrant was notorious for his modern slavery. He committed an incredibly outrageous act of dictatorship which was the massacre of 1,200 prisoners at Abu Salim on June 29, 1996. Many Libyan families lost their relatives. Among them was Fathi Ferbil who was reported to have lost three family members. The tyrannical Gaddafi also hanged many free Libyans because of their frank and outright views (Smith).
In a similar manner, Mr. Jones exploits the animals on Manor Farm and never feeds them well enough. He slaughters them as soon as they prove useless. He mistreats and curses them all the time. Enraged and motivated by their idol, the late Old Major, animals take over their farmer and drive him and his men away. However, towards the end of the novel, treachery and slavery have returned back to Animal Farm, not among human beings towards animals, but this time, among animals towards each other. All average animals, including donkeys, chickens, and horses begin to work more assiduously than ever before, while the pigs do nothing. Without the other animals being aware of it, pigs have cunningly enslaved them just as Arab dictators treat Arabs and have altered the original commandments of Animalism so that they can make use of animals and enslave them the way they like.
Being in charge of the farm because of his absolute power, Napoleon, the elected pig and Leader, exploits animals harder than before by setting them to work day in and day out so as to build the windmill that has been allegedly blown up three times by the banished Snowball. Napoleon’s intent behind this is to occupy the minds of the animals and to engage them, like the Arab working masses, in laborious work. In this way, they will have little time to think critically about what is going on around them. And this has long been the case in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, to name but a few. By way of illustration, people’s minds are enslaved and cunningly manipulated (Fink).
As long as the totalitarian system is re-established on the farm, animals soon discover that there is no difference between Jones’ enslavement and that of Napoleon, the leader pig especially that the lives of animals are still as they have always been. To add insult to injury, average animals cannot utter any complaints with regard to the disservices done to them for fear of execution and hanging. To animals’ dismay, pigs, their fellow animals, in conspiracy with human beings have enslaved both the bodies and minds of animals. Yet, like Arabs before the Arab Spring, animals can’t help but remain loyal and over-obedient to their dictator.
Before the Arab Spring breaks out in Egypt, the largest majority of Egyptians were already growing more and more impoverished. Still worse was that they did not feel at one point in their lives that they had the full right to raise up their concerns in the face of the tyrant Mubarak. The slavery I am associating with the Egyptian masses takes a modern meaning, which is that Egyptians live on two dollars a day or less (Shaub). Doubtless, this is, among other things, the root cause of the current Arab uprisings and revolutions. Under this enslavement, Egyptians, like the average animals in Orwell’s novel, could not help being enslaved at a time when every fortune Egypt is blessed with was monopolized by Mubarak, his family and his men. Regrettably, Egyptians were growing increasingly impoverished due to this exaggerated enslavement (Shaub).
Tunisians’ servitude under Ben Ali’s rule is brilliantly akin to the suffering which animals under Mr. Jones control and his men’s endure. The latter is manifested in many social ills that characterized Tunisians before the emergence of the Arab Spring. Tunisians’ servitude takes different forms, ranging from economic misery, absence of access to basic opportunities and services the advantageous Tunisians enjoy to moving from place to place to improve their living conditions. Throughout history, slaves are known to move to remote places in quest for a better, dignified livelihood just as Mohamed Bouazizi did with his cart prior to setting himself alight out of impatience with more slavery and servitude, a policy long adopted by the Arab governments, including mainly Egypt, Libya, Syria and so forth.
Just as animals have despaired of being enslaved by their master Jones, then by the pigs, their fellow animals, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans in particular, and Syrians have similarly run out of patience with the enslaving Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi and now Bashar Assad. Now, time alone will tell whether the Arabs, like their symbols in the novel, will enslave each other once they seize power. As we all know, enslavement usually emanates from power (Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger).
3. Freedom of Thought:
Towards the end of Animal Farm, the new totalitarian system established by Napoleon on the farm has manipulated the minds of the average animals. When sheep, chickens, and donkeys speak their minds about the commandments that are being altered, one after another, by the new tyrannical system of Napoleon, the latter and his fellow pigs are now charged with psychological manipulations of words and events. Despite the violations pigs have committed against their fellow animals, Old Major, the late, wisest pig, calls for freedom of thought among all the animals on Manor Farm. And when the revolution breaks out, many animal freedom ‘activists’ have come to the fore and have been awarded for their courage and tenacity to face the tyrant Mr Jones and his men during the Battles of Cowshed (Fink).
Back to “the Arab Spring” which the novel implicitly hints at, several activists of freedom of thought have been awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharou in support for their militancy. This must remind us of Snowball, a character, who too is acclaimed as a hero and is decorated after the Battle of the Cowshed is over. Among the Arab Spring laureates is Mohamed Bouazizi (Tunisia), Asmaa Mahfouz (Egypt) and Ali Farzat, a renowned cartoonist, who had his hands broken by the merciless security forces in Syria.
Like animals who symbolize average people in the novel and who have successfully organized free, transparent, and democratic elections, Tunisians have similarly called for freedom, transparency, and democracy. In the process, the founder of Yemen Rights Monitor human rights group, Maria, raised her fellow activists’ awareness to fight against censorship and gagging journalists who daily voice the concerns of the downtrodden Arabs (Gharbia).
For instance, the Yemeni government decided to ban Al Jazeera, but despite this, activists recorded videos on their phones, posted the footage of the revolution scenes and bloodshed to Youtube (a video-sharing website) and Facebook, (a social network service). Therefore, they succeeded in disseminating the content directly to the Al Jazeera live stream (an international news network) and the whole picture of the events taking place (Gharbia). This strategy turns out to be effective. Fortunately for the participants in the revolution, Bob Boorstin, the Director at Google, discloses that forty democratic and authoritarian regimes around the globe are actively blocking free speech.
“A call to freedom” recorded and uttered by Egypt’s Asmaa Mahfouz and also by fictional Old Major has inspired thousands of people to take to the street and attend the protests at Cairo Tahrir Square (Shaub). Similarly, average animals have been inspired to attend the regular meetings held at the barn on Manor Farm. In the Arab world, many brave journalists, writers, and most importantly free intellectuals have been incarcerated for so long. Among the journalists in question is the Libyan dissident Ahmed Al Zuhair and Ahmed al-Samusi who were imprisoned for 31 years for the act of opposing Gaddafi. This is why freedom of thought has been non-existent under the regime of Gaddafi, which clearly turns out to be among the catalysts leading to the overthrow of the tyrant (Smith).
Similarly, after the success of the revolution and after Napoleon has taken over the farm, he calls for a number of immediate executions under the pretext that the suspected animals are indulging in freedom of thought. Bearing in mind the impact of disseminating one’s revolutionary thoughts to his or her fellows, Napoleon hastens to suppress any attempts at opposing the new anti-Animalism changes befalling Animal Farm. On the other hand, to silence the anger of courageous journalists who continue to unveil the tyrannies, injustices, and disservices, callously practiced under the rule of Ben Ali (Tunisia) Mubarak (Egypt) and Gaddafi (Libya), the dictators in question imprisoned them for years and at the same time tortured them physically and mentally as scapegoats for whoever Arab wanted to expose their inalienable human right, that of freedom of thought. It is only after overthrowing the respective dictators do the jailed journalists and other freedom-of-thought militants begin to enjoy their freedom.
Whereas Arab dictators thrive on suppressing their citizens’ freedom and oppressing their minds through not educating them well enough to catch up with the developing world, dictatorship in Animal Farm in its prophesying form begins to thrive the minute Napoleon breaks the principles first set by Old Major and set to adopt his own self-interested policies instead. Napoleon has instilled fear into the whole farm in the same way Arab dictators spread terror like wildfire in every corner (Orwell).
As a parable, it has to be taken figuratively so that we can have a better understanding of freedom of thought as one of the principal causes leading to the current movements towards democracy in both the Arab world and in Animal Farm. In this regard, freedom of thought is the common denominator between the true miracle of the Arab Spring and the fictional story of Animal Farm. The conclusion we have come to definitely lies in that in Animal Farm, George Orwell prophesies the Arab Spring, which clearly means that Orwell’s prophecy has turned out to be true as far as freedom of thought, one of the catalysts, is concerned.
To Be Continued…
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Animal Farm. London: Secker and Warburg, 17 August 1945.
Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger. Wikipedia. 15 January 2001.
Gharbia, Sami Ben. Inside the ‘Arab Spring’ Al Jazeera. 11 July 2011.
Shaub, William. «The Roots of Revolution in Egypt.» Arbitrage Magazine (2011): 1-3.
Smith, Roger. «ABUSE OF POWER BY GADDAFI & SONS.» Asian Defense News (2011): 1.
Dickey, Christopher. An Arab Spring Update of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. Newsweek Magazine (2011): 1-2.
Omar Bihmidine is a high school teacher of English. He holds a BA from Ibn Zohr University, Agadir. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine, in the ALC Oasis magazine in Agadir, and in the late Casablanca analyst newspaper (Email: [email protected]).