Is Animal Farm relevant to Singapore?
Is Animal Farm relevant to Singapore?
Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 1:03 am | 851 views
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Tan Kin Lian / Columnist
Are we seeing a modern Animal Farm happening in Singapore, where corruption and propaganda are used to control the populace?
ANIMAL Farm is a novel written by George Orwell in 1945. I studied this book for Literature when I was in Secondary Two.
It is a satire, depicting events in Russia leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. The animals of Animal Farm threw out the owner Mr. Jones and took over the farm, depicting the overthrow of the Czar of Russia during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
The animals, representing the people, looked forward to a better life under a new leadership. Their leaders were the Pigs, and Napolean was the supreme leader. He ruled Animal Farm initially with the support of the animals, but later kept his power through all means, including propaganda, lies and the use of terror.
Two memorable parts of the book were the Seven Commandments and how they became distorted and the story of the loyal horse Boxer.
The original seven commandments of Animal Farm were written to reflect equality of the animals, ethical behaviour and the search for a better life:
Whatever goes upon two legs enemy
Whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend,
No animal shall wear clothes. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
Later Napoleon and the Pigs (elites) were corrupted by the absolute power they held over the farm. To maintain their popularity with the other animals, they secretly painted additions to some commandments to benefit the pigs while keeping them free of accusation of breaking the laws. The Pigs manage to get away with this because only Benjamin the donkey and Muriel the goat can read to any effective degree, but they were not willing to challenge the pigs.
The commandments were changed to accommodate the desire of the leader for a life of luxury and wealth, while ignoring the lot of the other animals.
No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
Four legs good, two legs better!
No animal shall kill another animal without cause.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
I felt strongly attached to the horse Boxer. He was the symbol of the working class: loyal, kind, dedicated and respectful. He was physically the strongest animal on the farm, but naïve and slow. His two maxims were “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right”, reflecting his strong and unquestioning loyalty to the leader. He was, to a large extent, taken in by the propaganda of the leaders. His work ethic is often praised by the Pigs, and he is set as a prime example to the other animals.
When Boxer was injured and could no longer work, Napoleon sent him off to the knacker’s yard to be slaughtered and used to make glue and leather. He deceived the other animals, saying that Boxer died peacefully in the hospital and that the ambulance was an old knacker’s van that hadn’t been repainted.
Towards the end of the story, the pigs learned to stand on two legs and regarded the four-legged populace as inferiors (i.e. lesser morons). They started to wear Mr. Jones’ clothes, slept in beds and drank alcohol.
They brutally ordered the killings of the confessing animals (who were forced to confess to crimes they did not commit).
The slogan “Four legs good, two legs bad!” was later changed to “Four legs good, two legs better!” as the pigs became more human.
Relevance to Singapore
Although this book was written as a satire to the Russian Revolution, some bloggers have started to compare it with what is happening in Singapore today.
There are grounds for the people of Singapore to be concerned. We have seen the good old values of Singapore being replaced by new values. In the past, Singaporeans were more honest in their dealings and had a stronger sense of caring for each other. In recent years, ethics and honesty are being set aside in the pursuit if wealth. There was less care or concern for the welfare of the weak and the poor.
Even the pursuit of equality was now thrown aside unashamedly. Someone told me that this is now replaced by the expression: “Look at the fingers of your hand - do you find them of equal length?”
I cannot help but think of Boxer as reflecting the workers of Singapore – hard working, dedicated and loyal, but were let down when they grow old. After a lifetime of work, they could not afford to retire and were asked to continue working. They have no security, no pension, no savings for old age (many lost through the credit linked notes) and cannot afford the expensive health care.
I have seen many examples in our society where business and public leaders say one thing but acted in a different way. They declare a concern for the welfare of the customers, but continued to make excessive profit at their expense. They declare a strong belief in corporate governance, but felt it proper to hide information “in the interest of the organisation”. Similar examples can be found in the public realm. If one is used to distorting the truth, in due course, one will believe the distortions to be true!
I like to mention the wise old donkey Benjamin in the story. He could read as well as any pig, but preferred to have a low profile. Benjamin had known about the pigs’ wrongdoing the entire time, but he said nothing to the other animals. He represented the cynics in society or the intellectuals who had the wisdom to stay clear of the purges, but take no action themselves.
RH: MY ACQUAINTANCE, MR DAVID DUCLOS, A FORMER POLICE INSPECTOR, AND HIS LAWYER FRIEND, EYEWITNESSED LEE KUAN YEW RIGGING THE 1997 CHENG SAN GRC ELECTION. READ MORE AT MY BLOG ENTITLED "I CAME, I SAW, I SOLVED IT" :
[ALSO AT THE ABOVE BLOG, LIE KUAN YEW's LIES, CORRUPTION, WRONGFUL JAILING, TORTURE AND BEATING TO DEATH OF INNOCENT POLITICAL PRISONERS LIKE MR CHAN HOCK HUA]
READ ALSO MARTYN SEE's INTERVIEW WITH ME AT:
FOR QUICK, IRREVERENT REASONS WHY LIE KY DESERVES A NOBEL:
MY ARCHIVE OF WORKS AT:
PHOTOS OF LIE KY SCRATCHING MY WIFE's NEW CAR:
NOT GUILTY BUT TORTURED, DEGRADED 15 YEARS FOR PUBLICITY, FUN