Monday, September 13, 2004

Animal Farm/1984 - Book Review

So coincidentally, this post title is also the year I was born. No no, not place - year.

Just finished devouring the whole of Animal Farm (yes I know I am late but I am still learning ok?) and besides the increasing amount of angst I felt at the injustice for the less intelligent animals as I read the book, I felt no strong repel against capitalism. At least I thought that the book was meant to be focusing on that issue - that Capitalism is wrong. Or not?

SL mentioned, without reading the book by itself but merely the literature guides which supposedly explained the crux of the book, that Capitalism in itself was not a bad thing. He said that every society still practise it.

One issue I have had some thoughts about was Intellect.

To be blessed with it is to be truly lucky - or not? The simple-minded would have their simple thrills in life as well. And if the purpose of living is to be happy, then surely these simpletons have achieved their goals well.

Say, for example, a simple-minded common girl would be satisfied with staying at home tending to her little children and watch them grow up into strong, healthy adults.

Sure, that would make me happy too (should I be able to find a man who is willing to marry me!), but I will not be satisfied. Hell no! Moving to another thought-track, what is causing my unhappiness? Let's drop all pretense here - I do think I am a very talented individual. I think I am smart - and therefore, should my intellect be used to its fullest extent only to tend to my kids, I will feel deeply uneasy.

I feel that I am not making full use of it. Not that the tending of kids is a easy job of course! - but if common women can do it, I am do it too, and IN ADDITION accomplish other amazing things.

On the other hand, why this arrogance? If I were maintaining this same amount of intellect, and yet the rest of the women around me were able to build aeroplanes out of their bare hands, would I still feel dissatisfied? If my IQ were 130 now, and everyone else's is 170 and above, then surely most of the money makers in the world would be the 170 people.

Therefore, mundane tasks shall as the cleaning of toilet bowls would necessarily be my kind of job scope, wouldn't it? (assuming that the 170 IQ people are not building robots for some reason, nor self-cleaning toilet bowls for that matter).

Maybe, if I know that I can never achieve anything better than tending my kids, I will not even think of trying, and I will be a satisfied, happy individual. This is of course with the theory that gratification comes from exceeding expectations.

I shall stop thinking of the hypothetic question of me having intellect below par.

Say now, I am a pig in Animal Farm. Is it right that I abuse this knowledge - this gift of my brains - to abuse and take advantage of the intellectually-handicapped?

YES. That's what I've always thought. That's correct - I will be Napolean if I were in that story, albeit not as cruel. Why, it's not my fault that others are stupid, isn't it? I want to make it big and be a big boss and pay my staff a salary - possibly as little as possible - and I feel I have every right to earn more than them because I am more capable.

What good is it to be smart if I do not gain out of it?

With Animal Farm, I've took a step back and examined my ideologies. How unfair it is to the horses and cows! How they were deceived, over and over again by the pigs!

But what other choices are there? If the pigs - if we for a moment imagine - were kind and benevolent, they would still give out big rations to the rest of the animals for their hard work while they remain dictators.

But what gives them the rights to tell everyone what to do? What gives them the powers to take what the animals reap and pass a dictated portion back to them? Correct, the animals are willing to listen to them pigs because they are smart enough to realise that the pig's directions are possibly going to lead them into some good. But still, does it mean that if the animals are willing/yearning to be worked it means you should tell them what to do? I'm still feeling confused - exactly how I feel whenever Hermione talks about Elf rights. Of course, it boils down to whatever makes the other animals HAPPY. If they want to be dictated, so be it.

On the other hand, what if the pigs do not tell the animals what to do, and no one comes up with any caste system at all?

We all know that communism does not work. They would all flop like dead fish.

So it ends up in "democracy", where, besides the majority rule thingy, each individual is given an equal chance to make it big. Who stands to gain once again? Let's put it this way: Have you seen a retarded person make it "big" yet?

So is the world meant to be this way? For the smart to, at their discretion, take advantage of the weak?

Is that really how it functions? How fair is it to be dumb people? Or is it fair because they are so dumb that they do not even know they are leading some mediocre/hard lives and are feeling quite satisfied - and therefore everyone from smart to dumb are happy?

That about nicely sums it up.

I'm still feeling relatively lost.

Let's talk about 1984.

It starts off as a RIDICULOUS book. It is so absurd! But as I read on, the book injected so many thoughts into me that I had to pensive (Harry Potter lingo, pardon me) some of it into this new blog of mine.

To those who did not have the pleasure of reading the book, it is about Winston, who lived in 1984. Take note that I am about halfway through the book now, so it might turn out like Sophie's World where the potagonist is mere fiction. Forgive me if that is the case.

Winston stays in a society formed after the "revolution". A "party" is formed (once again Orwell focuses a lot on Capitalism), headed by the man nicked Big Brother, or B.B. for short.

It was times of absolutely no privacy, no freedom, and absolute control (by the party). "Telescreens" were everywhere - these TVs which could send you pictures would also video your every move for the "Thought Police", and record your every spoken whisper. Do not even think for a moment that you are insignificant and thus the T.P. would not be interested in your life! Oh no, they are constantly watching you!

A million other rules - Sex is not good; WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

You HAVE to support and obey the party - or they will kill you. Or in Orwell's words, VAPORIZE you. All evidence of your existence will be erased, and no trace of you left.

Everyone, out of fear of death (or simple stupidity), obeys the Party.

How ludicious, I thought. How could people actually succumb to such nonsense! If I were to live my life under Thought Police, I would rebel! I would find like-minded individuals, and change this silly system. People were born to be free!

Yet, there is a startling element of probability in this scary notion. What if I alone thought so (As Winston does too) but have no way of communicating this thought to fellow humans so as to confirm that I am not insane?

With telescreens watching everywhere, Winston could not find like-minded individuals, and even if he did find one or two, the powers are not enough to over-throw the party.

To add oil to the fire, the past is being altered away, so that in time to come, people will cease to find out how life was before the revolution began (50 years ago). This alone has the terrible consequence of making everyone blinded to the fact that it is not always been like this ... Their ancestors were once FREE.

How could the past be altered? Through sheer efforts and absolute power, the party changes statistics and destroys old prints/photographs/books.

Before the revolution, they said, the world was a sad place with capitalists in top hats. They, a small group, alone controlled the world and everyone else were their slaves.

Just as one's mind gets tangled uncomfortably in Orwell's world of 1984, he introduces a new mind-set. Before I go to that, let's talk about why it is uncomfortable.

What about OUR society now? What if ... It was not always like this? What if the Conspiracy Theory was true, and the statistics given to us (i.e. better health etc) were all fake? Total freedom - how would it be like? THEY told us that crime rates would increase, standards of living will drop (and logically thinking it sounds correct) but what if these were not true? What if, in our olden days where there was no Government and absolute freedom, there were no rape cases, because girls then are willing sex partners without society's rein on them? What if diseases we know are actually released by the Government to convince us that we would have died from AIDS without their protection against sexual crimes?

Never mind this little wild thought.

As I was saying, just as I was getting very uncomfortable about Orwell's world, Julia was introduced to the book.

A sweet young thing of 26, Winston hated her and wanted to rape and kill her because she was precisely the kind of girl he dislikes - the ones who TRULY believe in the words of the Party and TRULY believe that sex is supposed to be "a duty to the party", and the type of sneak who will report a thought-criminal to the authorities and watch him hung.

Julia was part of the Junior Anti-Sex League - a band of celibre comrades (Orwell was fond of this word) who actively work against sexual activities.

Julia was totally not what Winston imagined, and she was in love with Winston.

In a surprising twist, Orwell now focused on the love factor of their story, and I felt myself, embarrassingly, more entertained and at ease than I was when I was reading the front parts where much thinking is required of the brain.

He had a purpose in doing that ... Julia, it turns out, was a rebel as well. She adored sex and hated the party - but not in the same manner as Winston.

If Winston were looking at South East Asia, Julia was only looking at Singapore. She, like many of the other youths, have taken and accepted that the Party was there, and their way of life was unalterable. But no ... She was not about to take things down as it is either. Her way would be to break the rules in a secret manner, and do the things she enjoys the best she can.

This would be a very self-centred view. As long as it affects her, she tries to dodge it. If not, she cannot be bothered. And yes, it is precisely the reason why it is so much simpler to read suddenly- it symbolises how simple it is to be selfish, as compared to the exasperation often associated with changing something as big as society.

Both of them feeling unjustified, but very different resulting acts.

p/s: I possibly should mention this little character in the book as well, called Syme. He worked on the Newspeak (the Party's lingo) dictionary.

He was in charge of creating new words, and perfecting the ceases in the language.

Soon, Syme said, Newspeak will be used to replace Oldspeak (normal English) once and for all. For the party, Oldspeak is flawed. How can, he explained, the slogan of the party be "Freedom is Slavery"? In Newspeak, there will be no such word as "Freedom". Without the feeling (comrades were not ALLOWED to like freedom), there is no need for a word to describe it at all, and without the word (in future), no one else will ever need to know what is 'freedom'.

Now HOW SCARY IS THAT? On the other hand, it is also brilliant. How, how on Earth can I describe that I feel perplexed, or jealous, without using either words? By erasing words out of the dictionary, it is also a method to get rid of some emotions?

Winston had predicted Syme's vaporization because he is too smart for his own good, and the Party do not like these people. Winston could sense that Syme did not agree with the Party, although his every words sounded absolutely zealous. Too zealous, in fact. This is so sad because I really liked Syme.

Enough for the day, I'll review more after I finish the book. Feel so much better now! Tata!