Let’s talk about bacon.
In the beginning of Animal Farm Old Major begins the founding of Animalism with an observation of the oppressors of animals.
“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is the lord of all animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”
Old Major’s summation of the current power structure is built around Marx’s interpretation of the divide between the industrial proletariat and the bourgeoisie as well as Lenin’s own writings and considerations for the direction of the Russian Rebellion that took place in 1917. If we are to follow the allegory then Jones is to represent the monarchy which consisted of Tsar Nicholas II (usually dwarfed by the conspiracy theory areole that surrounds his dead daughter Anastasia) who was, while not an evil man, incompetent to maintain the peace in his country. However the purpose of this essay is not to reiterate that allegory that surrounds Animal Farm, but instead to push into a different interpretation to discover its value. Old Major’s critique of Mankind does possess relevant merit, however it lacks foresight.
What of the pig? My father growing up next to a farm was accustomed to raising and breeding livestock, often for the unfortunately underrated and far too few current Four H programs that still linger on like the dim colorful portrait of small America that’s now prostituted to ensure yet another year in the Senate seat. One of his most colorful stories involve the breeding of pigs. The actual act of coitus for pigs involves what is known as “corkscrewing” and I can assure you the pun is intentional. The actual penis of the male(which can grow up to two feet long) is coiled and upon penetration of the female “screws” into the vagina until the tip “locks” into place refusing to move until the act is completed. I can only wonder up all sorts of fantastic jokes about pig masturbation and the pitfalls of being walked in on, but let’s stay focused. Sex between pigs can last somewhere up to fifteen minutes and ejaculation in males can last somewhere between 5-10 minutes (making one question God’s “Intelligent Design” as well as his supposed love for us above all organisms on this planet). Where is the story you ask? Well, along with all of these facts pigs tend to make large amounts of noise. Anyone who has ever had to respond to a parents early interrogation about the noises certain animals make has responded, “The Piggy goes Oink-Oink.” Point in fact; the piggy makes long squeals interrupted only by grunts which can be heard several yards away from the observer. During the breeding season my father and his Uncle Bob would steer the boar into the pen with the sows and thus the chorus of plump angels began. Those tormented or curious about the noises would approach and ask. My father’s response was timeless (an annoying and endearing quality about the man), “Makin bacon.”
Old Major’s entire argument for Animalism is that each animal serves some purpose for the overall success of the farm. Horses and donkeys provide hard physical labor. Chickens, ducks, and geese provide eggs. Cows provide milk. Pigs provide…what do they provide?
Apart from bacon, pork chops, and loins soaked in Bar-b-Q sauce for several hours before being grilled alongside Yellow squash seasoned with Olive Oil and pepper…where was I? Oh yes. Apart from the succulent morsels that their bodies are composed of, pigs provide little to any actual resources on a farm. In fact one of the few and only resources pigs seem to provide apart from their bodies is shit. The metaphor’s cometh in droves. Indeed pig manure can actually be used to provide fertilizer for the growth and nutrients of crops.
Immediately there is a conflict of interest. If a pig can provide no other resource to a farm other than its flesh and it’s shit, then is it truly any better than the oppressor’s which hound it so? Pigs contain many similarities with human beings. I am not referring to the concluding and ominous portent of the text Animal Farm, but actual biology. Their flesh and body plan is in many ways similar to ours (anyone who has seen Martin Scorsese’s brilliant work Gangs of New York recalls Bill “The Butcher’s” remark “I love to work with pigs. Because the flesh of a pig is closest to that of a man”). Pigs have been shown to actually be highly intelligent species. In cramped and contained environments their behavior is not dissimilar to human beings in high stressed environments (they’re brutish and tend to fight one another for what resources they can get their hands on). They form social groups, interacting with other pigs and creating familial units. Wild Hogs currently stand as an ecological nightmare due to their seemingly-without-end-and-ever-growing numbers. Causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damages each year, not mention causing sever physical harm to those who happen to annoy or endanger them(or who just happen to annoy them), pigs are quickly proving to be just as versatile of handling annoying populace problems as human beings.
The nature of the pig is its intellect coupled with the brute force of its own body.
Looking at all of these elements it makes the most sense that the pigs should become the cruel successors to Jones following his expulsion. I recognize what many feel will come next, the comparison between mankind and pigs and a long tirade on how power turns men into pigs. I will not go down this obvious road. Instead I will discuss fairy tales.
Part of the inspiration for Animal Farm was Orwells’s radio. Listening to a broadcast by the BBC of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” Orwell was remembered of his fascination with the form. In fact with the original publication of Animal Farm the words “A Fairy Tale” were printed as a subtitle. This accompaniment has been dropped from the cover of the book, and if we consider Orwell’s crucial significance to those of us living in the twenty-first century as well as the contemporary cultural perception of fairy tales it makes sense. If the work is to be considered immediately as a “Fairy Tale” then many will perceive it to be possessing little to any actual importance. Fairy Tales are “myths” (yet another vocabulary error that never ceases to annoy and infuriate me), empty stories full of talking animals and pixies that have nothing to do with contemporary times.
A Fairy Tale is an effort to craft an allegorical story. If we consider the Fairy Tales of our youth the names Aesop and Brothers Grimm emerge, and if one considers each tale one will find not a magical plethora of pulp and fluff, but instead real humanity. Fairy Tales are often dark, revealing components to human society that many consider too traumatizing for children to experience. The same people who want their children to read Little Red Riding Hood might not consider their children old enough to watch the film Coraline, despite the fact that both tales ultimately involve the predation of children. The Emperor’s New Clothes appears a comical farce concerning a silly lord and his subject’s willingness to play along with his incompetence. It is only when a lone individual appears who is willing to tell the truth that the farce is revealed and any lesson can be learned. Christopher Hitchens (a man whom you probably by now guess I take great inspiration from) noted on this particularly piece in his brilliant book letters to a young contrarian:
“It’s not for nothing that we celebrate the story of the small boy and the unclothed emporer. I’m no great advocate of folkloric wisdom, but this tale has stood the test because what Orwell once said in another context: very often the hardest thing to see is what is right in front of your nose.”
The creatures of Animal Farm are regularly confused by the addition to the Commandments of Animalism (which I shall discuss in the third essay) as well as the re-writing of the history of the farm by Squealer. It is often the easy response to suggest that the animals deserve what they get for allowing the pigs to assume to the position that they do, but such a criticism is spoken poorly. Of course it seems obvious in hindsight that men like Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger would turn out to be embarrassments and quagmires of American democracy. Of course it seems obvious in hindsight that the War in Iraq was never going to be an in and out affair leaving the entire nation in jubilant satisfaction. Of course it seems obvious to us, that grandmother’s great big teeth, nose, and eyes are really the wolf ready to devour Little Red Riding Hood, because we understand it from another position. We have experienced the event and processed the lesson from it. Fairy Tales are necessary, because they impart didactic lessons necessary for the proper development of minds that shall eventually inherit the state.
“Pigs will be pigs and we should not be surprised by this” seems like a platitude, but like many platitudes it possess merit. Animal Farm was an attempt by Orwell to warn those living in the twentieth century of political idealism. In every society there are those who contribute productively. Carpenters provide us with homes and furniture. Fishermen and farmers provide us food which gives us sustenance. Writers and teachers challenge us intellectually so that we may learn and further progress our society. Artists create works which enhance our lives and help inspire creativity. But in every society there are those which provide only their flesh and their shit. Orwell reminds us that we must be careful about which we choose to ingest.