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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Animal Farm - an allegory of greed, power and exploitation

Today marks the anniversary of the first publishing of George Orwell's revolutionary novel, Animal Farm, which was an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union under Stalin. It was also an allegory of the insidious evil of capitalism that exploits the greed and selfishness lurking in the heart of humans.

Capitalists often refer to Animal Farm when criticising socialism and communism as though the book was written in defence of capitalism.

George Orwell was in fact, a democratic socialist. He supported socialism. He did not support Stalin or any other government that abused the principles of socialism. He did not support capitalism.

As background, the book is set on a farm owned by Mr Jones. The animals, including the pigs, cows, dogs, chickens, all feel that they are enslaved and are being used to make farmer Jones wealthy while they live outside and do not receive the full benefit of their labours. This is an allegory of the greed, power, exploitation and inequality that underpins capitalism.

Eventually the animals revolt and drive Mr Jones from the farm. They chant, 'four legs good, two legs bad'.
An allegory of the mindless mantras and slogans that politicians use to manipulate the populace.

Following the revolution, the animals believe that they can be responsible for their own lives, that their labours will benefit all animals on the farm equally. No longer will one person or creature be made wealthy at the expense of others. They even agree on the '7 Commandments of Animalism'. An allegory of the principles of socialism and Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

The original 7 Commandments of Animalism are:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill another animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Because the pigs are smarter, some of them decide that they will determine how the produce will be shared. Eventually, the aspirational 7 Commandments become a bit cumbersome for the greedy and power-hungry pigs who realise that they can make themselves prosperous by exploiting the efforts of the other farm animals. An allegory of capitalism.

They move into the farm-house, sleep in the beds and drink alcohol. They employ the dogs to keep the other animals under control and outside, to ensure that they work hard without dissent. An allegory of Stalin and the KGB.

The original 7 Commandments are modified by the pigs:

1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
6. No animal shall kill another animal without cause.
7. All animals are equal.

Eventually, the 7 Commandments are replaced by one phrase:




An allegory of the abuse of democracy by capitalism and the abuse of socialism by capitalist's masquerading as socialists.

The other animals are fed propaganda that explains why things are so much better under the new regime, while history and their memories of the Jones era is rewritten for them. An allegory of every government in the world.

The failure of Animalism becomes apparent when there is no longer any difference between the ruling pigs, who are now wearing clothes and walking on two legs, and the humans, as shown in the following paragraph from Chapter 10:

'No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which'.

Animal Farm is less an allegory of the failure of socialism and more an allegory of the failure of Stalinism. The book provides no defence for capitalism, expounding the woes of those workers who were exploited by capitalists. It shows the reason for socialism and for the revolution. It also shows that the biggest threat to socialism is greed.

Socialism is about ensuring that all are looked after. Capitalism, at its most ideological, claims that the wealth of the few will trickle down to the rest of society, thus ensuring that all are looked after. In reality, those with wealth accumulate more from the efforts of workers, while allowing as little as possible to trickle down. Workers are essentially working to make the rich richer.

The difference between the economics of Stalin and the extreme capitalism of the western world is minimal:  the labours of the workers are exploited for the few. Both are driven by greed, power and exploitation. Both are based on selfishness and individual gain at the expense of all others.

True socialism attempts to temper greed and the abuse of power, however, it requires a dedication by all to all. It requires that we respect each other and care for each other. Perhaps this is too much to expect when the lies of capitalism pander to the greed within each of us.


Related articles on

1.  The Fruits of Capitalism - rotten to the core

2. Name one successful socialist country

3. Biblical socialism - "to each as anyone has need"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sinister crusaders

The religious persecution of homosexuality is tantamount to the medieval demonisation of left-handedness.

'Twas a time, not so long ago, that true believers, pious Christians, would force left-handed people to become right-handed. You see, being left-handed was considered to be a sin. It was believed that those unfortunates who favoured their left-hands did so because of an evil spirit - not because they were 'born that way'.

These days Christians of similar piety believe they can 'pray away the gay'. In other words, that homosexuality is not natural, that people are not 'born gay', so therefore all homosexuals can 'become straight'.

The bible no doubt favours the right hand.  After all, Jesus sits at the 'right-hand of the Father'. When imparting a blessing on someone, it was the right hand that would be laid upon them. The left hand was seen as a sign of deceit, foolishness and sin. Take Ecclesiastes 10:2 for example, 'a wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fool's heart at his left.' The Judgement Day parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, has Jesus separate them by placing the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. The parable ends with the sheep being welcomed in and blessed of God, while the goats are cursed and ordered to depart into everlasting fire.

Even the word 'sinister' reveals the dark nature of being left-handed. One definition of sinister is 'bad, evil, base or wicked'. Another is, 'of or on the left side; left'. So there you have it, being left-handed is out of favour with God and is evil.

Too bad that people are naturally born left-handed ... regardless of what the pious witch-burners of yester-year claimed with their twisted scriptures and scientific ignorance.

Some might quite cleverly argue that the bible does not actually say 'thou shalt not be left-handed', nor that we actually force the left-handed out of anyone these days, so comparing attitudes to left-handedness with attitudes to homosexuality is fallacious. Most of the right-wing religious folk have grave issue accepting that anyone can be 'born gay', because to do so kind of makes it a little difficult to call it a sin. Some pious folks will accept that maybe some people are born gay, however, they believe that it is a condition that can be healed. Interesting points of view, however, if people are naturally homosexual, are 'born that way', then how can they be accused of sinning. No other congenital condition is considered a sin.

The way that some pious folks carry on, anyone would think that homosexuality is the new black (or in this case, the new left) when it comes to demonising people, that it is the worst sin in the world.

Romans 3:23 says 'for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. 'All have sinned'! The scripture goes on to state in verse 24, 'being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus'. Because all have sinned and we have all been justified by the grace of God, none of us can boast of being more righteous than anyone else. Just a few scriptures after these, in verse 27, 'Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith'.

If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, then keep in mind that in God's view it is no worse than any other sin. Yet the pious folk want it outlawed and those who are homosexual to be banned from marrying. There is more campaigning against homosexuality then there is against poverty, yet there are literally thousands of scriptures that quite clearly state that we are to care for the poor. In fact, the same pious folk who campaign against homosexuality, also campaign against any activity of the government that redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor because they fear it is 'socialism'.

Where are these people's priorities? To ban love and ban charity. In spite of their precious bible being based on love and charity. Instead of banning gay love, instead of rejecting gay people, we should love them, treat them as we would anyone else.

The pious are happy to trot out statistics that indicate that homosexuality leads to a life of abuse, homelessness and living on welfare. What they fail to understand is that those who do end up in these situations have often been rejected and abused by their own families and peers - rejected by the heterosexual community. The abuse, bullying and the gay-hate crimes of the staunchly heterosexual or pious Christian, are often the cause of gay children running away from, or being kicked out of, home. To the pious, Matthew 7:5 says 'you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye'.

If it is so important that the pious ban gay love, then perhaps they should ban left-handedness. After all, homosexuals have a greater propensity to be left-handed than their heterosexual counter-parts, as claimed in this extract from a scientific study: 'male homosexuals are about one third (31%) more likely than heterosexuals to be left-handed, while lesbians are almost twice as likely (91%) to be left-handed as heterosexual women' - Lalumire, M.L.; Blanchard, R.; Zucker, K.L. (2000): "Sexual orientation and handedness in Men and Women: a meta-analysis." Psychological Bulletin 126, 575-592.

If almost defies belief, that in the 21st century there are still people who have similar ignorant, superstitious and hateful attitudes as those that dominated the Dark Ages - a time when left-handedness was a sign of witch-craft and devil possession. Future generations may well look back on us with the same disbelief and horror as we view the Dark Ages or the violent and intolerant Crusades.

Whether you believe that homosexuality is a sin or not is irrelevant. We do not have a right to tell consensual adults that they cannot have a committed relationship with each other, enjoying the same benefits as those in a heterosexual marriage.

If you believe homosexuality is a sin you still do not have a right to legislate against it. You can't legislate homosexuality into non-existence. Laws won't change the fact that people are gay, whether they are born that way or not. In terms of spirituality, there are gay Christians and their relationship with God is between them and God.

There is no room or excuse for persecution in the name of religion.

Instead of hateful and superstitious crusades against nature, Christians would do better to apply the scripture as it is written in terms of love for all, extending grace, mercy and charity to everyone, whether they meet your standards of morality or agree with your political or religious persuasion.

Instead of banning love, we should be the embodiment of love.

We are not commanded by God to wage crusades of fear, hate and ignorance.

We are commanded by God to love our neighbours, to love everyone - unconditionally!


Related article on

'Adam & Eve meet Adam & Steve'

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Australia's Gulag Archipelago

The first bi-partisan 'solution' to the stopping the arrival of asylum seekers by boat appears to have been reached through Labor agreeing to re-open the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island: Australia's Gulag Archipelago. It is a victory for fear and hatred.

Tony Abbott must be feeling quite chuffed right about now with Labor's capitulation over off-shore processing at Nauru and Manus Island. And last night Julie Bishop's crowing stooped further by using the deaths of 1,000 people at sea for political points scoring. Yet, since Rudd swept to power in 2007, the Liberals have been playing politics with the lives of asylum seekers by refusing to negotiate or compromise with the ALP in order to actually find a solution.

Just a side issue: note the grandiose claims of 'solutions' with the naming of the inhumane policies for processing of asylum seekers. Policies such as the 'Malaysia Solution' and the 'Pacific Solution' were rolled out with great hubris by both major parties. What were they solutions to? Certainly not the humane treatment of asylum seekers, more likely a solution to poor electoral polls.

Anyway, back to the issue of the day. As Howard was unceremoniously evicted as Prime Minister, his chair in the House of Reps had barely had time to cool before the Libs announced to the world that Australia was now soft on refugees and that the Labor Party would welcome the boats into the country. And the boats came. Awesome stuff, Libs! Great.

Both sides have played politics over an issue that has cost a lot of lives. The issue was exacerbated under former Prime Minister Howard who ran campaigns based on fear, hatred and lies. Remember the rubbish he told about the 'children overboard' affair, Tampa and Siev-X? And then there was the edict reminscent of the 'White Australia' policy, when Howard proudly and loudly announced, 'we'll decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come'. The 'patriotic' flag wavers leapt to their feet cheering the arrival of the Messiah who would protect us from the flood of boat people (all 10,000 or so per year ... if that). The Australian Gulags (or detention centres for the politically sensitive) were suddenly filled with people who had lost everything, risked their lives for security and had not committed a crime.

So as boat arrivals increased following the election of Rudd, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party became deadlocked on how best to deal with the issue. Nay! It wasn't a deadlock over how best to deal with the issue. It was a deadlock over how best to shore up political popularity while appearing tough on 'border security', the Orwellian euphemism used with the dexterity of a sledge hammer by John Howard to pound fear and hatred into the hearts of every red-blooded, dinki-di Aussie whenever a victim of a despotic regime dared to attempt to find security in Australia, the land of the 'fair-go'.

Sadly, the Labor Party has not had the guts to tackle these fears head on and actually try to put some truth and compassion into the processing of asylum seekers. Well, that's not quite true. Labor has introduced community detention and is sponsoring the accommodation of asylum seeker families in the community, which is a great alternative to the Gulags. However, the ALP is walking with a foot in each camp; at once trying to appear compassionate AND tough on 'border security'. This attempt to appear tough has shown their unwillingness to address the fears and hatred dominating community attitudes.

Now, following a review by an expert panel led by Angus Houston, the Labor Party is set to re-open the off-shore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, Australia's Gulag Archipelago, which had been set up as part of Howard's Pacific Solution. Under Howard, many asylum seekers suffered psychological trauma because of indefinite detention, the separation of family and lack of activities. Apparently, the operation of the Gulags under Labor will differ to that under Howard because the asylum seekers will be given meaningful activities and opportunity for greater participation.

The priority for the both major parties is to 'slow' or 'stop' the boats, whether it be the ridiculous Malaysia Solution or the callous Pacific Solution. The drownings are not the priority of the government or the opposition, other than the negative publicity they generate for the Labor Party and the political points that Abbott and his team aim to score from them. Neither party is interested in the welfare of the asylum seekers for fear of being seen as soft on border security.

Both parties are acting like petulant brats while lacking the mettle to challenge the fear and hatred behind the attitudes of many people. Australia should be taking care of the issue in our own country, not pushing these issues on to our neighbours.

Both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party should show humility and compassion to truly achieve a humane, bipartisan solution that does not use people as pawns in a pathetic game of political point-scoring.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 'emerging and evolving' threat to privacy and civil liberties in Australia

The 'emerging and evolving' threat to privacy and civil liberties in Australia

I have never been a fan of invasion of privacy, so I have been concerned greatly with the Australian government's current review of intelligence gathering laws.

I recently received an email from GetUp! which has summarised the threat posed by the proposed changes to these laws, essentially that the Australian government is considering significant changes to surveillance and intelligence gathering laws, which represent a major threat to the privacy and civil liberties of every Australian citizen. These changes include:

  • forcing companies such as ISPs and social networking sites to store our online movements, which includes every message sent, every website visited and every product bought, 
  • increasing the power of ASIO while reducing its accountability. For instance, ASIO will have the power to remotely access your computer without your knowledge, even if you have not committed a crime and they will have be allowed to modify, delete or add files on your computer.

A Parliamentary Review Committee will be considering a discussion paper entitled 'Equipping Australia against emerging and evolving threats'. Whilst we want the country to be as safe as possible, it should not come at the expense of our civil liberties. Some of the changes being considered are themselves an 'emerging and evolving threat' to the privacy and civil liberties of all Australians.

If you wish to read the government's discussion paper regarding these changes, please click here:

We need to speak up and tell the government that these changes are unacceptable in an open democracy such as Australia's.

GetUp! is running a petition which you can sign to oppose these changes. The petition will be delivered to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

To sign the petition, please click here:

GetUp! has also prepared the following video which explains the effect these changes will have:

I urge you to sign the petition and to encourage everyone you know to also sign it.