Radio Shrine! Gan! Gan!
This last Christmas as she is known to do every year for every member of my wife’s family, I received a package of gift from my niece Christelle Lefrançois. Among the various well chosen presents inside her package for me - a copy of “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Refreshing my memory of the idea the author was putting across in the book, I guess she offered it to me in-order to put me on guard on the type of revolution I am advocating after reading my several posts calling for a change in the system that governs our world. She probably was telling me to watch-out, not to end-up with a revolution Animal Farm style.
Thanks again mon Chri! Chri for this trip back memory lane, I first read “Animal Farm” about forty-five years ago in high school. My English literature class teacher - at the height of the cold-war and anti communist propagandas world-wide, summarised the book as primarily a satire on the Russian Revolution. Today after being opportune to read his two political allegories: Animal Farm published in 1945 and its sequel Nineteen Eighty-Four published in 1949, one can conveniently say that George Orwell with a predictive accuracy was more making a larger statement about the philosophy of revolution and its wider implications in his work “Animal Farm”. And in Nineteen Eighty-Four, predicted a world where people feel frustrated by the oppression and rigid control of their lives by a small circle of individuals that prohibits free thought, sex and any expression of individuality with the ever-watchful Big Brother.
Thanks to Wikileaks and Edward Snowden’s revelations, we know that Big Brother is watching all of us with a rigid control of our lives. We can see from these two allegories, how accurate Orwell’s futuristic notion of how the world is controlled. He described the daily existence of the principal character in Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens - everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. In the nation of Oceania, such thought-crime is in fact the worst of all crimes.
Even if in the two books that brought him world-wide fame, one interprets the idea Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell), as conveying a meaning different from the literal one, looking around us, one can say this is what is happening with our individual liberties world-wide today, be it communist, liberal, democratic or autocratic regime. Don’t word such as "politically correct” or “politically incorrect” remind one of the attempt at muzzling our freedom of speech? Rebellious thoughts, is this not another kind of self censorship? For those who haven’t read the other allegory, Animal Farm begins with a very drunk Mr. Jones (owner of Manor Farm) really lousy and mediocrity with his job. Luckily, there’s a wise pig on the farm named Old Major. Old Major encourages the neglected animals to rebel and run the farm themselves with one important qualification: everyone should be equal. Then he dies. This seems like a grand idea to everyone except Benjamin, a cynical donkey whose main job is to be well, living a morose contempt of the pleasures and art of life - pushing the other animals to rebel.
The pigs being the smartest animals, naturally take the leadership role. So much for that equality business, so much for Old Major’s vision of peaceful co-ups too, because there’s immediate conflict between two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon wants to sit around and be in charge of everything, while Snowball wants to teach the other animals and build a windmill. Obviously, Snowball’s plan is way better, so he wins. Not satisfied with the result, Napoleon uses his private army of nine ferocious and enormous dogs to become the “All Powerful Dominant Boss Leader Chief Pig”. Okay, he doesn’t call it that, but you know it’s in the back of his mind somewhere. With Snowball out of the picture, the other pigs blame everything on him. They exploit the other animals shamelessly, breaking all the rules about equality that they had established after the Rebellion, replacing them with a single Commandment that ran: All Animals Are Equal! But Some Are More Equal Than Others!
Life on the farm gets worse and worse, the animals forget old Major’s original dream, and the pigs make some poor management decisions when dealing with the neighbouring farms. The culminating miserable moment comes when the pigs send Boxer, a hardworking and loyal horse who is ready for retirement to his death. In short, the pigs are starting to look a lot like the horrible human owners that they got reed off at the beginning of this whole mess, walking on two legs and everything. In fact, they may even be worse. In our present day world, either it is communist, liberal, democratic or autocratic regime, human nature can be visualised as one with those on Animal Farm. For example, the reasons behind the collapse of the Soviet Union could be attributed to double standards and bureaucracy, the same traits described in Animal farm where majority of the animals were exploited shamelessly by the elite who broke all the rules about equality that had been established after the rebellion.
Though Animal Farm can be scene as a perfect picture of the out-come of the Russian Revolution, this is not unique with the Socialist revolution if we remember the Revolution of 1989 (known as the "autumn of nations") that swept through Eastern Europe and some parts of the so-called Third World, in terms of their scale and significance. Also the Arab Spring a term used for the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests (both violent and non-violent), and civil wars in the Arab world that began in December 2010. By December 2013 despotic rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen. Civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and a civil war in Syria; major protests have broken out in Algeria and the war continues in Iraq. Jordan is not as calm as it looks, same with Kuwait, Morocco and the two countries of Sudan too have their wars. We have seen minor protest in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Western Sahara and in Palestine.
It is widely accepted that the spark for the dramatic events in Egypt in 2011, came from the uprising in Tunisia. The self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, on 17 December 2010, a municipal inspector confiscated his wares. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on 4 January 2011 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labour, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian revolution. Like in Animal Farm, a parallel could be drawn from the mass uprising in Tunisia and all the countries mentioned above.
The protests have shared some techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, and rallies, as well as the effective use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship. Many Arab Spring demonstrations have been met with violent responses from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks have been answered with violence from protestors in some cases. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world has been: “Ash-sha ’b yurid isqat an-nizam” ("the people want to bring down the regime").
All the conditions that led to the rebellion in Animal farm can be seen in all aspects of human society today, prompting one to conclude that “those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”. Many of the complaints and reasons for the revolution on the farm are here with us in our today’s world be it in the United States, Europe, Africa, China or anywhere else: public fury at years of political repression, economy that rewards corrupt elites and keep a majority in poverty, widespread loathing for leaders clinging to office. We have mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, France, Israel, Argentina, United Kingdom, United States of America and where next? An important similarity to note, from all these mass uprising is that they all are convinced that if people’s power could bring down one regime perhaps it could do the same elsewhere.
What do we have to show today, for the popular uprising that led to the fall of the Soviet Union? Same question can be asked, for the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests (both non-violent and violent), and civil wars in the Arab world? The substitution of one form of exploitation with another called CAPITALISM? Meanwhile within capitalist societies, we continue to live in a system where morality is not capital? Do what I say and not what I do? Despite the so-called democracy, thinking differently is considered as rebellious thoughts. It reminds one of the slogan from one of the “Occupy Movements” that says: ‘Drop a banner with glitter on it and you’re arrested as a terrorist. Hold a sign at a corporate office and the FBI starts spying on you. Poisson the water of 300,000 people and you’re a job creator’. Is this not the world described in George Orwell’s classics Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four?
This brings us to the evergreen message from Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem “Time Come” a reminder that there is a limit to human endurance. The poem was a warning to the British authorities, the police in particular, that Blacks in London were on the edge. When the poem was published, sure enough the authorities did not pay attention until Swamp 81 that resulted in the Brixton riots which later spread all across the UK. The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described the uprising, as the greatest violence on the streets of Britain since World War II. Has anything changed since? Everyone is on the edge today, be it communist, liberal, democratic or autocratic society. Thanks today to the exchange of information via social networks, which allows the masses to see diversions such as that of British historian David Starkey’s “the whites have become black” comments on BBC’s “Newsnight” program on the 2012 riots. As we have seen with the uprising, it is not only Blacks on the edge.
Instead of asking questions, and finding answers to how we got here, in a discussion on the 2012 violent riots in the United Kingdom we hear David Starkey and others like him hit out at the “destructive nihilistic gangster culture which has become fashion.” It is exactly that sort of black / white discus that polarises the debate into nothing and history keeps repeating itself. Perhaps if the authorities concerned, had paid attention to LKJ in “Time Come” and not tried to terrorize Blacks out of the UK, the riots would not have occurred in the first place. The thing that makes ‘Time Come’ a classic is that even though it refers to a specific time and place when riots occurred, it is also timeless and universal in its “warning”. Unfortunately the authorities never listen - they only react when there is another uprising.
In the last three decades, countless artists of different origins and social callings have lent their voices to this “warning” and yet the authorities fail to do something about the root cause of such uprising. To mention a few, Steel Pulse’s “Hanswort Revolution”, Bob Marley’s “Burning and Looting”, Nyabinghi “Burn Down Babylon”, Fela Kuti’s “Everything Scatter” and we must not forget Femi Kuti in “Fight to Win” who also sang: “There is suffering in the streets! Our leaders say let it be! We the people don’t agree! For these suffering there is no need! But they’ll wait until there is revolution everywhere! Burning properties! More homeless people lying in the streets…”
When I quoted above that: “those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”, it is because like Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan in his epic work, Black Man of The Nile said: “No man forever allows his MOTHER, which is the LAND OF HIS ORIGIN, to be constantly subjected to all sorts of vilification without one day rising to the challenge; even if it means his eventual annihilation, for that has been man’s historical behaviour.” If the European Jews can fight for an arid piece of desert, the Irish for a small emerald Island, the British for a barren Island of misery, protestant Anglo-Saxon Americans for their stolen “Indian” empire, why should the people not fight for the richest piece of real estate on the planet earth his original homeland?
Gil Scott-Heron pioneering what is today known as RAP music in the early ’70s; accompanied by congas and bongo drums, in his album ‘Small Talk at 125th and Lenox’ declared: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. Thanks to Internet and social networks, the revolution is being televised and people can communicate without waiting for their information from their national “official” media only. The people’s march for a true democracy is on the move. Let the wind of change blow from the North Pole to the South Pole! This time though, not REVOLUTION: ANIMAL FARM STYLE!
Radio Shrine! Gan! Gan! Please Pass The Message!