"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nova Farm and the tale of three little pigs

The debacle of the trial of Lucius Equitius Cincinnatus Augur has ended. George Orwell could not have penned a more riveting example of despotic power wielded by small-minded creatures. Nova Roma appears to have bred quite a few of the overlords of Animal Farm, with our very own Napoleon, Squealer and Pinkeye.

Napoleon is well on his way to usurping full power in the barn. Oh how a few months can change one. Before his election Napoleon was preaching an era of prosperity and forward thinking. He seemed the very model of a pig for the people. The animals were all going to join hands and step forward into the sunlight, or so they were essentially told. This was to be a new age and the dawn of the rebirth of Nova Farm.

Very quickly though it became clear that the promised land wasn’t full of sunlight and blessed with an abundance of intellectual and moral riches. No instead it started to resemble a slagheap, and the dark clouds gathered. First went Snowball. For years his eventual assassins had shamelessly used him to their own ends. He was good enough at one point to be touted as the symbol of unity.

Then his own acolytes turned on him and initiated a plan to depose him and drive him from the gates of Nova Farm. As he departed Snowball burned down his own sty rather than allow its infestation by this sad little gang of ingrates.

Pinkeye had his own agenda and it quickly manifested itself as revenge. You see Pinkeye as a little pig had a huge inferiority complex and Benjamin the donkey had once kicked him out of his stable. Enraged at this insult to his massive ego, Pinkeye swore to have his revenge, and before long the hapless Benjamin was arraigned for trial.

Squealer was placed in charge of this legalized lynching. Benjamin ignored the summons and was convicted in his absence, in a clear breach of the Commandments. However Squealer managed to confuse the animals so much when justifying his actions, that most of them eventually just assumed that the Commandments actually did say what Squealer said. Few bothered to go out of the barn and read them.

Benjamin was ordered to hand over his stable and fined a large bag of carrots, for having the temerity to own private property. Not satisfied with this though Napoleon had filed his own charges against him. Napoleon and Pinkeye both coveted the stable and if they couldn’t have it they were going to make Benjamin hand over even more carrots.

Once again Napoleon's mouth piece Squealer trotted in. The piglets, most of whom were rumoured to be the children of Napoleon, were stacked into the jury benches. They sat obediently on the side lines, asking few questions. One at the start of the trial wasn’t even sure why he was there. Squealer decided to give the animals the appearance of a fair trial and even though Benjamin wasn’t there a second time, commenced what rapidly turned into a farce.

Squealer tried to be ominous and threatening, but actually only managed to portray himself as narrow minded and bigoted against Benjamin and any animal that spoke for him. He proceeded to suppress evidence, spoke for Napoleon, consistently rewrote the rules of the trial, twisted the Commandments, used the threat of the dogs to keep the animals in line and generally acted as a supreme example of unchecked power wielded by a very little and unimposing pig.

Napoleon spoke briefly, happy to leave it mostly to Squealer to speak for him. He sallied in and out of the barn, in an atmosphere of complacent self-adoration, now calling himself the Father of all Animals. The piglets eyeing their daddy were dazzled by his oratory. He had you see studied very long and hard how to say an awful lot that meant very little.

At one point Pinkeye had a momentary meltdown and fell into a raging snit, complaining he had been robbed of the chance to confront Benjamin with his heinous crimes. Few of the animals paid any attention as Pinkeye was one of those pigs who huffed and puffed a lot.

Squealer called for the verdict and led all the piglets into a private sty in the barn, so they could discuss the case and proceeded to stay there. Many of the animals wondered if this was to ensure that the piglets, who really had seemed very disinterested in the trial, remembered what was expected of them. Despite this two of the piglets never even bothered to vote. It was thus hardly surprising that all but one of them voted to condemn Benjamin.

This goes to prove that the Commandments simply didn’t matter to Napoleon and Squealer and that:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”