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Forum Post: George Orwell's Animal Farm Reloaded

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 10, 2013, 4:51 a.m. EST by alldone (32)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The great thing about OWS is that it has focused the minds of thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people into trying come up with some sort of alternative system of organizing society.

The problem is that any solution encompasses so many variables that it quickly degenerates into a cacophony of noise, making it difficult to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

This is where allegories come in – allegories make it easier to understand both the problem and the solution.

Can there be a more searing criticism of totalitarianism than George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And it is not difficult to see that modern society can be characterized as a form of totalitarianism behind the façade of democracy.

While Orwell had Stalinism in mind, his allegory can be broadened to include the inevitability of hierarchies emerging whenever humans (and animals) live in societies.

Hierarchies are not necessarily bad. Some people are smarter, some stronger others visionary and imaginative while a rare few have the ability to lead. The ability to organize into hierarchies obviously has an evolutionary advantage.

The animals, after having ousted the farmer, quickly organized into a hierarchy based on ability and skill. As a result power started to coalesce but we know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely leading to the inevitable outcome.

Let’s say the animals having learned from their previous experience are given another chance. What would they do differently? In particular, how do they overcome the corrupting influence of power?

My definition of power - Power is one of the universal dimensions that arise when humans live in societies, alongside love, cooperation, aesthetics, education, intellectual curiosity, culture and religion.

Power is the ability to influence the actions of others or change the environment to achieve a particular end.



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[-] 1 points by engineer4 (352) 5 years ago

There is a solution to the corruption power regarding government. First, it is removing the money from politics; second, it is the improvement of any elective process by limiting the terms; and third, complete transparency of the activities of elected officials and the business of governement. BTW an excellent post!

[-] 0 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Yes agree but, I believe, it has to be more encompassing. The politicians that are elected are a reflection of the broader society. A maladjusted society will produce maladjusted leaders.

The question then becomes why is society maladjusted? This comes back to the value system that guides decision-making and behaviour, and the uncomfortable conclusion that we are all personally responsible for the ways things are.

This has to be the starting point, I believe.

[-] 1 points by engineer4 (352) 5 years ago

I agree. As the polls tell us that congress is lower than a cockroach in approval rating, we continue to believe "NMR" (not my representative)! And yes, there is a problem with personal accountability and responsibility. It is always someone else's fault. The response on this post have been fascinating to read, one of the better topics presented here. Perfect analogies to some of the issues today. The best part is that there is very good discussion so far without the usual attacks and snide comments.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 5 years ago

I believe you're right, hierarchies are inevitable and corruption by power may be inevitable too. Any system of government is susceptible to it once the members of that society become complacent.

I don't believe the system of government matters. What needs to be focused on is keeping people properly informed and actively engaged in their government. Unfortunately that seems as impossible to do as avoiding hierarchies.

[-] 0 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Hierarchy is inevitable because it results in efficiency. Take, for example, the creation of open source software. Someone has an idea, others join and soon you have a very distinct hierarchy of visionaries, developers, testers and so on.

Within this environment there is very little democracy, in fact, if there was democracy the process would quickly stall. Instead open source has an interesting way of dealing with dissent. It handles dissent by allowing the forking of initiatives and by sharing the source code furthers the project.

But we can’t organize the world based on the principle of open source because the world runs on finite resources whereas software is an infinite resource.

This is the conundrum of the ages. Hierarchies results in efficiency but hierarchies also result in concentration of power. Power corrupts and breaks down efficiency.

Oversight is increasingly becoming an impossibility because of complexity. And democracy will always fail because it is too easily corrupted.

Libertarian Socialism doesn’t provide a solution to this conundrum; all it this does is start the cycle again.

Seems hopeless but actually there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

[-] 2 points by PublicCurrency (1387) 5 years ago

The creation of our "medium of exchange" has been placed into private hands. Banks initiate the creation of ALL of our money as loans (except coins - which is miniscule). The average cost of interest on everything that is bought and sold is 35 - 40 percent.


[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Hierarchies are not the same as specialization. They are also not inevitable: http://libcom.org/history/hunter-gatherers-mythology-market-john-gowdy

Specialization is what results in efficiency, and what you described in an open-source environment. "But we can’t organize the world based on the principle of open source because the world runs on finite resources whereas software is an infinite resource." Open-source works for hardware, too. And once you get rid of individual private ownership, the security/police/military/government apparatus devoted to maintaining individual private ownership, the marketing/advertising industry, planned obsolescence, disposable products, and all the useless jobs that only exist because everyone "needs" a job, we will reclaim the >99% of natural resources that are wasted in utterly pointless pursuits. With open-source we can create a system that will give us feedback on exactly how much we have and how much we're using. This is the "signal" that prices are alleged to give in order to prevent scarcity; Except instead of encoding the information into a form that is totally meaningless, this would tell us that we have 530MT of iron and are using 1MT per year, for example. Capitalists will say this is impossible or too laborious, but in order for a price to be based on supply and demand, supply must be known and demand must be measurable.

It isn't hierarchy that makes open-source efficient. I don't know what kind of organizational structure you think they have, but hierarchy is probably the least accurate description that anyone could come up with. Open-source is efficient because there is a highly diverse, large, and sometimes nebulous pool of producers, and they almost always overlap with the pool of users. It's also efficient because contributors work for free, which makes them more productive and more motivated to contribute.

The more I learn, the less I am able to defend about capitalism. There is really nothing that it says or does that is correct, morally or intellectually. I mean, capitalists will say that "capitalism is the only system that works" in a discussion about how the world economy is collapsing, and no one will call them on their shit.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Anytime you have decision-makers you have a hierarchy. Open source is very much decision-driven therefore it is hierarchical. Remember Linus Torvald has the right of veto in the development of Linux as described below:

“This collaborative effort takes place through mailing groups where developers bounce ideas and improvements off each other relating to the kernel. A senior Linux kernel developer manages around 100 sections of the OS and is responsible for accepting any suggested changes. From this point the changes may progress to the main line where it is more extensively examined by a maintainer who finishes his review. If he signs off on the changes, the collection moves up the chain to the Linux creator, Linus Torvalds, who has final veto over whether the change is accepted into the next Linux kernel release or not.”


Don’t think for one minute I am defending capitalism, I am simply trying to get to the root cause of the problem.

Once this is identified the solution should naturally emerge.

[-] 0 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 5 years ago

Orwell was a democratic socialist. He was very fond of Libertarian Socialism; he saw the non-hierarchical, anarchist organization during the Spanish Revolution and admired these societies.

I think Libertarian Socialism is what we should work to implement. A free, solidaric, decentralized society with democracy controlled from below:


[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Orwell had something important to say about the danger of totalitarianism but his support of Libertarian Socialism does not make it right.

But let us go back to our hypothetical farm. Should the chickens and geese have a say in how the fields should be ploughed? Conversely should the horses have a say in the best way to lay eggs?

What if the chickens and geese (who are more numerous, say) than horses decide to vote against the horses and the result is some wrong-headed policy for ploughing the field?

What if the chickens and geese will always vote against the horses because they have been influenced by pigs (playing their own power game) that it will be in their self-interest to eliminate the competition from the field, making eggs more expensive?

[-] -2 points by elf3 (3900) 5 years ago

The point of Animal Farm I believe is that by law of nature there are going to always be assholes who take advantage.... so: We all must take care not to turn into one of the assholes who takes advantage; since it becomes ones logic to justify our own behavior without realizing the disturbing tendencies that exist wthin each of us and the fabric of our nature, which is too take advantage of others and use them to have an easier time for ourselves while justifying our own rewards, but thereby oppresses and steals away the free will of those who we are taking advantage of. At any point we could turn from oppressed into pigs and back again. We must be vigilant of ourselves and aware always of what it's like to be in the opressed person's shoes.

[-] 2 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

But who are the assholes? If you ask the pigs they will say that the less intelligent animals are the assholes that threatened to bring down the farm through their stupidity and that they needed to take control to protect the farm.

If you ask the other animals they will say it was the pigs who became blinded by greed and drunk on power.

If you look to the pre-revolution farm, then the animals will say it is the farmer who was the asshole and the pigs were heroes. The farmer will say the animals were the assholes because it if wasn't for him there would be no farm.

Orwell’s central theme, I believe, is about how power corrupts, turning the most well-intentioned people into tyrants.

The question then becomes how do we tackle the problem of power because it is both good and evil.

Libertarian socialism will never work unless it can address this issue.

The suggestion that democracy and oversight is the answer has been tried and it has failed miserably.

[-] 1 points by elf3 (3900) 5 years ago

Checks and balances remember those? ...laws that prevented monopolies from bribing politicians, courts, and law enforcement. Laws that prevented anyone branch of government from operating alone. Citizens United ring a bell? And most importantly a free press that reports on the corruption so the people are aware when their free will has been trampled. Fairness Doctrine. We now have one party the party of big wealth and money the rest if ut is all an illusion.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

The problem with the law is that it neither prescriptive nor predictive and acts only when the law is broken. Therefore it will always be a step behind. The GFC is a perfect example of how the law will always be a step behind.

Corruption is reported with monotonous regularity. The problem is that detecting and outlawing corruption requires ever increasing surveillance, law and regulation.

The only way to overcome this problem using the law is by limiting the freedom to act and the logical outcome is a complete surveillance society.

Orwell took the idea of controlling society through the law to its logical conclusion in his book, 1984. We are well on the way to this logical conclusion.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

Please explain your concept of "free will" and how another person can steal it away. I alone am responsible for my choices, no matter how limited or expansive my choices are. In other words, the behavior of others might limit my choices, but no one can force me to make decisions one way or another.

[-] 2 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

You are never going to make choices that are outside of your mental framework, which was created by a lot more people than you. Free will is a silly fantasy that assumes the human brain is magically not bound by the laws of the universe.

[-] 1 points by engineer4 (352) 5 years ago

I disagree. Everyone has the ability to act freely. It is the thought of the consequence that limits them, which may vary somewhat per individual based on knowledge and experience. Even in "1984", there was free thought despite the effort to control it. Each individual decides whether or not to violate or break that limitation.

[-] 2 points by elf3 (3900) 5 years ago

There are real variables that influence and affect the outcomes of all our lives we don't live in a vaccum and people and the powers that be do have the ability to influence and change our circumstances for both good and bad

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

And what is the law of the universe regarding the human brain?

My mental framework, which was "created" by myself and others, is certainly malleable. Thus by expanding my framework, I expand my choices. I have the free will to do that or not.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

While there may not be a “law of the universe” but there is universal law that guides human behaviour. Ackhuman calls it a “mental framework” which I would define as a system of values.

This system of values is not as relative as some people suggest. It is, in fact, quite uniform and this uniformity enables society to function.

The reason why Capitalism has such a hold on society is that it promotes, manages and controls a system of values. This, I believe, is the soft underbelly of capitalism.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

Name one societal concept that doesn't seek to promote, manage, or control a system of values-and thus society. Every master cracks a different whip.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

The Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like others to treat you.

The Golden Rule is the culmination of a socialization process that begins in early childhood. This socialization process is all about becoming outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused on our needs and wants.

From this socialization process emerge human traits like compassion, empathy, caring, understanding and, of course, humility.

The unfortunate aspect of the Golden Rule is that it is so closely linked to religion.

Now this socialization process does seek to promote a value system but this system has proven its worth in delivering the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.

Capitalism is an attempt to replace this system of values with another, almost opposite set of values.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

What are you trying to argue? If systems weren't self-preserving they wouldn't exist very long. This is a point of non-contention.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

True all system are self-preserving but, I believe, they also evolve rather than simply cease to exist.

What I am “arguing” is that all systems evolve naturally. When a system starts to fail, society starts to fall apart.

This can be for two key reasons. The system needs a little tinkering (more regulation, better transparency, more democracy etc.) or it needs to evolve to a new form better suited to the new environment.

So what does it need to evolve to? This comes back to the question of how we make the best decisions individually and collectively.

It comes back to the question what is the value system that is guiding our behaviour and how does it need to change, if it needs changing.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

The cessation of existence is an indispensible part of evolution. Read my subsequent post below (#comment-927654)

As for what is the value system, it's easy to see in the most exaggerated examples of capitalist systems (i.e. that shitty country we live in):

  1. Objects are someone's property.
  2. You may do anything you want with your property as long as it does not damage another's property.
  3. The Earth itself is no one's property, unless a law exists to enclose part of it.
  4. Property is more important than non-property.
  5. More property is better than the same or less property.
  6. Competition is a good thing, intrinsic to organisms, and requisite to all types of societal improvement.
  7. Things only have value when they are useful for human activities. Most other values can follow from these, e.g.: Because of 4 and 6, exchange is considered more "fair" than gift-giving, even when one party has vastly more property than the other (because the property of the former party is more important than the life/health/wellbeing of the latter, which are all non-property). This is why there is a debate about universal healthcare. Because of 3, 4, 5, and 7, the economy is more important than the planetary ecosystem it is dependent on (because it is humans who "create value" from practically worthless natural resources like forests and coral reefs). Because of 2, 3, and 6, it is unthinkable to limit the use of property in order to prevent ecocide, even if there is no justification for that use (e.g. outlawing Hummers, yachts, and limos)
[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

I was just about to ask you this very question. Thanks for the answer.

To round it out what do you believe the broader societal value system should be?

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago
  1. All humans are the same species, and all organisms our cousins.
  2. The Earth and the Sun are the source of all value (Biophysical Constraints to Economic Growth. Cutler J. Cleveland).
  3. There are no closed systems, only limits to interaction (Laws of thermodynamics).
  4. One human's happiness depends on other humans.
  5. The amount of energy and materials available to us in a given day are both finite and measurable (the Earth has finite mass and the Sun radiates finite energy).
  6. The wellbeing of future generations depends on the current generation making wise decisions.
  7. All human needs must be fulfilled; Most human wants do not need to be fulfilled.
[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Your delineation is interesting. Your existing value system I would suggest relates to the concept of financial capital, while your ideal value system relates to social capital.

Financial capital can be defined as the value gained through endeavors, individually or in groups that result in direct rewards like money, precious metals or other assets.

In short, financial capital can be defined as value gained through trading.

While social capital social capital is the value or benefit gained when we act cooperatively or selflessly for the benefit of others without expectation of any form of reward.

In short, social capital can be defined as value gained from performing ‘good deeds'.

While there may be differing definitions of social capital there is, however, universal agreement that social capital has value impacting on the productivity and well-being of both individuals and society in general.

So what we have, in effect, are two value systems co-existing at the same time and sometimes clashing.

The financial capital value system is all about self-interest, competition and accumulation. It is about creating efficiency in the production of financial capital. And it works well, to a point.

The social capital value system is all about creating social and environmental harmony.

I think what we are seeing is a clash between the two value systems. Both are clearly important and the challenge is to find the common ground or settle, once and for all, which should be the dominant.

The rest I think will follow.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

How long is very long? Has the length of time Capitalism has been around very long or not long enough?

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

I'm talking about any system. Any societal concept will be self-preserving by establishing a value system that promotes it. If it doesn't do this, it will not survive and thus we will probably never know about it. In fact, this is an unspoken requirement of any establishment. Even individual corporations attempt to create value systems around themselves. Look at the legions of macfags that camp out in front of stores to get a fucking toy a few minutes before everyone else.

Value systems are such a potent tool for the preservation of systems because things that detract or do not adequately support the system will cause cognitive dissonance in the minds of those within the system. This is usually called "status quo bias", "system justification", and in special scenarios, "Stockholm syndrome". They are all the same effect: Aversion to cognitive dissonance, coupled with an established system of values created by the surrounding environment.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Free will and agency are irreconciliable with causality. You do not make choices, you have behaviors. You are not going to suddenly decide to hop off your computer right now and join a commune, because that would be outside your range of behavior. You are not going to decide tomorrow to expand your mental framework to include ideologies and heuristics that are opposite to the ones you currently possess.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

Then you believe that no one has ever changed their mind, become a different person, converted to another way of thinking. And they never will. I am sad for you.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Free will is not the reason that people change over time. Nor is it the reason that people change their mind. Nor is it the reason people convert to different ways of thinking. People don't change their mind in a vacuum, they do so because of a causal event. People don't become different just because, they become different because of a change in their environment.

You should probably not tell me what I'm saying or thinking. I can take care of that all by myself.

[-] 0 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

"You should probably not tell me what I'm saying or thinking. I can take care of that all by myself."

Nope. Not according to you, you can't. Causal events control your thinking and there's nothing you can do about it. Right?

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Are you retarded? You're just flailing about trying to make free will an indispensible part of every facet of human behavior. I'm telling you that you probably shouldn't tell me what I'm saying because I have a far better grasp of what I'm thinking than you do. Want me to prove it? Guess how many tentacles are on the image of Cthulhu that's in my head right now, the number of cars he's crushing, and their make and model. Oh, you can't do that?

I knew you were going to ignore the part of my post that was actually part of the discussion, and just focus on the part where I tell you not to re-interpret my statements into cute straw men. I fucking knew it.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

I course I was. It's part of my heuristic, my behavior. But you f'ing knew that didn't you?

[-] 1 points by elf3 (3900) 5 years ago

When a corporation fixes a market and bribes a politician into making laws and red tape for small entrepeneurs while deregulating the laws for themselves, they have taken away free will. When your choices are limited to whatever the few monopolies will provide you, at a price determined by them, your free will has been taken. When two parties who argue with one another but do the will of fortune 500's, you have the illusion of free will but two parties who don't work for you. Though you are still free to make a choice the choices are not going to ever benefit you. Free will is more than the ability to choose between what will be presented, but the ability to choose something that is not predetermined.

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

Doesn’t this undermine your argument about “checks and balances” and the law? So how do you stop this corruption?

Is there someone who is immune to the axiom that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

No. Your "free will" has not been taken. Having your choices become limited is totally different from limiting your ability to make choices.

Lack of available choices usually leads to innovation by people who don't like having limited options.

[-] 1 points by elf3 (3900) 5 years ago

Sure except when you must deal in the markets they control...have fun with that battle invest in heart attack insurance so when the stress kills you your family has something to remember you by.

[-] 0 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

I don't deal in such markets I guess, and thus I don't have that stress in my life. Who is forcing you to deal in such markets?

And it's called life insurance.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Really? You don't eat food, drink water, use energy, or live on land? Very impressive, please share your ways.

[-] 0 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

I'm sorry, but my utility bills and my grocery bills doesn't cause me life threatening stress and neither does my mortgage or my property taxes. See, I learned a universal law called math in elementary school, and I chose to live my life in such a way that my monthly income either matches or exceeds my living expenses so I can put some aside for a rainy day.

When I failed to mind my math, a universal consequence called debt occurred and that caused me great stress. I didn't like it. So I stopped doing it. Maybe your framework needs to expand to grasp this model.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Oh, so your will is bound by a small range of possible decisions? Sounds really free.

[-] 0 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

You just said that free will is a silly fantasy. You then said that we don't make choices anyway, we respond. Either way you contradict yourself and I'm going to have to wait for a causal event before I can change my mind about you.

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

Uh, those two things are not contradictory. It would be a contradiction if I said "free will exists" and then described a scenario where there is a very clear chain of cause and effect throughout all of my decisions.

Oh wait, that's what you did.

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

You are far too deep for me brother. My mental framework simply cannot process what you are saying. Good day. :)

[-] 0 points by Ackhuman (-88) from Fairfax, VA 5 years ago

You don't have to be a dick, if you're done arguing just stop arguing.

[-] 1 points by peacehurricane (293) 5 years ago

Do-do it is okay that you have no dick or balls whichever or both there is not much point arguing the obvious. One assurance given us in this world is our free will that nothing can take from us. Of course that applies to the human sort of posters. Also those being compensated count little in way of matters. Sincerity can be found in neither and shall continue to be more apparent with each passing hour. I am WE..

[-] 1 points by vaprosvyeh (-400) 5 years ago

I'm not a dick. I'm retarded.

[-] 0 points by DSamms (-294) 5 years ago

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

[-] 1 points by alldone (32) 5 years ago

The greatest friend of truth is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and her constant companion is Humility. Charles Caleb Colton