Some Are More Equal Than Others – The Orwellian “Animal Farm” on West Jones Street

Art imitates life. It’s one of the reasons why teaching great works of literature is vital in a high school education.

One title that is read and taught in many high school English I classes in North Carolina is Animal Farm.

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Animal Farm is an allegorical fable that Eric Blair (George Orwell was his pen name) uses to comment on the rise of the Soviet brand of communism and the absolute corruption that comes over those who grab power. In it animals take over a farm from their human owner, Mr. Jones, and immediately set up a “utopian” society in which all animals are equal. They even come up with a list of commandment for all to abide by.

They read as follows:

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
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 any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Idealistic to some, but human (“pig”) greed gets in the way. As a few pigs consolidate control of the farm, abuses of power occur. Think of it as redistricting of sorts. Maybe gerrymandering. Maybe even attempting to restructure the judicial system to gain a certain ideological bent on most benches.

What happens throughout the book is a rewriting of the commandments. Those who retain power get to write the rules. They also get to rewrite the rules. Think of the Voter ID Act or the HB2 bill that targeted the LGBTQ community among other things. Think of the special sessions and the way that the last summer’s state budget was passed within committee instead of open debate.

And then think of education.

In Animal Farm, the rules get rewritten so that those in power can get more power. Eventually toward the end of the book the seven commandments read as such:

  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 any other animal – WITHOUT CAUSE.
    7. All animals are equal – BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

These rules and “revisions” of four of those rules are made in secret and through an undemocratic process. Sound familiar?

Concentrate on that last commandment – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

That brings to mind the passage of HB514 which allows for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allows for cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money. It’s a a precedent for allowing for the segregating of school students.

It’s saying that some are more equal than others.

Look at last year’s renewal of the virtual charter schools, both of which have always measured incredibly poorly on the very school performance grading system that the same NCGA uses to stigmatize so many schools that deal with poverty.

Look at the opaqueness of the current voucher system and the stubborn allegiance to fund it by the NCGA despite no evidence that it is working (and it doesn’t even use all of the money allocated to it).

Look at the current Seante budget that has a provision to take away funding from early colleges, most of which are shown to be highly successful.

Look at the rapid unregulated growth of charter schools in both rural and urban areas.

And speaking of pigs, or rather hogs, consider all of the legislation that has literally protected the hog farm industry in NC over the legitimate concerns of citizens.

Some are just more equal than others in the eyes of those who are supposed to protect that very equality.