By Alagie Jinkang
George Orwell (author), said, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” What does that mean?
While apparently the “Animal Farm” is a fairy fiction of farm animals, it’s really a thinly veiled allegory for the “independent” Gambia. The animals were led by a pair of pigs, Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin) that is to say in implicit terms, former Jammehism or the present disjointed coalition, who lead a rebellion and revolution against the human owner of the farm, respectively.
Both Jammehism and Jawara’s government were understood to have been there for the ordinary citizens, women and children. Jawara lead Gambians against direct colonial rule to what most average Gambians understood today as poor governance. If there can be any possible starting point of our poor economic performance at the Farm, perhaps we must have to begin with Jawara’s leadership. He ruled the farm perhaps some will say with a soft hand and a strong heart that institutionalized corruption, poverty and embezzlement of state funs –the resources of the farm –that which rightly belongs to all citizens. After 30 years, the farm needed a new government because conditions were stagnant and unbearable. Jammehism toppled the Farm Owner, Jawara, to mark the second republic with very strong rhetoric on democracy and transparency to facilitate reconstruction and reconciliation.
But, like Jawara, Jammehism went so far before it was recognised to be evil. Jammehism could not govern the farm’s resources as well and workers were hungry and desperate. They had to banish Jammehism for progress and had to meet that difficult political decision to change their lives, forever. But, it took 22 years to succeed against the politics of misinformation and mismanagement of Jammehism. Meanwhile, while it is true that Jammehism was a total failure and brutal leadership for more than two decades, we tend to forget that we have a work at hand. When Jammehism was democratically voted out as inhumane and unbearable for the majority, the farm’s revolution successfully also banished him out to establish a new admiration of the farm’s affairs. They agreed to adopt the Commandments (MoU) on how to run the affairs of the farm: one might say their constitution or mirror of leadership or governance. The most important of these is the last commandment: “term-limits,” echoing the sense of attention to avoid the farm’s failure.
Jammehism runs Jawara off the farm and gives himself full leadership. He gradually violates more and more of the commandments as his behavior becomes increasing like that of their previous masters, the colonialists. The climax comes years later when the Farm spot Jammehism walking on his hind legs while carrying a whip (violations of the commandments) and discover that all the commandments have been reduced to simply “I will rule for millions of years. There is not term limit.” Jammeh became the constitution: he was the master of all agreements. The Gambian farm recognises all animals theoretically as equals, but practically some animals were seen to be equal than others for 22 years. What should our new farm expect from its new disjointed administrators? We have voted for our liberation from mismanagement that breeds all other vices. Will we see that anytime soon?
Logically, George Orwell’s quote on “The Animal Farm” is highly nonsensical. It is grounded on moral philosophy and equalitarianism. To be equal means to be exactly the same, so there cannot be more or less equals. You are either equal or unequal. There is no two way around it. What it symbolizes in real terms is the open admission; that the ideals of social justice and equality that inspired the animal’s revolution will never come to fruition. Through all of Napoleon’s previous transgressions, the animals held on to the hope that they could create the farm described by Old Major (Marx/Lenin). This line represents the moment they are forced to let go of that dream, and shows that Napoleon and the pigs have become just like the humans they overthrew. In this way, it defines the central thesis of the book –that the Soviet Union has abandoned the ideas that sparked its creation and adopted the oppression and tyranny of the government it replaced. That picture is true of Jammehism. Is it true of the coalition government? But really, it takes a close and careful observation on the existing systems responsible for the farm’s affairs to refute any bearings of the previous administrations. The Gambian condition is critical.
The ugly, the beautiful, the greedy
As the coalition government nears one year in real power, many things are being questioned beyond its pale political structure to its opaque economic model. The coalition government which came into power without any blueprint, but MoU, meet a disjointed group of political and social thinkers under the same umbrella. A collection of our generations’ political idols have chosen to suspend individual party flags for national glory with grand ambitions to restore sanity and human dignity to a people who were nearing decadence. Today, most of those promises are pies in the sky. In “The Animal Farm” when things got out of control, they were eating each other. In The Gambian farm, people are yet to find what to eat.
The manner in which Jammehism was driving its political wheel was very brutal and has turned the majority of Gambians to mere survivors of his tyranny. Thus, Gambians sided with the Coalition government on the bases of a social contract –MoU –which is now being regarded unbinding. The conflict on whether or not the MoU ( the commandments) that brought the workers together to banish their exploiter of farm should be binding is a moral and spiritual question that will haunt us for a while. It induces the question what moral and spiritual values do we have to defend?
Jawara hasn’t created any significant infrastructure. Jammehism has created some, destroyed many and left a broken economy and a fragile social structure. Our infrastructure is literally broken, the economy is on a milky pattern completely dependent on outside economies. Jammehism mismanaged the national resources and people were turned into subjects of a single political will- Jammehism.
Less than a year in office, the Coalition government is incapacitated by organizational incompetence, transparent partisan politics, lack of transparency and corruption. These, in the long run, translates to mismanagement – an attribute of the previous admirations. Our farm needs a complete managerial mechanism that will treat all workers as right holders. Our workers will inevitably have to march for their liberation from the middle-class and the elites. Those two classes have to be totally eliminated for the liberation of all. The best fruits of this farm belongs to all workers equally and not to the very few in their commanding positions. But, what has led to the disasters of all the previous admirations of the farm, from Jawara, to Jammeh and now the Coalition government is not sheer personal taste for power, rather, it is our collective and transgenerational socio-political misbehaviours overshadowed by moral ambivalence in everything that has to do with the farm. We simply do not care about the affairs of the farm. So, the exploiters will continue to do what they enjoy the most, echoing the quote, “all animals are equals, but some animals are more equal than others.”
What led to Jammehism is clear and what lies ahead depends on all of us together. We are all to blame for what happens tomorrow. It is not you against me but, it is you, me and all of us together. It is a moral obligation to defend the sustainability of this farm. Remember, this is your last and only chance. The Gambia must be liberated from mismanaged administrators.
As a democratic socialist, like Orwell, most of my works criticize the hypocrisy of leftist politics, which I felt had drifted so far away from the original ideals of socialism and democratic principles. The Gambian politics is a good case. Orwell thought that Marx wouldn’t recognize the then Soviet Union as being socialism. Rather than being a society of equals, the Soviet Union had an elite ruling class: the inner party, regular party members, then workers. The Gambian system?
In other words, everyone is expected to think the same way. Though claiming to be “democratic,” the Coalition government, rather than being a democratic society where all have an equal voice, it’s actually a totalitarian state where dissident opinion isn’t tolerated.
Animal Farm contains many slogans that while sounding idealistic in nature, are hypocritical in practice.
“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the high-brow periodicals”. — George Orwell, 1945, Introduction to Animal Farm
Perhaps Orwell wanted to ridicule the very notion of a utopia where everybody is equal, but their equality is granted by… a ruling party (!), a paradoxical idea. He realized that, in order to establish such dream, a total abandonment of self-interest and/or selfishness is required, an impossibility for mammalians such as ourselves. On a slightly deeper note, perhaps he was trying to say that some ideas and dreams are best left as they are: dreams and ideas. There is no shame in it.
For me, this essay is not just political romance, it align to the fact that, in a metaphysical sense, all humans are equal. However, it is society that makes them unequal. I will use the example of a servant and master (As Voltaire did in his Enlightenment essay on Equality). In this case, they are both equal human beings. If we remove their position in society, they are equals. However, society constrains them and orders them into hierarchy.
So yes, all humans are equal, but some humans benefit from this equality (are more equal) than others.