The brilliant simplicity of this political parable’s message and its speaking truth to justice made this tale a significant find for the teenage me.
I had already adopted a personal philosophy of non-authoritarian egalitarianism (not that I could conceptualize it thus at the time) that has remained with me all my life, but never before read a tale that set it out in such graphic intelligibility.
Even now, I find this story of betrayal quite upsetting, the more so knowing that it was based on the Stalinists’ betrayal of their POUM comrades in Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War, putting ideology above humanity and the common cause, when they needed to be united in the fight against the freedom-hating Franco. The allegory is just as powerful today and if you look around the world, you will always find one regime that bans it.
Orwell made a brave stand in committing to the honesty of self-criticism with his cautions against the hypocrisy of assuming the higher moral ground. For by this act of discrimination, this movement in the mind, one creates a separation between human beings that does not hold true. The division into “(bad)them and (good) us” is not just a dangerously simplistic model, it is a fallacy. If you want to point the finger at others, first buy a mirror. It is our human condition itself that we need to understand and acknowledge. All else follows from that. As long as we fail to do so, the vacuum of ignorance will be filled with moralistic pontificating, religious commandments and political dictates.