WITH one and all and their uncle besotted with what they think is ‘democracy’, the time may be at hand to take a closer look at what the man in the street is in for. The first principle that democracy evokes is that all men (and women) are equal. But in the system that is held up for approbation is this so? Will the perspicacious reader give it a deep thought before jumping to a conclusion?
Browsing through ones collection of books the other day, one came across an old gem: Animal Farm by George Orwell. It was written a long time ago. Personally it has been a while since one had occasion to go through this slim volume. One was anxious, therefore, to find out whether this outstanding work of satire had, in the meantime, lost its relevance. So one scanned through it with, what one thought, was a more discerning eye. One’s appetite having been whetted, one went through it one more time – this time at a more leisurely pace. One’s effort did not go unrewarded.
It is a magnificent piece of fiction; one that will never lose its relevance. One can imagine that, ever since its first publication in 1945, generation after generation have found it not only to be eminently readable but also uncannily relevant to contemporary social/political conditions obtaining at any one time and in any given milieu. Only an author having a profound and uncanny understanding of human nature could have come up with such a perspicuous piece. George Orwell is one such, if ever there was one!
For a long time, Animal Farm enjoyed relevance as a satire on World communism. It fitted this description to a T. The book was consequently long taught as a text book in Western schools as such. Seen in this perspective, the book should have lost its relevance with the virtual collapse of World Communism. The funny thing is that this has not happened! Having gone through it at this time, one found it to be as relevant as ever. So long as human nature continues to be what it is, Animal Farm will remain as relevant as it was on the day it was first published.
The evolved motto, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” has a déjà vu ring to it. This happens to be a most profound observation because it relates to the bedrock of human nature. Humans have long touted what they proudly project as ‘human equality’, but this is rarely, if ever, practiced, whatever the social/political system or milieu. There have been historical campaigns in support of such issues as ‘racial equality’, ‘gender equality’ and the like. But like the classical quest for the defence of ‘human rights’ these are lost causes and nothing ever comes out in the long run. The truism is that ‘inequality’ rather than ‘equality’ comes natural to human nature.
The world of today is lost in turmoil. This blessed land of ours is no exception. With the late clamour for ‘globalisation’ and the simultaneous ‘war on terror’, the man in the street hardly knows whether the world or he (or she) is coming or going. Hack writers in this part of the world are having a field day. Anything by way of ‘opinion’ goes. Open any newspaper and you will find a myriad of opinions on what is not right with the world at large and the region in particular. Even the American media – that in calmer days rarely ventured beyond local issues – is, these days, concentrating on issues relating to the slippery slope of international affairs.
Time and again, public personalities in the West, who ought to know better, dwell on the dangers posed to their countries by ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ emanating from abroad. Makes the man in the street wonder why these persons choose to contribute to the paranoia that is already rather widespread around the globe? Should they not be more concerned with ways and means to tackle the root causes of terrorism and extremism?
What is missed in the topsy turvey world of today is rational thought. History tells us that the world has never been an exceptionally peaceful place. Man has ever been unkind to his fellow beings. Some people have always been more equal than others. This is a situation that is. Man has learned to live with the status quo. Some, though, at the same time continue to strive to redress the balance.
All in all, it is incumbent on all to make their humble contribution towards reducing tensions that humanity is suffering from, rather than extenuating them. On a bigger canvas, the same message should go to those leaders who are trying to take advantage of the aftermath of the nine/eleven outrage to push through their own little agendas.
This is the time to help cool down passions and spread the gospel of compassion and goodwill rather than fan fires of hatred. How one wishes old George Orwell was around today. He knew a thing or two about human nature. He would know how to go about it! Whether or not the leaders would pay heed is another story altogether!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.