Friday, February 26, 2010


Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion! I do not know when that Rebellion will come, it might be in a week or in a hundred years, but I know, as surely as I see this straw beneath my feet, that sooner or later justice will be done. Fix your eyes on that, comrades, throughout the short remainder of your lives! And above all, pass on this message of mine to those who come after you, so that future generations shall carry on the struggle until it is victorious.

And remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the others. It is all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.
So said Old Major, in George Orwell's Animal Farm.

My feathers, you will have surmised, are often ruffled. Observation through the Magical eye too frequently yields grounds for dissatisfaction.

More than once I have been told that my criticisms are "too negative", or that unless a 15000-point plan alternative addressing every minute contingency is proferred, a criticism is invalid for being insufficiently "constructive".

My instinct in many cases is to dismiss this, and I think this instinct is fair (if also fowl). There is little to be gained by spraying perfume over a photograph of bullshit; nor is there any need, to justify shovelling the bullshit aside, to recommend something else to put in its place. If you are being a Jerkface, I feel no obligation to suggest alternative means of shoring up your own soulsucking ego: everything will be improved if you just stop being a Jerkface. (Who would have thought?)

But. I will allow that bullshit is not always freestanding. Often it is mixed into the bricks and foundations of our achievements; we set off in the happy if delusional belief that we are doing some good. And maybe we are even doing some good, with our bullshit, for some people: just at the hideously unfair expense of others.

And there's always the fear of change, the creeping worry that perhaps things will end up as they did with Old Major, a rousing vision of a better day, only to find it all acting out in new forms of tyranny. What, we ask, frightened - used only to being frightened - if dismantling one power structure just creates room for others? Better play safe lah.

To this I ask: safe for whom? It's not at all safe for those who are currently marginalised. And the positive vision you require is implicit in the demands for change. Simple requests for roofs over heads, for the pedestrian banality of ordinary love (and even more ordinary broken hearts), for the chance to put in a regular day's work with regular risks and imperfections, for the occasional night out, for space to get on with one's choices and one's life without being vilified.

The positive vision pursued is made up of no more and no less than quotidian dreams of personal happiness. A solid majority of people want this. If we stop getting in their way for stupid reasons, they will strive to achieve it, just as water seeks its level. Which is more than enough reason to say viva la revolution.

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