Connecting the dots

Animal Farm thoughts

June 14, 2020

History is too easily forgotten

The animals quickly forgot the seven commandments over time. They forgot why they had the revolution in the first place. Things became the new normal. I had this thought over and over again as I read the Sapiens book. So much of what is happening now has happened in the past with just minor differences. The Anita Hill hearing, Black Lives Matter movement - the rage felt by our previous generations doesn’t quite get passed along and history repeats itself too easily.

I was listening to a Planet Money podcast episode where an economist was trying to prove that patents filed by African Americans was strongly linked to oppressive policies and events were black people were hurt impacted the number of inventions they came up with. Strangely enough, it took 10 years for this paper to be published and one of the reasons was that the research community was not aware of that these incidents happened in the first place!

I was always bored in my history class but when I view it from the angle of learning from our past mistakes - it becomes much more interesting. A lot of things might have changed over the years, funnily enough human behaviour remains the same though.

What were the animals working for?

The animals were probably working harder under Napoleon than under Jones. Their quality of lives seemed to be worse. The only thing different is that they had a sense of ownership - that it was their farm. Probably why I work so hard at my startup :p

Yuval calls the Agricultural revolution the biggest lie in human history in his Sapiens book. Humans were working harder, ate the same kind of food and faced a lot more problems after they settled down to farm. Their lives were far more flexible as hunter gatherers. New problems, new solutions and the cycle repeats but does anyone feel happier than they were before? The animals also were “progressing” but they seemed to be working harder than ever. If only they could build the windmill - things would be better then.

Slow, insidious change

There are some changes which happen slowly over time but since they happen so slowly and over a long period of time, we sometimes don’t see them happening until it is too late (eg climate change, etc). The animals notice one of the seven commandments change, and over time all of them are removed and replaced with a new one.

A lot of liberties were assumed by America’s “war on terror” after the 9/11 attacks. Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was initiated by George Bush to retaliate against the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center. A massive information surveillance program was initiated. This becomes the new normal and the AUMF is still being used to justify actions taken by the US government.

There are some drastic changes happening due to the current COVID pandemic. Some of these changes will trickle down and remain even after the pandemic ends. At that point, we need to consciously ensure that the war-time policies are rolled back. Governments do need to take more control during times of crisis, but it is our responsibility to ensure that it is reversed after the crisis. Power is pretty hard to give up, especially when you have experienced it.

How do you prevent entities from becoming too powerful?

All the animals supported the pigs because they helped them overthrow the big bad human. Soon, the pigs became the big bad human. Microsoft was the small scrappy startup going up against IBM back in the day, till it becomes big enough that it became the target of an anti-trust case. We all want the small guy to succeed, but after it does, how do we prevent it from doing the same?