Book Name

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Rating

Audiobook

One Line Summary

Animals teach you about the power of social conditioning

The Setup

If you’ve been forced to sit through Literature class in any western school, you’ve probably heard of or had to read Animal Farm. I was no different. I read it for the first time back in 8th grade, but since then my perspective on the book has totally flipped. I can see just how powerful Orwell’s words are.

Animal Farm is a novel about a personified group of animals who “revolt” and overthrow the humans controlling their farm. Eventually though, the new regime of animals begin to corrupt the ideals of the revolution and the farm ends no better than before. The whole story is an allegory to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and is widely considered a classic dystopian novel.

Why it’s Awesome

Animal Farm is a tremendous piece of art just in terms of sheer creativity. I can guarantee you’ve probably never read anything like this. But this is a self-development blog, and so we’re going to be focusing on its benefits to you making positive changes in your life.

A large theme is this book is social conditioning. I’ve talked about this in other posts but the gist of it is that as impressionable children, we are fed many beliefs about the world and simply take them on because we don’t know better and want acceptance. Combine this with the fact that absolute knowledge is impossible and you don’t have time to truly verify every claim about reality. The result is a lot of people just believing things because other people said so.

Imagine the entire world 100% believed that you were actually an alien from outer space. Every time you went near people, they would run and shriek with terror. Scientists would constantly be trying to capture you so they could make you into a study. Even your own parents and your most trusted friends also fully believe this. How long would it take before you started doubting your own sanity in your belief that you’re a human being? I’d give it a couple of days, maybe.

This is the power of social conditioning. You must, must be aware of this concept no matter what level of self-development you’re at because beliefs turn out to be the only thing holding you back from everything you want out of life. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical fitness, money, women, spiritual growth or just unconditional happiness. If there’s something you want that you can’t seem to get, check your psychology. Check your beliefs.

Ultimately, none of these beliefs will turn out to be true, even the ones that seem positive. But that’s a topic for another post. For this review, I just want to hammer on this topic of social conditioning.

We can use the story from Animal Farm as a practical example of how this happens. At the start of the revolution, the animals draw up “7 Commandments” which all the animals follow with great enthusiasm. They are:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend
  3. No animal shall wear clothes
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol
  6. No animal shall kill another animal
  7. All animals are equal

Pretty good list. It’s easy to see that Orwell is drawing inspiration from the 10 Commandments of Christianity. So let’s image that these commandments represent absolute Truth.

What happens is that over time, these commandments slowly start to get twisted. The animals at the head of the farm, the pigs, begin rewriting the narrative of the revolution and the commandments in their personal favor through group think. No one really challenges this because everyone else believes it and the changes become self-reinforcing. By the end of the novel, all the commandments have been swamped out for the maxim “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

This is basically what is happening in your life. You have an objective reality, which is simply your raw perceptions. And then you have your interpretations of these raw perceptions, which are your beliefs. But because these beliefs can never be a 100% accurate representation of reality, there is a whole lot of wiggle room in trying to establish beliefs. Your psychology doesn’t actually need as much evidence as you think you do in order to accept something as true. Usually just a few justifications will do.

Now I’m not saying that there’s some big conspiracy theory going on or that the Illuminati is controlling everything. The world is not like the animal farm. Actually, some of the highest status people are victims to group think and social conditioning more than low status people. There is no one who is not affected by this.

Why Does It Suck

The only thing that hinders this book in my opinion is that it represents are very conspiratory way of looking at the world in which it’s the little guys being held back the big guys. Yes, you should acknowledge when those at the top influencing you in negative ways, but don’t make yourself a victim because of it. Us vs them is just ego delusion and gets you nowhere.

The Wrap Up

Animal Farm is a classic novel that really everyone should read in their life. If you’re a student of self-development, use this book to get a better understanding of how social conditioning and dogma gets perpetuated. You may be surprised at just how flimsy our beliefs can be.