All animals are equal but some are more equal than others
30th September 2019
This is a quotation from George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm. In it the animals conspire to take control of their farm from humans, establishing ‘Animalist’ commandments to prevent the reproduction of the oppressive behaviour of humans. Unfortunately as time goes on that is exactly what happens and the pig Napoleon ends up changing the final rule of ‘All animals are equal’ so that it reads that ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’. This is a parody of Stalinist Russia which Orwell was criticising.
Of course we can see how this could apply to other situations in which people have set out to create their vision of a Utopian society, only for it to become another group’s dystopia. The way a society is structured may change but human nature does not necessarily follow suit. Thomas Hobbes viewed human life as ‘nasty, brutish and short’ and therefore we should perhaps not be surprised if time and time again we replicate previous inequalities and tyrannies with only a change of ‘players’. Such is the case in Animal Farm. So what is to be done?
Christianity has always recognised the tendency of humans to ‘fall short’ of the mark, something which it calls ‘sin’. At the same time it recognises that all are made imago dei, in the image of God. That expresses the worth and essential lovableness of all human beings. All humans really are created equal and therefore should be dignified by the way they are treated. This will only happen through personal transformation though, something no amount of ‘self-help’ will bring about, but only submission to a higher power. This is recognised by most religions although it may not be articulated in the same language.
Most would agree that any structural changes in society to bring about greater equality, has to go hand in hand with personal transformation. It also involves a commitment to work to address those inequalities that we encounter. This week at Wychwood we are choosing to donate to the charity Mary’s meals which sets out to provide a nutritional meal for some of the poorest children around the world. Such choices can help bring change to a world in which it continues to be the case that, ‘some are more equal than others’.