Pigs for Power

As Napoleon transforms from a hero who saved his “comrades” to a ruthless leader, every reader is forced to question power and the effect it has on those who achieve it. In Animal Farm by George Orwell, the pig, Napoleon, assumes power over the rest of the animals. He eventually becomes a harsher and more dictatorial leader than the original farmer who took care of the animals. Was this version of power always the goal for Napoleon, or did it occur naturally through corruption as he gained control? What qualities of a person (or in this case an animal) determine whether or not they are a leader? Why do we trust our leaders so easily? What causes people to strive for power? I struggle to find answers within history, philosophy and reading.

An important concept in World History is power corruption, which has ruined almost every revolution, successful society, and great leader. Studying all of these successes and eventual failures, I question whether power corruption is a natural occurrence, or if everyone who comes to power happens to share qualities which make them corrupted in the first place. Certain personalities offer themselves to leadership. For example, natural confidence is a necessity. Intelligence and hard work often play a role, along with dominating tendencies, and unique ideas. Clover, the cow, reflected on this rise to dominance as she with her fellow animals looking out over the farm: “These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion.” (page 61)

There is a common occurrence in history where someone starts a revolution with wild new ideas. They are inspired by the poverty or oppression around them usually starting at the bottom. As they rise to power, the people who originally supported them realize that they are corrupt or have more extreme ideas than originally expected. By then it is too late, and that leader is left to dominate over the people they once suffered with. Most recent examples of this are Fidel Castro with the Cuban revolution and Stalin with the Russian revolution. It is too late because people are threatened by the powerful figure at that point. They are threatened by the idea of helplessness without that person’s leadership. They feel threatened by themselves and the people around them, and find comfort in leadership. For example, when the leaders of Animal Farm become so cruel that it dignifies another revolution, the animals are unable to revolt without the leadership of the pigs (the corrupt leaders). So, why is it that these particular people happen to be the ones to rise to power?

People can be classified as “leaders” or “followers.” The world makes us think that we should be leaders. However, some people do not want to be “leaders.” Followers can change the world, and leaders can go their whole lives without making a difference. We all go about our lives striving for power, even in the smallest of ways. As humans we feel to need to have power over something, even if it is something as small as a flower in our garden. The difference between “leaders” and “followers” is that leaders feel this need to have power over people, and are able to control others to satisfy this need.

Whether powers corrupts people (or the people who achieve it are prone to corruption) we may never know for sure. Through reading stories like Animal Farm, we can discover what power means to us and to society, but there will never be a certain answer. After many successes and failures in government, we have figured out ways to avoid destructive corruption. We can control power, or we can let power control us. One good thing about America is that we have figured out how to control power. For the most part, at least.