By Bulgan Batdorj
When I recently read the book Animal Farm by George Orwell, a book written as an allegorical critique of the Soviet Union in 1945, I could not help but compare the characters and story to Mongolia. The story seems to be a satirical mockery of both (midterm) democratic Mongolia or (short term) Mongolia in a pandemic.
Let me briefly share some of my reflections concerning democratic Mongolia, not Mongolia in the pandemic.
Mongolian Democracy on an Animal Farm
On the next day of the revolution at “Manor Farm,” the animals successfully expelled Jones, the farmer, and his people, they put up the “Animal Farm” sign at the gate. The pigs (the educated) have reduced animalism to seven commandments, the seventh reads, “All animals are equal”.
In 1990, Mongolia declared its democracy, freedom and human rights. The revolution came with high enthusiasm and energy, similar to the Animal Farm, that they are proud to be in charge of their fate. However, the twist comes when the leadership changes from Snowball to Napoleon. Snowball is a pig, a dreamer and a visionary concerned with planning, progress, education and equality; he loses the leadership to Napoleon shortly after the revolution. Napoleon is an ambitious opportunist pig, he starts to take every opportunity to consolidate his power over the farm at the very early stage. Right after the revolution, he takes nine puppies from Jessie and Bluebell, and raises them as his bodyguards, scaring and doing away with anyone who opposed Napoleon’s intent. He rules the animal farm through propaganda and fear.
Napoleon could symbolize the public’s bad faith (equating Napoleon to our current president could be easy, but it would be personal and somehow very wrong). When the administration changed Mongolia from communism to democracy, the shift of underlying societal values (beyond the written democratic principles) was not considered. During communism, the priority of one’s action had to be for the common good, and the self-benefit is secondary (or at least have to be seen as such, even the latter is the intent). However, in a context with limited (minimal) resources, a free-market economy may have translated as self-benefit at the commons’ cost. Corruption, nepotism, partisan, and populism (Napoleon) have outsoared meritocracy, humility, and truth (Snowball), and we (Mongolians) have been in denial and confusion, as many of the animals, Boxer the horse, Clower the mare, and Muriel, the goat.
The sheep play an interesting role in the tyranny of Napoleon. They bleat “four legs good, two legs bad,” which later changed to “four legs good, two legs better” after they have been trained through Napoleon’s propagandist initiative. These sheep do not understand (they are not smart at all) animalism or its principles; still, their bleating washes away any opposition. This reminds me of the ignorance of our people or sometimes the thousands of fake social media account, bleating away something which eventually drowns big disasters – if stayed long enough, it could have triggered accountability.
“Benjamin,” the donkey, cynical and silent, but convinced that “Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is, badly”, represents a big chunk of Mongolians those who are living without feeling, living without belief, or those who lost faith in Democracy. These are the group that enables Napoleon to take over our faith and freedom.
As I said, it is a cautionary tale, but when “All aminals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” happens, it would be too late to shift course. For those who would like to (re)read Animal Farm, please visit the Gutenberg project here.
[I am born and raised in Mongolia. I take much pride in Mongolia’s development and progress, but the general trends of politics and governance have not been so promising lately, which saddens me greatly. Please feel free to write in the comment on where do you think/feel the country is heading towards.]