Friday, November 8, 2013

Leadership and The Animal Farm

I just finished reading Geroge Orwell's Animal farm. It's regarded as one of the best books of all time and in on the Time Magazine Top 100 Books List. I thought it fitting to tell you about it. Although the story is told using animals, it's actually about the leadership in Russia. It can also be used to understand leadership elsewhere including the leadership in revolutionary and activism groups.

Here's the gist of Animal Farm so if you don't like ***SPOILERS***, don't read any further.

1) Jones is a man who owns the farm. The animals become tired of being his slaves, revolt, and chase Jones and his wife off the farm. Now they own the farm.

2) As a group they come up with rules that the animals will follow so that they never become like humans. Rules include things like not living in houses, not sleeping in beds, never wearing clothes, ALL animals were equal, and never killing another animal. They get rid of anything they have that violates those rules.

3) The pigs are the smartest to they start making plans for the farm and telling others what to do. The lead pigs are Napoleon and Snowball. They learn to read and write while most of the other animals are not smart enough to do so. So the other animals are used for labor. At one point the humans come back and start a fight, Snowball was heroic, and they chased the humans off.

4) Snowball starts coming up with plans to make a windmill and the animals start looking up to him. Napoleon got jealous. He trained a bunch of dogs to attack at will and unleashed them on Snowball. Snowball was chased away.

5) From that point on Napoleon was the leader, he had guard dogs, and lived in the house. He was the the best reader and writer and everyone just accepted him as leader because he was the smartest.

6) Napoleon started spreading rumors that Snowball was always a traitor, was working for the humans, and was sneaking onto the farm to sabotage things. He forced animals to confess to working with him and they were executed on the spot. Slowly Napoleons lackeys would change the list of rules to benefit the pigs. Everyone went along out of fear of having their throats ripped out.

7) Animals were made to work long hours for little food but because they owned the farm they were willing to make the sacrifice. The less intelligent animals kept believing that Napoleon was always right and was looking out for their best interests not his own.

8) By the end of the book Napoleon created two classes of animals. The pigs were the upper class, they started living in the house, wearing clothes, and standing upright. They also started trading goods with humans. The other animals were the workers, they got less food than the pigs and had to do labor while the pig worked on "forms and memos".

9) By the end of the book the pigs looked just like the humans and acted like them. They made friends with the humans and were actually worse than Jones. Older animals forgot about all the betrayals and how things used to be. Young animals thought that things were always that way.

So what happened was that although the animals had good intentions and wanted equality, the smartest ones took over first and appointed themselves the leaders. Then by using slander, violence, and manipulation one leader took over and attempted to destroy the other leader and his supporters. Then the leader eventually did all the things that the original leaders did so he was no better than the original oppressors. Very interesting how power corrupts and treating each other as equals is the first rule to be thrown out.

It's funny how women can be just as sexist and infair as men

Well being feminine isn't all sunshine and lollipops, but I do think it's still better for me offline for sure. One thing I didn't think I would have to deal with online was other women being sexist to me because I like femininity and my screen name is Elegance. It's really disturbing actually.

There are insults doled out on me for doing things that other writers and commentators do all the time, but with me, there is an extra sexist tinge. It may also be that people are oblivious to how inconsistent they are with their approval and disapproval of the same behaviour depending on who is doing it. But for me, I'm apparently not allowed to disagree, dislike anyone, refuse to forgive someone, talk back to someone, not care about something or someone, think someone is a bad role model, question anyone, tell someone to go away, quit something, stop a discussion, start a disagreement, think I'm better than anyone, think I don't have serious problems, refuse to support a cause, or say ANYTHING that might make anyone feel bad. Well my response to that is SCREW YOU! I am not some 1-dimensional caricature that MUST live up to whatever feminine role you expect me to fulfill. You don't know me and I don't have to be what you want! This online character called Elegance is not the real me! It's an online persona...a duh! Anyways, here are some ways people just expect things of me that they don't expect of other people. I'm just going to write those people off and be done with them since we don't need each other and online reality has no relation to my offline reality so who cares.

Example 1) If someone calls out a blogger, BY NAME, and insults their intelligence, implies they are naive, stupid, a saboteur etc. then most people would understand if the insulted blogger confronted the person right? Not if you are feminine and named Elegance. Nope, you have to smile and take it like a good little doll because that's what they expect feminine women to do. Take it and be a pushover. Or they tell you not to "sink to their level", so while other women and men can defend themselves I'm criticized for doing so. I'm not doing anything different from anyone on the net but for me it's not okay.

Example 2) If someone is rude in their disagreement with someone on a site it's understandable that the other person may be rude back voicing their own opinion. But oh no not Elegance! If I am rude back, question, or respond to the other person then I'm "being too sensitive" and can't take criticism. Where exactly does it say that it's wrong to talk back to critics? A strong person responds to criticism and corrects misunderstandings! If I think you are full of it and your criticisms make no sense, are biased, or freaking crazy then I have every right to say so. I can take criticism but I don't have to accept it. If someone says my blog is stupid because it's pink then I have every right to say it's stupid to think something like that is relevant.

Example 3) In an offline conversation it is a back and forth, you say something, then your conversation partner says something. This can go on for hours. Online the same thing sometimes happens and the conversation can be light or it can be a disagreement. But for some reason if I go back and forth with someone trying to understand then that's being willfully stupid, trying to cause problems, or trolling. How are some people allowed to cut off the dialogue like that but when I do THE EXACT SAME THING or stop the discussion I'm told I'm not willing to accept disagreement, I'm unwilling to engage in healthy dialogue, or I'm running away like a little girl? In my opinion, this is a sexist reaction, I'm damned for disagreeing with what someone says and damned for not engaging with them at all. Furthermore, if I write a long response it's a rant, being too sensitive, and it's not a big deal, but if another author does the exact same thing they are applauded and told they have every right to respond??? It's not my fault I can think and type faster than you.

Example 4) I think that it's a very feminine trait to try to understand people and it's also being curious and inquisitive, all good things. If you don't understand something then an intelligent person tries to understand instead of staying confused. Sometimes, believe it or not, people are confusing and their points are only logical to themselves or people close to them due to something called groupthink. I don't mind people questioning my thinking and I explain myself. But other people see that as a threat and they attack people for questioning and trying to understand. I don't know if that is an anti-intellectual thing, a defensive thing, and anti-science thing or what but I think it's freaking abnormal to be so closed off to questioning. But nooo, Elegance isn't allowed to ask questions or for clarification or that means she's stupid. People love to throw around the term "critical thinking" but an important part of critical thinking is asking whether something is true, whether it is partially true, or whether it is true for some people and not others! Pointing that out is not sabotage, it's pointing out the freaking limitations of your idea! One shoe doesn't fit everyone, just acknowledge it and we can move on instead of people insisting that their idea always works, for everyone, and if not it's because you're stupid.

Example 5) If someone disagrees with a popular idea then they have every right to say so, ask questions, and give a critique. But noooo, not if it's about Black women, then you have to nod your head and go along. Is that not the same freaking mess of unquestioning that let BW to follow feminists and Black male activists? Individual women have to question whether the ideas are appropriate to them. If they find inconsistencies then it is up to the writers to address them instead of sweeping them under the rug, calling people brainwashed, saboteurs, stupid etc. Maybe you are actually inconsistent, a lot of things are. It may be impossible for you to be consistent but what you need to do is THINK about whether there is an inconsistency, and if so ACKNOWLEDGE it, or DISPROVE it. It's sooooooo funny how many times people have said to me that I should expect disagreement with the posts I make yet other people are allowed to tell me not to voice my disagreement and in fact don't read a blog if you don't agree with ALL OF IT. What the heck is that?

Example 6) It's mind boggling the way the people react when the very criticisms they make of others are put back on them. Like when BW ask the White media to be included in their projects (e.g., magazine covers, TV shows, movies, runway). The same thing happens online when BW ask to be represented on non-Black blogs, people of other classes want inclusion on middle-class blogs, women want inclusion on men's blogs etc. These people asking for inclusion say that they won't support the cause or site because they are not included right? So how is that any different from a Black Canadian woman saying she doesn't want to be a part of a US based movement because it doesn't reflect her unique circumstances or address her needs? That's the same reason why many of you abandoned feminism, certain TV shows, magazines, and other causes but nooooo if you do that with a BW cause then you're told to shut up, just go along, and you're being insensitive to our problems. What happened to all the talk of only supporting things that DIRECTLY benefit you and expecting RECIPROCITY? I guess #(insertcausehere)isn't forCanadianBW. Sorry I won't be singing your praises or engaging with these causes just because I'm Black. I'm just going to wipe you from my consciousness.

People are strange and difficult. Online I'm just going to delete them, ignore them, and move on. If you are inconsistent, unfair, or extreme I'm not even going to bother trying to understand you out of curiosity online, it's not worth my time and won't benefit my life. THE END