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Essay: Animal Farm & Letter from Birmingham Jail: freedom and the necessities of justice and education

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  • Animal Farm & Letter from Birmingham Jail: freedom and the necessities of justice and education
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The topic of justice has inevitably made its way into the course of history. Whether it be the Protestant-Catholic rivalry in Northern Ireland of the 1920s, or the LGBT movement of today, the topics of injustice and justice still cause turmoil. Simon Wiesenthal, an anti-Nazi activist, and survivor of the Janowska concentration camp, once stated, “There is no freedom without justice.” This quote was applicable in the past, and is still applicable to the world today. This quote also applies to Animal Farm by George Orwell and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by MLK. Both works talk about freedom and the necessities of justice and education in a society.

Animal Farm traces the story of the Russian revolution of the early 1900s in an intriguing allegory. A theme that appears many times is the definition of “freedom.” This definition gets manipulated many times throughout the book, therefore losing its true meaning and value. The original meaning of freedom in Animal Farm was a place free from the rule of man. (“Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, All must toil for freedom’s sake”.). (Orwell, 2.13). This passage comes from a stanza in Old Major’s poem: “Beasts of England,” in which he campaigns for an existence free from human rule. Napoleon and the pigs soon become greedy for power and begin to manipulate the concept of freedom around their own desires. “Afterwards Squealer was sent round the farm to explain the new arrangement [Snowball’s exiling] to the others. ‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labor upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? Suppose you had decided to follow Snowball, with his moonshine of windmills−Snowball, who, as we now know, was no better than a criminal?’.” (Orwell, 5.23). This quote shows how the meaning of freedom and justice had lost their value in Animal Farm, because of the manipulation of Napoleon and the pigs. In MLK’s letter, he addresses freedom by saying this: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”(MLK, 11.1). This quote shows that if there is no justice, freedom must be demanded, and the process of demanding freedom can be a challenging endeavor.

Why is Justice necessary for a government to function? According to MLK, it is because injustice destroys already- existing justice. “ Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (MLK, 3.3). Here, MLK creates a profound analogy stating that one small injustice indirectly affects many other people. Therefore, if a large injustice is done, it can seriously harm a government and the freedom of the governed. Napoleon’s twisted justice leads indirectly to his downfall. He begins to revise the rules of Animal Farm in order to maintain his power. “When it was all over, the remaining animals, except for the pigs and dogs, crept away in a body. They were shaken and miserable. They did not know which was more shocking−the treachery of the animals who had leagued themselves with Snowball, or the cruel retribution they had just witnessed. In the old days, there had often been scenes of bloodshed equally terrible, but it seemed to all of them that it was far worse now that it was happening among themselves. Since Jones had left the farm, until today, no animal had killed another animal. Not even a rat had been killed. They had made their way on to the little knoll where the half-finished windmill stood, and with one accord they all lay down as though huddling together for warmth−Clover, Muriel, Benjamin, the cows, the sheep, and a whole flock of geese and hens−everyone, indeed, except the cat, who had suddenly disappeared just before Napoleon ordered the animals to assemble.” (Orwell, 6.14). This scene happens after Napoleon orders his dogs to kill 6 animals that were allegedly leaguing with Snowball. The animals recall that no animal had ever killed another animal, and how they remember that one of the original laws of Animal Farm was that no animal should kill another animal. However, Napoleon revises the law to fit his needs. “A few days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, some of the animals remembered−or thought they remembered−that the Sixth Commandment decreed ‘No animal shall kill any other animal.’ And though no one cared to mention it in the hearing of the pigs or the dogs, it was felt that the killings which had taken place did not square with this. Clover asked Benjamin to read her the Sixth Commandment, and when Benjamin, as usual, said that he refused to meddle in such matters, she fetched Muriel. Muriel read the Commandment for her. It ran: ‘No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.’” (Orwell, 6.3) This scene explains Animal Farm’s downfall. Without justice, or with a distorted sense of justice, the leader is able to bendend the society around their will. Once the governed begin to question the leader, the downfall begins.

Why are people so easily manipulated? Animal Farm offers a pretty reasonable explanation in this: lack of education and lack of confidence. Napoleon takes advantage of the animals’ naiveness and bends the rules. “It was always the pigs that put forth the resolutions. The other animals understood how to vote, but could never think of any resolutions on their own.” (Orwell, 31.1). This shows that the animals, because of their lack of education, were easily controlled and tricked into believing false information. MLK realized the weakness of an uneducated population, as he says: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” he wrote. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.” (MLK, 1.3). Here, MLK remarks that education is crucial to educate the youth on political topics. Therefore, is there is no education of the youth, they will be easily manipulated and controlled into sin.

Lack of education is one of the main causes of the nicotine addiction epidemic that is sweeping the nation. According to the National Society, when teens were asked what is in their e-cigarette, 66.0 percent say just flavoring, 13.7 percent don’t know, 13.2 percent say nicotine, 5.8 percent say marijuana, and 1.3 percent say other. Manufacturers don’t have to report e-cig ingredients, so users don’t know what’s actually in them. These startling statistics show the necessity of education for the youth. In addition to all this, many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. According to a recent study, 78% of vaping high schoolers believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. However, that is not the case. The key difference between traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes and related products is that the latter doesn’t contain tobacco. But, it isn’t just the tobacco in cigarettes that causes cancer. Traditional cigarettes contain a laundry list of chemicals that are proven harmful, and e-cigarettes have some of these same chemicals. Since 2009, FDA has pointed out that e-cigarettes contain “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could be exposed.” For example, in e-cigarette cartridges marketed as “tobacco-free,” the FDA detected a toxic compound found in antifreeze, tobacco-specific compounds that have been shown to cause cancer in humans, and other toxic tobacco-specific impurities. Another study looked at 42 of these liquid cartridges and determined that they contained formaldehyde, a chemical known to cause cancer in humans. Formaldehyde was found in several of the cartridges at levels much higher than the maximum EPA recommends for humans. For reference, formaldehyde is used in laboratories to preserve cadavers, and is known for its pungent odor. In 2018, a study published in the Public Library of Science Journal showed that significant levels of benzene, a well-known carcinogen, were found in the vapor produced by several popular brands of e-cigarettes. (NCHR).

In conclusion, education and justice are crucial for a government to function and for the governed not to be misled. Aside from the political aspect of things, education is important for the youth so that we, as a generation, do not partake in things that we have been falsely led to believe are harmless. The book Animal Farm by George Orwell and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by MLK show this in numerous ways.

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