What the resistance can learn from George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm. Photo by byronv2 / Flickr.
As many of us work to resist the agenda of the current administration, we often get caught up in the question of whether “we” will “win.” Then I wonder whether the oppositional thinking of “us” and “them” and “winner” and “loser” and “our side” and “their side” and “99 percent” and “1 percent” can lead to transformational and lasting change. I think, in particular, of George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm.
The quick plot: The pigs on the farm lead an animal revolution against the oppressive humans. A central tenet of the revolution is that “all animals are equal.” But after the farmers are killed, the pigs move into the farmhouse—the place of the privileged—and even begin to walk upright on two legs. Ultimately, they rule as maliciously as the humans did. When questioned about the tenet that all animals are equal, they reply, “Yes, but some animals are more equal than others.”
In what I will call a masculine-principled revolution, the uprising itself serves as much to consolidate power in a new ruler as to oust the old ruler. As a reward for supporting that consolidation of power, the hierarchy of oppression changes under the new rulers. The groups who support the new leaders are granted new privileges, and the groups who supported the old have privileges taken away.
Oftentimes, the leaders of the revolution end up concentrating more on maintaining the leadership part than the revolution part. They reassign privilege according to what maintains their leadership. The foot soldiers in the revolution must content themselves with slight changes in their currency.
Here’s what that looks like: The “resistance” reacts to Trump, whose supporters reacted to Obama, whose supporters reacted to Bush, whose supporters reacted to Clinton, and on. The Orwellian animals become the humans, who become the animals, and on. Meanwhile, the truly oppressed remain that way (this is the shadow truth of our binary choice system), and not much changes as we get distracted by the overly masculine-assertive desire for control.
The oppressed of each “side” are rewarded just enough to convince them to support the leadership without actually taking part in that leadership. Thus, the pendulum swings back and forth.
Masculine-assertive energy is not good or bad, but rather adaptive or not, according to the circumstances. Too much reinforces the regime of extracting resources and, while it might have once advanced society, it is now killing us and our habitat. So there is an argument to be made that using masculine-assertive energy to fight masculine-assertive energy reinforces the pendulum swinging.
The choice becomes either being content to have the pendulum swing “our” way for a time or working toward an end to all that swinging.
Moving away from “us versus them” opens up the possibility of what I call “Only Us”—an all-inclusive state of being for all sentient and non-sentient existence.
To move toward Only Us may require a massive move toward feminine-receptive energy. What does that look like? Less fighting and speaking and doing for our way and a lot more sitting and listening and questioning and being still. Mobilizing includes listening—especially to the oppressed of the “other side”—and receiving what is offered as opposed to taking what is not. Talking and doing are informed by what we learn.
Are there models for the feminine-receptive approach? Yes.
My own life story has brought me a deep familiarity with 12-step recovery programs. One of the things that I have most admired about these groups of people is their tradition of all-inclusive governance. Their second tradition goes something like this: There is but one ultimate authority—a loving wisdom as it expresses itself in our group conscience. Leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
The amazingness is this: Workable and effective self-governance by some of the most downtrodden and disempowered people in our society—those trying to manage addictions. The will of so-called recovered or expert leaders are not imposed on the groups; they are required to fulfill the will of the group. Further, the will of the group is not that of the majority, but of the consciences of the individual members and factions synthesized into one—ideally—unanimous group conscience.
The process is feminine-receptive principled in that it is about listening to one another and attempting to synthesize individual views into one community view. When a decision has been made that the entire group supports, there is no tyranny of the majority. There will be no need to overturn the group decision when a new majority takes power. Of course, this process is predicated on a faith in another recovery movement tradition—that “our common welfare comes first” because personal well-being depends on the well-being of the whole. Not us and them —but Only Us.
Let’s also consider the work of Elango Rangaswamy, the former mayor of the village Kuthambakkam, in India.
Rangaswamy pioneered a form of direct democracy by listening to his villagers, writing plans based on their views, and returning the plan to the villagers to discuss and rewrite in a circular process of receptiveness and assertiveness that refined itself to reflect the needs of all villagers. Again, no tyranny of the majority and a balance of masculine-assertiveness with feminine-receptiveness.
Rangaswamy then went on to train hundreds of village mayors throughout India in his methods.
Both the recovery movement and Rangaswamy’s models of self-governance require a fundamental understanding that there is no use moving the fascist humans out of the farmhouse only to move in the equally power-hungry pigs. The models also require a faith that the pendulum swing that comes with a masculine-energy revolution is not the best we can do, that “us versus them” degrades both “us” and “them.”
A model of receptivity by all rather than assertiveness by some can be used to create an Only Us that stops the pendulum and allows a longer-lasting highest good for the highest number. A question for those of us who are working to stop the current administration is this: How do we use the feminine-receptive principle to create a dialog with the oppressed of the “other side” and then move forward together?
Colin Beavan wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Colin helps people and organizations to live and operate in ways that have a meaningful impact on the world. His most recent book is “How To Be Alive,” and he blogs at ColinBeavan.com. Besides YES! Magazine, his articles have appeared in Esquire, Atlantic, and the New York Times. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.