“I Will Work Harder”

Tonight’s journal entry is about my favorite character in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm. Boxer is a noble, loyal, hardworking horse at the Animal Farm. He was respected not just for his great strength but for his willingness to take on more than his fair share of the work. The farm was built on theĀ  back of his labors. He was the driving force behind all constructions in it, and for the positive attitude of the long-suffering beasts that work alongside him. No matter how frivolous or ill-conceived the job may be, he worked to make the visions of Napoleon the pig a reality through his sheer strength and size. He, like most of the animals in the farm, subscribed to Napoleon’s cult of personality. He never questioned him and his posse of pigs and dogs, he took his word as truth even if he had doubts. “Napoleon is always right”, he says.

Whenever the farm gets damaged by war, or there’s a food shortage (and there always is), or whenever it becomes apparent that the quality of life is not improving for the animal workers at the farm, his only answer is “I will work harder”. He woke up earlier, worked longer and harder, hoping that the lives of his fellow animals will improve and the promised utopian farm will become a reality. Every time there is a great need, his response was always the same “I will work harder. Napoleon is always right.”

He only realized that he was nothing more than a means of production to Napoleon when he was dying and instead of being sent to the doctor, he was sent to the butcher for profit.

Boxer was strong, noble, loyal. He didn’t complain, he was always willing to take on more work to the detriment of his own well-being. He subscribed to the cult of personality because he thought it would make him a better citizen of the farm. He didn’t understand that even if he worked himself to death it would not make a significant improvement on the situation of his fellow workers. He was not inching towards a utopian Animal Farm. For as long as the leaders are greedy and self-serving, and the system is designed to benefit only the few, and the few are indifferent to the suffering of the many, then the animals will continue to be oppressed and expected to be grateful for it.

Oftentimes the system is so broken that no matter how hard you work, it doesn’t open doors or make opportunities available. People who are born with the privilege of not having to fight for survival each day can find it easy to tell struggling people to just “shut up and work”. They can never understand the struggle of being born into abject poverty in an oppressive society unless they really work on understanding it.

These days, with the current situation of the nation’s economy, I come across so many people on social media clamoring for the poor to just shut up and work. A lot of people still subscribe to the over-simplification that people are poor because they are lazy and they complain too much. Not all poor people are lazy. In fact, an overwhelming majority do backbreaking labor for a pittance. The success of a lot of people, the smooth operation of businesses and households rely on the willingness of these people to do the work nobody else wants to do and be paid a pittance for it.

To berate them for speaking out and voicing their discontent with how the system works is just incredibly cruel. To make light of their daily struggle is insensitive and narrow-minded. It’s like the well-fed, comfortable pigs in the farmhouse telling Boxer and the other animals to just shut up and work while they sit back and do the “difficult” job of overseeing everything.

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