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Context : MusicAndPolitics

Quora Answer : Would you still relate Pink Floyd's "Animals" to today's standards and what the world is like today, with celebs, the rich and the government (pigs), the police and military (dogs), the poor, middle class, and the have-nots (sheep)?

Jul 21, 2019

I find the "politics" of Animals somewhat confused.

It's allegedly based on Animal Farm, but only really takes the idea of "an allegory where animals stand for people" which is an ancient idea, that's been around at least since Aesop.

It doesn't have anything to do with the actual story of Animal Farm which is about how a revolution went wrong. Instead, in Animals, I think we're meant to assume that when the sheep revolt, that's meant to be a "good" thing. Or at least it's the cathartic end to the whole drama. Which is kind of the opposite of what Animal Farm is about.

Obviously, as you say, the basic model of a pyramid of society, with a rich, hypocritically moralizing elite (pigs), a bunch of aggressive defenders of that elite (dogs), and everyone else (sheep) is as true as it ever was. More so, as economic inequality exacerbates (as it has since the 1970s).

I don't think it's a particularly informative allegory though. In particular because today, the defenders of the elite, don't just come in "dog" flavour. There's a more superficially "cerebral" version of it, from the right-wing media, all the alt.right blowhards and "debaters" you find "destroying" the left on YouTube, to data-analysis companies and lobbyists and purveyors of disinformation of all sorts.

The hallmark of the contemporary defence of the elites is not raw violence (though that's available at the end) it's "bamboozlement" ... a FireHosing of fake, or distorted news, lies, conspiracies and rumours and insinuation. "HyperNormalization" as AdamCurtis puts it.

"Dog" doesn't really capture that. Fox or coyote might capture a bit more of that sense of cunning. Though obviously "wormtongue" is Tolkien's good old fashioned Anglo-Saxonish name.

Compared to Animal Farm which is subtle and dispiriting. And the contemporary political scene, which is overwhelmingly terrifying. Animals is pretty much naively "optimistic". Or at least naively "moralistic". The Dog wastes his life defending the elites but at least learns the error of his ways / gets his comeuppance at the end. The Sheep do revolt. And the Pigs are called out and subjected to ridicule.

I tend to believe that most political art isn't very good (either as art or politics) because the requirements of art and of politics pull in two different directions. (Art, for example, requires ambiguity and politics requires clarity.) And Animals is no exception.

But I've recently started to really like it. As music and song-writing. Much more than either Wish You Were Here or The Wall. 70s rock isn't really my genre, but I'll throw (particularly) Dogs or Sheep into a playlist surprisingly often.

Is that because of its political resonance today? I hadn't really thought of that, but I guess it might be.

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