Animal Farm

            I revisited my grandparent’s old farm the other day. It was the place of my childhood. It was where I grew up. It was the setting of many cherished memories. My grandparent’s old farm shaped who I would become. 

            I was aware that The Farm had changed. People had told me so. They told me I wouldn’t recognize it anymore. I wanted to see for myself, so I went to The Farm late one night, when no one would notice my presence.

            The people were right – it had changed. It was the same old farm, but very different. I saw the words painted on the side of the barn from the days of my ancestors, but those words were different now.

            The Farm was established under the simple concept that all cows are created equal. In practice, it never really worked out that way, but the notion of social and economic equality led to the idea of upward mobility for all cows. There was even a term for it – The Farm Dream. As cheesy as that may sound, it was relatively true. Through hard work, a touch of entrepreneurial grit, and good old-fashioned determination, any cow could experience upward mobility.

            For the most part, The Farm was comprised of three groups. The first group was the Brown Swiss. The Brown Swiss was your quintessential rugged individual. Fiercely patriotic, they believed in success through hard work. They tilled the fields, hauled the merchandise, and opened up their own businesses. They weren’t afraid to get their hooves dirty. The Brown Swiss was a risk-taker, as well as a traditionalist.

            The second group was the Jersey. The Jersey was the thinker, the intellect. The Jersey taught in the classrooms, spoke at universities, created artwork and beautiful music, and generally pursued specialized, artisanal interests. The Jersey was the enlightened creator, always thinking progressively.

            The third group was the Holstein. The Holsteins lived in the shiny new Freestall on the Hill. The Holsteins had made it. They held leadership roles. If a Brown Swiss wanted to expand their business, or a Jersey wished to obtain a grant, the Holsteins were the cows to talk to. There was even a Holstein painted on the sign of the main entrance to The Farm as sort of an idealized symbol of what was possible.

            The beauty of The Farm was that the Brown Swiss, the Jerseys, and the Holsteins all worked together, because each group was humble enough to recognize that they needed each other. The Holsteins needed the Brown Swiss to take financial risks and delve into individualistic entrepreneurial pursuits. The Brown Swiss needed the Jerseys as a source of art, higher education, and model for self-expression. And both the Jerseys and the Brown Swiss needed the Holsteins to provide oversight, law and order, and overall leadership of The Farm. After all, someone needed to haul the manure, grade the driveways in the spring, and make sure that The Farm remained safe and secure. The Holsteins provided that oversight, and delegated the actual work to some of the rugged individuals and thinkers that just needed an outlet for their talents.

            Best of all, any cow from any particular group could transcend to another. The history of The Farm was rife with examples of Brown Swiss, who left their physical toils to become brilliant Holstein leaders, as well as Jerseys who became entrepreneurial Brown Swiss, and Holsteins who resigned from the rigors of leadership to pursue simpler, Brown Swiss dreams. Most importantly – any cow could be a Holstein with the right attitude and determination. This was The Farm Dream, and it was possible – at least back then.

            Shoot – I forgot about one other group. Don’t worry, everyone forgets about the fourth group – kind of like the middle child in a family. The fourth group is the Angus. The Angus is the low end of the totem pole. They are the new arrivals to The Farm. They take the menial jobs that neither the Jerseys or the Brown Swiss, and certainly not the Holsteins, would ever consider. The Angus are paid substandard wages, and are only really recognized with integrity when a Brown Swiss needs the roof replaced on their barn, or a Jersey needs some landscaping work done in their front paddock, or a Holstein needs a constituency.

            The most unfortunate part about being an Angus is that the Brown Swiss, Jerseys, and Holsteins have all lost sight of the fact that historically they were once Angus too.

            Sometime in the past, from the time I left The Farm to the time I returned, an idea infiltrated the society of cows. Rather than working together, what if the groups feared one another? It is undeniable – a Jersey is different than a Brown Swiss, and both are different than an Angus. Rather than celebrate these differences as a means of working – and benefitting – together, what if these differences were used to separate the groups – and keep them separated?

            It was much, much easier to pull off than you can imagine.

            The change was initiated in the most basic, fundamental way possible – news and information. The Brown Swiss were hoof-fed ideas that made them feel superior to the Jerseys, and vice versa. And, both the Jerseys and Brown Swiss were given examples of past discretions committed against the Angus that made them feel inadequate and guilty – even though it was the Holsteins of the day committing those discretions. And it was easy to separate the Angus – they could see with their own eyes the inequality that existed between their group and the others.

            The Farm was, and still is, rife with all forms of wildlife that interact and comingle. It soon got to the point that the Brown Swiss relied solely on the foxes for news and information, while the Jerseys looked only to the peacocks. Literally, the same breaking news story would be spun in such a way to placate the different groups. So effective was this strategy that the Jerseys and the Brown Swiss began to hate each other.

            Hate is such a strong word, but it’s true. That’s exactly what happened. Rather than celebrate their differences, the Jerseys and Brown Swiss HATED each other, and both groups were made to feel threatened of the Angus, even though if you were to pluck a random Jersey, a random Brown Swiss, and a random Angus and place them at a water trough together, for the most part they would get along just fine, because at the end of the day, they’re all just cows.

            Hilariously, the different groups took to cow social media to hurl insults at each other. The Brown Swiss quoted the foxes as gospel, while the Jerseys quoted the peacocks. Both sides accused the other of being nothing but a dumb, stupid sheep, because unlike a cow, a sheep cannot think for itself.

            What the Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Angus all failed to recognize was this one simple fact – the foxes and peacocks were nothing but Holsteins.

            While the consumption of news and information was methodically dividing up the cows into neat little warring factions, the Holsteins opened up The Farm to outside trading. It was discovered that the Ayrshire Farm of the Far East could manufacture goods – including food – at a far lower cost than The Farm’s own Brown Swiss. Pretty soon, most every consumer good from lawn gnomes, to wearable human heads – even food – came with the ubiquitous label, “Made in Ayrshire”. The Ayrshires even bought up tangible Farm assets like water, tillable farmland, and the Jerseys’ intellectual property. Of course, the Holsteins brokered every one of these deals, and profited handsomely.

            Likewise, the Great Brahma Farm of the Deep Southland acquired The Farm’s beef production assets. It soon got to the point that a significant portion of Farm assets and means of production, not to mention raw materials, were actually foreign-owned. And, since the Brahmas and especially the Ayrshires adhered little to environmental or quality of life standards, this trade effectively devalued the work of the Brown Swiss, Jerseys, and Angus.

            Still, the groups fought with each other.

            To make matters worse on The Farm, in order for any transaction to occur, a Holstein was required to be present. It used to be that a Brown Swiss could take a homemade bale of alfalfa as payment directly to a Jersey or Angus, but this was no longer the case. The groups were separated so effectively, that the only thing they had in common now was pure, unadulterated dependence on the Holstein for their own existence. No work, no transaction, and no creativity was recognized as legitimate on The Farm, unless it followed the Holstein rules and restrictions, and incorporated a Holstein throughout the process. Especially in the production of food, multiple layers of Holsteins were required to be present “in the best interests and protection” of the Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Angus.

            The greatest casualty throughout this process was the concept of upward mobility for all cows. The Farm Dream was still possible, at least in theory, but the actions of the Holsteins had made it virtually impossible for a Brown Swiss or a Jersey to ascend to a position in the Freestall on the Hill. The Angus? Forget about them – they didn’t have a prayer. The Farm Dream was not necessarily dead; it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

            And then came the Big Bull.

            The Big Bull was a product of something the cows called “poop culture”, which encompassed all Holstein-sanctioned music, television, film, and art. By definition, nothing from a Brown Swiss, Jersey, or Angus would qualify, but on occasion the Holsteins would pluck a cow at random and thrust them onto the main stage of poop culture. This empowered the Brown Swiss, Jerseys, and Angus; at least in their own primitive minds.

            Anyway, the Big Bull thrust himself on scene like a bull in an Ayrshire shop. He was already a barnyard name through his involvement in poop culture, and so needed little introduction. I will say this about the Big Bull: the Brown Swiss completely idolized him, the Jersey’s despised him, and the Angus; well, the Angus were left out once again.

            So divided was The Farm, that the Big Bull could literally shoot a steer on Somatic Avenue, and the Brown Swiss would worship him, and the Jerseys; well, the Jerseys wouldn’t hate him any less.

            As if conditions on The Farm could not get any worse, get this – In 2020, also known as The Year of the Rat, the cows were subjected to a mastitis pandemic.

            Here’s the thing about mastitis – inevitably, practically every cow on The Farm will catch a case of mastitis in her lifetime. Any cow, and any breed of cow, can get mastitis – it is generally curable, and although extremely painful, typically not fatal. Mastitis usually only kills a cow that is extremely old, young, weak, or suffering from some other ailment.

            The Rat Mastitis was just different enough to be truly threatening, but also familiar enough that many cows disregarded it as a hoax. After all, it originated in the Ayrshire Farm. This only lead to more division amongst the cows on The Farm, setting the stage for the most truly remarkable occurrence of all:

            During the Rat Mastitis Plague, the largest transfer of cow wealth in the history of The Farm occurred. During this time, the cows were all confined to their barns. No grazing, and no outdoor activity – even though cows are meant to be outside. During the Rat Mastitis Plague, the only establishments, services, and products available to the cows were institutions of the Holsteins. Brown Swiss-preferred water troughs were closed, as were the best paddocks for grazing. Jersey art museums, performances, and public education were all closed. Literally, the only option for the cows for goods, services, and even food was either Holstein-sanctioned poop culture, or the omnipresent entity Cow-Martco, also owned exclusively by the Holsteins.

            Fun fact – Cow-Martco now controlls all aspects of the production of goods and services – from raw materials and processing, to marketing, distribution, and sales. This process is called “vertical integration”, and is modeled after “collectivization”, which was used exclusively on the Manor Farm years ago across the pond.

            Paradoxically, the Jerseys and the Brown Swiss turned on each other, with a hatred that bordered on rabid cannibalism. The Brown Swiss ridiculed and protested the Jerseys, who turned around and slandered the Brown Swiss on social media with everything up to and including death threats. 

            In the end, the Angus kept The Farm running, because they were the only ones doing any actual work during the Rat Mastitis Plague. Still, the Angus were paid substandard wages and offered no chance of upward mobility. The Jerseys and the Brown Swiss fought each other bruised and bloody to near death, and the Holsteins gave themselves a juicy pay raise. Actually, the pay raise was more like generational theft, to the tune of $2.2 TRILLION bales of alfalfa. Do you have any idea how much hay that is?

            During the Rat Mastitis Plague, the Holsteins spent money like a herd of drunken water buffalos.

            And that is the farm that I visited on this chilly starlit evening. The birds are chirping, the frogs are singing, and it is the first enjoyable spring weather of the New Year. The people were right – The Farm has changed. I barely recognize what it has become.

            The Farm no longer has four groups. No longer is The Farm made up of Holsteins, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Angus. Now there are only two groups – the Holsteins, and everyone else.

            I thought about the words on the side of the barn, which is now the property of the Walt Daisy Corporation, and I thought about the meaning behind why my grandparents painted them there.

            “All cows are created equal.”

            And then, slightly brighter and in a slightly different font, like a social media meme that has been edited to tell a different joke, a second line that wasn’t there before:

            “But some cows are more equal than others.”