The Rise and Fall of the United Sheepdom (Tales From My Uncle’s Animal Farm).
Once upon a time there was a wonderful country. Its full name was the Union of White Sheep and White Wolves, but everyone called it United Sheepdom for short. The white sheep that constituted the majority of the country had it pretty nice. They were regularly fleeced, and a sizeable number of them were regularly sent to the slaughterhouse for the consumption of white wolves, but for the rest of time, their life was relatively well regulated and protected. At least, that’s what their newspapers, called SheepPost, SheepTimes, and SheepGuardian, were telling them. These newspapers did their best to describe the great progress achieved both by white wolves and white sheep, while simultaneously portraying the existence of other sheep in other countries as absolutely horrendous. Likewise, the newspapers loved to present the stories of the sheep from all over the world dreaming of only one thing—to get across the border and join the happy meadows of the United Sheepdom. “Still the land of dreams,” the articles would declare.
The United Sheepdom had a great political system, called Lupocracy, which meant that the sheep were governed by two parties, whose leaders were chosen depending on the size of the promises that they would give. One party consisted of white wolves and its emblem was a White Wolf embracing a White Lamb with the words “Bravery” written under the embracing couple; another of white wolves in white sheepskins, and its emblem was a White Lamb embracing a White Wolf in White Sheepskin, with the words “Freedom,” underscoring the embrace. Both parties did their best to convince everyone how nice was the life in this land of the brave and the free. Furthermore, once in a while the party of the white wolves in white sheepskin clothes would bring into a high party position a real sheep. In fact, the most exceptional, obedient, and the whitest of all sheep could be elected into parliament. Consequently, every sheep in the country had a chance to dream of entering the White Barn, the main seat of the government. Needless to say, the election of a white sheep into the parliament was greeted as the day of national celebration, as the triumph of bravery and freedom. On that day, every sheep would be issued a white wolf costume, and had a chance to party and dance and chase the wolves, all of which were required to be dressed in white sheepskins.
The White Wolves’ particular venom was directed at the country populated by gray sheep and gray wolves, called Great Allsheep Union—a once powerful country that had aspired to get rid of all wolves and unite in harmony all world sheep, but by now -- fallen apart, shrunk to a much smaller Greylandia, and controlled by Committee of Sly Grey Wolves. Hardly a day would pass without another story broadcast all over United Sheepdom of grey sheep killed, burned, dropped from the sky, or brutally devoured by lawless and deceitful grey wolves. “Sheep are dying in droves;” “Greylandia is the Epicenter of the Perfect Storm of Demographic Collapse,” the articles kept on reminding its readers.
The gray sheep that populated Greylandia were distant relatives of the white sheep, but the Whites never acknowledged it. They were so fluffy, and pure, and white, and manicured as opposed to all those shaggy sheep whose hair looked like mud on a rainy day that they actually liked to make fun of their pathetic gray counterparts. Furthermore, SheepPost would always tell the stories of stupid grey sheep tolerating the vicious abuse in the teeth of the big grey wolves. “Greylandia: Still Empire, Still Evil,” pronounced one of the most intellectual magazines of the land, called SheepThinker. Having read those, the Whites felt the justifiable right to feel different.
At one moment, encouraged by their Wolf-politicians, the white sheep even declared themselves as Sheep of Exception, totally different from the rest of sheepkind. Indeed, white sheep lived longer, and when butchered, died quietly in a nice beautiful building adorned with sculptures of frolicking lambs, so that even when some sheep would disappear, their relatives and friends would think that their vanished relatives went to FloweryLand (that was a nickname of a slaughterhouse, a building adorned by embracing baby lambs on its roof), where they are happily resting. Luckily, the sheep never had a long memory, and were always distracted by the big TV screens that presented either the various exceptionally beautiful specimens of sheep frolicking in the green meadow, or the horror stories about evil grey wolves and their equally evil sidekicks, grey sheep, that the memory of the relatives, who went to a greener place in any case, would soon vanish.
Grey sheep had actually communicated with their relatives across the ocean and asked them to be skeptical of the stories that their leaders told them. They observed that neither white wolves nor white wolves in white sheepskin could be trusted, that they devour the white sheep with the same efficiency as do the yellow, grey, or black wolves. They told their distant relatives that back in Greylandia, the sheep once lived under the black wolves who tortured and abused them, then the red wolves came along and promised the sheep a better life and eventual destruction of wolfdom, and the sheep believed them only to be abused more viciously and methodically than before. But these warnings of the Greys were dismissed: you are too cynical, they were told, you’ve been abused by your wolves for too long so you cannot trust them, but our white wolves are different. They are exceptional, as the rest of us over here.
Furthermore, how could white sheep believe these warning when their SheepTimes and SheepGuardian were always filled with the denunciations of Greylandia. Everything coming from the Greylandia was a lie, not worthy of discussion. “Greylandia spreads fake news via their grey tweets,” SheepGuardian would announce. Everyone reading courageous and relentless reporters from SheepGuardian could easily learn that Greylandia’s population was neither brave nor free; their press was fully controlled by the Grey Wolves. In fact, the grey sheep didn’t not even have the voice of their own. Behind every grey sheep, which ever bleated its criticism of the United Sheepdom, lurked a nasty mug of a grey wolf, whose only purpose was to stick its gray muzzle and gray teeth into the flesh of a white sheep. These grey sheep were denounced as “Greybots,” and “Greytrolls,” the evil pretenders. Their attempts were diligently exposed by the SheepGuardian in such articles as “Fake News and Greybots: How GreyLandia Weaponized the Net.”
Furthermore, the newspapers informed its readers that the Greys were not interested in truth, but only in the desire to sow discord between the white sheep and the white wolves; they wanted the white sheep not to trust the words of wisdom, coming from the White Wolves and the White Wolves in White Sheepskin. But who can possibly mistrust a white Wolf in white Sheepskin, especially the one running for reelection. Only Greys would see the election period as the chance to sow fresh discord, the newspapers warned. At least, that’s what the SheepGuardian told its readers, and who would ever mistrust their glorious writers! The SheepGuardian was a publication that would never say anything hurting the sheep, since its very name suggested that it wanted to protect them. Consequently, very few white sheep would even listen, let alone trust their grey relatives.
To make sure that the white sheep remain with their naiveté and innocence, SheepPost and SheepTimes would have weekly columns written by grey sheep that managed to escape their greysheep hellhole, Greylandia. One sheep, named Boris, happened to be a very skillful chess player, who would beat everyone in chess, including the smartest of wolves. Because of his skills, Boris decided that he has to preside over Greylandia: if he could move the figures on the chessboard, he would surely be able to organize the lives of his country sheep. Yet, the country preferred the sly old wolf, called Vladimir the Lupus. Outraged by this lack of respect and admiration, Boris left for the United Sheepdom and began to complain about the dismal tyranny that took over his land. There were many other greys, who happened to dislike their old country, like a famous punk band, called, Riotous Natashas, which was imprisoned for interrupting a religious service in the most important church in Greylandia and bleating sacrilegious songs about the sacred lamb and his mother. “Greylandia does not tolerate the freedom of sheep” they pronounced, and became immediate darlings of all free sheep. Needless to say, that with these brilliant exposes penned out by the likes of Boris and Riotous Natashas, the white sheep decided never trust their backward relatives, who were not even relatives in any case.
Suddenly, however, there was a slip in the election system of the United Sheepdom! Due to his skillful election campaign, and to the rare white-orange tint to his fur, a rather strange wolf happened to win the general election. Going against the tradition of his country, this wolf was neither an upstanding white wolf, nor was he a sweet wolf in white sheepskin: he was a real wolf with real wolf manners. This nasty wolf, nicknamed Wolfie The Orange, had a very big mouth, and he began to disclose the hidden rules of the game. He would state, for example, that the wolves were different from the sheep, and therefore not responsible for the sheeps’ wellbeing, and that only when we recognize their divine right to eat sheep at any time, the country, the United Sheepdom, would once again become the most powerful country on earth. Truth be told, recently the country had begun to slip. White wolves had become lazy and decadent; they forgot how to hunt, preferring to sip their sheep-blood cocktails while waiting for their servant-sheep to bring them lamb chops from the slaughterhouse. The sheep, in turn, became less and less productive. Kept in their air-conditioned stables and glued to their TVs, the sheep exercised neither their muscle nor their brain; their hair was getting shorter; meat, less tasty; intellect, more and more dim.
However, the rude words of the new Chairman of the White Barn roduced a storm. “What is this nonsense about wolves eating up the sheep? That was the thing of the past. It surely happens on regular basis in Greylandia, but not here.” The Wolves in White Sheepskins protested, “We never heard such a thing. Most of us are vegetarians in any case.” Many white wolves were truly scandalized: Everything was going so well; their four-legged food was obedient and behaving well, the white sheep had fights with each other over females or over the hormone- and antibiotic-free grass-stakes, but they never questioned the White Wolf power. They would march happily to the slaughterhouse, never imagining that they will be brutally slaughtered there. Who would want to disclose this important secret? Of course, it has to be these awful Greys and their despicable leader, Vladimir the Lupus. SheepGuardian boldly declared that: “An intelligence report declassified on Friday said Vladimir the Lupus had personally “ordered an influence campaign during the United Sheepdom election to tip the balance in favor of Wolfie the Orange.”
Consequently, a rebellion took place. SheepPost announced that this newly elected chairman was an imposter, that he must be the puppet of Greys, that it was grey wolves that have taught Wolfie the Orange to say these awful things and promote these nasty practices. Only vicious grey wolves still snack on sheep, and only stupid grey sheep imagine that it happens everywhere. Our sheep and our wolves embrace each other, as the brave and the free always do.
Through the skillful operation involving the Almost-white Wolves who lived across the ocean and who were the closest relatives of The White Wolves of the United Sheepdom, the nasty big-mouth Wolfie the Orange was overthrown and arrested. The country celebrated and many songs and plays were written on the occasion. The sheep was told to forget everything that the impostor had said. The happy life had resumed its course, as The United Sheepdom continue to brag to the rest of the world about its exceptional achievements.
With white sheep doing the entire job for them, the white wolves became too lazy and unimaginative, however. They’ve also committed an unpardonable mistake of all lazy leaders: they began to believe their own lies. For years, their press was trying to convince them that Greylandia “makes nothing,” that their economy is weak, that Greylandia is not as threatening but collapsing, both economically and politically. “Junk-rating Greylandia” became the slogan of the intrepid SheepGuardian. Obviously, the country constantly on the verge of collapse had to hate its leaders, who were getting weaker by the minute, pontificated a SheepTank, the center of intellectual life among the sheep.
Greylandia, however, was making friends and alliances all over the world, promoting tolerance, acceptance, and respect for difference, that the self-righteous and holier-than-thou animals of the United Sheepdom found unacceptable. They presumed that all the sheep and all the wolves of the world had to admire and obey the Whites.
Eventually, someone in the United Sheepdom remembered the idea of Wolfie the Orange – to build a wall around the country. United Sheepdom was too special, too exceptional, its political system unparalleled, the fur of both its sheep and its wolves was the whitest and the fluffiest. “What do we have to do with the rest of the world, which is a friend of our main enemy, Greylandia?” -- declared the new leader presiding over the White Farm. So a giant White Wall was built all around the country, which decided to seal itself off from the rest of the world.
The fate of those behind this White Wall remains unknown. Not that the rest of the world cared that much about their haughty and self-righteous relatives. As of recently, the country did not produce anything, except the new political theory that stressed the undeniable right of anyone in the country to declare itself to be whatever it wants to be, then demand special privileges on the basis of its newly formulated identity. The rest of the world found this pursuit extremely tedious and boring and left the United Sheepdom to its own exceptional arguments about its own exceptionality.
From the sketchy reports that were carried over by some courageous sheep from across the White Wall, we hear that there was an endless multiplication of vegetarian wolves, of sheep thriving on wolf-meat, of sheep claiming to be half wolves, and wolves claiming to be quarter sheep and three quarters sheepdogs. Some even announced that they were grey, but those were quickly committed to a funny farm. The last rumor that came from behind the wall was that all the factions embarked on the bitter war with each other, and eventually within itself, with each animal claiming its own superiority. Who won in this battle, remained unknown.
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Parting shot—a word from the editors