Saturday, July 21, 2007

Watch the language

SHOULD we wonder when an intention to fight terrorism creates sheer terror? When cameras are placed to freeze public smiles?

We should not. We must rage and denounce.

In the novel acclaimed as his criticism against the dream of a utopian state, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” author George Orwell shows how the last “man” in Europe is turned against the person he loves by a regime employing spying, illegal detention, torture, brainwashing and extermination.

To ferret and wipe out the enemies of the state, Big Brother, as the leader of the elite Inner Party, passes a law: “Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.”

The irony of ironies is that Big Brother commits the original thoughtcrime by using language to deny reality and mutilate truth. So in this futuristic state, where Big Brother is neither kind nor loyal, Newspeak is far from truth and closer to invention.

Dictatorships and thin-skinned tyrants need no instruction in Newspeak, where the Ministry of Truth turns out propaganda; the Ministry of Peace conducts Perpetual Warfare; the Ministry of Plenty hoards and rations; and the Ministry of Love tortures and kills state enemies.

How does any autocrat get away with this doublespeak? By rewriting the past, punishing criticism, and allowing only the Official Truth, one creates “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” Orwell writes.

Though written in 1949, Orwell’s vision is not so much hallucinatory as prophetic of present realities.

“1984”: Telescreens, hidden microphones and informers are planted in public places and households. Purpose: catch subversives in the act of thoughtcrime, which divert from the orthodox view and endanger Big Brother.

July 12, 2007: Acting on the directive of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu security consultant Byron Garcia declared the start of the implementation of the “bawal ang nakasimangot (frowning is banned)” policy for all provincial employees. To encourage Capitol employees to be courteous to all visitors, surveillance cameras will monitor and record.

“1984”: Displayed everywhere is a poster of Big Brother, with the slogan “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” Before his destruction by Big Brother, Winston Smith realizes that, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake… Power is not a means, it is an end… The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

July 20, 2007: The Human Security Act (HSA), or Republic Act No. 9372, is implemented on this day. According to the Arroyo administration, the anti-terror law will protect the people from acts of terrorism. Critics say that HSA allows law enforcers, on mere suspicion, to subject the accused to preventive detention, warrantless arrest, house arrest, prohibition from the use of cell phones, computers and any other means of communication even when granted bail, surveillance and wiretapping, and examination, sequestration and freezing of bank deposits and other assets.

“1984”: To complete his brainwashing, Winston is sent to Room 101, the most dreaded place in the Ministry of Love. A cage of hungry rats is placed in front of his eyes so, when released, the rodents “will eat their way through his skull.” Screaming, Winston begs his jailers to torture instead his lover. After this final betrayal, Winston is released and scheduled for later extermination after he is paraded publicly as “cured.”

July 20, 2007: The Army reveals publicly for the first time that Jonas Burgos is a member of the New People’s Army. The activist-son of Malaya publisher and press freedom icon Jose Burgos was abducted from a mall by an armed group on April 28. The Army does not say how its background check on Jonas affects the search for him. According to the HSA, those wrongfully detained are entitled to P500,000 compensation for each day spent in jail. Given a financially and morally bankrupt state, critics say this will only fuel more “disappearances.” 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 22, 2007 issue

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