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October 25, 2020

PDM and the Orwellian world

Opinion

October 25, 2020

With all the colours of freedom of choice, liberal democracies have become more stringent and less tolerant of dissent and alternative politics. Liberal democracies have become subservient to the political and economic interests of global corporations and tycoons who spend billions to manufacture and shape national and international agendas of politics and economy.

The world they have shaped is anti-poor, anti-freedom and anti-reason, and there are multiple layers of consistent denial of equal access to basic human needs to 70 percent of the people of the world. The so-called civilized world today has become more ferocious in suppressing freedoms than the antiquated monarchies and empires because of use of technology for human surveillance and control. The Orwellian Big Brother has mutated itself into multiple forms and this phenomenon of multilayered control is euphemistically termed as ‘diffusion of power’ by postmodernists.

George Orwell wrote his ninth masterpiece novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four ‘in 1949; it has now become the most quoted work on politics and state repression. The novel has had lasting relevance as a revealing account of our political dystopias and disillusionment with our illiberal neoliberalism which has invented new ways of control and repression. The current global order has mutated into regional and national modes of repression and political control with its naked tentacles pierced deeply into the body-politic of our developing world.

The emptiness of the so-called ‘choice democracy’ has been exposed by the tiny coronavirus when even the most advanced liberal democracies failed to provide fundamental lifesaving services to its citizens. The insurance corporations could multiply their profits out of the miseries heaped upon common citizens by private health providers in the United States. In the days of a pandemic, the only choice for the citizens of this most advanced liberal democracy is to choose the cheapest health services rather than making better lifesaving choices. Not only in the health sector but in all domains of public service tax-paying citizens are treated as consumers to purchase every necessary service while the state's only function is to bail out big businesses when a crisis hits them.

The Ministry of Truth is one of the four ministries which form the government of Oceania in George Orwell’s novel. Orwell wrote this novel as a political satire of authoritarian regimes of his time in the 1940s in that the Ministry of Truth was the most powerful function of controlling and subduing the citizens to the will and whims of the Big Brother – the ruling authority of state. The dystopian world painted by George Orwell and his prophetic narration of truth falsification by the ruling elite continues to work not only in authoritarian states but also in the corporate-led liberal democracies like the US. It is not only about historical control or bodily enslavement that works for authoritarian control, it has to be ideological subordination of people to subscribe to the given truth.

Our modern authoritarian state is too complex and it tends to – what Noam Chomsky termed – ‘manufacture consent’ in support of the political system through a centrally controlled corporate media. The political authorities of the developed world use the media as an instrument of trivializing fundamental political questions of human freedom. In the less developed countries of the South, the manufacturing of consent takes place in two ways – through mass media and physical control with standing armies and deep state instruments.

The truth is what you are told to believe in and falsity is in what you aspire to know beyond the muddy waters of the order of society. We are told that the mud is what makes us invisible to the beasts in the river of life and those who raise their heads above the mud must be chopped off to save the others beneath it. So do not get surprised on why a daring head is chopped off. Simply because it has eyes on it to see the bestial motives of those living above the coarse existence of the muddy world. The bestial motives of control are the preserves of a few who are born to stay away from the mud to rule the world from a vantage point.

It is not about those standing tall above the mud to rule which should worry us much but it is the fear of getting their heads chopped who find it safe to remain beneath the muddy waters to muddle through an uneventful life. Those who dare to raise the head are dubbed as troublemakers by the natives of the muddy world and traitors by the bestial kings of rule. The disempowered ones seek refuge in appeasing the lord unless they become aware of their worth of becoming the lords themselves.

Raising one’s head above the mud is the first step towards undermining the providential powers of earthly lords who fear being seen more than being rebuked. The real freedom hence is not about rebuking an order; it is about raising one’s head to see the bestial and earthly desires of the lords of the world. Supplication may give solace but it cannot give the sublimity of free will. The society of supplication is the ideal order of the earthy lords and hence the legions of supplication are pampered by an authoritarian state or what we call the deep state.

Most of our trendy and media-savvy intellectuals position themselves as the icons of free society merely by rebuking the system. By doing so they churn out some self-propelling propositions about their wit and power to blame the idiocies and ignorance of the disempowered as lecherous and greedy. And those who dare to raise their heads above the muddy waters are dismissed as troublemakers and the enemies of reason. As long as their heads are beneath the muddy surface, intellectuals find reasons to play reformers and free thinkers as a buffer between the lord and laity (the lay men and women) to neutralize potential revolts.

People may relish in your dissenting voice as a writer or a speaker for the angst and anger emitting from your words which give amazing charm to what you write or speak. Maybe many people relate to such angst and agony at the individual level but then the empathy is subsumed in the ocean of muddy waters of social compromises. The emblematic muddy waters continue to shape the mundane reality of our life, admonishing the daring devils to stay away from fiddling with the mud and sands of the order of existence.

The daring devils are treacherous, traitors and they are the enemies of the order of society and hence they must be restrained, proclaims the Ministry of Truth. In our case, can the PDM go beyond rebuking Big Brother (as most of them have been blue-eyed boys of Big Brother in the recent past) to raise the head above the muddy river of political life? The outcome of this political movement will largely be dependent upon the choices made between rebuking the system and raising heads above the muddy political world.

The writer is a social development and policy adviser, and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AmirHussain76