1984 is once again upon us. We refer to the novel by that title by George Orwell, a prophetic, nightmarish vision of a “negative utopia.” In Orwell’s generation, and even up to now, no other novel has stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom.

In “1984” the slogans of the Party are the following:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the following might be the slogans of the times:

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD

At no time in the history of the current administration has the truth of these supposed “slogans” been more strongly demonstrated than the present. Consider the following:

An upright, incorruptible, right-thinking Chief Justice is proposed to be impeached, whereas a President who has been charged with corruption, violation of many provisions of the Constitution, and other serious crimes, has always gotten away scot-free every time articles of impeachment are filed against her.

Whistleblowers like Acsa Ramirez, Rodolfo Lozada and Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino are either wrongfully prosecuted, kidnapped and muzzled, or criticized, while Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano are allowed to resign without first being made to answer the charges against them.

A reformist provincial governor like Ed Panlilio is constantly being subjected to all forms of political harassment, while congressmen and local government officials who have been wasting the people’s money are given even more money in brown paper bags to support a president whose legitimacy is constantly being questioned.

Generals who are accused of killing unarmed militants are praised in a joint session of Congress while other generals and officers who dare to criticize high officials for their questionable acts are arrested and detained.

The people are fed half-truths by government spokespersons. The President will not answer “political questions” from reporters, for fear, possibly, of giving away her real plans for 2010. The truth, which is the oxygen of democracy, is kept hidden from the people. Sometimes it is exposed only at a critical time, as what happened when the treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain became known only on the eve of its signing.

We could go on and on, but the idea is this: In this administration,

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD.

Social critic Erich Fromm, commenting on “1984,” said: “Orwell, like the authors of the other negative utopias [Yevgeni Zamyatin, ‘We,’ Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’] is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes—but in contrast to the other writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so ‘1984’ teaches us, the danger with which all men are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of ‘doublethink.’”

We hope we Filipinos have not been reduced to automatons who have lost their individuality and their critical thought, and who have lost the capacity to rage against falsehood, dishonesty and corruption. Perhaps they are not protesting too much because the great majority of them are more immediately concerned with earning a living, putting food on the table and providing for the other basic needs of their families. Perhaps it is because they are so caught up in the daily rat race that they do not have time to engage in political action. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tipping point.

Many commentators have said that Filipinos seem to have lost their capacity to express their moral outrage at what is happening around them. Let us hope that this is not true, and that in time they will become engaged citizens of their country who value truth, integrity, honesty and freedom.

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