Oceania 1984, Malta 2021

The flashes began with the news that Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla was to receive a police medal for ´long and efficient service´. One newspaper highlighted the fact that Abdilla had come in for “scathing criticism about his lack of will to investigate former government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi”. Better still, the headline described Abdilla as “the officer who ´slept´ on the Panama probe”.

Thankfully, parts of the press could still see through this charade for what it is, but Abdilla´s award of a medal for efficiency falls straight into the Orwellian 1984 repertoire. Someone, somewhere in the Ministry of Truth has been rewriting history to transform a disgraced operative of the State into a hero of sorts complete with a medal.

The parallels between Malta and the Orwellian world of Oceania run by Ingsoc do not stop there. Again, recent events help reinforce the dystopian construct. We only must look at something I wrote about a few weeks ago – the President’s much-vaunted Conference on National Unity. The naïve have quickly fallen to their knees, thanking the President for such a laudable initiative while dreaming of the promised utopia.

As predicted though, the conference turns out to be an exercise in the unsubtle repression of difference. Malta´s Ingsoc, as run by that most affable of Big Brothers, constantly attempts to neutralise any idea of difference and opposition by making it sound unsavoury, unpatriotic and unproductive.

Maltese Newspeak teams are easily deployed to suppress any form of criticism by labelling it as being harmful to the cause. Unity is much more desirable than dissidence.

From Big Brother´s perspective, Abdilla´s medal rewards his faithful devotion to the cause. The man who ran the Economic Crimes Unit to a practical standstill is to be rewarded for his service. Also, consider the slippery slope of accountability under this government. Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat was granted a free pass by the Speaker of the House when the latter declared that since Muscat is no longer an MP, he cannot answer for his actions when he was still an MP.

In the same breath as all this, the government will boast of abolishing prescription for crimes committed by politicians. You see, doublethink, “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one´s mind simultaneously and accepting both”.

Doublethink is ever-present. Just watch Prime Minister Robert Abela´s optimistic outlook with regards to the COVID pandemic. The figures announced daily are anything but reassuring, but when the Ministry of Truth opens its mouth, we are reassured about anything.

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing” – Orwell in his book ‘1984’, and that is just what is being done in Malta in 2021.

Look at Abela´s defence of Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar. Words of praise for her commitment to the cause and almost disappointment at her having had to resign (maybe we should add temporarily since her resignation was qualified as “pending the ethics probe”).

As the web of unaccountable corruption is uncovered, we are sold the narrative that these “unfortunate moments” are just lapses in the unrelenting march to success by the Big Brother in power. We need unity to surmount difficulties, we need pride in the nation, and above all, we need to believe in Abela´s team unquestioningly. That last one is important.

To question, to protest, you risk being branded extremist. You are out of line. Do not think too much. “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. Ignorance is power”. Essentially the crude truth becomes the Orwellian ugliness where “so long as the Proles continue to work and breed their other activities are without importance”.

We are left to our “heavy physical work, care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filling up the horizon of our minds”. Alienated, opiated, the danger is that as time goes by, we question less. Our tendency to take refuge in ignorance might backfire only when it is too late.

“In a way, the world view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding, they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”

                           
                               
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Margaret Cox
Margaret Cox
5 months ago

A parallel universe indeed!

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