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Doublethink reality show hearkens back to 1984

There are many dystopian novels around these days, but none so that has had such an impact as one of the originals — 1984 by George Orwell. Published in 1949, it is arguably one of the finest books when it comes to examining political discourse both internationally as well as upon our own shores.

Why do I say this? It is easy. For those who have not read this enthralling narrative, which is set in the fictional land of “Oceania”, it is listed as one of Modern Library's 100 Best Novels, and the themes have become part of our modern culture. Terms such as “Orwellian”, “Room 101” and “Big Brother” all emanated from 1984.

In short, this literary classic tells a story about a “Party” worker, Winston Smith, who works for the “Ministry of Truth” and spends his working day rewriting history. He turns rebellious and then ends up loving the very party he rebelled against.

It is worth taking a moment to examine some of the famous quotes of this dystopian novel and compare them with recent actions of the Bermuda Government.

“Doublethink” in the 1984 fictional land of Oceania means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. Doublethink is exactly what the present Cabinet as a collective is engaging in when we hear the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, say on the Sherri J Show that we do not need any more Mickey Mouse sailing, rugby and golf events.

Not long after, at an EY Global (Re)Insurance Outlook event, he said that the Government will form a new events authority to “create, attract and manage events of that [America's Cup] calibre”.

We then also hear the Minister of Social Development and Sport, Zane DeSilva, say he is in talks to bring a PGA Champions tournament to Bermuda.

So it begs the question: is the World Rugby Classic more or less Mickey Mouse than the PGA Champions tournament? Will the Cabinet allow America's Cup World Series events in Bermuda leading up to the 36th America's Cup in New Zealand or is it too Mickey Mouse?

A clear case of Doublethink.

In Oceania, the slogan of the party that rules is “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”.

Over the past number of years the now governing party has made its position clear that immigration and the granting of status is not something it supports, notwithstanding the clear economic benefits to Bermuda and Bermudians.

And yet, suddenly, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, one of the most vociferous of critics of boosting the population to ensure economic growth, says: “One of the major goals [of the Government] is to get Bermuda's population back where it was when our economy was booming in 2006 and 2007.”

This is classic erasure of the past.

The Progressive Labour Party government — like the Party in 1984 — needs us to forget things. After all, the PLP government created the mass exodus from 2008 to 2012, which caused the dramatic fall in our economy and the legacy issues we continue to deal with today.

The Government needs us to forget the direct correlation between higher work-permit numbers and low Bermudian unemployment. The Government needs us to forget that at the end of 2012, the number of work permits issued was the lowest in years, with Bermudian unemployment accordingly at its highest.

Winston Smith, our hero in 1984, would be having a field day, if working for this government.

“Whatever the Party holds to be the truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.”

This wonderful line from 1984 is played out time and time again. Truth is an emotive subject for the PLP government. There is the “truth” it “holds to be the truth” — ie, the truth it represents to the people. Then there is an entirely different inner truth — the truth that when you look behind the curtain of Big Brother is there for all to see. The truth that, when not under the spell of the Party, you can see.

For example, the Government's position is that the recent amendments to the Casino Gaming Act will not give the minister responsible for casino gaming “... the capacity to decide who gets a licence and who doesn't” and the Government's position is that the minister “... will not have the capacity to decide if an investigation continues or not.”

This is the truth “held” to be the truth. This is what was explained to the public via the minister responsible for gaming at the EY Global (Re)Insurance Outlook forum.

The Casino Gaming Amendment Act does, however, allow the minister to give such directions since there are no specific restrictions placed on such directions — rather they must just be in writing and be in the public interest, as determined by the minister. The existing minister may not give any such directions but another one might. That is what the Government holds to be the truth which may not align with inner truth.

The sad part about all of this is the distinct similarity to the actions of the Party from 1984 and the actions of the PLP government, which as a result of a 24-12 election victory makes it essentially an elected dictatorship — common in many Westminster systems of government — and therefore at risk of engaging in totalitarian behaviour. Much like the Party in 1984.

Per 1984 “A Party member is expected to have no private emotions and no respites from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party [Government].”

Sounds eerily familiar, does it not? This is why when this government gives free votes on emotive issues, they are not really free at all. Those that turn against government ideology are often ostracised and if they do not come back into the fold, they are destroyed by anonymous bloggers like a foreign enemy and internal traitors.

What the Cabinet appears to be doing at present is saying one thing to one group of people and then saying something different to another group. Doublethink is rife, the past is erased through omission and statements made previously are denied, forgotten or explained away as bad reporting by a newspaper that is in their view an enemy of the state.

Yes, Orwellian behaviour is alive and well in Bermuda, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is hope. Hope if the public demand answers to questions posed without ministerial obfuscation. Hope if we refuse to take statements made at face value. Only then can the Government be held accountable and voters be free from Orwellian political gamesmanship.

Michael M. Fahy is a former Minister of Home Affairs, former Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and former Junior Minister of Finance under the One Bermuda Alliance government

Big brother is watching: John Hurt plays Winston Smith in a scene from the film 1984

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Published December 20, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2017 at 8:05 am)

Doublethink reality show hearkens back to 1984

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