Human Rights

‘Using Democracy to Destroy Democracy’, and Why Orwell Loves and Hates Tyranny

In one of those documentaries the Palace unleashed to justify the ongoing crackdown on militants, the military claims that the leftists are using the very institutions of government to destroy the government. No, actually the exact words were: The Leftists are using democracy to destroy democracy. They are purportedly all over government agencies (the documentary went on to mention Courage, the government workers’ organization) and even in Congress in an effort to use state resources for their revolutionary agenda.

This puzzled me, if only for a while. The very rationale of this crackdown and the Proclamation 1017, after all, is to defend democracy. Gloria’s proclamation even went as far as calling the Left the “historical enemies of the democratic state.” All this talk about democracy, and yet the contents of the declaration entail curtailing the very democratic rights this government has sworn to protect.

The Inquirer editorial last March 21 is right in one respect, and it is that the state’s doublespeak reminds us very much of Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism. Arroyo and the military speaks of defending democracy but are the first ones to attack it.

One obvious reason for the doublespeak is that Arroyo is afraid of democracy. She naturally proclaims it because when she does she believes the people with respond in her favor, but she is afraid of democracy. The adage ‘Even the devil can quote the Scriptures with impunity’ is illustrative; we all know the devil fears the Scriptures, but it speaks of it anyway in an effort to hide its true intentions.

As for the Left using democracy to destroy “democracy,” well, one has an idea what notion of democracy the military speaks of (democracy is when Arroyo stays in power?). And if what the military claims is true, that is, that the Left respects and observes democratic processes, is it not reasonable to conclude that they are not the enemies, but adherents, of democracy?

* * *

Orwell may disagree, of course.  It is probably true that no novel evoked people’s loathing for tyranny more than 1984. But the novel is also partly responsible for much negative views of socialism and left movements. 1984 can be read as a cautionary tale of ruling right-wing conservatives as much as it can be used to scare people off from “leftist” movements like the very one under attack today in the country. In fact, I could argue Orwell has provoked more antipathy towards the Left and socialism than true-blue tyrannical regimes like that of Marcos, Batista, Somoza, etc.

One obvious reason is that Orwell’s idea of tyranny centers on only one aspect or facet of tyranny, and that is the suppression of civil rights. The bigger tyrannies — class inequality and imperialism — are nowhere in 1984.

Truth to tell, his caricature of totalitarianism may have even worked against those left movements who throughout history had struggled against real tyrannies/dictatorships.

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