The Orwellian World We Call Home

"Orwellian" is currently used interchangeably to "authoritarianism". It's an irony when Orwell himself advocating against the use of scientific word and foreign concepts but writers nowadays are using his name in a way that he was so opposition about.


"Orwellian" is currently used interchangeably to "authoritarianism". It's an irony when Orwell himself advocating against the use of scientific word and foreign concepts but writers nowadays are using his name in a way that he was so opposition about. So, firstly let's examine what an "Orwellian world" truly looks like. In short, Orwell was depicting a world where an authoritarian regimes aren't using outright and brutish method of oppression but rather by manipulating our thoughts through language. A language he called 'Newspeak' was developed by The Ministry of Truth. This language removes certain words from the English language that represents dissatisfaction. This is done so that people will not be able to communicate their expression of dissatisfaction. This is what the word "Orwellian" is supposed to mean. It is not interchangeable to "authoritarian".

1984 is his peak. A novel that represent his thought which was developed based on his previous writing, one of which entitled Politics and the English language. A critique on political writers who uses meaningless words in conveying a message. He argues, among many other things, is the use or rather the misuse of certain word. "Fascism" is the perfect example. Writers no longer uses it in the way it supposed to be used. Writers tends to use 'fascism' to label anything they disagree with. Now, people are using "Orwellian" to label anything they disagree with. To call out dictatorship as "Orwellian" would not only be meaningless but rather counterproductive. They are not the same and thus would require different means of resistance to truly stand a chance to dismantle them. What I'm interested however isn't about how western writers misusing "Orwellian". This previous two paragraphs is rather just an introduction.

The misuse I described above may not be mistakes made by writers but rather a deliberate attempt to shift the meaning of a certain words, a deliberate attempt to redefine the meaning to manipulate the way we think. Writers deliberately label anything they disagree with as "fascism" as it is convenient for them. Through history, "fascism" gained its political charge. It involves historical event, the World War for it to gain its political charge. Now, "fascism" is undesirable. Everyone believe so. For writers, to label what they don't agree with as "fascism" would make them automatically undesirable to the audience. To let what they disagree with to any other category outside "fascism" is being permissive to it. It would be inconvenient as public won't directly agree that this new category is bad. Unlike "fascism" which public would directly agree that it is undesirable.

Indonesia went through an era, Soeharto's led New Order from 1965 to 1998. The regime started out from series of massacres. It was founded and maintained through fear mongering of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) threat. For a long period of time, the regime forced students to watch the popular G30S PKI movie where they watched the violence of PKI the movie depicted. PKI are characterized as anti-religion and anti-pancasila. It is an opposition to anything found desirable by the public. "PKI" is the "fascism" of Indonesia.

The fall of the New Order regimes didn't automatically erase the political charge of "PKI". "PKI" is the convenient word for many, be it politicians, journalists and even religious clerics to label anything they disagree with. To categorize their opponent in other categories or any other word would require a long process. In comparison, categorizing them as "PKI" would automatically reminisce and revive the past memories, the propaganda this generation swallowed daily as students. It labels their opponent as undesirable.

This culture didn't stop and haven't. To this day, politicians conveniently label their opponents a "PKI". The incumbent president, is accused of being or supporting "PKI" even since his candidacy in the 2014 presidential election. Rather than engaging in a constructive discussion by deconstructing "PKI" and propaganda attached to it, the president took also a convenient method by denying any of his involvement in the so called "PKI" and promised to 'gebuk' (smash) the "PKI". Most of his supporters, many among them are political scientist which obviously genuinely understood the propaganda of the New Order, don't have the courage to deconstruct or clarify the word "PKI" but rather also conveniently joined the president in reinforcing the misuse of such word.
Aside of high politics, among politicians, the tendency of misuse also happened in day to day conversation. Just observe Facebook comment sections in any controversial topic. I bet you will see the word being thrown around casually to label anything that are in opposition to their belief. The ordinary people, however, may not have the ill intent as writers, politicians or political scientist have. They sincerely uses the word. They are not well informed. They are the victim of the high politics and media writers being too lazy to kick out that word from existence or discharge it from its propagated meaning.

Fear mongering against communists or PKI will only de-platform labor in voicing out their interest in public. For labor, Indonesian language without a true and honest meaning of "PKI" and "Komunisme" would be similar to Orwell depiction of what Newspeak caused to the English language. It eliminates an effective means of communication of labor in expressing their thoughts and dissatisfaction. In many instances, writers misuse the word "Orwellian". I believe to use "Orwellian" in describing the phenomenon of eliminating "PKI" and "Komunisme" from the Indonesian language is perfect.

Allowing such word to exist despite its irrelevance, only for convenient is a grave sin for all of us who are well informed. A collective effort by journalist and political scientist to deconstruct the propagated meaning is needed to truly have constructive discussion about the country's past and future.

Gambar sampul: Serambinews.com

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The Orwellian World We Call Home
"Orwellian" is currently used interchangeably to "authoritarianism". It's an irony when Orwell himself advocating against the use of scientific word and foreign concepts but writers nowadays are using his name in a way that he was so opposition about.
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