I made the mistake, even at this time, of taking the advice of Comrade BC Pires to venture (again) between the covers of George Orwell’s classic “1984.”
If you’ve done the same, you would know that re-reading the book is always like encountering it for the very first time—your own personal, contemporary context determining the things to which you pay the most attention and consider vitally important.
I’m not one of those literary types who has explored multiple academic interpretations of the book. So, my current concern about the main character’s faltering self-determination under authoritarian circumstances might not be a unique or original finding.
Even more, you realise that exposure to dystopian fantasy can effectively illuminate the habits of farce. It can also help dissect the ways of the conspirator and unveil the maze of institutions, people and systems required to sustain an illusion of ordered disorder.
You see, I took BC’s advice on the heels of Guyana’s post-elections trauma, and in the midst of our own engagement of the joint challenge of the coronavirus and elections.
I have been reading 1984 and moving from Kindle to newspaper and back again. I saw the Guyana Elections Commission and the Elections and Boundaries Commission being crunched like eggs out of the same box. Like vanilla and strawberry in an ice cream sundae. Thriving on the buds of the unknowing.
Two institutions that are so unlike the other as to conjure up, through skewed messaging, an image of forced miscegenation every time they are referenced as somehow entwined.
Recounting T&T was not the same as recounting Guyana. Fern Narcis-Scope is not Keith Lowenfield. The PNC is not the PNM and the UNC not the PPP. People need to pay greater attention to fact and details and not to old talk.
In the end, tales of a grand conspiracy were unmasked in one instance as arguable criminal malpractice, and evidence of the simple but painful pangs of defeat on the part of the other. In each case, though, the stuff of destructive dysfunction and farce.
I have heard of elaborate plots requiring more moving people, places and parts than it takes to have an engine turn wheels. Images of otherwise listless and robotic clerks, technicians, communication people, drivers, dispatchers and politicians locked in at the Ministry of “this” and the Ministry of “that,” doctoring and delaying.
Each step of the way as I read, I became Winston in the alcove with a pen and blank (yes, blank), but pregnant pages, furtively putting the first words down—an unremarkable date followed by rambling recollections as if in a state of “sheer panic.”
It must be the COVID. It must be the virus. How could self-destruction be so studiously crafted? Depravities so entrenched and engrained?
Here, in this small space, there is a silence brought on more by deafness than the absence of noise. Slow self-mutilation by the rusty, jagged blades of delusion. “Manufactured fear,” said one dismal contestant. “It eh have no COVID here,” went one devotee.
That the recent months have brought us to this point signals that in the clearing before us, if there has to be one, is a passageway that’s not as brightly lit as we require.
We do not and have not always wished each other well. Injury to one, you see, equals justifiable injury to the other—that toxic concoction of aloes and peanuts.
Winston eventually emerged from his imprisonment, and the world was in fact in worse shape, much crueller than he had imagined.
Not one single chapter has actually closed, and none will be for some time to come. Elections and pandemic will remain for some time like Winston’s ubiquitous telescreens.
On my Kindle, “1984” is four books down from Christopher Wylie’s Mindf**k. I switch from one to the next over coffee and coconut water. I take them to bed and to my sleep where they take aim at my dreams.