Some dystopian science fictions rest on absurd premises.
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a statist world of paperwork. There is a form to fill up for everything you do. The story begins with a naming mistake in a government ministry.
Instead of Tuttle printed on the warrant, it was Buttle. That leads to the arrest and the eventual death of an innocent man the authority believed was a terrorist.
When a person discovers that the authority had the wrong person, everybody else refuses to correct or even admit the mistake for fear of having to face the impossible mountains of paperwork. And so the bureaucracy covers it up rather.
Mistakes or not, the bureaucracy is always right. Adherence to the system is so paramount that any attempt to rectify the error is an act of rebellion against the state. The state, meanwhile, does not look kindly on rebellion.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is more ominous than Brazil. While people of Gilliam’s world are free as long as they fill their forms correctly, Orwell’s is a totalitarian universe with the one party controlling every facet of your life.
The truth is whatever the government ― the Big Brother ― says. The government rewrites history however it sees fit. If anybody has a different opinion or remembers history differently, the government will put him through a special rehabilitation program to change his or her mind, forcefully.
There are other brilliantly absurd dystopian works out there.
These absurdities are fictions only to a healthy civilized society when the government is decent. We can laugh at these fictions because they are entertainingly absurd and so far removed from reality.
But the farther down the hole we are from a decent government, the less fictional these absurdities become. In them lie the seeds of truth.
Whenever I think of Malaysia today, my mind wanders to these old dystopian science fictions. I sigh at the ridiculousness of our situation that might as well be the target of mocking and satire of these works.
Our very own Big Brother (is he Ah Jib Gor?) proclaimed back when 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was established that the fund was the centerpiece to his transformation.
It would help to create a new financial center for Kuala Lumpur. It would help reform the power sector. It would push Malaysia into the dreamy First World list.
Drive by the long Jalan Tun Razak, you will read the pretentious phrase “For a Greater Kuala Lumpur” printed on aluminum hoarding surrounding the prime land 1MDB bought so cheaply from the government. “1MDB is strong,” the government said.
Today, financial troubles and corruption scandals beset the fund. The strong 1MDB now is in need of government support to survive. The financial center stands unbuilt. The power authority is scrambling to meet Malaysia’s future energy demand because 1MDB failed to build the necessary power plants despite winning the tenders. Amid all this, the government is trying to convince us all that 1MDB is too small compared to the Malaysian economy. “The fund is inconsequential now,” they claimed.
It took four to five years to change the storyline from it’s-a-big-thing to it-doesn’t-matter. One should be forgiven for not noticing the changing deceit told over such a long period.
But another episode is more shocking. Only a person of dulled senses and soft mind would not notice it.
Remember when all of those corruption allegations backed by various leaked documents implicating 1MDB, the prime minister and several other individuals first came out? They were tampered documents, the government said. The implicit defense was that the allegations were untrue.
Now, as the official government story goes, the money transfer did happen and the accounts did exist. All that was an all-legal multibillion-ringgit donation from someone unnamed. Suddenly, it was all true. Meanwhile, everybody who seems to be trying to right the wrong is arrested.
So, what about those tampered documents? The government is silent on that, instead preferring to talk about political donation reform, which by the way UMNO the ruling party itself rejected while blaming the Opposition for the reform failure. Such is the prevalence of doubletalk in Malaysia.
That blatant defense change happened in the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The fascist party said “We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.” The masses nodded and they understood they had always been friends with Eastasia.
Suddenly at the same event, the party said “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia,” The masses were oblivious to the switch in name and nodded dutifully.
We have already that one party, the volte-face, a hint of corrupt bureaucracy along with the inane rationale and excuses today. It is up to us Malaysians to not nod lest Malaysia becomes these dystopias tomorrow.