“Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.” - George Orwell, "1984"
The Dead in Damascus
There's a place in New Zealand called Tokelau with a population of approximately 1,411 people. The islands' name is a Polynesian word meaning "North Wind", and storms frequent the isolated territory from November to March.
11 hours behind the atolls lies Syria. During the early morning of August 21 in the capital city Damascus, 1,400 people died from a chemical attack which US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed used the neurotoxin sarin gas.
Put into perspective, if the attack had happened in Tokelau, there would only be about 11 people left.
But then, the war is not yet over; we expect more to die. As the USA deliberates on an offensive against the regime, more innocent people would end up as casualties in this longstanding fight for power.
Politicians though would argue that the path to peace is paved by violence.
And perhaps, if you think of it purely by numbers, the thought of a few more deaths wouldn't be so horrific. The population equivalent to a small country is a small price to pay to triumph an ideology. It makes sense.
Peace always makes sense.
The Wrath of Manila
In Ancient Syria. she-goats were released to the wilderness as part of the ritual purification during a royal wedding. The animal was supposed to represent the sins being cast far away from the community - a practice similar to an old Hebrew tradition.
When Janet Lim-Napoles, the woman accused of misappropriating public funds amounting to 10 billion pesos, surrendered to the President on the night of August 28, people all over the country rejoiced. These were the same people who have vilified the woman and her family. In their eyes, she is a monster to be hated, to be laughed at, to be scorned.
Janet is not a scapegoat: in our eyes, she was a pig caught rolling in the mud. Ignore that, as Inquirer columnist Randy David carefully put it, "the pork barrel funds in question could not have been released without the consent and knowledge of senators and congressmen" - a fact that "must give us pause about allocating guilt so quickly." She has, for the Filipino people, instantly become a figure to rally against, a unifying force that allows us to concentrate our anger and aggression.
She is just a one-dimensional figure; she is nothing but all that is wrong and disgusting and sick and corrupted. Hate becomes more corrosive if you do not pollute it with compassion.
And a World of Rational Men
5,643 miles from the capital of the former US colony is an island nation disappearing before our very eyes.
But it is happening slowly: no tsunamis, no earthquakes. It is happening too slowly for us to even realize there's a real, pressing cause for alarm. Kiribati is disappearing as men and women like Todd Rokita, Jim Inhofe, and Michele Bachman continue to deny the role humans play in climate change, despite the consensus on the matter.
But, to think of it, to curb a future threat and hinder one's present survival seems quite illogical. Kiribati is a universe away from the daily lives of the American people - lives far more important than the people of Kiribati.
"The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone," says Ayn Rand. "The man who lives to serve others is the slave."
Freedom is wonderful. And to be free, one must live for one's self. It is but the sole duty of man; it is but the rational course of action.
In a world full of rational men, only a rational end is clear in sight.
It is not a very happy ending.
*Title taken from John F. Kennedy's speech, "A Strategy of Peace"
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.