This summer was a much-needed rest for all of us. The hardships and uncertainties of the last eighteen months have seen a brief respite, and a welcome reduction in the worldwide hysteria surrounding Covid-19. Families have hugged each other once more, bars and restaurants are popular again, other priorities are coming to the fore in the media, and the Government has rightly ceased its diktats, for now.
But I fear we may be experiencing the calm before a storm. Not the storm of a pandemic, but of the wild response to it that we are beginning to witness in Australia, New Zealand and across the world and which makes my earlier warnings somewhat prophetic.
This response includes, among other diabolical agendas, so-called ‘vaccine passports’, the hijacking of a free press, the suspension of civil liberties, and an extension of rule by decree – medical and political tyranny, in short. Conservatives around the world who stand for family values, devolution from a centralised state, common sense, rationality, Christianity, and the many good things our ancestors fought and died for, should see alarm bells ringing ferociously when a Western country shuts down because of one positive virus case, and when New Zealand’s Prime Minister claims to be the “single source of truth” the citizens can trust. These are spine-tingling moments. Allusions to Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World are certainly not ‘conspiracy theories’ and may be instrumental in discerning the current direction of society.
In my home country of Lithuania, as of 13 September, those who have refused a vaccine or a test will be banned from society, across a wide range of venues including Parliament. To bear in mind the scale of the hysteria before our eyes, it is worth considering that even formerly Eastern Bloc countries under the iron grip of the Soviets cannot seem to see what is coming down the line. Yet, as the vaccine is comparatively unpopular in Eastern Europe, it suggests there is more common distrust of the Government there than in the West.
The totalitarian pace is picking up elsewhere. The UK has declared that a vaccine or test will be required to enter vaguely-defined ‘high risk’ spaces, or work in the care sector, cementing an immoral and unnecessary medical apartheid into law. The US has mandated a ‘vaccine passport’ for its military, excluding potentially thousands of eligible young soldiers from defending their nation. Australia’s government has used increasing violence to crack down on opposition to its excessive decrees. ‘Green passes’ have taken Europe by storm. So-called ‘booster’ jabs are already required by several governments, including Israel, as a condition of freedom. Meanwhile the media, in lockstep with political actors, talks about the virus as if there is no chance of it ever receding or of living with it, offering convenient excuses for more totalitarian actions.
Those of us who want to move on from this ‘circus of edicts’ are frequently called pessimists. But the opposite is true. Instead of the people running the country, the media or the NHS – who have frequently broken their promises – the optimists are those who see no contradiction between health and freedom. If defending our children from the psychological and emotional harms of lockdowns and masks is being a pessimist, then I plead guilty. We must refuse to treat our fellow citizens as misbehaving schoolchildren, and prioritise personal responsibility and civil liberties before they are lost for good.
There is rarely an assumption, even among many conservatives, that governments can be far from benign. Nearly two years into this ‘new abnormal’, such assumptions have to be regularly tested. If we do not urgently stand up for human dignity, we may find the test comes back positive.