Many conspiracy theories center around the presence of a nefarious cabal, and this is not to disparage conspiracy theories. There are conspiracies and there most certainly are cabals. However, our tendency to focus our energies upon them is largely a tendency to deny the fault on the rest of us, without whom the malevolence would be deprived of its power.
We can all see the central figures: the current President, an unequal justice system, healthcare experts who created the problem that they were then hired to fix, the political complex that betrays its electorate year after year. Yes, it’s all sordid. But could they exist without a willing populace? Therein lies the truth that few of us want to stare into the depths of. The problem isn’t that there is an evil few, it’s that there is a complacent many. As we look at the society that we inhabit with a sense of dark wonder and even horror, we must also look in the mirror, both as a collective and as individuals.
We must be willing to look back on the horrors of the 20th Century in which governments killed hundreds of millions of their own citizens, and ask not just, “How did those tyrants get elected?”, but “Who were the enforcers?” and more chillingly, “Would I be one?” In the strictest sense, the tyrants at the top didn’t kill anyone, to the degree that they weren’t the people hammering the heads of non-Communists in Cambodia, preventing food from reaching the Ukrainians who would be purged in the Holodomor, or shooting clergy during the USSR’s “anti-religious campaign”. It was ‘normal’ people who did those things, under orders, of course.
Our society is impoverished of history, each young generation moreso than the last, and the removal of statues, busts, and museum artifacts that offend modern sensibilities surely is not helping. It seems appropriate to postulate that perhaps we have so stigmatized the horrors of the past that we have denied the humanity of the people who enacted them. In a noble attempt at vilification of the villains for the proper justice of their victims, we have created a situation wherein we are more likely to repeat their choices.
Look toward the agents in Australia who are hunting down those who escape from supposedly “voluntary” quarantine camps and ask yourself where such people would draw the line. At what point would those agents refuse to follow an order?
It is certainly true that some law enforcement professionals have walked away from their jobs rather than become instruments of tyranny, in Australia and elsewhere. Those are the rare exceptions, and it is to their credit, for it is no small thing to walk away from one’s career, colleagues, and anticipated future for righteousness’ sake. Most have kept their employments, and draw no line in the sand.
As arguments swell about the next strain of a virus, the now-weary populace seems to await the proposed solutions with trepidation. The United States, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain all seem poised to steal more power from their citizens. As they do so, citizens become more vulnerable. Individuals who have less power over their own lives become dependent on the very forces that made them powerless. It’s a vicious cycle that authorities exploit and which victims often feel helpless against. The longer the crisis lasts, the more unlikely it seems that there will be a collective refusal to comply. It seems impossible now to think of a government edict that would trigger widespread civil disobedience if that edict was done in the name of public health. Could they ban travel, shut down businesses, prevent work, close churches, insist on experimental medical treatments, even lock people in quarantine camps? It’s all been done within the “free world” within a 2-year period.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S.Lewis
As Pogo stated, with immortal clarity. "We have met the enemy, and he is us". Very well stated, Sarah Corriher, as usual.