“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny” – Thomas Jefferson.
What a year it has been. Flashpoint in the South China Sea, trade wars, constant threat of terrorism… and then there is the pandemic. Hourly updates on infection and death rates. Unprecedented levels of government scrutiny and interference in our daily lives.
The 24/7 focus on coronavirus has allowed governments the world over to impose laws that eight months ago would have seen any democratic government booted from office. A cynic might suggest those laws are being used to ensure incumbent governments are re-elected.
I do wonder whether the same, palpable, fear of coronavirus would exist if the reports had more context. What do we have to compare with the numbers we are being fed daily? Numbers of road deaths? How many folk pass daily from heart disease? Domestic violence was the topic du jour this time last year. Much hand-wringing, but not much action. Certainly not the decisiveness we have seen from our governments of late. Nor the willingness of the wider community to accept the level of discipline of itself required to effect real change.
And the tripe peddled by all our ‘leaders’ that they will not put the economy over the lives of the public is disingenuous in the extreme. Governments put an economic cost on all our lives, daily. They build roads knowing that people will die upon them. All governments provide only a certain level of funding to our health system, relying on the ‘cost’ as a justification for not spending more.
What motivates all power is retaining power. I have been told that the primary driver of the government decisions to enforce quarantine and lockdowns is the capacity of our hospitals to treat coronavirus patients. As soon as the infection rate exceeds hospital capacity, the lockdowns are brought back into place. Good, caring, government or simply expedient politicians seeking to avoid the true consequence of years of gutting the health system?
It may be that the actions taken by our governments are warranted. But the simple idea we can just trust our leaders to do the right thing for us, as opposed to themselves, cannot be supported by history. Who really trusts politicians?