Aldous Huxley, in a 1946 preface to Brave New World (1932), wrote of a people of slaves who would love their enslavement: ‘A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude’.
Unknowingly, Australians have accepted the role of Huxley’s servant-minded people. Because of the way they have been indoctrinated, they tend to be willing to be ‘looked after’ and ‘cared for’, rather than take personal responsibility and value freedom. As a result, we have become a nation of slave-like people with elected politicians acting more as masters, than as servants of the people. This is due in part to the fact that far too many Australians love comfort and tend to avoid conflict. They have a blind faith in government and expect almost everything to come from the State. They ignore the inalienability of fundamental legal rights and effectively worship at the altar of the State.
Of course, the abuse of authority through the arm of the State is not an uncommon occurrence in human history. This is why we must always remain vigilant and understand both the purpose and limitations of the State. If we do not know the purposes and limitations of the State, then power can be misused because we will be unable to measure when something improper is occurring. For there to be any proper resistance against acts of political tyranny, we as a nation must be able to recognise when tyrannical rule is effectively taking place.
Unfortunately, many of my fellow Australians are hopelessly ignorant of these undeniable truths. They remain completely unaware of the undeniable fact that totalitarianism often emerges as a gradual process towards the consolidation of arbitrary, unchecked power and control over society, which can easily spread without much of the populace first noticing it and taking hold before it is too late.
The rise of totalitarianism is often initiated by means of media propaganda and government initiatives that engender ‘scientifically proven’ control measures. These measures are normally justified on the basis of community protection. They are aimed at establishing a permanent state of surveillance that encompasses a step-by-step exclusion of the so-called undesirable elements of society. In this context, the idea of ‘science’ can be employed to disseminate societal fear and to provide justification for the implementation of far-reaching measures aiming to eliminate any real or perceived threat to society.
For the gradual process towards the consolidation of power, a form of mass support must be implemented that can foment a sense of permanent crisis and widespread fear across the community. This will serve to feed the urge of the populace to accept draconian emergency ‘measures’ in face of this alleged threat. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Hannah Arendt, one of the leading political theorists of the 20th century, describes a ‘temporary alliance between the mob and the elite’, and details how, in order to gradually obtain absolute power and control, ‘gigantic lies and monstrous falsehoods can eventually be established as unquestioned facts’.
The physiological concept of mass formation assists us in the understanding of this peculiar social phenomenon. Mass formation has been described as, ‘a kind of broad scale hypnosis that causes large groups of people to band together to fight a common enemy with complete lack of concern for the loss of individual rights, privileges, and even personal well-being.’ Dr Mattias Desmet, a professor of clinical psychology at Belgium’s Ghent University, explains that the response to the Covid crisis provides a compelling example of ‘mass formation’ taking place. It leads to ‘a kind of mental intoxication of connectedness, which is the real reason why people continue to buy into the narrative, even if it’s utterly absurd or blatantly wrong’, he says.
Since March 2020 Australian governments are using the threat of a virus to excessively coerce, obstruct or excessively interfere with the life, liberty and property of the people. Under the pretence of fighting a pandemic, draconian measures have been imposed that violate the Australian Constitution and basic rights of the people.
Perhaps a few practical examples are necessary.
In the Australian State of Victoria, for example, emergency powers came into effect on March 16, 2020. Imposed under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic), these measures allow the State government to detain people, search premises without a warrant, and force people or areas into lockdown if it is deemed necessary to protect public health. As a result, on September 3, 2020, Victoria Police arrested a pregnant woman in front of her two little children in their Ballarat home. Her crime: posting a Facebook message encouraging people to protest against lockdowns in the regional town on September 5. Although the arbitrary arrest of a person for protesting against arbitrary government is the hallmark of dictatorial regimes, Premier Daniel Andrews contemptuously described the arrest of that pregnant woman as an ‘operational matter for Victoria Police’.
And what about Western Australia (WA), the State where I currently reside?
Western Australia notoriously introduced one the most draconian border restrictions and forced vaccinations, including booster shots, for at least 80 per cent of the local workforce. The Emergency Coordinator in WA is Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who was also appointed as the Covid Vaccine Commander. The word commander, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, means ‘an officer who is in charge of a military operation’. Arguably, the use of such a word indicates a predisposition to attack people who refuse to obey oppressive orders that dramatically increase the power of the State.
As reported by the West Australian newspaper, ‘WA’s Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson says the state is tracking towards removing freedoms from people who choose not to be vaccinated against Covid’ (emphasis ours). One must at least recognize that Mr Dawson takes very seriously his role as a ‘commander’. This role of commander in Western Australia mirrors similar appointments around the country, including the federal government making Australian Army Lieutenant General John Frewen the National Vaccine Commander.
We are witnessing here a revival of the totalitarian concept that the ‘health’ of the people always trumps even the most basic rights of the individual. In Western Australia, any person over the age of 16 who refuses to be constantly jabbed not only risks losing their job but also they will be immediately locked out of all hospitality and entertainment venues, gyms, hospitals, and even bottle shops – including the drive-through variety. Premier Mark McGowan explains that these measures will make sure the vaccinated are ‘only mixing with other vaccinated people’. ‘Life will be very difficult for the unvaccinated… No pub, no bottle shop, no gym, no yoga class, no gigs, no dance floors, no hospital visits,’ he says.
Totalitarianism can be described as a form of government that permits no personal freedom and seeks to subordinate all aspects of individual life to the authority of the State’. It is important to consider how totalitarian regimes are brought to existence. First of all, there is always an ‘emergency’ to justify the ‘temporary’ suspension of basic human rights. According to the late economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek: ‘Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded – and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed such emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist.’
As can be seen, these ‘temporary’ measures seem to have a way of becoming permanent even after the ‘emergency’ is over. The WA Premier has recently communicated that Covid measures will remain in place for ‘years’. According to him, ‘[b]y getting to higher levels of third dose vaccination … you’re going to save lots of lives. And what we’re trying to do here is save people’s lives.’ According to scientific research, however, the fully vaccinated are actually getting infected at the same rate and to the same degree as the unvaccinated, and they are transmitting the virus to others exactly the same rate, too. Writing in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, Dr Carlos Franco-Paredes, an associate professor of infectious disease at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, states that ‘there is a growing evidence that peak viral trites in the upper airways of the lungs and culturable virus are similar in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals’.
It might be instructive now to mention the example of Nazi Germany as its ignoble history is particularly pedagogical. From the outset, the Nazis decided on prevention against infectious diseases as a key public policy. To instil fear among the population, a recurrent theme in Nazi propaganda was that Jews were the spreaders of a contagious disease. Hence, in August 1938, German Jews were forced to carry transit passports that limited their access to various types of services and establishments, including restaurants, cafes, pubs, cinemas, theatres, and museums. These passports became part of a broader health policy that promoted a state of increasing segregation of the German Jewish population.
The Nazis were defeated by the Allies in April 1945. In 1946, the lawsuit against Nazi doctors gave rise to the Nuremberg Code, a document endorsing ten principles that were incorporated into the doctor-patient relationship after the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. The Nuremberg Code upholds the right to bodily autonomy as a principle related to the willingness and informed consent by the patient to receive any form of medical treatment or experiment, including vaccination.
To be clear, no one is equating Premier McGowan with Hitler, just their manipulations to keep the populace scared and their anger directed at officially designated villains. Of course, the atrocities committed by the Nazis are placed at a unique category. However, it is important to consider that evil is often perpetrated by governments under the guise of ‘safety’ and ‘public health’. When liberty died in the hearts of the German people, no law could ‘resurrect or rescue it’. Moreover, the totalitarian past has left to posterity the warning that, in the name of ‘safety’ and ‘public health’, governments can implement the most atrocious perversities. Accompanying this totalitarian process of concentration of power there is always the incessant dehumanisation of part of the population, which then becomes the specific target to all sorts of unjust discrimination and it may result not only in social exclusion but also, as history shows in the worst scenario, physical extermination.
As reported, McGowan has insulted pro-choice protesters to ‘grow a brain’ and calling patrons refusing to demonstrate proof of vaccination at venues ‘dropkicks’ – Australian slang for a stupid or worthless person. Also, he has publicly slandered those who have concerns about the vaccines and/or the vaccine mandates as ‘a pack of drongos, idiots, morons, absolute cretins’. Yet, the undeniably poor performance of the vaccines in protecting people from contracting and spreading Covid is surely a legitimate reason to view these vaccines with some scepticism.
One would hope that Western Australians will endure a long train of abuses and usurpations only to a certainly point. In recent months, McGowan’s personal security has been beefed up and he now requires a 24-hour police presence at his home. The need of heavy police presence to protect the WA Premier reminds one of what Plato said to the tyrant Dionysius when he saw him on the streets surrounded by his many bodyguards: ‘What harm have you done that you should need to have so many guards?’
In a very real sense, politicians like him have done a great harm to the institutions and traditions of Australia. It is as if, over the course of these last years, we have been attacked and plundered. In this context, law-abiding citizens are beginning to stand and want to be assured that their efforts are legitimate and proper. John Locke, whose philosophy underpins the UK Glorious Revolution and the American Declaration of Independence, stated that no constitutional government can have any other end but the full preservation of our fundamental rights and freedoms, ‘and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects.’
Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922) was an English constitutional theorist. A large part of his book, The Law of the Constitution, is devoted to an exposition of the rule of law, ‘and this had a profound influence among those who think and write about the constitution, as well as those who work it.’ Dicey’s definition encompasses the idea that laws must be ‘stable’, which is central to understanding the merits and demerits of executive directions that make it impossible for us to plan our lives according to clear and predicable legal rules. Bearing this in mind, the Swiss-French political theorist and constitutional lawyer, Benjamin Constant, stated:
It is the imprudent multiplication of laws which in some periods has thrown discredit upon the most noble of things, on liberty itself, and made men seek refuge in the most miserable and lowest of them, servitude.
To paraphrase the Austrian-British economist F.A. Hayek, Australians have taken the road that leads to serfdom. They would be wise to pay attention to the following words of Thomas Jefferson, the principal drafter of the Declaration of Independence: ‘Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have… The Course of history shows that as government grows, liberty decreases.’ The logic of thought, the evidence of history, and the testimony of current events are all supportive of that assumption.
Augusto Zimmermann PhD is professor and head of law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth, WA. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. From 2012 to 2017, He served as a Law Reform Commissioner in Western Australia. He is the co-editor of Fundamental Rights in the Age of Covid-19 (Connor Court Publishing, 2021) and co-author of Emergency Powers, COVID-19 Restrictions & Mandatory Vaccination – A Rule-of-Law Perspective (Connor Court Publishing, 2022).
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