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Bodies in motion: The pandemic, the economy, and the dictator

October 2020, no. 425

Bodies in motion: The pandemic, the economy, and the dictator

October 2020, no. 425

‘Healthy People Gather for Your Freedom.’ So read the sign held proudly aloft by a young woman at a protest against coronavirus restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ in Melbourne. Drawn to the Shrine in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with those other ‘diggers’ who defended Australia against the threat of authoritarianism, she was part of a small crowd with a big message: ‘Freedom is under threat’. A bit like coronavirus itself, perhaps, ‘Freedom Day’ was an accident waiting to happen – not least of all in Victoria. No democratic government can expect to curtail freedoms without stirring up the civil libertarians (both the sane and the crazy), and the restrictions devised and enforced by the Andrews government have been more severe than most. If one is to believe former prime minister Tony Abbott, the premier of Victoria now heads up a ‘health dictatorship’ that holds five million Melburnians under ‘house arrest’. Daniel Andrews, though in truth a champion of social justice, has of late acquired the disagreeable moniker of ‘Dictator Dan’ for putting a plague city into lockdown.

From the New Issue

Comment (1)

  • Perhaps the most profound thing to observe in all of this is that local resistance to the lockdown has been very weak to the point of being flaccid, with barely a few dozen people have brandished placards, and often wearing masks when they do so. This echoes a broader sympathy with a rising authoritarianism, particularly but not wholly on the left. Not only do we accept the power of the state in this crisis, but in many cases vigilantes actively back it in. Strong state powers will be increasingly important in maintaining stability in both economics and geopolitics as population pressures and the climate crisis deepen. In this sense, the Chinese are at an advantage and while the libertarians as much as they may thrash about and elect heads of state like Donald Trump, the broader forces in play will overwhelm. I make no judgement here about the virtue or otherwise of this trend, but simply point out that in a confusing and frightening world the public will look to the state for protection. Meanwhile, the populist message will remain as appealing as ever, though it offers no answers to the challenges of a complex world. 210,000 dead from Covid-19 in the US is a stark testament to that.
    Posted by Patrick Hockey
    07 October 2020

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