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PETER HITCHENS: The dream of the new authoritarian state has come true

We will never get out of here. It will go on forever. We will no longer be free people.

Even if we appear to be free, we will be like conditional prisoners, who can be snatched back to their cells in an instant.

I think I now understand why this period has become known through the repugnant word “lockdown,” an American term that describes the punishment of rebellious convicts in a penitentiary by keeping them in their cells for long periods of time.

Police spoke to protesters in Hyde Park, London last week. During this introductory period we learn to do what we are told to do and to become obedient, servile citizens of a new authoritarian state

Police spoke to protesters in Hyde Park, London last week. During this introductory period we learn to do what we are told to do and to become obedient, servile citizens of a new authoritarian state

I hate this word because it seems inappropriate to describe free people in a free country.

But we are no longer such people, or such a country. We have become muzzled, mouthless, voiceless, humiliated, regulated prisoners, shuffling at the orders of others, stopping when we are told to stop, moving when we are told to move, shouted by farmhands against whom we have no profession.

During this introductory period, we learn to do what we are commanded to do and become obedient, slavish citizens of a new authoritarian state. We are learning the old rules of freedom.

All the things we used to take for granted are now state property, which can give them back to us if we’re good, and pull them away from us when we’re bad, or if it can come up with an excuse.

And there will always be an excuse, a rise in the fictional ‘R’ rate, an ’emergency’ that can be exaggerated in fear, be it a virus, a terror threat or even the new Middle East war where I have long feared coming.

But who would have thought it would be Covid-19 that would be the pretext for sniffing out the centuries of freedom?

I have long felt a desire in our new elite to be more powerful. It fits their belief that they are so great that no one should disagree with them.

You could tell they were longing for a curfew, going to TV with grim faces and telling us all to go home quietly, to ban gatherings of more than three people, for our own good. But it never quite worked.

People even laughed in 2003 when Anthony Blair sent insane tanks to Heathrow Airport to deal with an alleged terror threat, which never materialized.

Al Qaeda was a bit of a good bogeyman, but all the stuffing came out, especially when we eventually supported it in Syria. Islamic State had the same basic problem.

The supposed supporters here almost always turned out to be fantasists or drugged maniacs (like Al Qaeda before them) without a coherent goal or plan. There was never an excuse to put into effect the gleaming new law on civil contingencies, with its vast dictatorial powers,

All the things we used to take for granted are now state property, which can give them back to us if we're good, and pull them away from us when we're bad, or if it can come up with an excuse. A sign about the fence is shown above in Pilsley

All the things we used to take for granted are now state property, which can give them back to us if we're good, and pull them away from us when we're bad, or if it can come up with an excuse. A sign about the fence is shown above in Pilsley

All the things we used to take for granted are now state property, which can give them back to us if we’re good, and pull them away from us when we’re bad, or if it can come up with an excuse. A sign about the fence is shown above in Pilsley

But now the new Strong State, which has been growing in our midst for decades, has finally become powerful enough to appear in all its naked nasty feelings. Or rather, all civil society’s own institutions have become so weak that the strong state can now have its way.

The married family, the independent middle class, able to earn a decent income on the basis of hard-earned qualifications, the political parties, the parliament itself, the opposition, the monarchy, the armed forces, the church (pitiful to close themselves), Civil Service, most media outlets, the BBC, are just bolsters of what they were 50 years ago.

In many cases, agencies that stand up for us now give lectures and make fun of us on behalf of the government. But I think worst of all has been the naked transformation of the police into a politicized state militia. I have had a lot of criticism of the police so far and am not taking any of them back.

But their performance in this crisis was deeply shocking and sad. They have acted as the agents of ministers, openly sided with a political controversy, screaming angrily and threatening innocent civilians to go home and, if they don’t, kill people.

We were lulled by the lotus-eating weeks of leave payments and mortgage vacations, and by the almost incessant spring sun, we've been looking around faintly for the past two months which could be fuzzy that unpleasant noise in the distance. A social distance sign is shown above in Margate

We were lulled by the lotus-eating weeks of leave payments and mortgage vacations, and by the almost incessant spring sun, we've been vaguely looking around for the past two months to see what that faint, unpleasant noise might be in the distance. A social distance sign is shown above in Margate

We were lulled by the lotus-eating weeks of leave payments and mortgage vacations, and by the almost incessant spring sun, we’ve been looking around faintly for the past two months which could be fuzzy that unpleasant noise in the distance. A social distance sign is shown above in Margate

Lord Sumption, the former Supreme Court judge, leading historian and Reith lecturer who spoke repeatedly for Britain during these dark times, said it quite clearly weeks ago: “This is what a police state looks like. It is a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences without legal authority and the police will enforce the wishes of the ministers. ‘

These are not the words of a tricky scribble, like me, but that of a hugely distinguished intellect who is no one’s fool, never uses a word he has not considered and knows his way well in the past and present.

And so it has been. We were lulled by the lotus-eating weeks of leave payments and mortgage vacations, and by the almost incessant spring sun, we’ve been looking around faintly for the past two months which could be fuzzy that unpleasant noise in the distance.

Well, I’ll tell you what it is. It is forging the shackles that we will wear for the time to come, because for the most part we did not care about our freedom and therefore no longer deserved to have it.

TV so good that you forget it is French

In the midst of all this, where can you go for comfort? Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books, works of witty brilliance about the folly of humanity, are one refuge. Poetry sometimes helps.

But I’ve also discovered that the brilliant French TV spy thriller series The Bureau is a great escape.

Full of intelligent women, endlessly smart and taking full advantage of the glory of the pre-virus Paris, I think it’s the best TV spy thriller since the Alec Guinness version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

You forget that it is in French after about 30 seconds.

Endlessly smart: Mathieu Kassovitz in The Bureau

Endlessly smart: Mathieu Kassovitz in The Bureau

Endlessly smart: Mathieu Kassovitz in The Bureau

A silent killer we should be afraid of

I see the tireless lobby for terrible electric scooters and e-bikes back to work, trying to see the government make an insane attack on public transport (too dangerous to use, reportedly, otherwise you would find yourself sharing a vehicle with a virus) means that such vehicles are the future.

What nonsense. These silent killers pose a terrible danger to pedestrians and real cyclists.

They do nothing for the health of their users, who cannot move properly by riding on it, but clutter the cycle paths.

They are the ideal means of transport for people who have lost their driving license through alcohol or drugs and want to continue to use motor transport. Or for people who cannot or do not want to pass driving tests, but still want to go fast [File photo]

They are the ideal means of transport for people who have lost their driving license through alcohol or drugs and want to continue to use motor transport. Or for people who cannot or do not want to pass driving tests, but still want to go fast [File photo]

They are the ideal means of transport for people who have lost their driving license through alcohol or drugs and want to continue to use motor transport. Or for people who cannot or do not want to pass driving tests, but still want to go fast [File photo]

They simply move their pollution to power plants, and the ingredients in their batteries require the rape of large parts of the Third World.

They are the ideal means of transport for people who have lost their driving license through alcohol or drugs and want to continue to use motor transport. Or for people who cannot or do not want to pass driving tests, but still want to go fast.

Their supposed speed limiters are a joke that is easy to overcome. The cities that have allowed e-scooters have bitterly regretted it, as their sidewalks have become just as dangerous as the roads themselves.

Yet the excuse of “new normal” or “recovery from the virus crisis” or “protection of the NHS” will be used repeatedly in the coming months for a hundred such causes, from a Stalinist savings raid (probably under the guise) of a ‘NHS Allowance’ that cannot be controlled) to a bonfire of the remaining planning checks and green belts.

And people will fall for it, as they fell for the whole fake crisis.

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