We need to step back from the pandemic panic mode and stop fanning the flames of authoritarianism and legitimizing acts that are clearly anti-democratic.
In recent times, many national leaders have been systematically limiting the boundaries of citizens’ right to express opinion. Restrictions are almost always aimed at those who oppose the policies and personnel of the incumbent regime. On some occasions, the restrictions are directed at specific groups of people such as religious groups.
These leaders enjoy using the unquestioning support of their loyalists as a prop and as a tool to legitimize the restrictive policies on speech. They also use global and local conflicts such as the fight against terrorism and separatism to justify the need to stifle the sounds of those who oppose them.
Today, covid-19 pandemic is offering political leaders even a greater opportunity to crack down on speech under the guise of protecting the public’s health.
Not only speech, the pandemic has given legitimacy to cracking the whip on gatherings, movement of people and expanding surveillance of citizens for the ostensible purpose of stopping the spread of a virus. Shifting into a pandemic mode of governance has meant that all human activity must be telescoped through the narrow lenses of flattening the viral spike; flattening the curve.
Those who question any rule in place in the name of pandemic control, face serious consequences such as fines, exclusions, loss of employment and in some cases physical harm. Current human predicament is offering those in power an opportunity to extend their tenure in power.
Some leaders are using the panic and the loss of control imposed by the spread of a virus to rule by executive fiat. Unfortunately, the judiciary which should be a bulwark against such intrusions have become passive bystanders and at times enablers of authoritarianism.
Cancelling democracy has never been as easy as it is today.
The ability of citizens to criticize their government and the leadership determines how democratic a system is. Many self-declared democracies will fail the democracy test if they are judged by this yardstick today.
Considering, we need to step back from the pandemic panic mode and stop fanning the flames of authoritarianism and legitimizing acts that are clearly anti-democratic. If we allow governmental authorities an unhindered path to authoritarianism, we will become irrelevant cogs in a wheel that is grinding human freedoms to a pulp.