Power & Market

The New COVID-19 Authoritarians Will Only Give Up Power If They Fear Blowback

It was autumn 1989. Momentous things were taking place in the world.

The Berlin Wall had fallen. The people of the Eastern Bloc had succeeded at getting to the West through Hungary. The firm line between east and west was wavering. The situation was moving away from the course that Warsaw Pact communist governments had charted: that their populations must remain captive within the borders of the Communist Bloc.

It was unclear whether this social contagion for freedom would spread into Czechoslovakia.

But then November 17, 1989, arrived, a day etched in history. This was Students Day, a legal holiday. Everything had to close under government fiat. People were off school and off work. But some folks were agitated about prior government actions which many saw as abuses.

When the government gave the people of Czechoslovakia that day off, it was like a match to tinder. The small flame grew into a big one.

It was a revolution noted for its bloodlessness. The Velvet Revolution, we call it today, leaning on what the Czechs called it. People, for as far as the eye could see, gathered in a giant square in Prague and called for the ouster of their government.

In the face of the idea that saying the wrong words politically could be toxic to one’s health, much like in America today, some did not resort to speaking words against their government. They merely pulled their keys out of their pockets and jingled them.

The message was clear.

Imagine tens of thousands of people jingling their keys at once.

Imagine the horror that would fill you, as a member of the communist government, looking out the window at a crowd, visible as far as the eye could see, and knowing that this delicate sound being made by each individual, growing into a horrifying sound in unison, called for your ouster.

What could a government minister, sitting at their desk, overlooking the square, even have imagined that sound to have been the first time it arose?

How ominous. How threatening. How deeply horrifying it must have been to peer out that window. The day of reckoning had finally arrived.

At that moment, a question was answered for them: what is the last thought that goes through a tyrant’s head? That is the thought that flashed through theirs as they realized what that sound was: reckoning. It had finally arrived. Were the government ministers thinking those thoughts as the keys jingled below them?

The people of Czechoslovakia remained largely peaceful.

By the end of the year, Czech dissident Vaclav Havel, who had been in prison earlier that year, would be installed in Prague Castle. The beloved Alexander Dubcek, the Slovak hero of the 1968 Prague Spring, would be his right-hand man.

The present-day American state’s response, in ways, goes beyond the communism of even the USSR. The Soviets actually wanted their economy to work. They wanted to beat the West. Churches remained open and remained an important part of society, both for political use, and because the people wouldn’t have it any other way.

But just as the communists of Eastern Europe didn’t back down until they were forced to, the lockdowns of today won’t stop unless government officials fear resistance.

There is a chance right now, with many unhappy Americans and many idle hands, much like Students Day, November 17, 1989, to tell the government “no more.”

Will they be pushed out of office? Will it be peaceful? I don’t know. Time will tell.

But it is time for this to stop. And daily, more people grow angry at being lied to as they witness the mass destruction of their country and culture in the spring of 2020.

It wasn’t the jingling of keys that escorted the evil communists from power in 1989. It was the threat of what all those people jingling keys could do if those in power did not step aside.

Retaining political influence depends dearly on timing. Some of those communists who knew when to step aside, who knew how to apologize, had prosperous careers long after the revolution, some to this very day.

In sharp contrast, the far more stubborn Nicolae Ceausescu of regional neighbor Romania was put to death by a firing squad on December 25, 1989.

We have reached a point where government officials have yet to admit that there is a real cost in terms of life and health that comes with bringing the economy to a standstill. And these same politicians and experts have yet to show that the benefits of their lockdowns are greater than the costs imposed. The models have been shown to be wrong.

Everyone is entitled to a mistake. But to continue making the same mistake repeatedly, destroying lives, amounts to malice.

In my daily life, I am increasingly seeing my country turn into a tinderbox that the disconnected leaders, elected and unelected, cannot imagine and must not toy with. To do so is dangerous for us all.

Not next month, not next week, not tomorrow. Today is the day for the government-imposed lockdowns to stop.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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