The Star Wars prequels are not beloved among fans, but they do contain a great deal of insight into how a flourishing, democratic, and liberal Galactic Republic turned into a tyrannic oppressor: the Galactic Empire. A pivotal moment happens in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith when Chancellor Palpatine announces the creation of the Empire. The politicians praise their dictator, and solitary voices of reason can only be heard by us, the audience. Senator Amidala’s reflection, “So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”, marks the turning point.
It is no mystery that today the world is in a state of emergency just as the galaxy far, far away was a long time ago. The threat is very real and is spread around the globe, reaching into every country, city, and street. The governments of the world are in a doomsday mode – closing the borders, locking down the entire population, and unleashing all the power of the repressive apparatus to combat the threat of coronavirus.
This is not the first, nor the last, nor the worst threat of this kind the world has faced. Some responses of the governments do make sense in the short run. It is their duty, after all, to take care of our security and safety. We gave them that power when we relieved ourselves of it. This is a democratic principle observed throughout the world.
Unfortunately, now more than ever, the fate of the world does not depend on the will of a government but on the acts of individuals. Our actions such as isolation, care of our hygiene and basic decency to not endanger anyone else is the best course of action any individual should take. Yet we see governments installing one radical measure after another. Limiting the freedom of movement, installing curfews and forcing small businesses into lockdowns that will hurt both them and the economy in the long run.
The measures at hand may or may not help to curb the virus. However, the most important question is not whether we will survive this pandemic, but will we be able to shred the totalitarian reality that is creeping into everyday life. It is remarkable and scary how easily the attack on liberty is accepted when justified by security. The virus is scary, it will take human lives. There is no denying. But, the reality of living in a world where governments can issue decrees and take away your freedom without even a parliamentary oversight, is scarier. The Empire itself was created by granting emergency powers to an elected official in the times of a crisis, the same way as in Hungary.
Parliamentary democracy, with all its flaws, is the best way to keep the ones wielding the repressive powers in check. Term limitations, complicated voting mechanisms, and constitutions are created to keep anyone from reaching too much power. The actions of world authorities today, make parliaments obsolete, just like the Imperial Senate which was eventually abolished in Episode IV, years after its Republic predecessor approved the creation of the Empire.
To slightly alter Milton Friedman’s famous quote – “A society that puts security before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before security will get a high degree of both.” It is of utmost importance for all of the believers in personal freedom to stand their ground when we get closer to exiting the state of emergency. It will be up to us to take on the role of voices of reason and prevent permanent damage to the liberty itself.
This crisis is a chance to understand the full reach of repressive powers and ponder over them. It is a chance to debate the overarching arm of the government and slap its fingers. This is an opportunity to prevent the world from plundering deeper into authoritarian populism. This is an opportunity to stand in the way of every Palpatine-wannabe in power today. The signs are there, we just need to keep our eyes wide open.
Photo : Pixabay