The Erosion of Liberty…

There are many movies that portray police states, the classic 1984 of course but more recently films like “Children of Men” that depicts England a brutal police state as well as of course, Star Wars with ‘The Empire’. In all of these films, the state is portrayed as the bad guy but this post is not about the finer points of who is the good or the bad guy, but rather, how does a country let itself get into that condition?

There’s an often quoted story (that’s actually factually wrong, but it still makes for a good illustration of a point) that goes along the lines of ‘If you put a frog in a pan of cool water, then put the pan on the stove and heat the water very slowly, the frog will not realize the temperature is increasing and will just let itself be boiled alive’. The point being illustrated of course is that if change happens very slowly, you would not notice it until it was too late.

My point is of course that such a change from a free and open society occurs quite gradually. It may occur, as it did in Hitler’s Germany over only a few years or it may take many tens of years. But consider this. America is blessed with a constitution that is fiercely protected. Well at least it would seem to be, but perhaps the reality is slightly different. This story in the local paper illustrates just how the protections we all assume that we have (at least in America) can be eroded. In case you don’t want to read it all let me summarize:

  • State cuts police budget in half, thus causing many officers to be let go.
  • A small and peaceable group of ‘Occupy’ protesters occupy the State Capitol steps.
  • The state says that because of the reduced size of the police force, these protesters (who were actually peaceable) present a threat to government officials and elected representatives and where therefore arrested when they refused to leave (a protest is not really a protest if you behave like sheep though is it!).

Now regardless of whether is was intentional or not (I doubt it, these are politicians after all) the effect of one action (cutting the police budget) has had an impact on what is perceived by US citizens at least to be a basic right, granted in the constitution on the country.

Need another example? The knee jerk reaction and subsequent legislation that basically gave the government an open book as far as arrest and detain is concerned after the 9/11 attacks. Now I am not saying we as a country should not have done something after those attacks, but what we ended up doing was giving up some of our basic rights. Just ask any of the Guantanamo ‘detainees’ about how their basic human rights have been abused. In fact just try getting to ‘talk’ to them at all. I am not defending or condemning them, just offering a point of view on their treatment, which so far as I can see puts us, some way behind a lot of countries with ‘dictatorial’ governments.

A famous quote by Edmund Burke is “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” but it occurs to me that actually doing something, no matter how well intentioned can lead to the same result and that we, the people (the same ones mentioned in that Constitution thing) stand by and let it happen.

In my own lifetime I have seen England, the country of my birth, become if not a true police state, then as close as I’d like to see it come to one. Some time ago, for example they even passed laws making it an offense to photograph police officers in the course of their duty. To me that smells remarkably of just one small step amongst many towards a country becoming a police state. I wonder how Rodney King would have fared had such a law been in play here in the United States?

The laws of police states are always enacted ‘in the interests of the nation and the general population’ which is fine until YOU are one of the people affected by such laws. Just ask six million Jews about that.


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