The announcement of 450 new Covid cases in Victoria this morning, some 5 weeks and 2 days after the current lockdown was announced by our technocratic state leader Dan Andrews has caused me some cause for reflection.
The escalating numbers over the past few days, where we have been seeing triple figure announcements each day, are not only illustrating the infectiousness of the Delta variant, but that lockdowns no longer work.
For governments to rule, it is more than having a simple majority that consents to their rule. Rule requires that the overwhelming majority abides by the rules and behaves accordingly. Where a large enough minority stops believing in the authority of government, or starts to defy it or undermine it, a crisis of legitimacy ensues.
This is what we are seeing in Victoria now. The Covid is spreading because a large number of people in the community are actively choosing, despite the risks from the disease, to ignore Premier Andrews and his authoritarian dictates and to violate the restrictions. The result is that there are certain suburbs in the south western and outer northern suburbs, where people are from demographic groups likely to already have a very well founded historical suspicion of the general benevolence of governments and the police, where the virus is spreading at a frightening rate.
Before this plague infested our country, the Victorian government is perceived (whether or not this is just Grange inspired rhetoric from the once and future opposition leader) to have believed in relatively soft policing, arguably not being tough enough on crime.
Since then, the full coercive apparatus of Victoria Police has been brought to bear in circumstances where criminalisation of ordinary citizens and suppression of dissent have routinely applied.
I have been appalled by the dawn raid and arrest of a pregnant bogan for suggesting on Facebook that people gather to protest, or the suppression by police of a vehicle driving around Melbourne adorned with anti-Andrews slogans on the spurious grounds of roadworthiness (the sort of measure reminiscent of US TV shows where a broken tail light is suddenly created and discovered by a patrolman).
The implementation of a curfew last year was a significant and troubling overreach, done not to control the spread of the disease (this was an innovation of the premier himself rather than at the advice of police or health authorities) but to exercise further control over the population.
I have been extremely disturbed by the police recently shooting projectiles (I am reluctant to call them rubber bullets) at crowds of protesters in Flinders Street. This is unprecedented.
The rhetoric of Daniel Andrews as premier has increasingly alienated people. His favourite turn of phrase – the infamous ‘ring of steel’ that he placed around Melbourne last year – is what you would expect not from a premier in a democratic nation, but rather what you would expect in the decision making of someone with tanks at their command, like the brutal despots in Communist China who suppressed the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989.
It is not surprising that many people are not listening anymore. Rather than actively protest or express dissent, they are just silently and discreetly ignoring the dictates of our failed technocratic ruler, and getting on with those aspects of their private and social lives that they can.
This is reflected in the surge of cases in recent days regardless of the prolonged lockdown. People are weary of being ruled by a technocrat who curtails their freedoms arbitrarily and with limited if any oversight. Civil society, in the form of private business, voluntary associations, religions, and sporting groups, has virtually closed down, a soft approximation of what one sees in totalitarian regimes.
This is a significant crisis in legitimacy. When enough people stop believing that the rules work (which I do not really need to remind my reader did not exist before 18 months ago in living memory)or that they should obey them, then the system starts to fall apart.