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Rights: Fear and Conformity

With free speech, we have a lot of room to move these days. So why don’t we use the space provided? A passive population will watch politics slip sharply to the right. We have seen government policy deviate from the will of its people, but the populace either doesn’t realise or doesn’t care. The film ‘V for Vendetta’ and its comic book counterpart depict what happens when citizens entrust too much to their government: a fascist society of a totalitarian government, repressed citizens and revolutionary partisans. Our society has not quite descended into this horrid political situation. But, we could well end up that way. Adolescents of today could be the repressed masses of tomorrow.

Not too long ago, I registered to vote. I’ll be eighteen in October, just in time for the federal election. So I started to wonder who would seem the superior selection. I immediately thought to oust John Howard’s government – get the troops home. But, I didn’t trust the Labor party any more than the conservatives. And I wasn’t going to waste my vote on any of the minor parties.How sad, I thought. I finally have a voice and I don’t know what to say. I became apathetic about the whole ordeal. There isn’t much point in voting if there is no candidate I can support. The current arrangement frustrated me; why is there only major support for two parties? The whole system seemed out of order.Who was I to question the system? Notwithstanding the risk of being labelled ‘un-patriotic’, I have every right to grill my government. I have every right to know if they’re lying about children being thrown overboard, or if they have the facts to back up their claims of ‘weapons of mass destruction’. There is no reason why I shouldn’t question the fairness of federal parliament. I have every right to speak up.It is hard to imagine a world in which this kind of freedom would be denied; enforced and repressed by a government attracting criticism. I can say, think and do whatever I wish within the limits of the law. But, we hear about phone tapping on the news. Private phone calls “overheard”. We hear the words published by the press being told what to say, or being condemned for reporting illegalities by the government. And I, for one, begin to question.Rightly so, reveals Michael Moore. In ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, Moore coincides with the assertion that George W. Bush was elected into the White House by corrupt means. Through friends and family in high places, Bush’s administration fixed the Florida vote, securing enough seats for election. If such decisions are not made democratically, then there is no democracy. Are these imposters imposing their ideas on us against our will?Suppose we expel the current political leaders from office. There still remains serious doubt as to whether we would actually avert our current course. Many intellectuals foresee no significant change under the alternative government. The opposition has become almost as right-winged as the conservatives. You cannot expect less lies from a different political party when it’s common knowledge that all politicians are full of you-know-what. It’s like tending to the Russian revolution, expecting the abysmal economic condition to improve just because a different party is directing affairs. It took the Russians a long time to dig out of the abyss.‘Conservatives’ in this country have followed, and led us, to a farcical war. Critically acclaimed Bush critic, Moore, enlightens us in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ that the ‘War on Terror’ is a lie for oil. John Howard’s support for the war can only be justified as an alliance with the USA; an alliance against terrorism? That’s how it’s sold – WAR IS PEACE. But, it has proven itself proficient instead in promoting terror – how can that be justified? It can’t. One word comes to mind here: fascism – rule through terror and fear. And my attention again turns to ‘V for Vendetta’.In the shadow of nuclear war, a fascist government assumes power by democratic means. A torrent of panic, brought on through terrorism by those soon to be in power, leads to the election of the party promising protection. At what cost? Just total compliance. Propaganda spreads like wildfire; citizens submit their consent and assume accountability. Discrimination, militarism and authoritarianism follow and fear rules England.Today’s society shares many aspects of this fascist regime. These days we have the war. Hell, it’s the same war as in the film. We also have the discrimination. After 9/11, prejudice against Muslims was thrown at us from all angles; every one, a terrorist. ‘If you see anything suspicious’ they’d say, ‘call this hotline’. The television explained to us, the suspect is of Islamic heritage, tanned skin, bearded… All we could do was take it in. Meanwhile, border protection in Australia was increased dramatically; why? Not to prevent terrorism, but to protect Australia from illegal immigrants. The country became some kind of disorganised, racist, incarceration system for asylum seekers.Our governments decided on a solution for the problem of terrorism. They assumed all of us guilty until proven innocent. Reliable news programs reported an Orwellian-esque attack on privacy. Big Brother watched any home the authorities saw fit to mind. Thought police tapped into our phones, our internet connections, searching for a ‘threat to the nation’. The term ‘National Security’ was used as a reason to spy on war protestors during the Nixon era and it is used excessively now. Civil liberties are in jeopardy. Dr. Haneef in Queensland had his livelihood attacked for a phone conversation with a ‘terror suspect’. Moore interviewed a man who was visited by the feds after making private comments critical of George Bush. And this is the land of the free. This is people exercising their right to free speech.Propaganda was the government’s attack on its people, as Moore articulates. Racial hate and fear took over. We sanctioned the anti-Sadam war, under the false pretence that he was in league with Al-Qaeda and he had ‘weapons of mass destruction’. He has been hung and there’s no sign of them – and no reason to suspect dealings with Al-Qaeda. We were spoon fed this jargon and most of us swallowed it. Now, all there is to show for all these years of bloodshed is oil.There is a certain piece of history which resembles both our current society, and that of ‘V for Vendetta’. After World War I, events in Germany saw Hitler’s dictatorship implemented democratically. Jewish people were targeted to a little more severe extent than Muslims are today. Back then, countless Jews were killed in the holocaust.Today, we watch Islamic countries being invaded illegally, while politicians argue that legality is not an issue. ‘Prosecutions for war crimes and breaches of international law no longer apply to the conquerors or those in control’, argues John Howard, the Aussie authoritarian. In other words, those with the power shall enjoy lawlessness; the end nullifies the means, regardless of immorality. If Hitler’s plans prevailed and Germany won the Second World War, would that be his argument? ‘We committed war crimes, but conquered, thus we escape enquiry’. Somehow I doubt the allies would have been sympathetic to this line of reasoning.Welcome to a world of prejudicial propaganda, of unwarranted war, of a pseudo-democratic dictatorship in the making. Youths of Australia: you need to do your part to ensure totalitarianism does not become a reality in your country. War wages in Iraq today, but tomorrow it could be here. We won’t be fighting to free ourselves from terrorism, but the trap we sprung on ourselves. We are being lead into an ambush on our liberties. We don’t have the privilege of privacy. Floridians were denied their voting ‘right’. But what are we doing about it? Propaganda and passivity are paving the way for politics to carve out a new chasm in the chronicles of society. One day our descendents may read through the altered pages without the right to question their historical accuracy. One day you might walk out of school into a world devoid of opportunity. Instead, be informed. Be outraged. Ignorance is not strength. War is not peace. But, is freedom going to be slavery?

Rights: Fear and Conformity

Micah Brown

Springfield, Australia

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Opinion essay. Critical of the Australian and US governments during the Howard/Bush era.

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