Business Consulting European Business Public Affairs Research Paper

The aftermath of Covid19 and the disappearing liberties

“South Korea will strap tracking devices to the wrists of people who disobey quarantine mandates!” Police and local officials will enforce the societal control program as government monitors discovered a perfect pretext – phone records indicating some South Koreans had ventured out from their homes. – NYP

“As Russian cities go into lockdown to try to contain coronavirus, Moscow is using the latest technology to keep track of residents. City officials are using a giant network of tens of thousands of cameras – installed with facial recognition software – which they plan to couple with digital passes on people’s mobile phones.” – BBC

Meanwhile, other security and public control measures are implemented all around Europe and some countries are even considering biometric embedded chips as a way to manage the health and the spread of the virus.

These were considered crazy measures just one month ago for a lot of liberty-loving people, but the panic pandemic made it so plausible for the foreseen future thatit scares the heck out of some of us.

For some of us living during totalitarian (communist)regimes, individual liberties are sacred. People, some of them members of our own families, fought for these liberties in a time when government control over day to day life was brutal. For us, Orwell’s dystopia of ‘1984’ was not fiction but the everyday reality.

Governments all over Europe declared a state of emergency and, coupled with the media appetite for panic and fearmongering, made it possible for people to surrender any critical thinking when analysing the government’s security measures. This is the reason why so many countries are considering measures to limit the individual liberties and privacy.

I urge you, do not think that the government’s interest is unified and bares good intentions. The government is composed of politicians, secret service agencies, corporate companies & civil society lobbyists, and they all have something in common, the lack of common interests.

In Romania, there were already several occasions when a law ‘drafted’ by the secret services and called by the media ‘The Big Brother Law’ was promoted and very close to be adopted by the Parliament. Every single time they tried to promote it was at just the right moment (as it seemed to them), during social unrest: the economic crises, huge political protests or a serial killer scandal. But thankfully, despite the social unrest, the freedom organisations and the public opinion opposed the law and the tight secret service control that would come with it. The Covid19 pandemic and the media-generated panic pandemic could give them yet another opportunity to push for this law, backed by the ex-communist secret service elite.

The international media understood this and outlets such as The Guardian, Financial Times and Forbes warned the public about this imminent danger. In an article written by John Thornhill for the Financial Times, concluded that “it is always tempting for security officials to argue that the ends justify the means, but such logic is often self-defeating. As the writer Aldous Huxley once said: ‘The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.”

Thornhill admits, ‘Of course that we want democratic governments to take every necessary measure to counter the coronavirus crisis and we should recognise the dangers of inaction, as well as of action. “But ultimately we will all lose if governments push their mandate too far and undermine the consent of the governed.”

The Covid19 pandemic has already given us enough examples of limitations of individual liberties and even abuses of power. Digifm, a private radio station based in Bucharest, Romania, reported that Mr. Daniel Dragan, the director for a regional public institution for water management in the Suceava County was dismissed from office for a religious gesture, he kneeled to pray for his country on the stairs of the institution. For some officials the current context trumps the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that it was not enough to ban the church meetings, they also want to ban the personal prayer.

It is perhaps inevitable that this health pandemic will bring even tighter security measures as we very well remember the 9/11 tragedy and the aftermath of those incidents. But, it is our mandate, as free individuals, to keep the government accountable and to analyse critically the proposed measures thus mitigating the machiavellian tendencies of some officials.

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