DEMOCRACY is about more than just elections and political parties vying for power.
For democracy to work there are some other fundamental pre-conditions:
- Rights of protest, participation and association;
- Transparent government;
- Personal rights of privacy;
- A free and independent media;
- Respect for the rule of law.
Fascism is a creeping form of totalitarianism where democracy is sacrificed and government serves the interests of the powerful few (these days mostly large corporations). It may sound alarmist, but let's ask ourselves what are the warning signs of the slide into totalitarianism, and is it possible to unknowingly elect tyranny?
We still have free and fair elections it would seem, but the level of influence of large corporate donors and a narrow spread of media ownership is exerting undue influence over all of our parliaments. We have understandably lost trust in the major political parties. In NSW (and less obviously federally) it seems it doesn't matter which party is in government, the mining industry is always in control. ICAC fights a rearguard action to remedy this but seems to only ever touch the tip of the iceberg, and much too late.
Our rights of protest and collective workplace action have been steadily wound back since at least the 1970s and governments are openly clear felling civil society organisations such as the Environmental Defenders Office, indigenous legal services, and the Climate Commission to name a few.
Most worrying of all, however, is the deliberate way in which ordinary citizens who protest become labelled as extremists or anarchists as governments try to conflate opposites. No folks, peaceful protesters are actually the opposite of terrorists - they are democratic citizens.
When it comes to transparency and privacy we are witnessing a massive imbalance in which the corporate state conceals ever more information under the label of 'commercial in confidence' or 'national security' while data mining the entire population's email and facebook accounts. Warning bells should be sounding when the US now has dissidents hiding in other countries for simply revealing concealed facts.
But my real concern is seeing the rule of law slip away. No longer can we say the law applies equally to all people, this bedrock has been breached.
Governments have created exceptional places where the normal laws don't apply, like Guantanamo Bay and Christmas Island, and exceptional laws for specific groups of people like bikies and asylum seekers.
Nowadays what is lawful for one man or woman may be a crime for another, such as meeting with two other members of your family.
Our governments are also attacking the independence of the judiciary. In NSW we are seeing mandatory sentencing and the revocation of the ancient common law right to silence as well as the re-introduction of consorting laws.
Are we witnessing early- onset fascism? Well the danger signs are all around us.
We should not fool ourselves that just because we still have elections regularly that we are not sliding into totalitarianism, it is possible to elect tyranny. Did the people of Russia not elect Vladimir Putin, was Robert Mugabe not elected in Zimbabwe (at least in the early days).
Remember the quote by German clergyman Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
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