What Travel During COVID Reveals
Just returned from a 10-day trip to the UK, visiting relatives and seeing a few sights.
Thanks to COVID, the streets were not nearly as busy as is usual in the fall -- and prices in normally expensive London were reasonable for once. My hotel in Paddington cost me just $116 per night. It’s often double or even triple that.
The bad news is that the “turnkey totalitarianism” that observers on both the political Left and Right have been warning about for years -- the ability of first world governments and their Big Tech co-conspirators to shut off civil liberties with the flip of a switch -- is painfully apparent when you travel.
The government of Australia is only the most obvious example. Overnight, Australia has gone from being one of the world’s most highly rated democracies to a dystopian nightmare, with the government banning all travel not merely internationally but also between individual regions and cities.
Like the former “democratic people’s republics” in the old Soviet bloc, Australia now bars its own citizens from leaving the country (whether vaccinated or COVID-free or not) and has instituted state-of-the-art surveillance technologies, similar to what East Germany’s old secret police implemented, to ensure that its cowering citizens comply with orders to stay locked in their homes.
Not lost on constitutionally aware Americans is the reality that Aussies voluntarily surrendered all their weapons in 1996 following a mass shooting -- and so, as the Hill recently put, “the state and federal governments well know that they have a monopoly on authority -- and force.”
All this is in the air when you travel internationally.
The UK, for example, requires not one but up to three COVID tests as a condition for entering the country. You must take a PCR test within 72 hours of leaving before you are allowed on the plane, with the details of your vaccination status uploaded to the airline’s website.
You must also fill out a “Passenger Locator Form” and transmit it to the UK government with details on where you are staying and for how long, the seat number of the plane you take to get to the UK, and so on. Plus, you have to show proof that you’ve booked and paid for a Day 2 COVID test (and, depending upon where you come from and your vaccination status, a Day 8 test as well). When returning to your country of origin, you have to also buy a government-supervised “Fit to Fly” COVID test.
For its part, the U.S. simply bans all foreigners from entering the country at all --unless, of course, you enter illegally across the southern border.
That’s the bad news: our newly power-mad rulers are determined to make international travel solely the prerogative of the Davos set, those who can fly to global warming conferences in their private Gulfstream jets.
Yet here’s the good news: Since governments are, by their very nature, often populated with the dumbest and worst people on the planet -- none of this works all that well.
Like airport security, much of COVID security is theatre. Disobedience is widespread. Incompetence and noncompliance are ubiquitous.
For example, although mask mandates are “strictly enforced” on the airlines, they’re actually not.
Since you’re not required to wear a mask while eating, and since most people spend a lot of their time eating on planes, most of the people on my flights kept their masks tucked firmly under the chins throughout most of the flight. Even the stewardesses wore their masks haphazardly.
As a foreigner, I dutifully wore my mask on the Tube, but I would say at least half of the people didn’t -- and the police didn’t utter so much as a peep.
Also, the authoritarianism varies greatly from country to country.
Statist France, like the UK, threatens its citizens regularly for disobedience (under the widely despised technocrat Emmanuel Macron) -- which has predictably resulted in massive riots across the country.
Switzerland, on the other hand, doesn’t require any COVID tests for vaccinated people to enter -- and Denmark, which used gentle persuasion rather than state terror to get 90% or more of its citizens vaccinated, just announced that it was officially ending virtually all of its COVID restrictions. No more tests, masks, or social distancing. The Danish health minister even took the unusual step of encouraging its citizens to have sex again.
The net result of all this is that the turnkey totalitarianism of the Anglophone world -- Australia, the UK, Canada, and Vladimir Biden’s America -- has “red pilled” virtually the entire planet.
Many suspect that democracy is now largely an illusion. We have seen with our own eyes that our cherished civil liberties can disappear overnight at the whim of self-appointed autocrats and Big Tech oligarchs.
We also now know that government authoritarians will no longer tolerate dissent, and will use all of the repressive tools at their disposal -- including omnipresent surveillance, “contract tracing” via mobile phones, work firings, massive censorship, and corporate propaganda, and sharp restrictions on travel -- to enforce their decrees.
At least for the next several years, we’ll all be living in the capitalist equivalent of Communist East Germany -- a grim bureaucratic dystopia in which everyone is under surveillance, travel is restricted, and no one really believes anything government officials say.
The threat from COVID will eventually fade and there will be a worldwide political reckoning, comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall when the autocrats who took advantage of the pandemic to seize power and abuse their fellow citizens will face the justice they so richly deserve.
Robert J. Hutchinson regularly writes about the intersection of politics and ideas. His most recent book is What Really Happened: The Lincoln Assassination.
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