Freedom during a pandemic

Let’s talk about freedom.

We are truly blessed in Australia. We enjoy a wide range of freedoms not enjoyed by our neighbours near or far. Where do these freedoms come from?

Our freedoms stem from the institutions and society we have created. They are a product of our system of government, our laws and the courts that implement the law. They depend on a respect for these institutions and laws.

Freedom has limits. This may be difficult to accept. Surely freedom is limitless? But it is not. Our freedom of movement does not permit us to trespass on our neighbour’s property. Our freedom to express our opinions does not permit us to bully and harass or to engage in hate speech.

In times of crisis, society must take measures to protect itself. During war a government will impose restrictions on its population. These restrictions may include limits on travel, curfews, blackouts, rations, radio silence etc. Those who lived through the world wars would be familiar with such restrictions.

The nature of a society is that it either stands together or it falls together. One person’s actions affect those around him or her. One person’s carelessness can threaten the safety of others.

For the society to survive a crisis or a war everyone must work together. A home that does not respect a blackout will make its neighbourhood a potential target for aerial bombers. A person that defies the rationing system is taking food from the mouths of the community.

As Victorians we know the dangers posed by this pandemic. Over 800 people died in this State last year when we lost control of the virus. Thousands were hospitalised. Now we are at risk of a more infectious Delta strain of this virus. Despite the best medical attention this virus is killing people in NSW. We are in the middle of a serious crisis.

Times are frustrating. The vaccine rollout has failed to protect us. We cannot get vaccines that we need. People are entitled to be angry and upset.

But should such emotion be expressed in public rallies?

Yes, crises are challenging and difficult. It is deflating to be cooped up in your home for days on end. It is soul destroying not having anything to look forward to or having plans cancelled because of restrictions.

This weekend thousands of people marched in the streets, protesting the lockdown restrictions. They protested the curtailing of their personal freedom. They were angry that their choice had been removed. They marched notwithstanding the current pandemic and the real risk of spreading the virus among closely assembled people not wearing masks.

When citizens decide to defy pandemic restrictions in the name of freedom and so called human rights what are they thinking?

They are thinking that their personal choices are paramount. They are thinking that they are more important than their neighbours and their community. They are acting no differently than the person that breaches a blackout order or a person who abuses a rationing scheme in times of war.

Where does this self-centred defiance come from?

I have to believe in a corrupting force that drives people to defy pandemic restrictions because I cannot accept that rational people would deliberately threaten the safety of society in this way. I cannot believe that Victorians, who have endured hundreds of deaths and severe restrictions would put all that work at risk by their selfish conduct.

I believe these protests are born and encouraged through social media. Social media is the scourge of the 21st century. Billions of people showcasing their lives to be admired and liked by members of their community. A platform to express your views to a receptive audience. An insidious and divisive algorithm that ensures you only hear what you want to hear. Obscene and radical views enforced time and time again. A forum that creates a frenzy of vigorous assent and ill will towards any dissent. People being manipulated through their own content. A. medium that inspires ridiculous conspiracies that absorb and entrap the. vulnerable.

Freedom is not a right. It is earned by hard work and sacrifice. Freedom requires discipline. It can only exist when we put others before ourselves. The freedoms we enjoy are a product of our concern and care for our neighbour and community.

This is true freedom. This is the freedom that keeps us safe and secure.

What the thoughtless protesters are doing is threatening our freedom as well as their own.

Come on Victoria we are better than this.

Photo courtesy of the Herald Sun

Lawyer with varied interests including politics, technology, religion, business management, literature, coaching, social justice, sport, education and humour.