Seemingly small incidents sometimes take on a much greater significance with the passage of time.
A decade ago, Australia banned its citizens from travelling to Syria in order to prevent lumpen Muslims from Western Sydney joining ISIS. Those that made it anyway were stripped of their citizenship in order to block their return.
I vaguely recall civil rights groups kicking up a fuss at the time but most people were untroubled. Who cares if some people wanted to travel to Syria for innocent reasons, i.e. to work as civilian medics? Do-gooders have no right to go get themselves killed in some hellhole. Who cares if some ‘Australians’ are not allowed back after fighting? They’re citizens of Islamic State now and if they don’t like it, tough titties.
Then in 2020, Australians were banned from travelling anywhere in the world without permission and those stuck in India were threatened with jail if they tried to come back. This would have been politically harder without the Syrian precedent. Before that, Australians were free to go anywhere including Cuba, North Korea and Iran.
The border controls illustrate two vital principles of WEIRD nations:
1. We must defend the rights of people we disagree with, even in extreme situations, or else the whole, universalist edifice of liberalism comes tumbling down.
2. We must be wary of allowing non-WEIRD people into our societies in great numbers because they’ll take the piss, we’ll abandon our liberal principles to deal with them, then we’ll all lose our ancestral rights as we revert to the lowest common denominator. Or we’ll stand up for their rights and be trampled.
Local anti-WEIRD ideologies pose the same risk.
The Australian example described above is not unique.
Consider those without criminal convictions placed on US no-fly lists in 2001. Now political dissidents are being placed on those lists.
Consider the Australian ‘no jab, no play’ rules for unvaccinated kids in preschools. It seemed fair enough given outbreaks of measles and so on. Now adults will not be allowed to work or go shopping unless they’ve taken an unnecessary (for most), experimental vaccine.
Remember when Alex Jones got banned from everywhere after claiming a school shooting was a hoax? Most of us shrugged. He was a ridiculous grifter and everyone expected him to get kicked off eventually. Now we get banned for disputing an election result, a non-medical intervention or the origin of a virus.
Recall the early days of the War on Terror. Anyone who dared questioned any aspect of it, from breaking international law to breaching the Constitution, was branded a ‘terrorist sympathiser’. Opposing the invasion of Iraq was conflated with loving Saddam and all his crimes. Normal people reacted like this, though they will deny it today.
We now exist in a state of permanent crisis where anyone publishing anything that goes against the elite narrative is declared a ‘dangerous extremist’ and risks being banished to the darkest and least profitable corners of the internet.
Aussies might be aware that there was a referendum to allow the banning of the Communist Party in 1951. It failed. Had it succeeded, One Nation probably would have been banned in 1996.
There’s no easy path forward for the West. Our countries are now home to so many non-WEIRD groups that we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. We can either support the right of maniacal Islamic preachers to scream at their giant congregations about how evil we are, or restrict their freedom and also restrict our own.
I’m all for civil liberties but I also know when I’m beat. At this point we’re probably better off trying to put Our Guys in charge of this increasingly autocratic system than turning back the clock to restore liberal principles.
But Our Guys are not in charge. Right now we have both screaming Imams and a lack of free speech for us.
Nevertheless, there are technological tools for samizdat that were unavailable to previous malcontents. Nothing lasts forever and the present anarcho-tyrannical state will fall sooner or later. Perhaps future generations will try out this WEIRD idea of freedom again, but more cautiously given the lessons of history.