The world already had ‘strong leader syndrome’. And now this… Behind all the shock at the sudden curtailment of freedoms (in countries where they existed), how many of us are secretly relaxing into it?
A few years back, I read Witold Szablowski’s book Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny. Its basic premise was this: even after rescue and recuperation, dancing bears will still dance whenever they see a human. It’s hardwired into them.
Szablowski argued that the same goes for humans. Even after the chains of Communism were removed across Eastern Europe, give people a strong leader who tells them what to do, and they’ll still dance for them.
Who’s dancing now?
There was much disapproval of the rise of leaders like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Then democracies like Hungary and Brazil voted in Viktor Orban and Jair Bolsonaro. Westerners shook their heads some more.
Then mature democracies like the US and Britain began voting for a bigger, culturally narrower, more intervening state. In Britain, they even voted voluntarily to curtail their own freedom of movement.
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”George Orwell
I want to be free
But with freedom comes pressure. If what comes next is up to you, then on your head be it. Suddenly we are confronted with the tyranny of (almost) infinite choice.
As soon as I limit those choices, things get easier. I can be anything! No, I can be male. I can be anything! No, I can be heterosexual. I can be anything! No, I can be British…
I can do anything! No, I can’t leave my country. I can do anything! No, I can’t leave my house. I can do anything! What are we current allowed to do?
From one perspective, it looks like a prison, from another, it looks like the happiness of someone else telling you what to do, so you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Talking of freedom, Is It Your Right To Migrate?