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Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat but it rhymes."
For five days this week Austria locked down its unvaccinated people. Almost two million were only allowed out to work and to buy food and such.
Many of those unvaccinated were therefore working in shops and cafes and restaurants and so on—as humble servants, if you will—but as soon as their shifts ended they could not be in those same places, certainly not as customers.
Even before getting to the morality, or otherwise, of such rules; on what planet does that strategy even make sense? They were fit to serve the vaccinated their coffees, and to bag their purchases, but they were deemed otherwise unclean and unfit to be mixing with the good, clean people.
Austrians interviewed on the street were frighteningly unconcerned, unmoved; even supportive of the social hobbling of their fellow citizens. "The virus must be stopped", they shrugged, ignoring or unaware of the fact no available vaccine fully prevents catching or spreading Covid.
It seemed clear to me that the move was not about health, but about compliance and obedience—or rather yet another bid to tackle and subdue the stubborn refusal to comply and to obey.
Do as you're told. Now the authorities have the whole population locked down once more anyway. Presumably some bright spark somewhere had the notion that stigmatizing and segregating the unvaccinated might have the desired effect—but it certainly wasn't going to halt the spread.
Certainly not in Vienna, where a brothel offers customers "30 minutes with the lady of your choice"—and I'm quoting there—in return for taking the jab.
Here we have women placed on a par with kebabs, burgers, ice cream, lottery tickets and the rest of the freebies offered as inducements to compliance.
This is not about health—certainly not the mental and physical health of those women. Trafficking of women for sex work is a feature of modern slavery across the world—but maybe we don't care about that.
Instead, we turn a blind eye while men queue up to take a medical procedure and then help themselves to a woman.
Left unsatisfied, Austria's elected officials felt they had to flex their muscles some more—and announced that, in February it will be compulsory to accept the vaccine. No jab, no alternative at all.
Other countries—Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy—are on the same path as Austria, towards locking down the unvaccinated. Perhaps those governments will also opt to make vaccination compulsory sooner rather than later.
It seems frighteningly clear to me that the authorities in Austria and elsewhere are looking for scape goats now, people to blame for a virus that won't comply or obey either.
Infection rates in many of those countries where the greater part of the populations is fully vaccinated—with two and three doses—are rising fast.
Gibraltar is one of the most vaccinated regions on the planet—so too Israel—and yet infections continue to increase in both places.
Rather than consider the possibility that the months-long strategy is not the right one—or to at least concede it is not having the predicted effect—it is easier to push blindly ahead and point the finger of blame at someone else.
History shows bad governments often look for people to blame, often some of their own people. Uniting a large part of the population against a smaller part—giving frightened, angry people a focus for their frustrations, and also for their disgust—is as old as the hills.
If the 20th century has a lesson for us, a lesson that ought to be as permanent, as indelible as any scar, or tattoo, it is that, encouraging citizens to regard a minority of their fellows as unclean, as vectors of disease, generally ends badly, badly for everyone.
In Poland in 1941, there was a propaganda campaign that spread the message that Jews spread typhus, a lethal disease. Blaming an identifiable minority for the spread of disease is a ghost we should have laid to rest long ago.
But here it is, back again. It turns out, it never went away at all. History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes. The tune is changing across Europe now, reverting in many ways to the rhythms of an old tune. Can you hear the drums yet, and the tumbrils?
What troubles me most of all is that there has been not a word of condemnation of Austria's decision from our leaders. Not even the sounding of a note of caution. Where too are the faith leaders? You need look no further back in history than the 20th century, when churches turned their back on those made outcasts.
Now Durham Cathedral has declared that some Christmas services will only be for those holding NHS vaccine passports. I'm not sure how that fits with Matthew 25:35, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me."
How on earth have we got here, and so quickly?
Austria, a supposedly liberal modern democracy, has decided to assume full rights over the flesh and blood of its citizens. A government in 21st century Europe has decided it has the final say over what chemicals go into the bodies of those citizens.
There is no way of denying that, that is the Crossing of a Rubicon. Once people have to surrender control of their bodies to the state, those people are in a different world—a world in which they are not autonomous beings, but puppets on strings. It is also likely a world from which there is no turning back.
Some will say—"Well, they can leave the country if they don't like it; go live somewhere else." But where in the world to go? In the 20th century there were still places to go in the world to escape situations and regimes that had become unlivable and a threat to life.
But what if the whole world changes in the same way? What if all the world becomes Austria?
I want to hear our government condemn the decision taken by their counterparts in Austria. At the very least, I want our government to promise, on whatever is holy to them, that no such laws will ever be passed here in Great Britain.
If they will neither condemn, nor swear an unbreakable oath, then the only conclusion to be drawn is that they are watching, to see how it goes in Austria and elsewhere—perhaps with a view to following suit.
Over the last 20 months, there has grown an unmistakable note of contempt in the words of some politicians.
Last week Health Secretary Sajid Javid, had a question from someone, on Twitter, someone concerned that after having had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, he was now being offered the Moderna variant as a booster. Javid's reply in its entirety, was: "So what? How about you show some respect for the NHS?" "So what?" "How about you show some respect?" (insect).
At this level of contempt directed at someone already taking the medicine as instructed. All of this from the Health Secretary, a servant of the people when I last looked. "How about you don't ask any questions and just do as you're told?" From a politician elected to serve the people, at our expense, I say that's across the line into a place elected representatives should not go.
History rhymes. We lament the chattel slavery of our past while turning a blind eye to women and children trafficked for sex, children in deadly dangerous mines in the Congo, harvesting the cobalt for our phones and electric cars, making the cheap clothes we wear once and throw away.
We turn a blind eyes and a deaf ears to uncounted numbers of girls raped and abused in Rotterdam and other towns all over England, for fear of upsetting community relations. We promise never to forget the Holocaust, while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the abuse, perhaps genocidal abuse, of the Uyghur Muslims in China.
We are already being encouraged to turn a blind eye to the locking down of Austria's unvaccinated.
Will we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to compulsory medical procedures for her citizens?
Will we remain silent while such a dark tide slides ever closer to our own shores, one country at a time?
He who remains silent is deemed to have granted his consent—or so the old tenet goes. Will we remain silent, or will we speak up loud and clear and truthfully?
Martin Luther King said, "We have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws."
Will we speak up to withhold our consent? Will we disobey unjust laws?
And if we will not—then who are we?