The weeks’ long coronavirus lockdown is being exposed as, at best, a wild over-reaction. Americans are starting to protest the destruction of their economy, the loss of their jobs, and the attacks on their basic Constitutional rights. The walls of oppression built by the petty tyrants throughout the country are beginning to crack. It reminds me of the feeling that was in the air in that memorable year 1989, when the world as we knew it was turned upside down.
What was so significant about 1989 and why do I suddenly get that feeling in the air again? For me, it was two things: 1) The Tiananmen demonstrations - I was in Hong Kong during this period (I actually arrived I think a day before the death of Hu Yaobang, which is what started them), and 2) the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the events that led up to it.
What it smelled like was this:
All of a sudden, anything at all was possible. All of a sudden, people realized that the chains that bound them weren't as real as they had always believed them to be. Of course, in China, as exhilarating as the demonstrations were, it did not end well. But for Eastern Europe, it was very different.
I remember seeing the images of the picnickers (and others) from Hungary hopping the fences into Austria. Just hopping what looked like two-foot high little wire fences. Like that was the only thing that had ever been holding them in. To me, those were the most moving images of all: People realizing that they were free.
By the time they started hammering away at the Berlin Wall, everything had already happened. It seemed like just the tearing down of a symbol at that point. I had visited Berlin, five years earlier, and I remember people telling me it would never come down. Everyone hated it, everyone wanted it down, but nobody knew how to do it, and there seemed to be a widespread acceptance that there was nothing they could do about it.
Until there was.
That's what this feels like now. The governments' over-the-top response has pushed people too far. Which I imagine they anticipated, but I also imagine that they believed that would result in riots and violent protest (which it will, once people can't put food on their tables - but we're not there yet.) But instead of rioting in the streets, people are engaged in peaceful protests, and more importantly, they are starting to simply defy the orders. Businesses, churches, and even some schools, are starting to open up again, in blatant disregard for the orders they have been given. They are ignoring the state.
There is more of this coming. And the more people who do it, the more are emboldened to. I don't know what goes on inside the minds of the people who want to rule the world, but I can only imagine that they believe that people will always be easily manipulated by fear. It's true that people are far too easily manipulated by fear, but the capacity to do that is not infinite, and I think those who are using it have overplayed their hand this time.
Because what I'm seeing now is not people driven by fear. There was a lot of fear when this first started - but I think a lot of people are coming out of that now. I think a great many are realizing that the costs of the shutdowns are going to be much, much worse than the impact of the virus, and I also see a lot of people recognizing that individuals should decide for themselves what risks they are comfortable with. I'm seeing a lot of pushback against authoritarianism, and it's not coming from fear, but something else. I don't think the people who engineered this anticipated that something else.
Yes, there are still the people buying into the fear, ratting out their neighbors, etc. But I'm seeing a lot more of the opposite: People recognizing who the enemy is here, and that it is not their neighbors. I'm seeing small business owners having the courage to re-open their businesses against government orders, at the risk of losing their licenses and, here in LA, their power and water supply. And I see a huge number of people ready to support them. People are planning more peaceful protests, and more and more businesses are planning to open up. They're saying (here in CA) "they can't arrest all of us." What I see is that people are starting to realize that their chains aren't as real as they thought they were.
That's what 1989 smelled like.