Day 5: Beware the police state

31 March 2020
Nurses in Welkom getting shot at by police
Nurses in Welkom getting shot at by police for protesting the lack of resources at Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom / Leeto Nthoba / Twitter

Just a brief, philosophical note today on Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778), Genevan philosopher, writer and composer.

Rousseau was famously against property rights. I quote:

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine', and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

I am a fervent believer in property rights, which at many levels makes me diametrically opposed to Rousseau. But he also had this to say in The Social Contract:

"Usurpers always choose troubled times to enact, in the atmosphere of general panic, laws which the public would never adopt when passions were cool."

My fellow South Africans: we have temporarily surrendered our freedom in the interests of the greater good.

In exchange for this, we have soldiers forcing impoverished citizens to do push-ups and squat thrusts, and we have police officers shooting at nurses protesting the lack of public transport to the hospitals where they are working to save our lives.

This does not scare me half as much as do my fellow citizens who think such behaviour on the part of the authorities is okay.

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