Neil Oliver: Government leaders are frightened of their own people - and there's a lot of us

'They are frightened. You can smell it. Smells like victory.'

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There’s fear in the air.

There’s no mistaking it.

It’s made all the more noticeable by the fact Britain has never, not in my memory at least, been a fearful place.

And for the longest time the British have not been a fearful people.

I remember unrest and discontent, of course I do.

I remember righteous anger.

But I don’t remember the smell of fear.

I say the strongest smell of fear – not just here but elsewhere in countries of the developed West – is emanating not from the ordinary people, but from the leaders – leaders of governments, leaders of giant corporations.

There are plenty of frightened citizens as well – masked up and isolated, driven to distraction by months, now years of mismanagement, misinformation and propaganda – all of it combining to create a wearying, debilitating sense of constant anxiety and uncertainty – but the strongest smell of fear comes not from those at the bottom of the pile, rather from those at the top.

And what are they so frightened of, these governments and leaders?

I’ll tell you what: they are frightened of their own people.

They are frightened of us.

And there are a lot of us.

It wasn’t until the first decade of the 19th century that the population of the world reached a billion. It took another century and a quarter after that milestone for the headcount to double to two billion – and then just 30 years to get to three billion.

It is estimated that now we are adding an extra billion people every 15 years or so.

There are eight billion of us now – more people alive at once than ever before.

More people means more and more pressure on all the things worth having – not just toilet paper and diesel, but freedom and space in which to live and roam.

While the many queue and squabble over loo roll and gas for the tank – because that’s where the mainstream media is goading us to look – the leaders tells us our troubles are all our own fault anyway.

Brexit breaking supply chains, our lifestyles making the planet too hot.

All they need is more or our time, they bleat… more of our cooperation… more of our money… just…more…

But as the line goes in The Outlaw Josie Wales – Don’t pee down my back and tell me it’s raining.

As well as the leaders, the billionaire elites are fearful too.

Billionaires are adding billions to their wealth, not by the decade, but with every week and month of the present crisis.

I can imagine it might be frightening to have so much, when so many beyond the castle walls have so little, or nothing at all, not even hope.

I think of a technocrat billionaire and in my mind’s eye I get an image of cat being carried through the crowds on a busy city street inside one of those plastic crates you see in airports, looking out at us through the grill with fearful, uncomprehending eyes.

With great wealth, comes great anxiety, apparently.

As well as fearing the people, like the leaders do, I think those billionaires don’t much like us either.

We’re like ants and wasps spoiling what might otherwise be a lovely picnic just for them.

Our small lives and petty concerns – rent, mortgages, health and education – are beneath them – more importantly, our lives are made so different by circumstances we are becoming increasingly incomprehensible to them.

There are two groups to watch – those with everything to lose, and those with nothing to lose.

Leaders feeling backed into a corner by the great unwashed often seek safety by demanding and then taking more and more control over them, for our own good of course.

From the beginning, emperors have felt safest when as many people as possible are kneeling down or lying flat on their faces so they might be walked over.

It is hard for a person to defend him or herself from a kneeling position, or prone – far less fight.

Fearful leaders need insulation between themselves and the people and so prefer to hoard everything of value – food, resources, wealth – so they might dole out the crumbs.

There’s already talk of an end to money as we have known it – to be replaced by something virtual and digital you can neither see nor touch.

Imagine a world where it’s not you that decides how much of your money you can spend on beer, or meat, or a holiday, but an algorithm making that decision for you, for your own good.

Fear makes the fearful lash out.

Australia makes for shocking viewing right now.

Black-clad enforcers – dressed and armed more like storm troopers than police – and beating citizens with sticks, firing rubber bullets at them, kicking and kneeing them while they lie pinned and helpless on the ground, men throttling women.

My family and I spent time in Australia.

My kids went to school there and learned and sang the national anthem of those days.

I clearly remember the line: “Australians all, let us rejoice, for we are young and free.”

Not so much now apparently.

Is Australia the canary in the coalmine… the weather-vane showing which way the wind is blowing?

Your guess is as good as mine.

What we have now is an unholy alliance between fearful leaders and contemptuous billionaire technocrats.

Together they have the tools to take all and keep all.

Never in the fields of human relations has so much been taken from so many, by so few.

I say the best leaders are those the people barely notice – those who, without fanfare or hope of immortality – defend freedom and let those people go about their business unmolested.

Those that seek praise for their efforts are tolerable too, as long as they keep the lights on at the same time as preening for the cameras.

The leaders the people and then history do not forgive are those that makes themselves feared, and then despised.

Remember at all times that your life is your own, and your hopes and dreams weigh the same as those of any emperor or billionaire.

They are frightened.

You can smell it.

Smells like victory.

Hold. The. Line.