We cannot judge the success of a life in years alone. Eva Cassidy only made it to 33 and died before the world discovered her angelic voice. Her version of Sting’s Fields of Gold was played at my brother’s funeral and still brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

George Orwell, aka Eric Blair, only made it to 46 but managed to write two of the most important books of the twentieth century, Animal Farm and 1984. Animal Farm was an allegory about the rise of fascism in the 1930s, while 1984 was a warning about the dystopian future than he foresaw when authoritarian governments were supported by invasive new technology. You probably know that he wrote the book in 1948 and arrived at the title by juxtaposing the last two digits of that year.

When 1984 arrived there were inevitable reviews to see how near we’d got to a society where Big Brother is all seeing and all knowing, where people the state regards as undesirable are airbrushed from history and the Ministry of Truth ensures that only the government’s current interpretation of history is written down for the compliant proles to accept as gospel. The conclusion was that there were some parallels and, looking back, the signs were there. But, in the thirty years since then, we have gone way beyond even Orwell’s worst nightmares.

I can identify three trends that have driven our descent into dystopia:

  1. The rise of the internet, personal computing, smart phones and low cost monitoring equipment.
  2. Political disengagement. Straight out of 1984, the proles are more interested in entertainment than in the truth. Celebrity culture, social media and entitlement have become the norm among the young. The purpose of the state is to give them the things they can no longer be bothered to strive for.
  3. The rise of authoritarianism to take advantage of the disengagement of the masses. China leads the way but how quickly the West has followed suit under the influence of the World Economic Forum. They’d like us to forget how quickly they curtailed our freedoms and killed our economy under the pretense of keeping us safe during the pandemic. I guarantee they will try it again at some point if we don’t push back.

When I speak to Beaufort members about the dangerous decline of freedom in the West, the most common response is ‘I agree with you, but what can I do? I’m just one man trying to push back against the all powerful state’. At this point my mind goes back to the lone demonstrator standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, shopping bag in hand. Did he wake up that morning thinking he would become the indelible image of revolt against the mighty machine? Did he live to wake up the following morning or was he a butterfly broken on the communist wheel?

I confess to similar feelings of helplessness myself, or at least I did until I learned about an organization that has made a massive impact in the last couple of years with just a handful of people. They are pushing back against the Deep State on our behalf and they deserve our support – moral, financial and physical. Taking their inspiration from George Orwell, they call themselves Big Brother Watch and they are punching well above their weight and their level of funding. Here’s a quick summary of what a handful of people can achieve when they are dedicated to a cause and won’t take no for an answer:

  • They launched a successful campaign which resulted in an amendment to the Coronavirus bill requiring 6 monthly votes on whether it should continue rather than leaving it in force for 2 years as the government wanted
  • They produced the comprehensive report Access Denied: the case against a two-tier Britain under Covid certification, and launched national campaigns against mandatory pass schemes across the four nations, including legal challenges against mandatory pass schemes in both England and Wales
  • They led lobbying efforts against mandatory Covid passes nationally, leading to the biggest Conservative rebellion (99 MPs) in Boris Johnson’s premiership
  • They launched a report called The State of Free Speech Online, held a launch in parliament and launched the website SaveOnlineSpeech.org – the Online Safety Bill has since been amended and paused
  • They stopped thermal biosurveillance
  • They stopped live facial recognition for two years
  • They got the digital strip search policy repealed. You didn’t even know we had such a thing did you?

You can download the full report here. There is also a link to donate here because they can only be as effective as their resources permit. I’m a long time member of Liberty and, while they are still doing good work, they just don’t seem as publicly engaged on the big issues as they were in the days of Sami Chakrabati.

It’s clear to me that Western governments are hell bent on increasing the level of surveillance that we citizens have to endure and to restricting our freedom of protest and potentially our freedom of movement. The imminent arrival of the Britcoin, the central bank digital currency, has the potential to take this beyond anything even George Orwell could have imagined. I can see the scenario now – that Rowan guy once made a video criticising the government. Let’s make sure the next time he travels, his purchase of Easyjet tickets is mysteriously declined. Better still, lets cancel his passport until he’s been re-programmed .

From an economic and investment perspective, Indonesia could be viewed as something of a rising star. But I’ve had to cross it off my watch list after learning of new legislation currently going through their Parliament. The new criminal code makes it a crime to criticise the president, the state institutions or to express a view that is counter to Indonesia’s state ideology. When it’s taken to these lengths it sounds so extreme that you think to yourself it could never happen here. But is it really so different from the China-loving Justin Trudeau freezing the bank accounts of Canadian citizens who dared to donate to the protesting truckers? Followed by the Canadian police vowing to go after all those donors as if they were first degree murderers?

I’m as frustrated as anyone by the posh kids gluing themselves to the M25 or throwing paint over a Van Gogh masterpiece, but we have to tread carefully. Wily politicians will use our complaints as an excuse to introduce even tougher new laws on peaceful protest. Watch out for the 2023 parliamentary field trip to Jakarta to see how their new criminal code is working out.

If the pandemic didn’t open your eyes to how fragile our most basic freedoms are, there’s probably nothing I can say now that’s going to get you off the sofa to get engaged in this fight. For those who can see the direction of travel, it’s not too late to start pushing back. Reading the Big Brother Watch report and making a donation to their cause, maybe even volunteering to help, would be the most meaningful thing you could do this Christmas to preserve the way of life our parents and grandparents fought and died for. It really is that important.