In perusing the 2014 e-book update of my "It's All Pensionable Time", I re-read the talk Prince Philip gave us ex-POWs at the 13-17 May 1977 reunion held in Runnymede, RAF Station Odiham, and London. Just as pertinent today, let me repeat it:
"There is, of course, one very important lesson which legislators ought to learn from prisoner of war camps. People will co-operate just so far in the interest of peace and quiet, but beyond a certain point all their latent talent for deception, skullduggery, evasion, craftiness, and dumb insolence begins to come into its own. My impression is that almost every prisoner of war discovered in himself astounding and unsuspected gifts of sheer low-down cunning which even his doting mother, or his suspicious headmaster, never suspected.
This sort of subversive defiance of authority is important enough in a foreign POW camp during a war, but the risk of being taken a prisoner is, after all, one of the hazards of war. In peacetime and at home a sturdy independence becomes an absolutely vital guarantee of individual freedom against the encroaching power of the state.
While there are probably only a few fanatics who would actively like to see greater state power and control, it would be foolish to assume that there is more than a small minority consciously aware of the need to protect the liberty of the individual, not from deliberate oppression, but from a sort of creeping takeover by officials and other bodies.
We hear all too frequently about the poor and the starving, but far too many people remain blissfully unaware that more than half the population of the world lives in fear of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; that political concentration camps or re-education centres are part of the normal structure of most of the nations of the world; that intimidation and discrimination can be practiced by their government agencies without any fear of exposure, and that justice has ceased to be a safeguard of the rights of individuals, and has become just another means of enforcing the will of governments.
These things do not happen suddenly and all at once. One little thing leads to another, and by the time people wake up to what has happened it is too late to do much about it. Whoever it was who first said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance knew exactly what he was talking about.
You were all deprived of your liberty, but were lucky enough to get it back again. I hope you will all be more vigilant of the need to protect and defend the liberty of all your fellow men."
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