So your government is building camps. This happens. It’s actually pretty common, historically, as the logic of detaining prisoners of war (itself a fairly liberal idea, much more enlightened than the traditional massacre or enslavement and more scalable than ransom) was extended to a domestic or pseudo-domestic population of enemies.
Everyone likes to focus on the most notorious set of examples, despite being fairly short lived, even to the exclusion of realizing that there are other examples. The contemporaneous Soviet gulags are well known in the general population, at least in their broad outlines, via cultural diffusion of Yakov Smirnoff jokes. The United States interned its Japanese, Italian, and German populations (you don’t hear so much about the white guys) for the duration. The term itself was invented by the British to describe their brutal anti Boer counterinsurgency practice in South Africa. Enumerating the examples from the Eastern bloc, from Romania to China, gets into semantics of a “prison” versus a “camp”. Libs will eagerly point out that the United States engages in population suppression via prison on a greater proportion of its citizens than anywhere else, comparable to the USSR itself during the height of the purges. The Israelis restrict their captive population on such a scale that the Gaza Strip has been described as an open-air camp, with the genius innovation that one does not even need to be arrested, but merely born there.
Really, no one has described the phenomenon better on a metaphysical level than Solzhenitsyn – the latter chapters are a catalogue of specific brutalities, but the first couple hundred pages or so are universal in their application. My temptation is to quote from it at length, but I will restrain myself, within reason:
We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more-we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! (Arthur Ransome describes a workers’ meeting in Yaroslavl in 1921. Delegates were sent to the workers from the Central Committee in Moscow to confer on the substance of the argument about trade unions. The representative of the opposition, Y. Larin, explained to the workers that their trade union must be their defense against the administration, that they possessed rights which they had won and upon which no one else had any right to infringe. The workers, however, were completely indifferent, simply not comprehending whom they still needed to be defended against and why they still needed any rights. When the spokesman for the Party line rebuked them for their laziness and for getting out of hand, and demanded sacrifices from them-overtime work without pay, reductions in food, military discipline in the factory administration-this aroused great elation and applause.)
Of course, Solzhenitsyn spends the rest of the chapter explaining why it is simply unreasonable, as a matter of prudence and human psychology, to expect people to “love freedom” in the abstract so much that one bashes the secret policeman over the head with a lamp and suffers the concrete consequences. Transformation of a temporary internment to a one-way trip is highly contextual – in the Gulags themselves, most were at least putatively imprisoned on criminal rather than explicitly political grounds (a thin distinction at the time, but one with significant consequences), for perhaps five years at a toss. Approximately everyone survived the domestic American internment camps – being the world’s bread basket helps, and under circumstances where the American civilian population was restricted to 1400 calories a day it’s doubtful that the camp populations would have done as well. In the contemporary case, we mostly scoff at the teen who “loves freedom” so much that he gets into a fistfight or a shootout with police over a warrant on a two-year case.
The thing to draw from this is that a priori it’s not clear how a mass internment is going to go, and much depends on the underlying resources (calories, logistics, and competency) available to the regime – assuming they don’t decide on a policy of destruction for political purposes at some point. Until the policy change marked at the Wansee conference, it was plausible that as a random Polish civilian you might be safer inside Auschwitz than in the path of the Leibstandarte SS.
Fortunately, the Australian government loves its citizens very much, despite the fact that they are totally superfluous to their long term mission of selling every mineral asset on the continent at a fair price. Their recent political project to destroy the ability of their citizens to coordinate political activity should not be taken as a sign that they would be so ruthless as to imprison dissenters on “public health” grounds, or to use medicalized euthanasia on a captive population despite a year and a half of evidence doing so was fatal. Their competency and respect for epidemiology is undoubtable, and their results speak for themselves.
The most comforting knowledge is that their population has no choice but to trust them.