Are we going to stand for the pathological coercion of our nation – or finally start organising against it?
Many people who lived through the last war – or whose parents have vivid recollections of it – will tell you that they are infuriated by any suggestion that our present emergency is anywhere near comparable to that experience. We are not descending into bomb shelters at night, emerging in the morning possibly to find our homes and family possessions destroyed. The deprivations that we are enduring today are relatively trivial: locked in, as most of us are, with our myriad electronic devices and forms of entertainment which would have seemed magical to that stoical population gathered around the wireless every evening to listen to whatever the government permitted the BBC to offer.
No, our lives now are nothing like theirs in terms of either scarcity of food and comfort, or actual danger. And yet… even in the worst stages of the Blitz, people were allowed to hug one another, to meet and embrace their loved ones even when they had recently been far away (like the men who came home from the front on leave), to sit huddled together with strangers during the most frightening moments, to have sex with someone who was not currently a member of the same household, to form new relationships that involved physical proximity, to share a convivial drink with neighbours and friends.
I expect you can see what I am suggesting here. The material privations that are being imposed on our society may be nothing like as severe as those of the Second World War, nor are they likely to last anything like so long. But they are much more unnatural and especially alien to the human impulses that prevail in times of anxiety and loss of life.
With very little apparent concern or consideration of the possible consequences, we are engaging in an unprecedented social experiment. In effect, the government is coercing an entire population into behaving in ways that were once manifested only by people with pathological conditions like agoraphobia or extreme anxiety about personal contact. It is quite remarkable how little general discussion there has been of this.
Those who object are regarded as either foolishly sentimental or, oddly, the very opposite – ruthlessly determined to put practical considerations (like the economic future) above the need to protect lives. And this is being done – the undertaking of all this unquantifiable, speculative social intervention – in the name of that small proportion of people who are known to be, in truth, the only ones in real danger from the virus.
So as someone who just about counts, because of my age, as one of those being protected by everybody else’s sacrifices, I assume the moral right to say this: please don’t. Don’t give up the freedoms and the opportunities that are proper to your stage of life for my sake and do not go meekly into that imprisonment to which the government has sentenced you. Since age is the main issue here, surely those in the relevant category count as grown-ups?
I, and presumably many of the others (but not all, I realise) who are being protected at such cost, are fit to make judgements about how much danger we are actually in, and what matters most to us in this equation. It absolutely horrifies me to think that my grandchildren might be disadvantaged into the indefinite future, in order (possibly) to protect their grandparents’ generation from – what?
Mortal illness – which must come in some form eventually? The inevitability of death? This may not (perhaps cannot) be understood by 45-year-old government ministers and their similarly aged scientific advisors but one’s perspective on these things changes with time. Into your eight or ninth decade, you come to terms with the fact of mortality and come to appreciate the most basic truth of the human condition: that nothing is more important than family and friendship.
By all means, let those for whom the danger is actually greatest (or who do not have the capacity to make a conscious decision) be given maximum protection. But leave it to the rest – who have been told by countless television medics and health page features that chronological age means almost nothing anymore – and to those who care for them, to decide on their own priorities. Of course, they must not (and I can promise you, will not) be irresponsible. Otherwise, I cannot see how this is ever going to end.
The most pernicious of these measures – the social distancing rule which makes an aberration of the most basic emotional need – is the one that the scientific authorities are most adamant must remain. At first we were told that it must stay in place “until we have a vaccine”. Then, without any explanation or apology, we were being given the new message that there might never be a vaccine.
So normal human interaction is to be suspended far, far into the future? When the number of new cases is down to almost nothing, will we hear yet more about the risk of a “second wave” in the autumn, or the winter, or next year? When – and on what grounds – do we decide that this is over? Or is that logically impossible? Must it be decided simply by popular resistance and a gradual collapse of government authority?
Surely, Downing Street must be thinking about this, even if their scientific advisors’ narrow frame of reference does not allow for it. Perhaps the prime minister is too influenced by opinion polling which apparently shows that a fair cohort of the population does not want the lockdown relaxed – at least not yet (maybe never). If so, he is being misled. The pollsters’ question – do you support these repressive laws or would you rather just let people die? – can only be answered in one way. It means next to nothing.
Here is the more important question, to be asked of those on whose behalf all this damage is being done: is this what you want? If you are inclined to say that it is not, why not write to your MP or petition the government and say so? Perhaps we could adopt that slogan immortalised by anti-war protesters: not in my name.
Continue Reading the full article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/06/06/tell-mps-not-name-horrified-social-experiment/