Despite the protests of some, the man of straw looks increasingly as if he’ll extend his tyrannical stay in Britain…. And Janet Daley is understandably fed up. Two slices from Daley:
Every statement by a government official – from the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary on down – over the past month has given hope and assurance on the one hand only to contradict it with the other. (“Nothing in the data suggests that we need to delay lifting restrictions” but “growth of the new variant is cause for concern”, etc etc.) Presumably these self-cancelling non-judgements were specifically designed to cover all contingencies and, possibly more important, to create so much confusion that none of the obvious criticisms of proposed policies needed to be addressed.
The broadcast media have apparently been so befuddled by the avalanche of expert opinion mongers queueing up for their fifteen minutes of fame that they forgot to ask the most fundamental questions. For example, doesn’t the fact that the discrepancy between the number of cases and the number of deaths is becoming greater (cases rising, deaths falling) mean that the risk of serious illness from Covid has been enormously reduced? And therefore, shouldn’t the increase in cases of mild illness be seen as good news since large numbers of people will now become naturally immune to the virus through infection without becoming dangerously sick?
The Government is not “following the science” so much as using the scientists in a mass mind-bending initiative which could preclude the need for legal enforcement (and therefore not require the permission of parliament) because it achieves its ends through psychological manipulation and moral coercion. Perhaps ministers are only pretending to be scientific illiterates who believe that The Science is a body of theological absolutes rather than a means of inquiry to which disputation and debate are essential and the understanding of evidence must always be provisional. Maybe this is all part of the plan – which is to maintain the most damaging lockdown restrictions like social distancing (whose very name makes clear how unnatural it is) for the foreseeable future without necessarily having to mobilise the police to enforce them.
I now wonder if I lived in a brief golden age of wealth and freedom, roughly 1989 to 2020, when I could get a good job at a newspaper without any contacts by blogging and turning up day after day looking for work. (Or fly to America, camp out on a mattress on a stranger’s floor and reinvent myself as a foreign correspondent.) Kids trying to make it now have no such physical mobility and diminishing social mobility, too, because rent is high and ownership is impossible, while the culture wars are squeezing the parameters of what one can do or say. The initial, liberating boom of the internet is over; whatever you said then can now be used against you.
The lockdown is the predictable next step, the tangible manifestation of a society that is terrified and of individuals who have given up or given in. Yes, I will wear the mask; yes, I will obey these rules. Not just to save the NHS, which I am keen to do, but because I also have no say in the matter and can see no point pretending otherwise. Like Winston Smith, I shall drink my Victory Gin and submit.