Speaking of the Delta variant, Matt Welch reports the (sadly unsurprising) news that some officials – especially ones in blue U.S. states – are exploiting exaggerated fears of this variant as an excuse to avoid fully opening their so-called ‘schools.’
“Just 25 Under-18s Died From Covid in England Up Until February, New Data Shows – Figures Much Higher for Suicide and Trauma.” But at least these children didn’t die of Covid – which, apparently, today is all that matters.
Oh, look! A negative health effect of lockdowns. But at least these children won’t die of Covid – which, apparently, today is all that matters.
The second enabler has been the perfecting by the political class of telling the big lie and being believed. The dry run was climate change. The pandemic, like climate change, would simply not be believed to be a real thing without the daily banging on about threats, fear, death. Would anyone on earth believe there was a dangerous (dare one say ‘unprecedented’) sea-level rise if we weren’t told about it by a so-called expert every other day? Do most people even know someone who has died of Covid? Or even got sick from it? The big lies – masks work, lockdowns help stem the virus, distancing and endless handwashing are necessary, vaccines will save us and nothing else will – are able to be told and believed because the political class know now how to do it well. We know they lie, make stuff up, gild the lily, exaggerate their ability to change things through policy, cover up, refuse freedom of information requests, bribe journalists in myriad ways, ignore hard questions, speak in Sir Humphrey-ese, brazen things out, never apologise or admit error. It is just that now, in addition to lying to cover up failings for which the elected might be punished, they tell massive lies that wreck economies and trash communities and societies. Without blinking. Many people still believe in the inherent goodness of politicians, who are doing all this to ‘save’ us. We are that gullible, and they are that good at lying.
The third enabler of lockdown culture has been the coming of health and safety to institutions, workplaces, businesses and society. This has coincided with the rise of human resources departments and corporatist ideology in large organisations. Some call this ‘safetyism’. That fear of a virus has become the default position of a sizeable majority of the population is a testament to the success of the push, from the 1960s on. We have been thoroughly prepped for the current fear-athon by decades of this rubbish. Would the Omaha Beach generation have been cowed into wearing masks and enduring house arrest to defeat a virus from which over 99 per cent of those who get it recover? We have been conditioned to fear minor things. Or to fear being sued if we do not eliminate all risk. Safetyism and litigiousness work in lockstep.
Freedom won the Cold War, of course, and for decades libertarians – myself included – have assumed that freedom was almost a basic instinct, a natural and universal desire, happily glossing over the basic conundrum that tortured Berlin. That was until Covid struck.
Although I’m obviously elated that Boris Johnson intends to remove almost all restrictions on July 19, I can’t help feeling apprehensive, too. The Prime Minister’s stark statement yesterday that, if we do not reopen society in the next few week, then “we must ask ourselves – when will we be able to return to normal?” sends a clear message to every household in the land: it is now or never.
But a depressing truth looms over Britain: many people do not seem to want restrictions to end. Millions have become attached to the gilded trappings of lockdown, from furlough to flexi-home working. With our every movement micromanaged by one metre signage and one-way arrows, our instincts for independent self-direction have shrivelled. And after nearly 18 months of relentless – and irresponsible – anti-Covid messaging, terror of the virus is still everywhere.
We are starting to see now that commitment to the value of individual freedom, far from being robust as a coil spring, is fragile as glass. [Isaiah]Berlin, who always suspected this was the case, warned more than 60 years ago that “principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed”. In other words, Freedom Day is just the beginning of the battle to remake the case for personal liberty and responsibility. Although many of us will shudder at the thought of another culture war, some things are worth fighting for.
SIR – Television reporters constantly interview members of the public who claim that they don’t want lockdown to end. Where do they find these people?
If their lives have not been blighted by the lockdowns of the last 16 months, I can only assume that they don’t work or run a business; they don’t go shopping; they never eat out; they don’t have school-age children or students in their family; they don’t know anyone in hospital or a care home; they don’t have health problems or ever need to see a GP; they never go on holiday; they never go to the theatre, a cinema or to a concert; they don’t support a charity; they neither attend nor support nor try to organise a local club or organisation; they don’t go to public talks or meetings; they don’t have or want any social contact; their family never plans an event such as a wedding; they don’t wish to attend any funerals.
This amounts to existing, not living. Some of us want to live!