On the first day of “lockdown”, I wrote this:
“So that seems to be that. The end of Britain as we knew it. … I must say I am astonished and saddened that this has happened to the country I love, because of an illness which will likely turn out to kill no more than might die during a very bad flu season*. Astonished and saddened by the fact that we are risking economic meltdown and the untold misery this could bring to the lives of millions in lost jobs, decimated businesses and a plunging into poverty. Astonished and saddened that a once free people are being caged like prisoners, at a huge risk to their mental health, general wellbeing and future liberties. Astonished and saddened that so many freeborn people seem to be welcoming all this.”
*[Covid-19 has killed around 550,000 in more than 6 months worldwide, and the W.H.O. estimates that flu kills between 290,000 and 650,000 in a season]
Months later, and after having done all I could think of to warn people and plead with them about what is happening to them and what is being done to them, both on this blog, on Twitter, and elsewhere, through analysis of data, by pointing to true experts who are ignored by the media, and by careful argumentation, the astonishment I once had for these things has morphed into something like a shrug of resignation. Months into the most dangerous social experiment ever conducted; with no political or media opposition to be seen; with a tsunami of unemployment coming our way; with social and public life frozen due to the ongoing restrictions; with millions still petrified and panicked by a virus that has indeed turned out to be roughly as deadly as a severe flu season; with local “lockdowns” now being implemented for no rational reason whatever; and with Schedule 21 — perhaps the most sinister legislation this country has seen for centuries — being passed without a peep of controversy, and apparently millions still cannot see what is happening to them and what is being done to their lives and their country. What can one do except shrug?
When I wrote that piece in March, I intuitively sensed that something had happened from which we would not recover for years, decades, perhaps even generations. I marvelled at those who kept saying it would soon be over — three weeks to flatten the curve and all that — not because of any intuition I might have felt, but because the report which was used to put us into “lockdown” — Neil Ferguson’s “boggy mess” “angel hair pasta” report — could hardly have been plainer that this was not going to be the case:
“When examining mitigation strategies, we assume policies are in force for 3 months, other than social distancing of those over the age of 70 which is assumed to remain in place for one month longer. Suppression strategies are assumed to be in place for 5 months or longer.
“A minimum policy for effective suppression is therefore population-wide social distancing combined with home isolation of cases and school and university closure. To avoid a rebound in transmission, these policies will need to be maintained until large stocks of vaccine are available to immunise the population – which could be 18 months or more [my italics].
Be honest, those who supported the “lockdown” policy and believed it would be all over soon: did you actually read the report that put us into it to find out what was in store for us? Somehow, I doubt it.
Yet, even without looking at Ferguson’s hopelessly wrong report (click here to see just how hopelessly wrong), it was plainly obvious that it wasn’t going to be over in three weeks, and that we were moving into an era of what I would call a Medical Tyranny, or Health & Safety Despotism, take your pick. Why? Because once a people have accepted that these actions are right and proportional to the threat of a virus with a similar mortality to a bad flu season, how exactly do you propose going back to normal? If hysteria, fear and panic are created on those kind of levels, rather than calmness, reason and proportionality, all you’ve done is set a new benchmark for all future threats, from which there is only one escape — that is, to admit that the whole thing has been a monumental blunder, and vow never to repeat it again.
One of the few people in the public eye to really grasp this was the Swedish epidemiologist, Johanne Giesecke. Where others appeared to look not much further than the end of their nose, he was looking way off into the future, not just in terms of the Swedish herd immunity strategy (which is, I think, now largely achieved), nor the economic and social consequences. No, he also foresaw with amazing prescience the conundrum we would face, whereby on the one hand we could not keep lockdown indefinitely, since it would destroy our society:
“But then, what next? No democratic society can remain in lockdown for many months or years. Their economies cannot withstand it, and the public won’t allow it.”
Yet on the other hand, according to Giesecke, we wouldn’t be able to lift it fully, because having acted in this way for such a virus, we’d have to continue with the same treatment for every virus of similar lethality that comes along, or even the same one if it doesn’t go away, because we had created a precedent and because public fear would demand it:
“You’ve painted yourself into a corner. What are you gonna do for the next 30 years? I don’t know how you gonna handle that. But that’s your problem!”
Well quite. What are we going to do if Covid-19 comes back in the winter? Or Covid-20 comes along next year? Not to mention Covids-21,22,23 etc? Or maybe even a really bad influenza? Are we going to shutter our economy every time? Are we going to quarantine millions of healthy people again? The precedent has been set, the fear has been created, the Pandora’s Box has been opened. How do we shut it?
We have, by accepting the policy of quarantining millions of healthy people for whom Covid-19 posed almost no danger (fact: the number of under-60s who have died of Covid-19 with no pre-existing condition in English hospitals is 302), shutting places of worship, cafes, pubs, restaurants etc, and allowing the Government to stoke up fear, acted rather like a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Instead of accepting that the world is a dangerous place, life is risky, and we’re all going to die one day, we have instead allowed the apparent threat of a virus to dominate us, to shape our whole way of life, to alter our thinking and our being, to destroy the good things we had, to rid ourselves of the chance to live properly like free people. Most appallingly, in my view, is what we have done to children, who are being treated like lepers, denied the opportunity to have normal childhoods in a normal environment (fact: the number of under 19s that have died in English hospitals from Covid-19 is 16 with underlying conditions, and 4 without).
Although the worst aspects of the national physical “lockdown” may have been lifted, what I would describe as Psychological Lockdown is here to stay. We see it in the increasing pressure, and soon-to-be state-mandated wearing of face coverings, which is something I had previously associated with some of the more intolerant regimes in the Middle East. The mandated wearing of these secular burkas is hideous, dehumanising, and extremely unnerving, and the thought of my children having to wear these things and cover their faces is most distressing. It is remarkable that people accept being told to wear these things by a Government which just three months ago went out of its way to tell us that they were unnecessary and that there was no evidence for their efficacy (which there isn’t). I also find it incredible that people can blithely put them on now, of all times, when deaths from the virus have almost come to an end, and yet it doesn’t occur to them to ask why — if the things are oh so necessary — the Government advised against wearing them in March. Is this cognitive dissonance on steroids? Perhaps, but then again, I have recently come to realise that many do not simply believe that the Government follows the science; they believe the Government is the science, even if that involves believing utterly contradictory messages from day to day, or month to month:
In many ways, this psychological lockdown is the culmination of a number of things.
Firstly, we have put death out of sight, at least partly by building crematoriums out of town, where nobody can see them as they drive past, and so we hardly see death as a thing anymore. And so when people were shown the potential of death coming to their doorstep, and when they were bombarded with spurious figures from this deeply irresponsible Government (Governments are supposed to govern, which requires calm leadership, not fearporn night after night), they freaked out. To this day, people freak out when they hear of another 100 Covid deaths or so, seemingly oblivious to the fact that death claims 1,400-1,500 people in this country every day of the year.
Secondly, one of our great national idols, Health and Safety, has rendered us unable to look at life and ask the simple question: is a life spent trying to avoid all risks and permanently sanitising everything even worth living? Sounds utterly ghastly, soul and freedom-destroying to me, but it is also counter-productive even on its own terms. The practice of sanitising our lives means that we do not build up the immunity we should, and so ironically we become more susceptible to illnesses than if we’d got on with our lives and let our kids muck about together in the mud. Oxford University’s Professor Sunetra Gupta has warned precisely of this in relation to so-called “social distancing”, which would of course be amazingly ironic, and yet entirely foreseeable. We live in a world of trade-offs and consequences, and we are supposed to think about the possible long-term costs before we take actions — especially drastic ones. But unfortunately, our Health & Safety Commissars have convinced people that it is not so, and that we can eliminate almost all risk. Well no we can’t, and quite frankly who (apart from Health & Safety Commissars) really wants to live such an insipid existence anyway?
And thirdly, it is the culmination of decades of inviting the state and its scientists to manage our lives. C.S. Lewis saw this way back when:
“On just the same ground I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in’. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science. Perhaps the real scientists may not think much of the tyrants’ ‘science’ — they didn’t think much of Hitler’s racial theories or Stalin’s biology. But they can be muzzled.”
In our desire to pretend death is not a thing; to put health and safety so far above the desire to live like free people; and to trust state scientists to order our lives for us, this is what we’ve become.
A nation in psychological lockdown, unable to get back to normality, because we have accepted abnormality as a price worth paying for protecting us against a virus that is harmless to all but a few, who could have been protected but were not.
A nation in psychological lockdown, unable to get back to normality, because we have accepted the arbitrary, unscientific diktats of a Government that spooked millions, and are now ready to accept their every imposition in the name of being kept safe.
A nation in psychological lockdown, in denial about the tsunami of job losses, business closures, resultant increase in poverty, resultant decrease in life expectancy awaiting us, and yet utterly unable to accept that it was not the virus that did it, but the disproportionate response.
As I said at the beginning, after months of trying to warn people of where this is heading, only to be smeared with insults or met with sheer apathy, I now simply shrug my shoulders in a sort of, “Oh well, have it your own way,” sort of manner. Of course, I continue to pray fervently that the future would be other than the bleak picture I have painted, and as a rampantly Post-millennial Christian, I am 100% persuaded that one day this will indeed be so. But for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid we’ve chosen a course where we decided to hand in the keys of our lives and our freedoms to the Government in return for the illusion of safety. From this there is only one escape — but that would involve something I’m not sure we’re yet ready to do.