At the beginning of this debacle, the contrarian libertarians were warning us that once a government gets a taste for extraordinary powers, in a declared emergency, they can be extremely reluctant to relinquish these powers, even when the emergency has long since passed. The many instances when this was shown to be the case seem to bear it out and I am beginning to think that they are right. Power is a bit of a narcotic and those who are hooked on it seldom go into voluntary rehab or cold turkey. If you have prime television time each day to address a compliant nation and answer questions from a docile press, if you have a completely ineffective opposition, if you can ride any storm, any scandal, can undertake any number of u-turns with a mere blink of the eye and an apology, all of which in normal times would destroy a political career, why give it up? Who wouldn’t?
With no deaths attributed to Covid-19 for three weeks, a few hundred people hospitalised and less than a handful in intensive care, the emergency, in Scotland at least, has truly passed. That fact is indisputable, still our government are extremely reluctant to let go of their recently acquired power. And this is demonstrated in the daily briefings, the constant updating, the changing of advice, telling us what we are not and what we are allowed to do, scolding footballers and party goers and threatening the rest of us with stricter measures in a form of collective punishment, if those naughty boys don’t behave. It is excruciatingly painful to watch. But this, it seems is the “New Normal” that sinister phrase that has been slipped into the conversation. This is what they meant. In it we will no longer be free but have the intimate details of our lives, our personal hygiene and habits, intimate relationships and social intercourse, forever scrutinised and directed by a government obsessed and intoxicated with its own sense of destiny. After a meeting the other day (for legal reasons, I am not permitted to say whether it was carried out under strict social distancing measures or whether the participants were wearing mask or whether contact details were recorded) my client in weary exasperation and in the confusion over whether a handshake was right or not, grabbed mine and said “Awh….. grow up!” That was exactly how I felt. It is time to grow up.
The “lock-down” was imposed, you might remember, to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. It turned out not to be overwhelmed and the vast overflow facilities, which epidemiologist say were quite the wrong thing anyway, were largely unused and mothballed. We have probably forgotten that. I spoke to a trauma surgeon and heard second hand from a consultant friend this week and both commented on how little they do- two days a week at most and otherwise they are idle. One was so bored he started on a major building project on his house single handed. “I have to do something” he said. Whether the lock-down had anything to do with saving the NHS is actually debatable. It is more likely it was saved by shifting older people to care homes and by cancelling just about every non immediate procedure. We now know the horrendous cost of that policy in the lives of people left to die in care homes and the heavy backlog of postponed cases that the our health service now has to deal with. For some it will be too late.
The crisis, if it was as big as it was made out to be, has passed, but it has been replaced with another crisis, this time, a concocted one – the “second wave”. The way the government and the media have scampered about leaping on any tit-bit of data that would give credence to this alarm is almost comical. Great play is made over localised spikes in cases, but little is said or revealed about how many of those, who were tested positive, were requiring intensive care, or were hospitalised or were in fact exhibiting any symptoms at all. What is also seldom compared is the rate of testing and how this affects the increase in cases. And there is the whole question about how accurate testing is with so many false positives and false negatives. That information is hard to find and I think I know why. It doesn’t fit the narrative.
All of this, conveniently keeps the thing on the boil. More importantly, it keeps the population in a measure of constant fear and allows ministers to continue to interfere in our private and social lives. How people simply accept this with hardly any protest is quite beyond my understanding.
The moving of the goalposts, the inability to forecast an end, the forever “coming-out-of- lock-down” process must be one of the most depressing things to watch, but it is more than that, it is the slow boiling of the frog, it is the silent choking of our society, it is the insidious disabling of our human associations. And the point of it all? Well you tell me.
I guess that time only will tell whether the cynics were in fact right, but it looks like they were and we can be sure that those in power will milk this one for all its worth, even if it ends up tipping us over the edge.