We’re publishing an original piece by former university teacher Sean Walsh today about the Government’s war on pubs. He sees this as a puritanical crusade intended not just to make sure no one’s having any fun but also to suppress dissent. Here’s an extract:
The Lockdown Sanhedrin, the SAGE clerisy, is itself infected with the virus of puritanism. It’s impossible to look at Chris Whitty without concluding that other people’s enjoyment presents itself to him as a sort of personal Kryptonite. Boris’s self-announced “libertarianism” seems to amount to little more than the thesis that he gets to do what he wants and the rest of us can go hang. But I think it goes deeper than that – the Government and in particular its advisers are in thrall to a metaphysics of joylessness.
At the start of this crisis, the Government decided that it was qualified to make a distinction between those activities which are essential and those which are not. The latter were consequently eliminated from the list of what was permitted. To put it another way, it took upon itself the right to decide what counts as work, and what counts as mere “play”.
But it is not clear that any such distinction exists, and if it does then it does not follow that we should prioritise work over play, even in a pandemic. Aristotle claimed that the “first principle of activity is leisure”: that we work in order to play; that play is a more valuable activity than work because it is something that is done for its own sake. The vulgar utilitarianism which has shaped SAGE’s pandemic response is a crude sanitisation of our understanding of the human soul. Not every worthwhile thing that we do as human persons can be reduced to the requirements of a Downing St data slide.
Worth reading in full.