By Guy de la Bédoyère
Speaking as a historian there is little about the lockdown that has surprised me, not least the way in which so many people have blithely accepted the restrictions to their freedoms on the basis that this way they will be saved from a terrible fate. I’m afraid there are too many historical precedents.
One of my former colleagues has a nurse for a daughter and she has thrown herself with characteristic zealotry into the role of being the mother of a saint. Not only has she busied herself at her sewing machine churning out scrubs but also proclaimed her righteous joy in the ostentatious wearing of masks. She does this, she says, not because she’s scared, because she isn’t (so she says), but because of her solidarity with the legions of angels in the NHS, “it’s the right thing to do”, and she is doing it for the wider good of the community. She might as well have called the latter Volksgemeinschaft.
There is an ominous and crazy religious tone to all this, and she is not alone in exhibiting an inclination to participate in Covid Cult Culture. Masks have rapidly become the symbol of moral superiority, amounting almost to being a badge denoting membership of the Party. Wear a mask and you’re a good person, conspicuously virtue-signalling in public. Don’t wear one and you’re a bad person, a lesser being, a walking symbol of the fear that stalks the streets. In short, you risk becoming the Devil’s hand-servant, a pariah, an enemy of the state. No matter that even surgical masks are only tested on their Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (European Standard EN14683:2019) and splash resistance – viruses don’t come into it. Cheapo face-covering masks don’t even meet that standard. Viruses, which are much smaller, don’t come into it – the efficacy is really only limited to splash resistance. If you want a mask that stops viruses you have to have a respirator-type mask.
A family member reported to me today that in his office in this past week a supervisor started screeching at two members of staff who were talking in a room at several metres separation. “You’re like – pouring fire into each other’s faces,” he wailed using bizarre medieval imagery that seems to have been derived from a Hieronymus Bosch painting. He evidently hasn’t been keeping up with current medical science because as far as I know even the most hysterical scientist hasn’t yet claimed the virus is a fire-borne disease. It’s a wonder no government has come up with graphics depicting the infected as lethal bipedal flamethrowers. But I’m sure it would make for a great contagion movie.
Armed with this sort of apocalyptic vision a certain type of person imbued with moral superiority is the most ardent supporter of totalitarianism. Nonetheless, don’t give up yet. Given time even these people can turn against the state.
A few months ago, I wrote an essay for this site called “Britain’s Covid Reich“. Totalitarianism follows a common pattern. The totalitarian knows that fear is his greatest asset and if it can be built into the totalitarian state’s ideology even better. Fear can be amplified or even invented in order to justify the ideological introduction of various measures, in this instance the lockdown, which are sold on the basis that they are the means by which fear can be assuaged, the threat thwarted, and security and prosperity restored. From the start of this crisis the UK Government, as have so many others, has used fear to great effect and we have seen the steady legislative erosion of civil liberties. There is a remorseless and often unconscious move to the point where controlling people becomes an end in itself, however it’s dressed up.
The totalitarian’s second greatest asset is the willing compliance of a largely credulous public who at least to begin with are prepared to buy into the ideology, accept the fear narrative and comply with the supposedly beneficent measures the state has adopted on their behalf.
There is, however, some hope on the horizon for the sceptic. In the Australian state of Victoria we can see the way the totalitarian state degenerates. The Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews and his administration have already imposed a second lockdown due to the emergence of a few hundred new cases. Andrews thereby advertised that the first lockdown had not worked, completely undermining the concept of the lockdown measures. The new lockdown has, by all accounts, had a far more dramatic psychological impact leading to real gloom and despair as well as the prospect of much deeper recession. But the new cases have proved almost impossible to arrest.
By now, even the most idiotic leader ought to have realized that the government’s energies need to be poured into protecting the demonstrably vulnerable groups, not systematically destroying the economies that pay for the measures and services needed to maintain the state and the social, health and economic well-being of all.
Listening to the latest figures by July 24th which Andrews itemized in a press conference will leave the average Brit faintly staggered. There are 7,405 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria of which 206 (2.8 percent) are hospitalized, 41 of whom (0.55 percent) are in ICU. To date, Victoria’s death toll from CV-19 is 55 out of a state population of 6.36 million. That’s 0.00086 percent of the state population. This equates to 0.86 CV-19 deaths per 100,000 of the population of Victoria to date. All of the six most recent deaths were “connected to an age care setting”.
Oh yes, incidentally, Victoria’s annual death rate from alcohol-related causes is around four deaths per 100,000. But that’s presumably okay. No need to lockdown the state economy for that, or the 200+ deaths from road traffic accidents in 2019 either.
Confronted with a COVID-19 Biblical ‘catastrophe’ on this scale Andrews has found himself caught in the totalitarian trap. His first lockdown dd not eliminate the disease or control it. With the latest news that some scientists really do believe the lockdowns could not compensate for national factors like obesity and age profiles in determining rates of COVOID-19 mortality, the lockdown ideology is even harder to maintain.
Andrews could of course blame himself and his state government, but the self-respecting totalitarian never does that. Instead, he blames his people for having betrayed him. This is the classic refuge of the undermined totalitarian leader. Andrews has been reported as being “very unhappy and sad” that 90% of Victorians with symptoms have ‘failed’ to self-isolate. It’s their fault, not his. Appropriately enough, he has reacted by threatening to extend the second lockdown and enforce even more stringent measures. The idea of targeted protection while saving his state from social and economic Armageddon has not apparently occurred to him.
This a warning for the UK Government and indeed any other government across the world. Victoria’s second lockdown is struggling. Some people are declining to comply and the state faces a much more serious economic catastrophe with an enormous multi-billion $ deficit and hundreds of thousands of job losses. That’s the trouble with the totalitarian’s lockdown: ultimately it generates the fear and insecurity it was supposed to prevent. Those on low incomes in casual jobs have no choice but to work. Resorting to more extreme measures to enforce the lockdown further won’t only make the social, health and economic situation far worse. It also risks undermining the fundamental authority and credibility of the state when the population start to resist.
What’s happening in Victoria shows the trap and consequences of using totally disproportionate fear as a mechanism for control. Here is one government that has used that fear, despite the microscopic figures to date, as a pretext for a chaotic and badly-organized totalitarian style lockdown twice. With no other solutions than castigating the population and threatening even stricter control, Victoria’s Government is now confronted by a potential showdown with its own people who can see their economy and way of life disintegrating before their very eyes.
A good who friend of mine who is struggling to keep her design business in Melbourne afloat reports to me today: “Lockdown 2.0 is getting to us all in a way the first one didn’t… business owners are all in a level of heightened anxiety about what it will mean for all of us.”
Boris Johnson should be monitoring this situation very closely.