Written by Mike Newland
The more critical and radical among us like Peter Hitchens and Brendan O’Neill are alarmed at the passivity with which the population has responded to Britain’s new police state. Well if you can’t wander the Queen’s Highway as and when you wish without being subject to the police fining you or forcibly ordering you to go home what is that but a police state?
Let us leave aside whether a police state is a necessary thing in our circumstances for health reasons and focus on the lack of concern about the other side of it – a loss of freedoms far greater than during WWII or ever unless you go back to medieval times. Barely a mouse stirred when this began. Hitchens described it as ‘throwing yourself into the arms of Big Brother’.
The question that is being asked is whether people have lost their appetite for freedom. That would be odd at a time when there is decreasing confidence in the political system and especially when it’s a Tory government which is the propellant. The supposed proponents of individual freedom at least as far as all too many who still at least partly believe it.
I think all can be explained by the exceptional circumstances. The passive acceptance of government actions which would have been seen as unthinkable several months ago does not mean that an aspiration for freedom is dead.
What is happening is a temporary retreat into infantilism in the face of mass panic. A return to childhood where authority figures if obeyed in emergency have those infallible powers we expect our parents to possess. It’s interesting that a lot of people who are ferociously opposed to the Tories and hold right-thinking metro liberal views are so keen on controls introduced by Boris Johnson.
The panicked look unconsciously to a father figure to protect them and he has appeared in the unlikely persona of Al Johnson upon whom the desired abilities are projected. A nursery world of happy clapping – we’ve not had the candles and teddies yet but give it opportunity – which will help to add to the mysterious protections offered by quasi parental figures.
In nurseryland there is little of adult consideration about the effects on the future of what we enjoy now. The economy? That’s for the wealthy to worry about and we have the pocket money for today’s ice cream van visit.
Like world-end cults who stick to their beliefs when the date comes and goes, one suspects that, even if persuaded that the imprisonment and lockdown did not make much difference to the virus, the panicked would still agree to continue with it all.
There is no great blame here. As General Patten I think said, ‘No man is an atheist in a foxhole’ and the prospect of Professor Ferguson’s half a million dead still being proffered by the Prime Minister is psychologically a foxhole situation. Ferguson resigned after seeming to deny the validity of his own alarmism but he’ll be back. He’s obviously useful to government.
What creates a panic is mostly not events but the perception of them generated by whoever has the public ear. There was no panic during The Blitz or the Cuban Missile Crisis but neither of the then governments or media set out to create one. The opposite is true this time.
Our father Johnson appears to admire Churchill. Would he have behaved like the current government in this situation?
Is the infantilism now entrenched? When the panic dies down, which it will regardless of second waves and so on since people will eventually just want to get on with their lives, then the infantilised will move on to adolescent revolt and questioning. Rejection of parental authority is common while still demanding drawing rights from ‘The Bank of Dad’. Current cashier Rishi Sunak.
It will be politically fascinating to see how things then play out for the Tories. One suspects that plans have already been made to find ways of gaining political advantage from economic collapse. Dump the current big movers as tainted and say there are now new men in charge offering a bright future? The Tory party is expert at survival.