Waking as from sleep

The lockdown is wearing off. There are more cars on the roads, more people on the streets, passing distances are shrinking, shops are reopening. Normality reasserts itself in spite of the panic and lockdown bullies.

Those who play up an affectation to panic about ongoing infection are prone to ever more self-righteous indignation about thoughts of bringing normality; affronted, it seems, by the desire of others for freedom. The lockdown is being shaken off willy-nilly in any case. We can see the end, many of us have been resenting the shackles long since, and so it cannot last and is not lasting.

There have been voices throughout crying down the house-arrest of an entire nation, and those voices deserve honour, nor the scorn that less noble minds are throwing at them. Of the latter, we know their game – for all the high-minded talk of protecting the vulnerable, it is about imposing power on others.

The lockdown measures were designed as temporary measures, passed by Parliament only with great shows of regret from the Conservative benches, and the emergency Act was given fixed review stages and an unextendible termination date.

However, power once given to those willing to use it is addictive. There is nothing so permanent as the temporary measure – income tax was a temporary wartime measure brought in by William Pitt the Younger, and licensing laws a wartime measure in 1914. The ratchet is a cruel mechanism in government. Someone will always find a reason to keep a power in their hands “just in case”. There will be utility proven to us no doubt – restraints on freedom justified by appeals to utility and convenience are a major target for John Stuart Mill.

We have a House of Commons and a Prime Minister keen on individual freedom (though we also have a Chancellor of the Exchequer keen on fiscal restraint who blew his reputation at the first budget). The emergency legislation has a sunset built into it, but it has created a dangerous precedent to allow any new scare to eliminate common freedom.

Boris once talked of a British Dream America, but we never really saw what that was. The phrase is borrowed from across the Pond – we know, sort of, what the American Dream is, and America was born of a luscious regard for liberty, for the rights of a free-born Briton, which the imperial system denied to the Colonists. The new America was built on rhetoric and rang with phrases like Patrick Henry’s cry:”Give me liberty or give me death!” (Well, when I am stuck indoors I say “give me liberty or give me a bit of a nasty cough”.)

We in Britain have not needed slogans of our own because we consider these rights so self-evident we have no need to write them down, but maybe now we are waking as from sleep we should start. We need not have those slogans of the Colonials which need an exclamation mark at the end, but in centuries of just being ourselves we have many telling phrases to scorn overbearing authority. I may have to compile a list.

In the meantime, enjoy the last fortnight or two of rest before the country cranks up again to full steam and to catch up on the wasted months. By the increased noises outside, we are cranking up already.

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Author: AlexanderTheHog

A humble scribbler who out of my lean and low ability will lend something to Master Hobbes

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