Under marshal law

COVID marshals; I never thought it could come to this. In floods of tiers, and the council are sending marshals about in hi-vis jackets to ‘encourage’ compliance with their idea of the rules.

There was no need to worry, of course. This is “supporting the community”, and the marshals are given that para-military sounding title so that they can prowl the streets “reminding people of the importance of social distancing, wearing face coverings and regularly washing their hands”.

Official, bullying, self-important busybodies wanting any excuse to show themselves better and more virtuous than their neighbours. If I forget myself, I may take to reminding them of the importance of keeping away from me at all costs.

(Incidentally, and I cannot say this often enough: if I do not have the disease, and I do not, then I cannot possibly endanger anyone by existing in their space, and I resent being told that I am diseased by someone who does not know me.)

Another press point suggested that the marshals would do something practical, like cleaning surfaces that get touched. That would be useful. I find it hard though to imagine someone granted a flashy title and a uniform and authority to shout at their neighbours being ready to demean themselves with actual work that means getting dirty.

Posters and webpages appearing lately in connection with the marshals scheme say that 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 show no symptoms, so you can’t be too careful. That is not a statement backed by reliable science. Statistics produced by different studies vary wildly about how many people catching the disease are unaffected by it: it goes from about from 1 in 5 being unaffected to 4 out or 5. Even that does not take account of those with such mild symptoms they take little notice of it, or notable symptoms but which are not the ones on the list, or those who just let it go by, as no doctor is interested these days. You must add to that all those other coronaviruses out there, and there are countless of that type of virus: one may catch a coronavirus cold a few times a year, a different virus each time, and distinguishing one type from another confuses the statistics. The point in summary is that the “1 in 3” figure is nonsense because we do not know the actual figures nor can we place then within any meaningful order of magnitude.

I am repulsed at cynicism usually, but I have been through all this and cannot say anything else.

It is winter. Colds are spreading, and many are caused by a cocktail of rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. It will always be so. Reaction to it that goes beyond the common-sense strictures we are brought up with, is overreaction. In those days when the nanny-state public health campaigns launched, no one suggested sending virus marshal onto the streets to yell “coughs and sneezes spread diseases!” (Tony Hancock had a sense off it in The Blood Donor, when he started singing the phrase to the Deutschlandlied, which suggests how a relatively mild campaign of nannying was taken at the time, even without street-commissars to enforce it.)

Back to the COVID marshals, why do we bristle at the idea, apart from its liberal swallowing of taxpayers’ money, yours and mine? Ask yourself: what sort of person will volunteer to be a COVID marshal? It is bad enough with freelance bullies thinking they have licence to shout at their neighbours: give him a badge and a title and there’s no stopping the village Mussolini.

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Author: AlexanderTheHog

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

One thought on “Under marshal law”

  1. In the English legal system, the term is of dubious significance; in the words of the English jurist Sir Frederick Pollock, “so-called ‘martial law,’ as distinct from military law, is an unlucky name for the justification by the common law of acts done by necessity for the defence of the Commonwealth when there is war within the realm.”

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