Lord Salisbury comes to mind:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe.
The partial opening-up this morning is celebrated in all quarters, except by a handful of high-up doctors and of non-teaching teachers. There are voices still piping up, demanding a halt to the liberating progress to end the lockdown. The practical end of the epidemic is a tribute to the medical profession, but it also means an end to their unaccustomed power.
Never before have doctors been able to command instant attention, and never before have a well-placed set of medics been able to control every movement, our rising up, our going forth and our laying us down again, of the whole population. Now ‘doctor’s orders’ sounds sinister. Telling an individual to have more sleep, take more exercise and avoid chocolate is about the best a doctor can hope for in normal days, and then with little hope of his obedience. Now though in the right place a word from a doctor may command a whole nation, and command policemen to seize those who do not obey doctor’s orders. It must be glorious.
Also, in a publicity hungry culture, doctors alone have to be silent about their good work (unless one can convince a local newspaper that he is worthy to be a pillar of society and a column in the Gazette). Now, a single doctor with a scientific version of ‘The End of the World is Nigh’ can command a rapt audience.
It is just a handful. Most doctors have been working silently, making the nation better, which is what they do well (if their receptionist lets anyone in to be cured), receiving the due thanks of those they heal. It is the handful though who make the noise and steer the ship of state off course.
All that is coming to an end. We will be well again, and doctors must subside to the normal, hidden layer (where most have resided diligently throughout). They must also go back to work. Their Cerberus-like receptionists too will have to buckle down and let patients through the door at last. They will hate it.
We can be cynical about the hold-out doctors, still saying it is unsafe, hazardous, murderous to return to normal. Lord Salisbury had their measure. They are to be ignored.
That perhaps our greatest of Conservative Prime Ministers has an appropriate quote tells us that things have not changed, deep down, from his day. I may have to theme more posts on his aphorisms.
- Reading between the worry lines
- Does anyone understand the rules? (April 2020)
- Why all medical advice is wrong (March 2020)
- Under marshal law
- Propitiating the divine NHS
- Eschatological Rebellion
- The necessity of normality
- Competitive panicking
- A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay (1841)
- Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney
- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath
- The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes
- By Boris Johnson: