Yearning to be unfree

Millions begging not to have their freedom: a strange sight yet perhaps expected. It was once a shock to find the nation bowing so quietly to the lockdown restrictions, and now they are to be lifted, many want to hide. Be comforted that a sizable majority will cast off the hated masks with joy, but others are showing positive anger at freedom. That is a new thing for a nation that used to breathe freedom with the air.

Unfreedom is comforting. It is a reversion to childhood, looked after by Mummy and Daddy with barely a care. The wide world where we take responsibility and bear the consequences is frightening.

The harsh reality of all human existence, and all animal existence, is that we must eat or die, and the further away we can get from that reality, the better we feel. Those who have lounged at home, fed by those of us still working and paying taxes, will not want to go back to the work-or-starve world. Those who have been working through it all may have the comfort of a steady salary and can be purely mechanical. It is thought and challenge that are frightening. Freedom is frightening, if you are incapable of running with it.

The grandiose rhetoric of politics talks of freedom in terms of speech, association, due process and those familiar tropes, but these barely impinge on everyday life for most of us – in the everyday, freedom is getting up when we feel, choosing our breakfast, turning left instead of right out of our front door, taking our own car for a spin for no reason, randomly stopping at a cake shop: spontaneity without needing a reason. All this was forbidden.

It is easier, being directed. We have missed holidays, but have been relieved of the pain of having to organise the holiday; those who used to go to a club or an evening classes may miss them, but they no longer have to shift themselves in time for it and lose an evening; those who organise community events have been delighted not to have to for over a year. We may find that all those pastimes we used to enjoy actually we enjoy missing more. We do not want to but gloriously the decision has been taken out of our hands.

An industrial, office-bound world then is readier to accept control by others. These locked-down years with their petty regulations and endless excuses to wag fingers at the non-conforming has been comforting, as for a helpless child who just has to follow all his loving parents say.

It is ending now, and we have to stand on our own feet. No wonder there is resistance. There is resentment too, of those who will exercise their freedom, growing (in the letters page of the local paper and comments columns on the BBC) into anger that some people just will not do what they are asked to do. The nation divides again, as we did over Brexit: it will be interesting to see if there is a correlation between attitudes to the national freedom and attitudes to personal freedom.

There are psychological studies to be done on this phenomenon in future generations.

On Monday, all being well, we will be free again. We will still have busybodies urging us to stop breathing and hide behind useless masks in case, just in case…, but we will free to make our own choice to refuse.

If in the meantime much of the nation has been shown to be like sheep, we are all poorer for it. For the rest of us, there is work to be done, to create wealth and prosperity in these islands by competition for endeavour; to lead and command. If those around are sheep, they should not be surprised to find that I and others are wolves.

See also


Author: LittleHobb

Solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short