Are we at last to be free?

Crawling until we end Lockdown2, struggling, society dying. We can make it though through a week until it ends – but even then we are not free.

Actually, I have made this lockdown tolerable simply by ignoring it. Apart from the germ-sodden facenappy I am forced to clamp to my mouth when travelling and when entering less accommodating shops, it has been much as normal, apart from the absence of people in the open air, timid people anyway. I travel resentful, but when released from the train and I have coughed my guts up from the induced asphyxia, I am free again to ignore these paper rules.

Now the new Lockdown is coming to an end, the shops will reopen. Life will start to become normal, just a bit. Except that it will not: this is not a liberation – it is tiers before bedtime. The clampdown continues so that while venues can open, they must keep visitors six feet apart, which is not going to revive the cinemas or theatres or anything else really: pocket tyrants standing at the doors forcing you into a mile-long queue for an hour with no promise of being able to get in the door and no, I am not joining in. All these social and cultural venues will close and I have stopped caring about them because they are now a distant, forgotten world. I cannot see how they can come back when the world has moved on. They remaining shops will struggle to their feet again as there are always customers for frocks and whatnot, but art and culture must be our sacrifice for the new, horrid world we have created.

The cure has been far worse than the disease. Now we live with a strange new world of devastation following the plague as they did in the Middle Ages, but it was not the plague which devastated but the measures taken against it.

We can only thrive if we are free. Freedom brings endeavour and innovation. e are crawling towards it again. My worry is that some politicians are too fond of this unwonted power they now wield;  “in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death.” Maybe Boris is genuinely not comfortable with it, but that Matt Hancock, the most powerless become a great power, he always seem ready to tighten the noose around the neck. On the other side of the House, those even less powerful, have called for powers and restrictions, and commissars and whatever their cruel hearts imagine.

There is resistance. The push back for freedom has come entirely from the Conservative benches. If they are accused of living in the past, good for them, for we were free in the past.

The self-justification of power must be broken. Then we can be free to thrive.

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Covid-22

There was only one catch: concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind; he was crazy and could be furloughed. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to go back to work; he’d be crazy if he wanted to work and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he’d have to work. That’s Covid-22.

If you don’t have coronavirus, the doctor won’t see you; you’re wasting his time; but if you do have it he won’t see you as you’re a danger to him and his imaginary patients. You go home and die. That’s Covid-22. If you want to protect the NHS you have to close the economy and that takes away the money that pays for it: that’s Covid-22. To stop the NHS being overwhelmed you stop allowing it to treat patients, you close it down; that’s Covid-22.

You let the infection run wild and the population quickly become immune, except those it kills, but protect them by locking everyone at home, and they don’t get the immunity and it carries on and they still die: that’s Covid-22.

You have political parties competing to talk about liberty and personal freedom for centuries, then a single bug from China makes them compete to condemn liberty: if they call for an end to freedom they are called tyrants, and if they call for freedom they are murders: that’s Covid-22.

Despair: that’s all there is. In the spring we accepted breathing in for a couple of months, and almost a year later we are still not free, resenting and hating whenever we are forced to pull on a fœtid face-nappy, and whenever a neighbour suddenly crosses the road to avoid us. This is what it is doing. Personally, I would prefer everyone to get the damned thing, and me first, than to put up with this. Does that make me crazy, or the only rational man on the street? That’s Covid-22.

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Hobble Christmas and we starve

Mid-October and the Christmas displays are already going up, in the hope that there will be Christmas. Shops are relying on it: the Christmas trade can be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Retail has taken a hammering this year because of the lockdown and several large High Street names have folded – we are not seeing the full effect until the economy wakes up and we see who is not there. Some are nominally hanging on to see if their normality returns, but they are insolvent, and will go to the wall unless the turn-round is dramatic. Christmas sales are a key to this. It is not looking good.

Retail is not linear, but many of its expenses are. A shop will be paying the same rent, the same rates and the same wages and National Insurance throughout the year; insurance, hire charges and licences will be annual sums reckoned evenly across the year; however income is not the same. In most businesses there is a Christmas rush, and that earns is the money which pays for those expenses.

It is not considered odd that hotels and B&Bs will pay the same rent and rates in the winter as in the summer but do all their trade in the summer: they make a loss in the winter by paying out with no income because they will make it all up in the deluge of custom in the summer. This may seem less apparent in the retail trade, but that is how the economics works here too: the shop can tick by over the whole year, feeling the market, building goodwill, training the staff, but waiting for the Christmas rush.

Many a business makes no net profit all through the year month by month until the nights grow short: the profit is to be made in the run-up to Christmas, which pays for all the year’s expenses. I have seen shopkeepers, ready to take a new shop on, begging to get it done in October because if they do not get the Christmas trade, they will pull out rather than sit on a loss-maker.

It is not just obvious businesses which have a Christmas rush either – it reaches all sorts of enterprises; even builders’ merchants and pharmacies see it. Consequently all the suppliers feel the rush, and all the professions which serve those businesses. They all rely on it.

Now though, the streets are quiet and the shops have fewer customers. They are in fear as Christmas approaches and customers are still being driven away, and there is no assurance that they will have their one profitable time of the year. To cancel the Commercial Christmas or even to hobble it will delete the year’s profit from the ledger, for the majority of businesses and their employees.

Essentially, it is necessary either to end the lockdown or face mass shutdown. It will not be pretty.

Second wave of bad rainbows threatened

A second wave of children’s badly drawn rainbows is threatening to sweep over the United Kingdom this Autumn. With GPs refusing to see anyone who seems even slightly ill, frantic mothers with sick children are resorting to ever-more desperate measures, and the fear is that this will include children’s art on posters on in the front-room window in the hope of attracting sympathy, as well as more rational approaches such as voodoo or sending off for things sold on Russian websites. To meet the need is a growing number of black-market doctors offering services on the quiet outside the NHS, fearful though they are of being struck off for treating ill patients.

Seven months on from the lockdown, GP surgeries remain barred and patients are told to go off and recover or die at home. One patient with a technicolour yawn rainbow in her parlour window told me “My sister had a swelling and was told through a crack in the door that it was probably wind, so we were very surprised when it burst and she died in prolonged agony from peritonitis, but she did recognise that it was all necessary to protect people from a nasty cough. Our Aunt said the same when she found her rash was actually cancer: a doctor could have spotted it at once, but he would have been endangering himself if he had stopped social distancing on the golf course, so she was doing her bit for us all. All those in the NHS are, after all, angels, like the ones we read about in Sunday School, in 2 Samuel 24.” She later added “Hang on, you’re not from the BBC like you said; who are you? Hey, come back…”

Teachers welcoming bairns back to school this month have found a new conspiracy theory doing the rounds in classes: parents have reportedly been telling their children that there used to be an organisation called the ‘National Health Service’ which provided doctors who would see sick people. Children are not as silly as we think and know it is just a fairy-tale.

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The patient is dying. There is one cure

The economy has tanked, in a decline far worse than even the most lurid predictions the bank of England put out about Brexit, and which I for one dismissed as ludicrous. The decline is not from Brexit though: that was followed by growth and new investment – the collapse is from the lockdown. It will continue until the whole lockdown is lifted.

Never say the decline was caused by COVID-19: it was caused by the lockdown.

There has been time to reassess, and now we, the public, understand what the epidemic is and is not and how it works, we are in a position to make our own minds up as mature adults as to what are the risks and what level they are and how real, and how therefore to react and conduct ourselves. The rules of the lockdown have lost their immediate purpose and so should go, at once and without reservation.

The rules hold on only because, it seems, the government has started down that road and would look embarrassed if they find it is all for nothing after all this pain; but to continue is to continue and worsen the pain, and leave devastation where until March there was a thriving economy.

The hope that greeted Brexit has turned to a despair at that promise thrown away.

Everything is dying around us. The streets are no longer as deathly silent as in the spring, and shops do get customers, some at least, but the power houses of the economy have fallen into a coma. These are the offices, the mass gathering places, the venues, theatres and cinemas, and the bars which receive the theatre-goers in the evening.

Those businesses which are open are still hampered by regulations and the fear of being shut down or sued, which leads to new, self-imposed rules that in turn drive their customers away. The most visible is the mask, which is pointless on the face of a healthy man or woman, which is to say almost everyone, yet is strict law on everyone. Distancing is enforced as if the virus were magic, and even though the PM reduced the required distance to 3 feet, universally we are commended to keep 2 metres apart – which works in practice only by being ignored.

The statistics show there is no longer an epidemic, and the medical profession are now set up to deal with cases thy do receive, which they were not before. The statistics also seem to show that the epidemic was declining even before the lockdown measures were put in place – and so would have continued down whatever happened. We were told that the point of the lockdown was a temporary relief, to buy time so that the peak would hit in the summer, when hospitals would be ready and not filled with winter ‘flu cases – well the summer has come and gone and if there is really a risk of a new peak, it will be in the winter; just what we were told had to be avoided.

In the meantime life remains on hold, and businesses are holding their breath, or dying. We were told it would be a short pause to be ready, and on that basis the economy might have held out, ready for a swift bounce-back. After this time though we find several major businesses and employers have folded, and others are on the brink. There are no jobs to go back to from which the economy could be revived.

The only thing that could make it worse is an increase in taxes at the end of it. Recovery can only come from a cut in taxes.

Even away from the economic crisis, the social crisis deepens. Those who believe all the scares still are cowering and may never recover. The easily led are led into dependency, and the weak-minded, for whom we should all have a special care, are driven frantic. Mental health is fragile. Others have been using the situation for months to play at being the village bully, and don’t we all know who they are, and who their victims are.

There is only thing that could save the situation from becoming terminal: end the lockdown, all of the lockdown, immediately. If people want to take precautions, and keep avoiding the neighbours and keep working from home, let then do so: we are all adults here and can judge our own risks. The man in Whitehall knows nothing of me and my family. I do.

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