After Covid

We won’t get normality back without a fight

Over at Spiked-online, Brendan O’Neill observes and comments on the rather sudden change in tune in the official and mainstream commentariat regarding all things Covid. He writes:

“Suddenly, everyone’s talking about getting back to normal. After 22 months of restrictions, of going in and out of lockdown, of a suspension of civil liberties that was unprecedented in modern peacetime Britain, all the talk is of ‘moving on’. Let’s learn to live with Covid, politicians say.”

He rightly says that “moving on” won’t be easy.

“As sociologist and SAGE adviser Robert Dingwall said back in May 2020, officialdom ‘effectively terrorised’ the public into believing Covid would kill them if they broke the rules. We created a ‘climate of fear’, he said. The consequence of terrorising the public, rather than galvanising us to pull together to combat the spread of Covid and assist the vulnerable, became clear very early on. Snitching abounded. Neighbours told on neighbours. Venturing outside came to be viewed as dangerous anti-social behaviour. Police forces went wild, clearing people out of parks for no good reason and even sending drones to spy on dog-walkers in scenic country spots. The culture of atomisation that predated Covid was intensified by the terror officialdom deployed in response to Covid. Repairing solidarity will be a tough task.”

“And what about the culture of freedom? Forget, for a moment, the way our legally guaranteed liberties were put on ice during this crisis. That was bad, no question. But a more injurious if sometimes intangible process was taking place alongside this temporary unwinding of our rights. The culture of freedom was undermined. The individual self-confidence and social trust that freedom depends upon, which freedom cannot exist without, was pummelled, day in, day out. We were educated to distrust others, to distrust ourselves.”

His conclusion:

“We hear a lot about ‘Covid denialism’, about those who deny the scientific reality of Covid-19’s impact on human health. Those people are certainly worth challenging. But I would venture that there is a worse problem – cultural denialism; the blinkered belief that lockdown was a simple and straightforward measure to deal with a health crisis rather than something that was also highly influenced by the cultures of fear, distrust and censorship that sadly define this young century. To my mind, this cultural denialism is worse than scientific denialism because it keeps at bay the political reckoning we will need to have if we are ever to restore the human connections and individual self-belief that are necessary to a good society. For nearly two years we’ve been told that protecting health is the highest aim of human society. We now need to make a very different case – that it is freedom that makes life worth living, and that everything should be bent towards making freedom a reality for all people. Let’s fight for that normality.”