This is the third in a daily series looking reflecting on the year.
THIS year has seen what looks like the birth of a new religion. Let us call it Covidianity.
It has its prophets (eg Neil Ferguson); its priesthood of experts (eg Whitty and Vallance); its own soteriology (eg The Vaccine of Salvation); its evangelists (eg Piers Morgan); its own eschatology (eg The New Normal), and of course its heretics (anyone questioning the data or the narrative).
Not everyone who has adopted the bizarre practices of Covidianity is a Covidian. Many have been cowed into it somewhat unwillingly; many have been bamboozled into it somewhat unwittingly; and many others just do not seem to have thought through what is being done to them, much less whether it is right, necessary and proportionate.
But there are definitely true Covidians, and you can recognise them by their insistence that all bow down to their cult, and that those who refuse should be shamed.
In one sense, this religion has come upon us at warp speed. There we all were, going about our business at the start of the year, not suspecting that there would be anything particularly out of the ordinary in 2020, then wham!
Yet in another sense, many of the ingredients were already in place long before this year, and they were simply brought together in one large melting pot to produce a toxic brew of fear, hysteria and irrationality on an epic scale.
Those ingredients include: A society that had abandoned belief in the Triune God and hadn’t quite managed to find a replacement to fill the void; a society obsessed with Safetyism and the general sterilisation of life; a society glued to the Propaganda Box in the corner of the room with millions hanging on every word that proceeds from it as if it were the very Oracle of God; a society that had, by and large, utterly forgotten what freedom means.
What this has given us is a society seeking an arche (first principle) to hold everything together; one trying to stave off death by eliminating every potential risk; one that looks unquestioningly to the Government, the media and assembled experts to tell them how to do this; and one that has proved itself willing to give up freedoms won through blood, sweat and tears centuries ago to achieve it.
In short, we have arrived at the planned, technocratic oligarchy that C S Lewis warned us of over half a century ago: ‘The new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best.
‘This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend.’
And here’s US President Dwight Eisenhower saying much the same thing in his farewell address in 1961: ‘Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.’
The irony of all that has happened this year is that in our apparent attempt to eliminate risk, we have given up our lives. That is, we have placed apparent safety so high up on the list of priorities that it has become a god, governing how we are to live, breathe and have our being, and it so dominates our everyday lives that it makes normal life impossible, sucking out joy, meaning and purpose.
It is, as Lewis said, a tragic way to live: ‘Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.’
One can understand how people in a plague situation would accept the suspension of normal life for a time, since you don’t mess about with an illness that wipes out something like 60 per cent of the population. But for a coronavirus with an Infection Fatality Rate of around 0.2 – 0.26 per cent? For a virus which has caused deaths – as a proportion of the population – to return to levels not seen since … ooh … 2000:
And yes, I know that Covidian Logicians will claim that the deaths are not higher because we did all that weird stuff like shutting down the country and wearing bizarre face gear and making sure we didn’t sing loudly and so on.
Then again, Covidian Logic claims lots of things which aren’t true, and the fact is there is no evidence whatsoever to show that these measures had any effect in terms of altering mortality rates.
For the illusion of safety – a mess of pottage – we have sold the heritage and the liberties that were bequeathed to us by those who have gone before, which it was our duty to preserve for those who are to come.
As Edmund Burke taught us: ‘Society is indeed a contract … it is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’
We have betrayed our ancestors and our descendants, and the idea that we will just get these liberties back is a woeful misunderstanding of how the world works.
Firstly, human nature being what it is, those in power who have developed a taste for authoritarianism rarely like to give it up. And secondly, liberties take centuries of long hard work to grow up, but can be hacked down in a short time – as has happened to us in 2020. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for reinstating them speedily.
Having said that, perhaps there is still time. Perhaps there is still a window of opportunity for us to step back from the brink of this absurd Medical Tyranny, with its false promises of safety, and instead embrace life and freedom.
But this would mean rejecting this misery of Covidianity without any further delay, and taking a good long draught of whatever it was they used to drink in Tolkien’s Rohan:
Éowyn: I fear neither death nor pain.
Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.