IN the early days of the pandemic I watched a BBC News item which stressed the coronavirus’s serious threat to life, especially for the elderly and the sick.
The faces of three young doctors filled the screen. They were strained, and bore heavy frowns suitable for the occasion. They looked as if the weight of the world rested on their shoulders. Some of their elderly patients had died that day.
‘It’s a tragedy’, they all claimed. But does this not imply they know when deaths would not be a tragedy? Or do they view death as something to be avoided at all costs?
The government’s propaganda statements ‘Save Lives’ and ‘Protect the NHS’ suggest this is the case.
Yes, to save lives, we need an NHS. But the continuation of the NHS and all our other institutions depends on the economy. Of course, it is right to do everything we can to protect lives, whether of the elderly or the young, but to do so at the cost of everything else may bring us to the brink of a disaster worse than that threatened by the coronavirus.
In our struggle to cheat Death, do we not overestimate ourselves?
Homo sapiens is a highly successful life form. Yet we are but one life form among millions of others on Earth, and the span of our existence is no more than the flicker of an eye in the great scheme of the universe. But our ability to think about complex matters, even to conceptualise about things which do not exist, has led us to imagine that we are entitled to the life we have been given, that our existence is all-important, and that we must spend vast fortunes prolonging it, even for those who want to die.
Yet none of us did anything to earn the life we have been given, we did not ask for it, or make a case for it.
Life, of itself, has no meaning. It just is.
What we do with it and how we behave during our brief span of existence is what gives it meaning. What is required in the face of an existential crisis of this kind is a response which puts the survival of the nation before that of individual lives. In the present case this means organising ourselves around a new slogan: ‘To Save Lives, We Must Save the Country’.In the short term this may mean that some will die who may have otherwise survived. This is always the case when we put our country first. But making the survival of the economy our first priority, would, in the long term ensure the survival of our nation, to the greater good of all.