THE preservation of the freedoms afforded by democracy is becoming a necessary daily preoccupation. Bouts of foreboding and outrage are induced by the news every morning. The plight of the unvaccinated in Austria, immediately followed by news that all its citizens will be placed under house arrest for several weeks is horrifying. Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green Party said almost with glee in a TalkRadio interview that she felt further lockdowns here this winter were highly likely. Her unquestioning acceptance of the possibility of another assault on the population by its leaders was a perfect illustration of the national malaise. A volunteer health care assistant recently called the same radio station to say that she would like those who choose not to take the Covid-19 vaccine to be jailed, including her own children and grandchildren. Society should now be very careful what it wishes for.
An ominous disdain demonstrated by those with power both great and very small, from Sajid Javid and his ‘So what?’ tweet to the nauseating supermarket tannoy repeatedly urging us all to ‘treat everyone with kindness and respect’, should alert us to our subjugation.
The voices of those who demand safety at any price are doubtless amplified by infamously disingenuous YouGov polls. For some, life in the literal sense trumps freedom. Society demands more of government in terms of the personal wellbeing of its citizens, so government takes more control. It would, wouldn’t it?
Jonathan Sumption gave an excellent talk on the subject at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford in October, in which he cited the words of John Adams, one of the founding fathers of American democracy: ‘Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.’
Is this happening now? Lord Sumption went on to say that we have enjoyed freedom of thought, reliable information and tolerance of dissent. Yes, we have. These blessings are being squandered by the relatively fortunate who have never known life without them. Tyranny advances incrementally as the risk-averse relinquish society’s civil rights.
Fear and economic insecurity combine to erode the vital sense of self-determination. The contempt expressed by much of the electorate for all politicians, honourable and diligent as we must believe the majority are, when a few break their own rules or fall short of expectations, leads to further loss of interest in engagement in the political process. The turnout at the 2019 general election was 67.3 per cent, down 1.5 per cent from 2017, but still the second highest since 1997. This does not indicate a great appreciation of democracy.
We have seen plenty of fear, but more prevalent now is a comfortable acceptance of the new order by so many of our fellow citizens. People who are harassed and busy, exhausted by the mechanics of earning and operating, but also the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ lazy non-thinkers, who prefer to believe that the status quo is a public benefit. Micro-management by government of all institutions, including family, is swallowed by both types. Resistance, even in one’s mind, requires time and effort. In his excellent book Do No Harm, brain surgeon Henry Marsh describes his irritation after decades at the top of his area of expertise at being compelled by NHS authorities to attend training on empathy given by a callow youth.
Interference by the state grows and starts early. Relationships and sex education requirements were updated in September 2020. Children in year 9 must now learn about domestic violence, contraception and the signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted infections. It is possible to withdraw one’s child from these lessons, but not from LGBTQ+ studies. In addition, pupils must be taught the ‘correct vocabulary to describe themselves and their bodies’ and that ‘healthy relationships (including those in families) are an important part of wellbeing’. How did previous generations manage their private lives without government’s helping hand?
A lucrative wellbeing industry has mushroomed around the latest requirements. Talks for children on toxic masculinity, the unmanageable pressure of academic study and LGBTQ+ awareness are regularly served up by organisations who are quite unaccountable to parents. A cauldron of potential trouble is seasoned and stirred by the misguided, and the resulting porridge of despair is ladled on to the plates of the innocent. A recent conversation with a year 8 girl summarised this neatly. She said: ‘Arguments are always so much worse when grown-ups get involved.’
We see repeated terrorist attacks in this country. Government, you fix this and secure the borders. We’ll take care of our own children, health and vaccine requirements, thanks.