After Covid 19: A police state?

Never in the field of human conflict…has the emotional tail wagged the economic and political dog so vigorously. Regardless of how we got where we are, I really wonder why we are here, how we are going to get out of it and what it means for the future.

I must preface this with an acknowledgement that Covid-19 is a highly contagious virus and, in some cases, very nasty to fatal. Less fatal than SARS, with fatalities skewed towards those at the vulnerable end of the frailty spectrum and to a very few unfortunate ‘frontline’ workers who may have suffered from viral load or, more specifically, viral overload.

We have arrived at lockdown based less on evidence than on pressure from the press, an array of ‘experts’ and virtue-signalling from the likes of university vice-chancellors and prominent medical journal editors. Once one university closed, a few others followed, and the rest fell like dominoes in advance of advice from the government. Companies closed and many shops and restaurants locked their doors, all before the UK government decided, under pressure, it was time to ‘shut shop’.

There seems to be no plan for getting us out of this mess. What will the criteria be? Will it be a rapid downward fall in the number of cases or are we aiming for zero reported cases? It is possible that the general public are unaware that zero is unattainable? We have never achieved zero cases of SARS or MERS. Every now and then one crops up – but now we know how to recognise these cases quickly and take appropriate measures.

Don’t believe me? Remember the days when cholera and TB were eradicated, until they weren’t? We have had worse viral outbreaks in the past and far more deaths than are even currently projected. These are hard to compare, however, with the present situation as now we have vaccines and, generally, people are healthier and better nourished.

But I do wonder how we are going to deal with viral outbreaks in the future. Are we going to close countries, commerce and international transport down each time there is a reported case of a corona, or any other type of virus? We cannot. Some larger economies will ride this well and the UK is probably amongst those. Nevertheless, the UK will become a basket case – if it is not already there – if we endure this annually.

If all the above were not enough, we are in genuine danger of becoming a police state if the lockdown is prolonged. I am not referring to the relatively benign work of the police in keeping us socially distanced and restricted in our movements. These are bad enough but how long will people suffer enforced low wages, food shortages and the outright abuse that is being meted out by shop assistants and the security guards stationed at most retail outlets. On my visits to local ethnic shops – which seem still to be relatively well-stocked – I invariably meet a smiling face and receive a word of thanks for calling with absolutely no restrictions on my movement. Moreover, I come away with nearly everything I need and in the quantities I want.

A visit to a chain supermarket means being gruffly told to remain outside until ushered in. Then, told where to stand when I am inside and all without a word of thanks or a smile. I took a wrong turn and was on the receiving end of a tirade from a shop assistant about being a danger to others, with no chance to speak in my defence or the acceptance of an apology. The hallmarks of a dictatorship of the proletariat are beginning to emerge. I felt it was pointless pointing out to said operative that she had more chance of being run over and killed by a delivery truck in the shop car park than of catching Covid-19 from me, let alone subsequently dying of it. But emotions always win over evidence and argument and we are seeing this at a local, national and international level. I would get out more, but…

Roger Watson is a Professor of Nursing

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10 Comments on After Covid 19: A police state?

  1. Depends what you mean by a police state. We’d need to get through an awful lot of virus attacks and lockdowns to get to the state of such paradises as China, North Korea, Cuba, USSR, Germany pre-1945 and East Germany post that date. The real worry should be how many businesses, small and medium, and sections of large businesses, will reopen after this enforced state-sponsored general strike.

  2. Dear Alistair. Apologies for the misspelling of your name. Churchill did not reject making peace with Hitler for high moral ideals but in an effort to maintain the British Empire as the premier power in Europe if not the world which was effectively lost to the United States in 1915/16.

  3. Dear Alister. You should research a little deeper than populists ideals for (Chamberlain not Churchill) declaring war on Germany in 1939.

  4. Roger Watson, I agree with a lot of what you say; and at least you are more intelligent than the illegitimate bastard great-great grandson of Harriet Beecher Stowe who was allowed to publish a piece here just before yours.

  5. Since you alluded to Churchill, it might be worth recalling that if the reckless adventurer, as he was then generally regarded, had applied economic cost benefit analysis to the situation in 1940, he would have made peace with Hitler (a great admirer of the British and their empire) in a trice. But instead he applied moral judgement and gut instinct. All he had to offer was ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’, not to mention a police state, as you would term it, for the duration. There was no rational plan, only the offer of ‘victory at all costs and in spite of all terrors’ – the victory bit looking highly unlikely in 1940. The economic costs turned out to be horrendous. But we came through it all the same. Few doubted that it had been worth it.

  6. “The hallmarks of a dictatorship of the proletariat are beginning to emerge”

    Yes. This of course started with the brexit referendum and the ‘proletariat’ demonising anybody who dares to disagree with the result as “traitors”, including democratically elected MPs and members of the judiciary doing their jobs.

    My cousin, the son of a former coal miner, is a devout brexiter and ukipper and as he said to me last year: “the working class has spoken”. So this is nothing new. If you support a brexit by the proletariat you have to accept the consequences of an empowered mob.

    And a police state? We were nearly there in 1984. I accept the actions of some striking miners were completely unacceptable, but the use of the police as a quasi-military force should have rung alarm bells too. I believe the same thing happened suppressing public protests in the 1930s and earlier too. Other stories of indiscriminate kettling, which I have personally experienced as a totally innocent football supporter, are equally disturbing.

  7. Roger,
    Regarding the last paragraph, this may be Chesterton I am not sure and not entirely accurate – I don’t attend the Google School Of Knowledge – ” You cannot reason a man out of a position into which he was not reasoned into in the first place”.

  8. The gradual slide from a broadly independent and free society in the early 19th century into a technologically controlled supine populace is well established and shows no signs, let alone the means, to prevent its completion akin to Aldous Huxley’s nightmare novel in this century. British police on the streets with machine-pistols ready and willing to dispense instant and lethal ‘justice’, surveillance of movement and opinion an ever growing threat, and with the loss of cash as a private means of exchange for goods or services soon to be lost, we are at the mercy and will of the state and its agencies and their bankers.

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