I don’t know why I felt compelled to attend the London march on the 26th of June 2021 and not the previous ones. Distance (I live on the east coast of Scotland) was certainly a factor; but I think what swung it was finally, reluctantly, letting slip the last shreds of my belief that those who govern us do so in good faith.
Letting go of that belief propels one out of the civic enclosure (or maybe it’s more akin to walking out of a burning building) and into a lawless No Man’s Land — but either way you can’t go back; the gate clangs shut at your heels, the burning building collapses, and you are in the open, with the smoking wreckage of all your former assumptions behind you.
It’s only now that I appreciate I how much I cherished those comforting assumptions — in retrospect, almost touching in their naivete — that our great institutions were fundamentally correct, fundamentally intelligent, fundamentally ethical, fundamentally benign. Believing myself worldly, I used to concede that there are of course bad apples in every walk of life, but that overall the organisations and systems that steer our society would in time correct the malign, grasping, or merely misguided tendencies of the rotten few.
I have fought hard against the creeping realisation that I was wrong about everything. These past 16 months have thrown into stark relief how deeply our institutions have been compromised, their integrity so badly damaged that one wonders how long they can survive. Politics, the civil service, the Church, big media, big business, the NHS, education, the unions, the police, the scientific establishment, the arts, even the law: when it really mattered, not a single one of these institutions stood up for the traditions, the knowledge, the principles, and the people they claim to represent.
They folded – every one of them — in the face of some of faked videos from China and a nasty, engineered virus that 9,995 people out of 10,000 survive, with an average age of death of 82.
The depth of contempt in which I hold them all rocks me to my core. In a wry reversal of my previous view, I now concede that there are many — very many — decent individuals within all of these spheres; but that their benign influence is powerless against the organisational riptides of opportunism, inertia, complacency, incompetence, and outright corruption.
I do not see how they can ever regain my trust, or my respect. The politicians (moral and intellectual pygmies who inflicted these grotesque harms on us all wantonly, without justification or even meaningful debate); the government departments that used the might of their expertise to terrify and dishearten; the local councils who rushed to implement the scientifically-illiterate diktats issued by our devolved governments;
The churches who slammed shut their doors against their congregations; the media who ramped up the fear and repeated party lines without examination, analysis or challenge; the big businesses and chains who profited while small independent businesses went to the wall in their droves; the partnerships in the shadows meddling with gain of function, supplying PPE, testing kits and new vaccine technologies, suppressing discussion of potential existing treatments, providing digital monitoring systems and the framework for digital ID;
The NHS (“our” NHS) that for over a year made itself virtually a single-issue organisation — as if no disease mattered other than COVID-19 — leaving us now to face a backlog of some 13 million suffering patients; the doctors who unquestioningly injected the young without undertaking risk / benefit analyses, when longterm safety data for these experimental vaccines is years away; the universities and schools that capitulated in the face of the demands of their unions, abandoning their duties to their pupils and students;
The police, who enforced draconian laws with gusto, issuing fines to pensioners and arresting people for walking on beaches; the scientific community, which stifled debate, silenced concerns, ignored evidence (and smeared the proponents) of alternative treatments; the arts organizations that meekly shuttered their theatres and concert halls and sent their artists, musicians, dancers and performers packing.
And the last bastion of institutional hope for justice, the law? Where were the civil rights lawyers, in the face of the most egregious offences against our sacred liberties in living memory?
And almost worse than all the bad actors were those who watched in silence; who did not agree, but said nothing and did nothing.
Hell mend them all.
My government has forfeited the moral authority to govern. And with it, any moral obligation I had to follow any of its edicts.
I am a middle-aged, middle-class mother, a wife and small business owner, a civic-minded volunteer and mostly considerate neighbour, a supporter of small charities and individual efforts, someone who lets pedestrians cross and waiting cars out at junctions, a gardener and a cook, a dogwalker and a reader of fiction, an enthusiast of outlandish contemporary dance and loose leaf teas, a picker-up of litter, a voter and a tax payer, and more recently, an activist for liberty. All of that is still the same, except that now, I am an anarchist. This strikes even me as absurd, but there it is.
Outwardly, I daresay not much will change. My routines will stay the same — I won’t start speeding in town, or stop paying taxes, or drop litter, or rob my neighbours — but I cannot un-see what I have observed this past year; I cannot un-know it. In my heart of hearts, I judge the code by which our society now runs as being no more inherently virtuous than that imposed by an organised crime syndicate in some suburb of Reggio Calabria. As a practical matter, it is wise to not incur penalties needlessly with either society’s system, but only a fool would believe that the system – much less compliance with it — is ethical in itself.
What happens next, and over what time frame, is anyone’s guess. We denizens of the West, having lived through and benefited from a long period of stability, are prone to believe that stability is the natural order of things: it is not.
I’m afraid there’s nothing for it but to accept that we are in a time of radical uncertainty; we can either shield our eyes from this truth or embrace it, and with it the freedom to build anew, on a deeper and better foundation. We are in No Man’s Land, and we have been for longer than we ever suspected.
Only now, we know it.