Friday, 13 March 2020

Conform and die

Lots of people demanding that we "listen to the experts" today, which as usual is just a demand for conformity and obedience to the state - which is even more terrifying than the virus. Sheep who will follow the flock even if the destination is the slaughterhouse.

But here's the thing, see. I am not an expert epidemiologist but I do have access to a galaxy of expert opinion across the spectrum and not all of them are saying the same thing. So what the "listen to the experts" brigade are actually demanding is "Obey authority!". This I will not do, not today, not tomorrow. Never.

I run into this mentality in my own areas of interest where I am told to listen to "trade experts" as regards to Brexit, but I'm not actually convinced such a thing even exists. There are some respected international experts on the rules and processes of the WTO and I value their insights where they are relevant, but they tend not to understand the EU, especially the Americans. American expert opinion on Brexit is usually poor because as far as they're concerned the EU is just a trade bloc. They are seeing it from a single perspective, entirely ignorant of the political dimension.

And even if we are talking about the EU, we are dealing with a system of such labyrinthine complexity that experts routinely while away the hours bickering between themselves as to what basic concepts even mean. It's actually why the EU has a technical court process so that there can at least be an official verdict. It can often be wrong, but at some point there has to be final decision.

For all that, whatever the experts conclude, they can persuade me that Brexit is not good for trade, but that can't persuade me that I want to be ruled by this regime. Similarly the government (hypothetically) could persuade me that their virus strategy will contain the virus, but if that strategy writes me off as an acceptable loss, then I am entitled to question it. They cannot persuade me that I want to die.

Those demanding that we listen to the experts are demanding that we suspend our own critical faculties and trust the judgement of this government when the epidemiological advice is only a bit part of an overall strategy - taking into account our ability manage a large scale epidemic, which makes this a political, not medical assessment.

I don't know if I am an expert in the political, but as a politics blogger of more than five years, and with a memory that goes back considerably longer, I am able to evaluate the track record of government in managing a national crisis (not least its cack-handed approach to Brexit). Particularly remembering staring over Great Orton airfield as truck loads of livestock were unceremoniously dumped into pits. Their idea of controlling the spread of the disease was to kill everything that moved. The great British livestock holocaust.

The current Corona strategy is not all that dissimilar. They are not presently doing anything that would slow the spread of the disease or issuing adequate advice to that end. The plan is to let everybody catch it because reasons. And catch it they will. I've just had a DHL delivery person presenting me with a grubby digital device to sign for a parcel. I declined to do so. I suggested that he probably shouldn't be delivering a deadly virus to people's houses. He just shrugged and said "Nowt else to use mate". And that's the jobsworth mentality throughout. The bosses say the box has to be ticked so they comply even if it means it murdering your customers.

There are basic measures we could take to slow the spread of the virus, but even self-isolating up here in the vale of York, thanks to the government, I still get a dose because of the neighbour's drunken shopping spree on Amazon last night. I appreciate some parts of the economy must keep turning, but some things we can put on hold. We managed before the days of Amazon. 

Fundamentally this is a political estimation. We see the different approaches in the headlines illustrated above. The Irish approach is to try and stop people dying. The British approach is to take the hit and deflect the blame. That makes this a question of values. The UK approach is almost Soviet in its casual brutality - similar to the assessment that sending fresh slaves to the Siberian gulag was cheaper than sending sacks of food. Some of us are expendable in the greater good. This seems to be a common theme in this generation of Tories. First it was "Fuck business". Now it's "Fuck the elderly". 

What makes this disturbing is that this time around the demands for conformity come largely from the Tory herd. There's something about party loyalty that makes otherwise intelligent people utterly obsequious and servile to a suicidal extent. But it does tell us this isn't about heeding expert advice. This is pure politics, providing ground cover for their leader. As ever, it's party before country. Once authoritarians cried "conform or die". Now it's "conform AND die". You'll forgive me if I decline.

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