It is a year now since I last took a train: a short return trip, from Leamington Spa to Oxford. On the journey out, I was lucky enough to find a seat in which, for some forty minutes, I shared the air with my fellow travellers.
At Oxford station I rubbed shoulders with a multiplicity of strangers as I joined the throng surging towards the exit and proceeding slowly through the congested barriers, then made my way along busy streets, brushing against other human beings on the narrow pavements.
At the Ashmolean I met a friend, and together we mingled freely with the rest of the visitors at the well-frequented Rembrandt exhibition, then chatted at length over a late lunch in the museum café, where the tables – disdaining any hint of anti-social distancing – were full to capacity.
Later, after a walk through Christchurch Meadow and along the river, exchanging smiles and occasionally the odd word with those I passed along the way, I spent some time browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in daring proximity with other booklovers before deciding on a purchase and braving the jostle of the station platform to board a packed train back to Leamington.
It was a very ordinary day – a day passed without fear as I came into contact with numerous unknown people, some of whom, no doubt, were suffering from the common cold or harbouring incipient or suppressed symptoms of influenza or even of Covid-19 (which, as we now know, had already been on the loose for several, possibly many, months at that time). Not for a moment did this disturb me.
Like all those in good health and unafflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder, I judged the hasard of stepping out boldly into the microbial soup which surrounds and permeates our existence to be a risk worth taking in exchange for the spontaneous social interaction without which human beings cannot thrive.
I never guessed that this could be the last time I would be free to enjoy a day of such unexceptionable pleasures.
True, rumblings of the pandemic had been growing over the previous weeks, but memories of previous damp squibs – SARS, bird flu, swine flu – which the worst-case speculations of computer-modellers had repeatedly failed to ignite encouraged me to hope that present reports from China and Italy, too, would soon fade into a penumbra of failed sensationalism.
And even if, this time, an approaching wolf really had provoked the gathering crescendo of cries, we British, I assumed, would not panic. Bracing their stiff upper lips, our elected representatives would eschew hysteria, and urge the population to face up to the novel virus with traditional sang-froid.
Instead, common-sense and trust in the survival instincts of rational human beings were abandoned, and plans carefully prepared in 2011 to see us through any future pandemic were jettisoned, on 23 March, 2020.
After all, this was “the greatest test since World War II,” according to the UN Secretary-General Guterres, and “the greatest public health crisis to hit this nation in a century”, in the equally alarmist opinion of Dr Robert Redfield, of America’s CDC.
Our own government’s advisers nodded their heads in agreement, the spotlight falling on Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, as he led the chorus of doom.
“The world is facing the most serious public health crisis in generations,” he proclaimed, predicting a possible five hundred thousand fatalities in the UK alone, if stringent measures were not taken.
And the lockdowns, distancing and masking began.
For close on a year now official statistics and figures spun out by a team of approved government experts into webs of cautionary speculation have justified rule by decree, depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself.
To anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of economic interdependence, the consequences of this decision to quarantine the whole nation were obvious from the start, and were uncannily favourable to the objectives of Agendas 21 and 2030, as handed down from the UN, via national administrations, to local governments throughout the world: but the people of the UK, it seemed, were convinced by the official “narrative”, thousands of them assembling on their doorsteps each Thursday evening to shake their fists at The Virus, and demonstrate solidarity with the NHS.
In the face of such unprecedented madness – after all, in the expert opinion of respected epidemiologist John Ioannidis, the outbreak on the cruise ship Diamond Princess had already indicated an infection fatality rate no worse than that of a severe flu – I defended my own embattled sanity by switching off the endless brainwashing of mainstream news broadcasts and shouting down the government-funded actors on the radio who urged me in homely accents and slick slogans to be good and do as I was told.
Bids to summon up the war-time spirit left me unmoved. No bombs were falling, and the only bodies accumulating in numbers sufficient to give serious concern were in the care homes, where government policy had shamefully accelerated impending death, and in private dwellings, where such trivialities as heart attacks, strokes and burst appendices took their untreated toll.
Each day I would haunt alternative websites, searching for consolation in less apocalyptic interpretations of the figures and statistics; for questions posed and solutions proposed by reputable, peer-reviewed scientists who dared to challenge “The Science”.
It soon became clear that the death count and infection rates attributed to Covid were being vastly inflated by a PCR test as unreliable as the computer models which had hurtled us into this new abnormal.
Yet no matter how often this was pointed out by the likes of Mike Yeadon, former head of allergy and respiratory research at Pfizer, and however many charts showed the over-all mortality rate to be nowhere near what would be expected in a pandemic (below), these facts had no effect on either government policy or the overwhelming acquiescence of a population made docile by an unending barrage of propaganda.
Over the months I have grown weary of figures and speculation.
All the figures can be forced into service of the approved Covid narrative, bar those which, when adjusted for age and population growth, intransigently record an overall mortality rate comparable to that of a severe flu season.
Nowadays I skip through or past articles that toss death counts and infection-rates about competitively in attempts to demonstrate the success or otherwise of lockdowns and masks; to decide the number of waves to be anticipated, the percentage of vaccinations necessary to achieve zero Covid, or the comparative spread and severity of all the new Variants of Concern which will no doubt be announced as the months go by; to assess the degree of speed and safety with which an ever-mutating stream of vaccines can be developed and unleashed upon a traumatised population to outwit the evolving menace…or, as Bill Gates has threatened, to counter even more terrifying pandemics.
While Piers Morgan whips up the mob on breakfast television and Twitter, smacking his lips as he contemplates the social isolation of anyone selfish enough to refuse the Covid jab, and my hope of ever again taking a train to Oxford, or to anywhere else for that matter, recedes further and further into improbability, the talking heads on all sides appear to me as irrelevant as a convocation of mediaeval monks wrangling over the number of angels that might comfortably occupy the head of a pin.
If we wish ever again to enjoy anything approaching the freedom we have lost over the past year, this constant chewing over of figures and statistics can only lead us astray.
The answer to Covid, and to any future pandemic, lies not in mathematical juggling or in speculative scenarios based on imponderable parameters.
As the past year’s worship of absolute safety leads us into ever deeper denial of our humanity, sanity requires us to shift the focus away from evaluating just how fearful we need to be, and return to the principles, once considered inviolable, which we have been religiously trampling under foot for the past eleven months.
We used to learn in Sunday School that perfect love casteth out fear. It is equally true that perfect fear casteth out love: and since the advent of The Virus, it has been doing just that – remorselessly, callously, self-righteously.
Think twice, says fear, before you offer spontaneous gestures of affection or concern, and remember that you yourself, and everyone you meet, are walking germ depositories, dispensing unseen particles of disease with every breath, and leaving a trail of unwholesome microbes on every surface you touch.
Your aged parent is losing their grip on life, for lack of contact with loved ones? Sad, but it can’t be helped. It’s for their own good that you abandon them to their loneliness. Your wife is dying of cancer in hospital, and you may not visit her to say goodbye? A shame, but stopping the possible transmission of Covid must be your priority. Your mother sits isolated at your father’s sparsely attended funeral (the bulk of the mourners are grieving responsibly in their cars, outside), and you move close to comfort her? No, no, no! This is dangerous, go back to your socially-distanced seat at once!
No bare-faced smiling at your neighbour in the street, or at that little child staring suspiciously at your masked face. Throw yourself under that (empty) bus, if necessary, to avoid cross-contamination when the pavement is too narrow to permit distancing. As for family visits, just make do with nice, aseptic Zoom. Stop the Spread! Be unselfish! Save Lives!
For yes, all these inhumanities are being promoted under the guise of selflessness.
While Covid rages, only selfish, uncaring people would dream of allowing their children to play freely with their friends, or to hug their grandparents; only selfish, uncaring people would want to share a meal or celebrate special occasions with other households; only selfish, uncaring people would expose each other to death-by-human-contact in order to give warm, physically-present support or solace, or to satisfy an unreasonable craving for companionship.
Remember that it’s all for The Common Good, as you stamp your obedient foot on another human face. Put on your mask, hide your feelings, and above all, for the sake of others, offer up your tainted body for purification, by grace of an experimental vaccine.
Most people, it’s true, are obeying rules which defy the age-old, instinctive wisdom of lovingkindness in the belief that they are not only saving themselves from a death revealed by ghoulish media reports to be more horrible than any other, but acting for the greater good: the means justify the end, and this is the only way back, they are convinced, to freedoms that were taken for granted a short twelve months ago.
But make no mistake, neither masking nor lockdowns nor vaccination will arrest the ongoing pageant of dehumanisation which is being rolled out globally in line with the well-published agendas of supranational corporations and NGOs interacting, via revolving-door networks, with governments – national, local and permanent.
Quite the opposite: the masks, the lockdowns, the vaccinations are useful tools, speeding the new abnormal on its way, and now that they have proved so effective they are set to continue indefinitely – perhaps with an occasional easing of restrictions in between fresh “surges”, to keep a figment of hope alive.
Already we are told that the miracle vaccines “tweaked” into being at the drop of a hat will not prevent the spread of infection.
Even if they did, they may soon be deemed ineffective against some new Variant of Concern or against yet more novel and even more lethal viruses. More lockdowns will be required, more vaccinations, more state surveillance, whilst the mirage of a return to the old normality drifts hazily away towards an undefined horizon.
What good can ever come from submitting, even in the belief that it is temporary, to a regime in which ostracism masquerades as solicitude, cruelty as kindness?
Now that governments in pursuit of greater control (and what government is not?) have discovered, in the words of Neil Ferguson, that they can “get away with it”, there will always be new, convenient infections to grant them licence; there will always be computer modellers who, assuming god-like omniscience as they set their faulty parameters, conjure up worst-case scenarios that justify what we know in our hearts to be evil.
Ultimately, the choice is not between different interpretations of statistics, but between a fixation on one single perceived threat to health, and respect for the moral imperatives which, until now, have guided our behaviour during pandemics.
Had we followed the plan laid down by cooler heads in 2011, we would not have transgressed the bounds of tried-and-trusted morality, and we would not now be facing the consequences of that transgression: in this country, millions of lives and livelihoods destroyed; in the wider world, hundreds of millions.
The makeshift hospitals put up in the UK to cater for the expected rush of Covid sufferers were named after Florence Nightingale, icon of compassionate nursing. So perhaps it is worth revisiting what she had to say about infections:
“Diseases are not individuals arranged in classes, like cats and dogs, but conditions growing out of one another. Is it not living in a continual mistake to look upon diseases as we do now, as separate entities, which must exist, like cats and dogs, instead of looking upon them as conditions, like a dirty and a clean condition, and just as much under our control; or rather as the reactions of kindly nature, against the conditions in which we have placed ourselves?
I was brought up to believe that smallpox, for instance, was a thing of which there was once a first specimen in the world, which went on propagating itself, in a perpetual chain of descent, just as there was a first dog, (or a first pair of dogs) and that smallpox would not begin itself, any more than a new dog would begin without there having been a parent dog.
Since then I have seen with my own eyes and smelled with my own nose smallpox growing up in first specimens, either in closed rooms or in overcrowded wards, where it could not by any possibility have been ‘caught’, but must have begun.
Nay more, I have seen diseases begin, grow up, and pass into one another. Now, dogs do not pass into cats. I have seen, for instance, with a little overcrowding, continued fever grow up; and with a little more, typhoid fever; and with a little more, typhus, and all in the same ward or hut. Would it not be far better, truer, and more practical, if we looked upon disease in this light ? For diseases, as all experience shows, are adjectives, not noun-substantives.”
According to Miss Nightingale:
“True nursing ignores infection, except to prevent it. Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attention to the patient, are the only defence a true nurse either asks or needs. Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection.”
Tell that to those who decided that old people already suffering from life-threatening complaints should be shut away for months on end, deprived of free movement in the open air and of the contact they crave with those they love!
And what would a woman who remarked, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear!” have thought of the deliberate incitement of terror which has been the hallmark of public policy in the UK for the past eleven months?
What would her opinion have been of a government that splashes out apparently unlimited sums of public money on fear-inducing propaganda, with the aim of increasing “the perceived level of personal threat…using hard-hitting emotional messaging”?
A Nightingale approach to Covid, and to all infections, would allow us to cast out fear in favour of love, resolving the present conflict between concern for public health and the moral imperatives which should always take precedence over panicked speculation.
It would, however, be exceedingly inconvenient for those currently seizing the chance to impose their anti-human agendas on humanity, under cover of a pandemic.
Header: Birmingham Museums Trust – Beauty and the Beast, 1904