Pulling Together


Marking Time

January ends at midnight. A whole month of the New Year is already over and I'm still waiting. Waiting for what? You might well ask. I'm waiting to get my privacy back, to be able to live at my own pace in my own home. That is tantalisingly close now, but not quite here.

If you think I'm being mysterious about this you are right. I am. It’s difficult to go into details when the domestic situation is in a state of change, as I’m not the only person involved so I have to be careful. Life has been difficult for over a year now and may continue difficult for a while longer, but there are signs things could calm down in the next few weeks.

I spent much of 2020 supporting a vulnerable person I loved through the hardships imposed on her and her disabled son by restrictions he could not understand. In the autumn of 2020 we underwent a ceremony which should have brought happiness and stability, but had the opposite result. Now we are in the process of extracting ourselves. I have submitted a nullity petition and the lady concerned is in the process of preparing to move into a new house. Officially, she now has a home of her own, but it needs painting and carpeting, so she continues under my roof for now.

I have lost the house I loved and moved to one I do not enjoy on the other side of town. I do not know where I might go next. Meanwhile, the Covid crisis grinds on, I watch the case numbers every day, hoping for a sign it will go away, but the obsession with case numbers hides the reality that is not how it will end.

Today’s data is delayed, probably because the process for analysing it has changed. It did not previously include people who had had the virus before. Now it will. We have been warned to expect a step increase as the extra cases are included. However, this higlights why case numbers are misleading. In fact, all the statistics used with Covid are misleading. People who die within 28 days of a positive test are counted as Covid deaths, but over half the people with Covid in hospital are not actually in for Covid. If they are seriously ill with something else and die they will be in the numbers, even though Covid is not what killed them. When that’s just a few per cent the difference is small. When it accounts for over half the cases it’s misleading to the point of provoking unnecessary panic. Obsession with case numbers hides the reality this is no longer a serious killer. In fact, the numbers dying in the UK are comparable to the daily deaths from Winter ’flu in previous years. We didn’t panic over those. We just accepted them and got vaccinated if worried. Everyday life did not stop.

It seems likely this is ending in a different way, but we are yet to notice. Case numbers will remain high while we care to measure them, but the numbers going into hospital might fall away as our bodies become accustomed, initially through vaccination and later by natural exposure, to this simple biological hazard, as they are accustomed to many other viruses which cause no symptoms or colds. Colds, I understand, were devastating when first introduced to North America, killing huge numbers of people who had not previously had them. Of course, I’m suggesting this with no medical training whatsoever, so don’t rely on it. It’s just what I think I’ve heard and it seems plausible to me. Maybe it just expresses a hope born of fatigue with the whole thing. Time will tell, but the waiting is difficult.

As time drags on, tensions begin to appear in many places. The longsuffering public are dismayed by the behaviour of those who imposed the rules, only to ignore them themselves. Sue Gray’s preliminary report published today already makes it clear just how inappropriate the behaviour of those in Downing Street seems to ordinary people who suffered great hardship while those demanding it lived according to quite different standards. Now this used to be commonplace, and perhaps Mr Johnson is simply behind the times. After all, there was a wartime song with the lyric, “Follow the man with the big cigar.” celebrating Churchill’s favourite smoke at a time when cigars, big or small, were simply unavailable in the shops. It seemed few, if any, thought it inappropriate the prime minister should enjoy privileges beyond the access of others then, but now is a different time. Of course, Churchill did not pretend he didn’t enjoy brandy, cigars, and fine food. He famously thought a week’s ration was adequate for a single meal when shown its contents.

Part of the problem with the public mood today is the lack of transparency. The media have become so lacking in detailed analysis that instead of examining issues critically from multiple angles, the tendency is simply to support an official line and describe anything else as misinformation. So, in place of debate we have an officially sanctioned viewpoint and dismissal of any attempt to challenge or examine it. This, in turn, leads to widespread mistrust. After all, shouldn’t those who can justify their position do so? Censorship of alternative viewpoints gives the impression those doing the censoring cannot justify their position which throws further doubt on its legitimacy. Dismissing scepticism as false without engaging just deepens mistrust and enables incorrect information to go unchallenged. The answer to misinformation ought to be logical argument, not censorship. Censorship just confirms the idea we are not being told the truth. It is highly counterproductive. It convinces no one and arouses suspicion.

It is therefore a public which already believes it is being lied to which is angered by the discovery the governing elite were not keeping the rules they said everyone must follow and imposed as law. Can Boris Johnson survive in his current rôle? Possibly. Will his government have any moral authority if he does? Probably not. Can a government lacking public recognition govern? Again, probably not. If he has lost the confidence of the people, who is going to obey him?

These are interesting times.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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