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Careful Handling or Heading for Oppression?

The shutdown of a previously free and democratic society has raised a number of questions over the past few weeks. Among these has been the safety and protection of people, to the point of placing this above and beyond all and any other considerations.

Yet those other considerations include the ability of people to go about their daily lives without undue interference by the state and it is this that, to begin with, seemed not to matter too much. Recently however, other aspects have been raised. One is that the almost complete cessation of life has meant businesses closing and some – perhaps a hitherto unforeseen number – will never reopen.

This includes businesses large and small. Already we have seen big companies go into administration and unremarked upon, smaller ones also. For those who seem to have lost sight of what this actually means, it is people’s jobs, their livelihoods, their reason for being. The reason for people to get up each day and in most cases work very hard to pay their bills, put food on their tables and pay their taxes.

Ah – taxes… Many people do not actually understand what taxes are so let me clarify this a little. Tax (as in what the government takes from you) is what you pay for the service delivered to you. Let’s put that slightly differently; we – you and I - elect a government to run our country on our behalf. To do that requires money, so we consent to giving our elected government the ability to put in place those taxes. This by the way includes not just general income tax, but also taxes on business, on companies that employ us. On top of that, it also includes local tax, like the Council Tax – for this we still elect councillors to run our towns and cities for us, to keep the street lights on and our garbage cleared (among a large number of other aspects to running the places where we live). Both elected government, our Members of Parliament (MPs) and our local Councillors, then use our taxes to also pay people to serve our needs and run those things we need to live our lives.

What we do not do however, is elect these people and pay our money to them, for them to then order us about and otherwise tell us what to do – and what not to do.

We do however, give them our permission to make decisions that will affect us and by and large, follow the judgements they make and the advice they provide. We give them our permission to make laws that we then agree to abide by so our society will work – but every MP and every Councillor, every civil servant and every council employee, are still accountable to us, the people who gave them their jobs (and the salaries that go with those jobs).

And if they decide to take away our jobs and our income, along with our freedom, there needs to be an exceptionally outstanding reason for it - is there?

In my last column (The Trial of the People - I raised the question of what a Coronavirus actually is and whether or not any variation of a Coronavirus will kill you. I repeat my assertion that none, by themselves will - including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 (C19).

But C19 has been used to take away almost every freedom we had. Even though C19 is a very serious affliction and can lead to other infections that will kill, is it really sufficient reason to deny us our ability to have a life and to be free to lead that life?

C19 is most certainly a reason to put in place a number of measures to restrict the chances of catching it, social distancing and limiting the numbers in shops and stores being an obvious one. Yet social distancing can be applied to most every part of our daily lives. That said, it must be pointed out that it isn’t really possible for a hairdresser to be two metres away from their customer while cutting their hair. One can still do other things to mitigate the chances though, including wearing a face mask if really needed, where applicable and should the wearer choose to. Is it a reason for shutting schools? Children have been coughing, sneezing, spluttering and snorting over each other since children were invented but we have never hobbled education because of it. Yet again however, there are other things one can do to reduce the chances of infection at school, just as there are in almost every walk of life.

One cannot eliminate it entirely so there is still a risk, whatever one does, but (a point I make in my book, Comments of a Common Man), the elimination of risk completely also means the elimination of freedom. The same basic freedoms we have had as a right since long before any of us were born. The UK has gone to war to keep freedom, most notably between 1914 and 1918, then again between 1939 and 1945. We, as a country, stood alone in 1940 and we stood alone again in 1982 during the conflict over the Falklands Islands. 1982 was a little different to the earlier examples, in that the results did not affect anything we did here at home but both world wars certainly did. These were times in which we followed our government’s advice and changed the way in which we did things. We accepted, and with good reason, the restrictions that war brought (we could still get our hair cut however). But we are not at war now, in 2020. We are not in an armed conflict, despite the sensationalist use of the word ‘war’. This is a health emergency, nothing else.

So we cannot treat it in the same way. And we cannot allow any government to sweep away our freedom. We cannot allow the police to treat everybody as criminals, to throw their weight around and overstep the mark as some have done quite markedly recently. The example of Derbyshire Police using drones to spy on people, posting the videos on twitter with captions decreeing what is ‘not essential’ is a perfect instance of a message going awry somewhere. The same applies to the officer who told a man his children were not allowed to be in their front garden. The same applies to the Chief Constable who suggested that officers would be stopping people to rifle through their shopping to check for ‘non-essential’ items bought from legally open stores. Granted that particular remark was subsequently retracted but the real question is why are we having this conversation to start with? Why are some police officers behaving in such an oppressive manner?

The answer is more long-standing than one might think. One of the responses quoted as coming from government is surprise that so many people, the vast majority, are observing social distancing, are staying at home as much as possible, especially when compared to some other countries. But we in the UK have, for many years now, been subject to a very stealthy move towards the restriction of our once-cherished freedom. Beginning in 1997, various procedures have been quietly put in place to remove our abilities to come and go as we wish, to live our lives free from undue interference by the state and its agencies, including the police. Few Chief Constables for example, have worked their way to the top by starting on the beat, doing an honest day’s grass-roots policing. Too many now occupy their positions as a result of political correctness and a willingness to embrace every government decree with enthusiasm. This is also why an increasing number of people now have criminal records for offences they did not commit – the result of a drive to increase convictions no matter what. And having a criminal record means the state’s ability to control one is enhanced.

And by the way; included in those taxes mentioned earlier is one that pays for the police. Looked at solely from that point of view, the police are not our masters – we are theirs. This is a point which applies to the government, both national and local. They are not in charge. We, the people, are. This is what is meant by ‘policing by consent’. We give our permission for the police to have enormous power, power needed to deal with those who really are a threat to the rest of us. But what we give, we can take away – our consent.

The arrival of C19 has provided an ideal opportunity for those in a position to do so, to exercise more control over the population. And we British have meekly allowed it to happen. I do not – most emphatically do not – suggest ignoring social distancing and other sensible measures to protect ourselves. But coronaviruses have been with us for some time. While SARS-CoV-2 (and its result COVID-19) is a new strain, it is still a coronavirus like three strains of the common cold, – and it will not go away.

When the current lockdown does end the fears expressed that ending it too early in case C19 returns are disingenuous and misleading. It will still be here – a vaccine will be found at some point but...just as flu vaccines do not eliminate flu entirely, neither will a vaccine for C19. Some people will have a greater resistance to C19, just as some have to a cold or to flu for that matter (which by the way is not a coronavirus despite the similarity in both symptoms and what it can lead to). Some will be more at risk from it, of all ages.

But to eliminate that risk means to eliminate freedom - and that is a price too high.

© Kevan James 2020

The NHS; Politics and Politicians; Law and Order; the EU; The cost of having a home;

Killing off the old; the rise of state power, the risk to freedom and more;

Comments of a Common Man Edition 3 is available from Amazon at £9.99

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