These are indeed strange times. Over the past seven months one doesn’t need have to travelled too far down the avenue of degrees of cynicism to have gained the impression that the world has taken leave of its senses and that every principle of the human condition – and quite possibly also every scientific and medical fact or current belief as to what we have so far discovered or hatched – has been collectively and progressively set aside.
One way and another it seems that very little is what it once was deemed to be and – after this length of time living under these extraordinary circumstances – nothing whatsoever that came to pass from now on could possibly surprise or faze the bulk of us anymore.
I invite each reader to list his or her own preferred recent examples: I’m not going to bother to detail mine here both because they’re too numerous to mention and I don’t wish to bore or become an insomnia cure.
One worrying aspect that I’ve noticed becoming more prevalent is how the Covid-19 crisis has turned a number of apparently otherwise normal and sensible folk into willing supplicants to the rash notion that an all-powerful Nanny State would be a wonderful executive under which to live their lives.
When the Government attempted to get kids back to school a month or so ago, a tsunami of protest and concern arose fuelled by the issue of whether or not it was safe to do so … and when it then back-tracked in response, it then immediately received an incoming volley of outrage that they weren’t forcing kids back to school because it was suddenly realised that an entire generation of youngsters would be “left behind”, their life chances blighted because they were being kept at home where most efforts at “learning” were ineffectual either because of inept/feckless parents and/or the inability of schools to provide half-decent home schooling services (and/or indeed – due to poverty, deprivation and poor broadband services – the inability of kids to “receive” them).
Take the furloughing of employees.
The Government arguably ‘did the right thing’ by throwing billions into the pot in order to enable employers to retain staff temporarily until it was safe to come out of lockdown. Then the self-employed protested because they didn’t qualify. So a scheme was devised for them. Again, this wasn’t enough because it attached certain conditions to the scheme … which meant that a significant subset of people who either called themselves self-employed – or had started under that status after the “qualifying date” – were left out. And that was unfair to them, of course.
Then, inevitably, separate but somewhat similar professions have been treated differently.
Currently the beauty parlours (presumably the likes of those dealing in nails, botox and artificial tanning) are protesting because hairdressing salons have been allowed to open again … and they haven’t.
To jump straight to an extreme, once any industry or business-type was given any assistance, a belief became widespread throughout the UK that anyone purporting to run a business of any nature ought to receive funding to tide them over until the virus issue was in the past.
It wasn’t long before “We’re all in this together” in effect became a call for every man jack (and woman) citizen in the UK of working age to be effectively given a “living income”, irrespective of whether they were actually working or not.
For me, it’s quite likely that this stance could ultimately have unintended consequences.
It can be presumed that:
This same virus crisis has made a lot of people realise that they can work from home almost as easily from that infernal office in a city centre to which they used to have to commute every day.
Employers have also been forced to find new and innovative ways of running their businesses and workforces (and thereby possibly save on office rents etc.), including perhaps investing AI – Artificial Intelligence – robots in preference to people for many routine tasks.
After all, why employ people at all if you don’t have to anymore?
Unions and others keep banging on about “worker exploitation” – well, those classified as “workers” may be freed forever from the stain and unfairness of being exploited sooner than they think, i.e. as soon as cheap massed-produced automatons are developed who can do their tasks at a fraction of the cost .. and never break down, never take holidays and never sue the organisation over its lack of diversity and other supposed “failings”.
When the history of this pandemic finally comes to be written we will no doubt learn whether this Tory Government has made a complete Horlicks of its response to the crisis.
I’m not a fan of Boris but – given my possibly naïve assumption that the Government at least done it’s well-meaning level best and my scepticism towards the quality of politicians generally – I suspect it’s on the cards that both any alternative shower (of any political persuasion) would have achieved a not dissimilar batting average and, to be fair to politicians everywhere, inevitably there’s a slice of “Whatever you do is going to be wrong” that needs to be taken into account as mitigation.