Day 55 (11 May): Oh, to be in politics now that COVID's here.
‘Stay at home’ is a clear course of action based on place. I have control; I can conform 100 percent; I know where the boundaries of my home are and I can remain within those boundaries.
I am thoroughly empowered to execute this course of action and this course of action is guaranteed to protect me. Not only do I have protection from the virus I also have a certain peace of mind as I am following sound, straightforward and comprehensible advice.
‘Stay alert’ is a different kettle of fish - or perhaps even a barrel of worms. It is rather like being back in the Boy Scouts again with that famous “Be prepared” motto. If I see the corona virus I will stab it with my Swiss Army knife and tie it up with my neckerchief.
What is that distant rustling in the undergrowth? What was that glimmer?
Is that a bear in the bushes or is it ……. the corona virus stalking me?
I can stay alert to the threat posed by predators, changing seas or the the oncoming storm. Staying alert protects me from things I can detect with my five senses. Things I can touch, taste, feel, hear or smell.
But a virus is not susceptible to detection by the senses. Yes, I can hear and see other people around me and on the basis of this input I can strive to maintain two meter social distancing. Or rather I can until such time as I am obliged to get on a bus, a metro, or a train. Until such time as I take my place in the meat processing plant, the production line or my shop. My awareness of the risk, which might well be one hundred percent, is not protection from the risk.
Alertness is a mental state not a physical position. In the previous ‘stay home’ proposition my physical position with in the boundaries of my house constituted real protection. The mental state or attitude of alertness doers not protect me against anything per se.
But - there is always a but.
Government, whichever government it may be, is not the simple mouthpiece for medical advice. Governments have a very difficult, indeed impossible, balancing act to maintain between ensuring the health of the greatest number of citizens on the one hand and the health of the economy on the other. And the latter is not to be dismissed out of hand as being much less important than the former. People can only stay at home as long as the lights remain on, fridges remain working and taps provide water. Food, clothing, medication and all the other necessities for life must remain available and money must come in to pay for that. Nobody is self-sufficient. Nobody. The machine needs to remain functioning as even the most sharing and caring economy needs to generate wealth in order to distribute it.
Government finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We all find ourselves a novel position with a virus which is far from fully understood and we are stressed and anxious. So we become angry and we seek to blame. It is human. We are human. Our leaders are also human. All we can hope for is that they do their best under very trying circumstances to reconcile the unreconcilable . Hand on heart, do we really think we would do better?
Hand on heart, do we really think that if we were in leadership roles we would wake up to a press which hails us as saviours?
We are like children wanting mummy and daddy to comfort us. And nobody can comfort us because the position is inherently uncomfortable. I’m glad I’m not a politician.
Send hugs to your loved ones!