This article was first published in Medium.
It is because of pressure from experts and citizens, and because of citizens moving way ahead of Government in implementing physical-distancing measures from the bottom up, that the Johnson Government has finally moved, and that Covid-19 might be starting to be brought under control in the UK. This article explores these vital points, as we move into a three-week ‘lockdown’ period.
So the UK Government has at last imposed a lockdown. Sigh of relief all round. Better late than never.
Note well, however: it’s only really a partial lockdown. It’s still not strong enough, not properly precautionary: e.g. why are home and hardware stores still open?..Is being able to get the right DIY part for your conservatory really an emergency? What about building sites, and the continuation of work to built the eco-destructive boondoggle that is HS2: are those really essential jobs, right now? I would have thought it better to repurpose the work on HS2 for instance toward (e.g.) manufacturing PPE and ventilators.
The suspicion remains that the UK Government is still tacitly prioritising ‘the economy’ over people’s lives.
And: where are the adequate measures (e.g. a temporary Citizens Income) to encourage gig economy / self-employed peeps not to travel / to work?
And: Is the lockdown actually going to be enforced?; there are big mood-music reasons for thinking it won’t be.
But if we were to let all that pass for now, there would be some out there who would then think: the Government has at last sort-of risen to the coronavirus challenge.
My key point here is that there are still two things wrong with that thought, even if we let all the questions that I have raised above pass:
1. The only reason they have implemented the ‘lockdown’ is that they were subject to relentless pressure for weeks from some experts, commentators, citizens, who destroyed the absurd models they were using that would have infected most of us and demolished our healthcare system, who challenged their complacency, posed alternatives, issued warnings, noted forcefully what was happening elsewhere, etc. In other words: WE forced the course-change.
2. Meanwhile, while they were prevaricating and while we were urging the grave need for leadership and action, we the people already in many many cases moved ahead of them — and so managed to keep ahead of the virus. The rate of new measured infection (We will have no idea of the real rate of infection except to be certain that it is way way higher, as there has been so little testing) has slowed somewhat in the UK; this will be because of citizens choosing to act more precautionarily: before the Government issued any mandates at all, we voluntarily cancelled many events, shut down many institutions, started practicing physical-distancing, etc etc. In other words: WE led the course-course. We moved before they did.
These two points mean that if — and it remains a very very big ‘if’ — the UK now manages to avoid descending fully into the hell that has overwhelmed north Italy in the last fortnight, if we manage to avoid most of our health service being overwhelmed, with the huge further spike in deaths and suffering that such overwhelment brings, then it will be because the citizens led the Government. Not the other way around.
It’s just us. WE did this; we brought the UK to the point of having a shot still at suppressing this pandemic.
This is vital context for the period of community mutual aid that we have now entered into. A period in which there will be much need for quiet heroism, to save lives (and reduce isolation).
We are #alonetogether in this struggle; the Government are dragged along unwillingly behind what WE do and want and see the need for and call for — and co-create.
It is vital context also for the (vital) task of continuing to insist therefore that the Government does more — and that it doesn’t move in the >wrong< direction. (E.g. It would be moving in the wrong direction now to pour resources into airlines, or into HS2 — when, once again, those resources should be being poured into making PPE, and ventilators, and into the pockets of those who otherwise may continue to work sick, and so forth.)
Each in our own homes, we are powerful, and we are together. We have led, and we need to lead more.
The lives of our elders and medically-vulnerable, perhaps our own lives, and certainly our self-respect (what we used to call our souls) all depend on it.