As we begin this covidious New Year, we should ponder certain questions with great care: Is “staying safe” really so important that we embrace slavery? If it is really a choice between safety or serfdom, which should we choose?
Generally speaking, I have avoided commenting publicly on the current pandemic and the political and cultural wars that it has engendered. There is a good reason for this. I have friends on both ends of the liberate versus lockdown spectrum and I’ve been trying not to cause offence. On the one side, I have friends who have serious health concerns and are fearful, reasonably enough, that contracting COVID could prove dangerous or even fatal. On the other side, I have friends who are completely blasé about the whole pandemic, feeling that any dangers, real or imagined, are far outweighed by the loss of political and religious liberty that the lockdown culture entails. This is also a reasonable enough position. The via media between these two extremes, if we might call either of these positions “extreme,” would have been a strategy of isolating or quarantining, on a voluntary basis, those with serious health issues, mobilizing the rest of the community to care for their needs. Such a scenario, should it have been adopted, would have enabled the healthy majority to continue with their lives, caring for their more vulnerable neighbours through government-assisted acts of charity, without the imposition of one-size-fits-all draconian measures by overbearing governments. This middle path has been the road less taken, or the road not taken.
On a personal level, the pandemic has impacted my life and work through the cancellation of almost all the speaking engagements on my calendar. Trips to England, Poland, Croatia and Argentina have been cancelled, in addition to numerous trips within the United States. I have happily accommodated those few, those happy few, who were determined to proceed, irrespective of the pandemic, travelling to upstate New York to lead a Shakespeare-themed retreat for a wonderful community of Dominican sisters and also to Oklahoma to give some talks to the equally wonderful community of Benedictine monks at Clear Creek Abbey.
Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, I contracted the virus, as I’d fully expected would be the case, sooner or later. I became sick on the day after Thanksgiving and felt really ill for fifteen days. I was never tested. What would be the point? It would have exposed other people unnecessarily to the virus and would have entailed getting myself somewhere at a time when I could barely get myself out of bed. I had all the classic symptoms, including a complete loss of the sense of smell, which has still not returned. My wife and son were both sick for a few days, whereas my daughter remained vivaciously asymptomatic, though it’s inconceivable that she had escaped infection. Since then, I have learned that several of our friends locally have also been sick with the virus this month, some of whom we haven’t seen for nine months because they’ve been ultra-cautious. All seem to have recovered.
I will confess a great sense of liberation at having let the wave hit me, and a great relief that the rest of my family has been hit by it also. We now have some natural protection from it and can presumably not put anyone else at risk, at least for a few months (nobody knows much about the longer-term consequences of having recovered from the virus).
For me, it’s always been about risk management. During the second world war, my parents’ generation “kept calm and carried on” during the Blitz, when Hitler’s Luftwaffe rained bombs on the civilian population, endeavouring to instill a reign of terror, presaging surrender. When I was a youth and young man, living in London during the 1970s, the terrorists of the IRA planted bombs in pubs and tube stations, targeting the civilian population. Nobody I knew let the fear of bombs prevent them from catching the tube in order to go to pubs.
There are of course differences between these situations and the present pandemic. In the case of the Blitz or the IRA’s bombing campaign, the decision to “keep calm and carry on” put the individual at risk, not anyone else, except perhaps the individual’s dependents. In the present situation, we are putting others at risk, as well as ourselves, whenever we venture into a public space. Does this justify the draconian measures imposed by governments? If it does, should we abandon our cherished political liberty every time a new globalist pandemic threatens our globalized world? Should we get used to doing what Big Brother tells us? Is freedom really necessary? Isn’t safety more important?
As we begin this covidious New Year, we should ponder these questions with great care. The so-called “great reset,” advocated by globalist Goliaths, such as the World Economic Forum, will lead to calls for greater globalist control over the freedom of nations and the lives of individuals, undermining national and personal sovereignty in the name of solving the global problems that globalism has itself created. Is “staying safe” really so important that we embrace slavery? If it is really a choice between safety or serfdom, which should we choose?
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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.