I openly admit it – I am by heart and nature a libertarian. I don’t like being told what to do and I like it even less when I am told what to do by a bunch of politicians, listening to a bunch of public servants who have a very clear and limited agenda to keep us locked up.
Quite clearly this attitude of mine puts me to the right of the political spectrum. Although, like most other people, I do not believe left and right mean a great deal these days. It has put me at loggerheads with friends who believe that every life is sacrosanct and should be protected at all costs. I, on the other hand, in the knowledge that the grim reaper will take us all eventually, believe that there has to be a balance between protecting one person’s life and saving the livelihoods of thousands.
So I was horrified to read this last weekend that the cost of the UK government’s actions in putting us in lockdown twice (so far) has cost the country six million pounds (£6,000,000; LKR 1,467,370,000) for every single person who has died with Covid-19. Even worse, the startling truth is that this single disease has a fatality rate of only 0.6 per cent and an average age at death of 82 years; so ultimately, it is hardly worse than flu, which has a fatality rate of 5.7 per cent for those who catch it and are admitted to hospital. Meanwhile the World Health Organisation estimates that between 290,000 and 650,000 people die worldwide every year from flu-related causes with around 67 per cent of these being over 65 years old.
On the other side of the equation the hospitality industry has been decimated. Cinemas, theatres, pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, travel agents and many more businesses, especially small businesses have suffered horrendously. Suicides are up, divorces are up, and bankrupted businesses are up, mental health problems are up and all at a cost of £6 million for every person who has died of Covid.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel the distress of every family member who has lost a loved one. Of course it is devastating for them, but many of them will also be people who have seen their savings drained away by enforced lockdowns and their jobs evaporate almost overnight, when a year ago things looked so rosy for our economy.
I know that we Brits are a bolshie lot and don’t take kindly to being pushed around. Although, whilst I would suggest that Sri Lankans are much more tolerant and forgiving, even you must be feeling a little put upon by your politicians.
Who, for example, gave politicians the right to take moral responsibility for decisions about an individual’s right to life and death? I can think of some 83 year olds who are incandescent with rage that their civil liberties have been removed and that they haven’t been allowed to see their children or grandchildren, or in one case their husband, because of some arbitrary rules drawn up by a government minister, who is listening to a bunch of public servants waving some dodgy statistics their way.
Let us just assume for a moment that you are an elderly person who is judged to be at high risk of catching the virus and of dying as a result. Are you not within your rights to say that you are prepared to take the risk because living without seeing your family is just an isolated intolerable hell of a life to live? Ah, I can hear the do-gooders saying, but you are putting other people at risk and you could potentially cause problems for the doctors and nurses in clogged up hospitals.
Well sure, but in that case ban all smokers and drinkers because they are damaging themselves and in the process cost our health services vast amounts of money in having to treat them, when they get cancer and other related illnesses. And don’t forget to ban all those people who drive because they cause lots of deaths on our roads (and that summoned up some scary memories of driving on Sri Lanka’s roads). So where does it stop and who is the arbiter of such decisions.
I don’t think it matters whether it is in Sri Lanka or the United Kingdom, or indeed anywhere else on our planet. It is very dangerous when government starts acting as our moral conscience, starts making decisions on our behalf over which we have no say, and starts telling us what we can and cannot do in an arbitrary fashion and without proper debate. George Orwell wrote a novel about it once which was called ‘1984’ and it didn’t end well for the people.