The COVID-19 virus is just that: a virus. It’s an indiscriminate microscopic parasite that relies on a host body to thrive and reproduce. Ruthlessly efficient and devoid of any emotion a virus does not care if you’re fed up with it or not, and it doesn’t give a toss about your opinions on how the government has handled the crisis. It’ll kill you anyway if it gets the chance.
As humans we’re a bit like a virus too. We rely on a host body – the planet Earth – and we infect almost every inch of it, thriving and reproducing whilst slaying any element of the native host that gets in our way. But we’ve got an edge over a microscopic virus: we discriminate, we have emotions, and we have reason and logic that allows us to make informed choices. These evolved capabilities ensure our ongoing survival.
Right now it seems to be in short supply – two elements in particular more so than others: goodwill and compassion. The ever-reducing levels of this in the UK today – even in my own social circles – is cause for grave concern about the human condition.
I am often faced with arguments from otherwise rational people, some of whom I count as friends, that we should embrace the part of Darwinism that argues for the survival of the fittest and just let the weak and feeble die. Others argue that we should lock up the infirm and vulnerable and just let the rest of us get on with it whilst they languish, presumably in their homes if possible but in a ‘safe place’ somewhere if they resist perhaps. Such a place might even be a lovely gated community out in the countryside somewhere that can be used to collect all of the nation’s sick and vulnerable persons they might argue. I wonder where we’ve heard that kind of suggestion before.
I can honestly say that seeing these arguments being made scares me more than the virus, and depresses me a hell of a lot more. Where is the compassion? Where is the concern for our fellow men and women who walk the earth besides us? I don’t think it is the mark of a compassionate society to tell a 70 year old they cannot be part of it any more – to lock them away and forget about them whilst we all enjoy a frappe at Starbucks or Costa.
Oh we’ll send for them – I’m sure that’s what they’ll say. Others would even chastise me for placing a conclusion on their shoulders that they never even uttered. But did the volk of the 1930s and early 1940s chatter about the ever-shrinking population in their towns and cities whilst they munched on Black Forest Gateaux together?
What’s frightening is how I see these arguments being made in front of and to the very people who would be affected by them. I’m one of them as a very overweight person I suppose. Sure, it’s my own fault – nobody forced me to overeat. The sentence is premature death anyway – it just stings a bit to hear friends and colleagues seek to bring forward my date of reckoning. Prior to now my obesity was my burden to carry – literally and psychologically – and it was mine alone. I had rather thought perhaps I’d go out like Elvis, but now a late night trip to the loo doesn’t seem quite so threatening.
Oh look, I am sorry to be getting in everyone’s way, to be a burden to the plans of those who are jus itching to ‘get on with it’ – the thin and nimble elite who are desperate to once again get up close and personal to a stranger in the queue in front of them at Sainsburys for a good old nose at what’s in their basket, or their plans to rub their faces into the sweaty armpit of another stranger at a music gig. Forgive me for denying you the right to sit around a table swigging wine and casting further judgements on all those who get in your way.
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge,
“they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Interestingly, the same people who are so keen to ‘get on with it’ and return to hugging a stranger in a moment of uncontrolled ecstasy when a multi-millionaire footballer scores a goal are not the same people I see besides me as I pack Christmas Care Hampers for deprived and vulnerable members of the community in which I live. They’re not the ones who have been delivering food parcels to badly affected families who are struggling to even put food on the table – some of them perfectly thin, healthy and equally keen to ‘get on with it’. I suppose they would argue those people are also weak and feeble too, and perhaps even they should join those other weak and feeble people out in those gated communities in the countryside they might argue, wrongly.
Ironically, perhaps, I’m more likely to see the multi-millionaire footballer with more compassion for their fellow human beings than some people who aspire to a fraction of their success.
It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? But the only reason we don’t descend it as a society is because – thankfully – there’s enough of us with compassion and who care for our fellow human beings enough to stop those who advocate a strategy that, if taken to its logical conclusion (which for some reason they neglect to think about) ultimately would lead to, let’s face it: execution by neglect.
It’s not the same everywhere you go in this world – and it’s certainly had its moments of near total absence, but broadly speaking and in thankful tone I can say that I still believe that in today’s UK there’s enough compassionate people who are willing to keep extending their compassion and their support to all those who need it. I haven’t given up – yet!
Don’t get me wrong: the measures imposed by government around the world and across the UK suck big time. I’m not denying anyone their right to complain about them, or indeed the approach taken to date. What sucks even more is the overreaction of some to them and the way in which they drive public opinion in the modern era. The path they put is on leads to the abandonment of our compassion and goodwill and we must do everything we can to steer ourselves back onto the path of righteousness.
The laying down of our personal liberties and freedoms so that we can all weather this storm together is the most compassionate thing we can do. It is a sacrifice we make, each and every one of us, every time we follow the rules. It is a personal resistance to the darker aspects of humanity that we fought so hard to turn our backs on many years ago.
Every time we are denied an overpriced sit down coffee with our friends we are reflecting compassion and goodwill to all. We are not saying ‘get out of my way’ and ‘let us get on with it’, we are saying let’s walk our shared path together.
The restrictions and measures put in place are the modern day equivalent of the Ark, all we have to do is step inside and accept that the passenger sat at least 2m apart from us has just as much right to be there as we do. There is the dry land of vaccination straight ahead; let us set our course and sail there together.