Follow My Leader

So, we’re now about to go into a lockdown of sorts.

I say about to because in spite of the PM’s instruction yesterday, it’s not yet law and cannot be enforced. Of course, there are powers to allow the detention of infectious people, but not simply to remove anyone from the streets who fails to satisfy a police officer’s enquiry about meeting the 4 reasons set down by the Prime Minister.

Boris’s use of language was very precise (he is indeed a wily old boy): the police will have the powers. Expect these to be in place within a week, but until then, we’re free to breathe copious lungfuls into each other’s faces.

Now, I’m not advocating a brief window of civil disobedience and people should make up their own minds about how paranoid they are going to be about cops disguising themselves as pillar boxes.

But, let’s ponder on a few issuettes.

Firstly, on the point of strategy – or the emergent strategy as we might deign to label it.

Any government taking the unprecedented step of social curtailment who makes an announcement and stipulates with immediate effect before having the powers to enforce it all is clearly articulating policy on the hoof. Or panicking.

‘We’re mandating this because you wouldn’t all do it of your own accord, so now we’re telling you that you must do it immediately, but we know we still have to rely on you doing it of your own accord’.

Well that’s my subtext and I’m sticking to it. We’ve gone from ‘the naughty step‘ to ‘the monster will get you’, but Social Services haven’t yet kicked down the front door with the court order.

And this is the second time in less than a week that this has come to pass. Remember that the first set of measures relating to shop closures were announced on 20th March with an effective date of 21st March. Yet cheeky old Boris never presented his bill to Parliament until 23rd March. In fact, it’s still at first reading stage today (24th March). That one still needs to pass several stages before Royal Assent is achieved, and it becomes law.

They all just closed, though. Mind you, perhaps there were some eyes already on the proposed aid packages, so they might have not wanted to rock the proverbial boat.

But, imagine if Boris had pulled this caper with Brexit? We’d have not begun 2020 rewound to the summer of 2016. Although now, we have effectively fast-forwarded to the Spring of 2021. Or at least, that’s how it feels. We’re rapidly losing our chronological anchors.

The second point relates to power, authority, and compliance.

This nation spent the best part of 3.5 years blocking a Brexit led by Boris and supporting the sovereignty of Parliament to thwart it. Yet in the blink of an eye, it will accept the immediate removal of our freedoms on the word of the same man. Nobody is even considering that it all still needs to be properly incorporated into the statute books.

But this is how many react to fear, pressure, and role responsibility. We hand over and delegate our rights to whomever steps up to deal with the issues at hand, or we subjugate our own freedom of choice. The new dangers will now be for how long we will suspend our rights in the deep-freeze and whether any further measures will be ushered in with our absolute acquiescence.

It looks like MPS have at least demanded a 6-month review period on it all. Let’s just hope they all evolve suitably substantial backbones to subject any next steps to scrutiny. But don’t bank on it. Talk about letting go of the reins. Whatever the circumstances, a parliamentary democracy mandates challenging perspectives. Our lamentable political class has been woefully invisible. It’s why journalists have stepped in as the official opposition.

Once the dust settles, these asshats need to be defenestrated post haste.

Meanwhile, back to the Stanford Prison experiment, 2020 re-mastered edition. A guy sits behind a desk with our national flag draped behind him and states – as our leader – that something must be done. The occasion of a PM announcement brings families together to listen to his words. As a presenter, he looks directly into the camera. This is a personal appeal from a man who is – like us all – in danger from this killer, and we have responsibilities with our role as well-meaning citizens.

He invokes the spirit of togetherness (with him and each other) and a war, and hey presto, we take it as given that our freedom is restricted. It’s just how people will comply with the expectations that come from being in certain roles under certain astutely crafted contexts. Boris is the leader; we are all loyal subjects who will do as he requests.

The voluntary stuff didn’t work because those roles weren’t sufficiently clarified. Now they are with some tightening of context, we are all falling into line. But nothing has actually changed – yet.

We’ve all accepted it as a done deal, though. The only questions are for clarification of the order, not for testing the authority for it. And for a little while yet, there will be none.

Now, none of this is a comment on the rights or wrongs of the policy decision. It’s about our low level of resistance when faced with perceived obligations, roles and increasing pressure.

But we’ve accepted these changes without even understanding the plan. Without bottoming-out the rationale or necessity. It’s a blindfolded acceleration into a post-fact wilderness.

I can hardly bear to look.

unsplash-logoJackson Simmer

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