However, as the PM is now discovering, libertarian appeals to our good nature have rarely been enough
We use the rhetoric of war when we want to inject a bit of urgency, usually quite inappropriately – “the war on plastic bags” and so on. But in the case of this virus, the language is justified.
三级成人视频This is primarily because of the threat to life: the Government would be relieved if the number of excess deaths were kept to 20,000, which is, after all, half the number killed in the Blitz, and about as many as died in the worst epidemic of the 19th century, the cholera outbreak of the 1850s. Like war, too, because of the Government’s readiness to spend unlimited money and interfere in our everyday lives. But it is perhaps most of all like war because of the need to create feelings of solidarity: the willingness to be public spirited and to bridle our natural egotism.
Calling on the wartime spirit has become widespread in countries where collective memory of war still has powerful resonance. President Macron has called on the French to adopt a “sacred union”三级成人视频 – the emotive phrase used when France was invaded in 1914 – and to “act as a nation”. This patriotism is being backed up by 100,000 police officers and substantial fines; you need to fill in a form to take your dog for a walk.
I三级成人视频n all cases, it is the nation that is the focus. Some may regard this as retrograde, even dangerous, but it can hardly be denied that it is nations and their governments that are carrying the can. As in wartime.
But as in wartime, not everything can be done by compulsion. In dealing with this emergency, people have to be willing to trust, and to be led. So this becomes a test of legitimacy: not just of individuals – Johnson, Macron, Trump – or even of political systems, but of nations themselves, including ours.
George Orwell, writing critically about Britain in 1940, observed that despite all its failings there was “a certain power of acting without taking thought”, and “moments when the whole nation suddenly swings together and does the same thing, like a herd of cattle facing a wolf”.
H三级成人视频e knew that some people didn’t: he pointed to the Left-wing intellectuals and Right-wing plutocrats. There were also black-marketeers, hoarders, deserters, and the excessively cautious. But on the whole, he was right. Most people knew what they had to do and, however much they grumbled, did it. An American journalist noted “the English habit of considering war as a series of small personal affronts”, like tea rationing.
Today, it is clearly being told not to go to the pub, as the Prime Minister’s father has demonstrated. Perhaps, following Stanley Johnson’s example三级成人视频, we shall soon start drifting back, just as people in 1940 soon stopped carrying their compulsory gas masks.
三级成人视频Although voluntary acceptance of unpleasant necessity is indispensable because the state’s power is limited, it is rarely if ever enough, or not for long. It has been pointed out that Boris Johnson is a natural liberal, even a libertarian, who is reticent to tell people what to do. However, in moments of genuine crisis, such instincts have had to be supplanted. Regulation and compulsion become necessary to back up voluntary action – not to contradict it, but to supplement it. The best example in wartime is military service.
三级成人视频Until 1916, Britain relied on volunteers. But when volunteers dried up, conscription was accepted as necessary, not least because the families of volunteers wanted all other families to share the burden. I am proud of the fact that the Government today has begun by appealing to our sense of public spirit, and did not immediately turn to compulsion.
Perhaps the French are different: one French epidemiologist believes that they find it very difficult psychologically to accept social distancing, and certainly Macron’s early appeals were ignored. Nevertheless, our own national tradition is not simply one of unfettered libertarianism. Even in the 19th century, when “every Englishman’s home was his castle”, local health authorities had far more powers to interfere than anywhere on the Continent. There, troops were deployed to enforce mass quarantines; here, the sanitary inspector came to call.
T三级成人视频here was and still is a moral here: a government with popular legitimacy can do much more with much less. During the Second World War, the mobilisation of the British population exceeded that of Nazi Germany, despite its totalitarian compulsion.
Are we still capable of such collective efforts? So much has changed since 1940. Society is more atomised, less homogenous, less deferential, less trusting. Orwell thought that some things didn’t change in nations or individuals: “What have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person … it is your civilisation, it is you.”
But is it still “us”? We are about to find out. As I sit at my computer, self-isolating, I suddenly feel mildly optimistic. An unknown man on a motorbike has dropped off some groceries from the local Co-op, and my wife and I have joined our street solidarity group. If only we could hold meetings in the local – the ideally named Live and Let Live.