In the year 1910, a law-abiding New Zealand citizen would hardly have been aware of the operation of the State. He would be aware of policemen walking the beat. He would probably use the Post Office. If a city dweller, he would ride on municipal trams. But that would have been the extent of the State’s visibility in his life. The hand of both parliamentary and local governance was very light. Income tax was low and state spending was well below 10% of GDP. When World War I came about and the rallying cry was heard, thousands enlisted to defend the Empire. But it was as free men that they were at liberty to respond.
A century later, the State has advanced and has us in an iron grip. Government expenditure hovers around 40% of GDP, close to the OECD average we are told, with more than half of this spent on public sector employees. We are heavily taxed, both directly and indirectly, and our living and working environments are heavily regulated. We rarely see the police, but they see us. We live in a world of almost Orwellian surveillance. The police have become, to use Peter Hitchens’ phrase, ‘paramilitary social workers’. No longer concerned with preventing crime, the State has moved firstly into the realm of managing citizens’ actions, and then secondly into the management of their thoughts and feelings.
Public transport is no longer a natural accoutrement to our lives. We are shoe-horned into cycle lanes. Car drivers are branded by parliamentarians as fascists. The imposition of multiculturalism, diversity and ‘social justice’ has meant that we are no longer a society unified around a set of common principles and values. If there were to be another war, and with no uniting national cause to rally behind, how could we possibly respond? In light of COVID-19 the answer is obvious. We will not be given a choice. The State will manage our lives right down to the minutiae, and it is as slaves that we will obey.
In his book The Broken Compass, Peter Hitchens attributes the rise of the state and of Anthony Blair-style political managerialism to a broken political system. The adversarial nature of our democracy, in which opposing arguments are presented in contrast before the electorate, has given way to parliaments made up of mostly very young career politicians, of a certain class and background, who completely agree with one another on almost everything. Political decision-making is now held to be too ‘complex’ for the ordinary person to comprehend. It occurs by ‘consensus’ within a commissariat of the political elite.
MMP pushes this even further. We have arrived at a point where parliamentarians from the major political parties are, for the most part, interchangeable. There are many National MPs who could defect to the Labour Party without having to change anything that they say or do or believe. Another characteristic of our broken political system is society’s astonishing shift to the left. Make no mistake about it – the National Party, with its belief in welfarism, nannying, globalism and general interference is a party of the left. Labour is a party of the far left, with the Greens occupying the leftmost lunatic fringe. The best that National can offer is a more competent handling of Labour’s policies than Labour itself is capable of.
This loss of proper democracy leaves us in mortal danger of being placed under total state control. The consensus of the left has spread well beyond parliament to infect our whole social fabric. Even if you work for private sector clients (as increasingly few do) and fail to embrace the various and obligatory state-sponsored alternative sexual lifestyle events and minority religious festivals, you may find yourself without a job. Our universities have morphed into left-wing madrassas of group-think where the weather is worshipped. Our schools have become open-plan centres for political indoctrination, founded on willful ignorance, meccas to ‘mindfulness’ stuffed with transgender toilets.
Almost all social discourse in New Zealand, not to mention the entire mainstream media, is left wing. The hard-left community newspaper which gets delivered here, reclassified – obviously – as an ‘essential service’, appeared to have been forewarned and forearmed to deal with the current ‘crisis’ and has been pumping out the propaganda from Day 1 of the ‘plandemic’. The government’s COVID-19 policy, this week’s editorial proclaims, rather than holding us under house arrest – as I had assumed it does – is actually to help us ‘reclaim our humanity’. Now that the economy has been terminated, the environmental ‘crisis’ could well be over. And I continue to paraphrase: despots like Trump who have ‘trashed’ science, morality and kindness in the public sphere have no further place.
“The seethe of individual entitlement and mindless, ant-like time filling that gave us the Ruby Princess and a million other distractions from the preciousness of life itself won’t easily make a comeback.”
Which means: you might not get your life back. The Ruby Princess is a cruise ship. Cruise ships, we are told, are bad. Tour buses are bad, although electric buses – which must now be rolled out everywhere, paid for by ‘magic money’ I suppose – are good. Some tourism is good, and although the editor is vague on this point, ‘good’ tourism perhaps involves people who eat organic food and do yoga. ‘Very good’ tourism combines these things with social ‘activism’ and the lecturing of others.
Ordering the lives of citizens by diktat has become the order of the day. We have been told to get used to a ’new normal’. If you were wondering what this means, beyond having your liberties curtailed, prepare to be bullied.
Going further, the editor continues (channelling The Guardian’s George Monbiot), “neoliberalism is collapsing in real time.” Power, she says, must migrate not just from the private sector to the state, but from markets to ‘the commons’.
As we know, the transfer of property – actual and intellectual – from individuals and from the Crown to common ownership or ‘the commons’ is in fact Communism. And so here we have a local newspaper, mandated during lockdown to do the government’s bidding, rolling out the Trotskyite Revolution while labelling Bauer Media, which closed its doors last week, as ’nasty’ for not handing over its magazine titles to its long-serving staff so that they, presumably, may do the same.
The left sees COVID-19 not just as an opportunity to massively increase state spending and permanently reduce personal freedoms, but to transfer power away from democratically elected assemblies (such as they currently are) to appointed select groups whose function will be to directly manage our lives, our thoughts and our actions – much as happens under the Communist Party in China.
Now that the economy is arrested and pollution has dropped, the editorial concludes, “we can […] choose what we want to keep and what must go.”
But of course we won’t be choosing at all. The choice can never be the individual’s lest the vision be spoiled. The Party will choose, and we will be stuck with the decision – much as we are now under lockdown. In a supportive letter to the editor, clearly included to buttress the same point, a correspondent describes how, as she drove her car along a deserted road to access a ‘free’ (to her, actually ratepayer-funded) service, she was struck by the ‘beauty’ of it all. How nice it will be if things can remain this way! Such is the hypocrisy of the left: that it’s fine to hold vast swathes of the population captive in order for the elect to have the highways to themselves.
Meanwhile, and in what I believe to be a more realistic assessment of our circumstances, The Telegraph is now warning Britons that the Great Depression of the 1930s will be as a dwarf to the ensuing carnage if lockdown isn’t ended soon. We would need to roll back the clock to the eighteenth century, the newspaper says, to reference a comparable meltdown.
Columnist Sherelle Jacobs points out, as several writers in The BFD recently have, that COVID-19 isn’t the all-encompassing threat to life that we thought it was – and the situation caused by it certainly doesn’t amount to a war. Wartime analogies, with their concomitant, imposed restrictions – and language referencing a ‘common enemy’ – are not relevant here. What we are facing is shortcomings in our public health system and a cosseted and over-fed population which, having never faced real hardship or been required to think and fend for itself, is afraid of its own mortality.
“It’s time,” says Jacobs, “that leaders levelled with us that this is more like the Aids crisis [of the 1980s] than a military conflict.”
“Neither modellers nor superforecasters nor epidemiologists can project its impact. […] Lockdown should be sold for what it is – a way of buying time for the health service, while the scientists get to know their new subject better.”
COVID-19 is something we are going to have to learn to live with. The fact that Anthony Blair and others on the left are pressing for war mode and for further sweeping government controls is something of which we should be very afraid. The disease is by far the lesser of the two evils. Lockdown would have been unthinkable 100 years ago. We didn’t imprison entire populations for what were then the common diseases of the day – typhoid, cholera, polio, or even the Spanish Flu of 1918. Quite the opposite. It was the infected who were quarantined, the vulnerable who were kept indoors.
The inherently left-wing nature of today’s society has brought about a complete reversal in our thinking. The criminal justice system sees the criminal as the ‘victim’, the victim as the criminal’s equal, and the Police as arbitrators between the two. If the victim is white and middle class it may even be that he or she is seen as the criminal’s capitalist or colonialist ‘oppressor’.
In education, knowledge (particularly knowledge inherited from our shared past) is seen as elitist. Emotional outpourings from people who are little more than children themselves form the accepted new wisdom in areas such as ‘climate change’.
The social welfare system portrays the long-term unemployed as ‘virtuous’, whereas the tax system views employers and the employed as contemptible and greedy.
In the domestic realm, the place of married family life and the raising of children within wedlock is viewed as being the equivalent, or less desirable, than raising children in free-form and ad hoc ‘relationships’. Easter cannot be mentioned, but Eid and Diwali must be celebrated in the streets using the public purse.
And so it is with public health, that the freedoms, lives and liberties of the majority are considered less important than the impossible task of ‘defeating’ the disease, while the lives of the elderly or the vulnerable, and people who are in the process of dying anyway, must be protected at any cost.
The value of life is immeasurable, except when ended in ways the left approve of, such as by euthanasia or abortion. Then it’s measurable, and the value is low. It is by the process of reversal that we seem unwilling to impose sensible, tailored measures upon certain groups which would see them stay isolated and protected while the majority accepts a manageable level of risk and sees liberty restored.
But of course, the overarching reason for the prolongation of draconian measures is that the lockdown is a leftist’s dream. In his excellent book entitled How to be a Conservative, the late philosopher Roger Scruton explains that most good things come to us as collective assets: “peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security and prosperity of family life,” and in all of this we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means to obtain them singlehandedly ourselves.
“In respect of such things,” says Scruton, referring to the leftists’ great twentieth-century advance, “the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull.” This is why the mad, Marxist experiment of lockdown must end before even more damage is done under the cloak of ‘kindness’.
If you enjoyed this BFD article please consider sharing it with your friends.