You perhaps know how it is with simple natures that fasten themselves like lichens on the stones of circumstance and weather their days to a crumbling conclusion. The great world sounds widely, but it has no call for them. They have no soaring intellect.
Theodore Dreiser - The Lost Phoebe (1918)
As we know, a core problem with the coronavirus debacle is that it may be absurd but is not entirely based on absurdities. The virus is real, poses a moderate but serious risk to the old and vulnerable and is easily transmitted from person to person. The virus is not absurd - but for the developed world it is far from a catastrophically destructive pandemic.
Yet if the Tory government had taken a laissez faire approach to the pandemic, all of the deaths would have been laid at the Tory door by our hopelessly irresponsible media. Advantages would have been obliterated by a storm of media fear-mongering. The Tories could have been finished for a decade or more.
In which case it was understandable that the government soon chose to be conspicuously proactive, whether or not the activity was actually useful. It merely had to be plausible, highly visible, intrusive and ruthlessly persistent. It had to grab the headlines and hold onto them for month after month. Hence lockdowns, social distancing, closed businesses, closed schools, masks and endless briefings.
All this has steered us into a political situation akin to wartime, where the UK establishment seems able and willing to impose a far more totalitarian governing ethos without major opposition. A development fully in line with our steady decline into totalitarian government.
It is always worth asking ourselves where the core problems are, even if we think we already know. As many have said over many years, a major problem appears to be the size and reach of government bureaucracy and government patronage. It is now well beyond democratic control. That ship has sailed and is taking us towards totalitarian government. There are too many vested interests, too much patronage, too many comfortably gullible voters, too much apathy.
This is what decline looks like from the inside. At least we have the virus to thank for highlighting that. Clear and distinct as philosophers used to say.