People have got understandably upset over the thousands of Londoners* crowded into St Pancras last night trying to escape London. Yesterday, travel was banned for Christmas in the south of England with 8 hours notice. Previously, there were repeated promises that that definitely wouldn’t happen, so everyone made plans and promises and then had eight hours to fulfil those plans and promises, leading to scenes like the above picture.
With our new mutated virus, this could be catastrophic, and I’m seeing a lot of anger towards the people who travelled, but not enough with the people who caused all this. And since the virus started so much blame has been turned on individuals making stupid decisions, which hasn’t helped at all. The argument I keep seeing from anti-maskers is ‘It’s all about personal responsibility.’ ‘Stop telling me what to do, leave it up to personal responsibility.’ And then from the government ‘These people aren’t using personal responsibility, what’s wrong with them?’ For example:
‘The Government should allow us to take personal responsibility in the ongoing battle against Covid, not put us on the naughty step’Julia Hartley Brewer from a Telegraph headline.
‘Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that ministers will fail to get the new strain of coronavirus under control unless the public take personal responsibility for preventing its spread.’From the Independent
And it’s bollocks. Utter utter bollocks.
Because these people in St Pancras ARE using personal responsibility, that is exactly the problem. Their personal responsibility is to their families, their mental health, their happiness. They’re trying to get home to fulfill their personal responsibilities, but in such a panic that it doesn’t occur to them that lots of other people would do the same or how disastrous that might be.
What these people need is group responsibility, social responsibility, and that isn’t (in our individualistic society) so easy to come by, especially in a crisis.
That’s why we need a government, to control society in times of trouble so that our individual needs don’t take over. We need them to make calm, logical, consistent decisions so we know what to do. Instead we’ve had vague, rambling, ever changing decisions that are so ludicrous it’s led to constant doubt that the virus even exists despite 1.6m deaths worldwide.
From the people I know who are trying to do the right thing, I keep hearing the same cry. They say, ‘I need someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do for the best,’ and more importantly, ‘I need someone to tell the people I’m letting down that it is for the best.’ Because this situation is complicated and unfamiliar and no one can agree about what’s going on we each cling to what makes sense to us personally. It’s the work of our government to think in terms of the country as a whole, we can’t do that.
But in order for our rulers to be capable of that, they have to have social responsibility. We need a prime minister who isn’t acting purely with selfish, panicked (or disaster capitalist) interests and can instead make decisions that benefit the people of the country he’s responsible for, no matter how difficult. That’s the role he chose to take on.
We need a leader, not Bojo the clown.
* Actually, they probably aren’t Londoners if they’re going North to get home for Christmas