People on here will be familiar with the frustration of trying to argue with bed-wetters about lockdowns. It doesn't matter how many points you make about Professor Ferguson being a certified quack, PHE's death statistics being spuriously fabricated or the success of Sweden's laissez-faire approach, the tragedy of not being able to see elderly relatives in their final days, the injustice of denying children an education and the imminent economic disaster: there are still people who believe in the religion of lockdowns. I can only put their errant ways down to the fact that they have not grasped the relationship between quality of life and value of life, and if that is true then no amount of facts, figures and statistics are going to be able to convince them of the evils of lockdowns. It will be like arguing with a brick wall. To address this, I have attempted to get to the root of the problem and set out an ultimate, definitive argument for why lockdowns are bad, an argument which cannot rationally be contested.
If any of your friends are family are bed-wetting lockdown lovers, I would be genuinely interested to know how they react to the following treatise. It begins: I have been in opposition to the lockdown, and all measures pertaining to it, since March when they were first mooted. My opposition was immediate and founded on my understanding of the inherent wrongness of totalitarianism and the premise, which to me is irrefutable, that quality of life is directly proportional to the value of life. To elaborate, eliminating quality of life eliminates the value of life, and if life has no value there is no sense in bothering to preserve it.
The truth of this matter might be observed through human interactions with the animal kingdom, in which people cherish the lives of intelligent animals, which includes many mammals and birds, but do not care if they squash a fly or a spider. While it is true that some animals are valued simply for a cute outward appearance, bonds between humans and animals only occur with the more intelligent species, which are not necessarily always the cutest. The intelligent species that act as working animals or as companions enjoy, up to a point, quality of life in the sense that they experience emotions and exhibit traits in common with humans. For example, a horse may be hard-working, a dog may be loyal, a cat may be curious, and all such animals experience happiness and sadness. Because of this, we place an emotional value on their lives. On the other hand, a fly will never have the benefit of any such traits or feelings. Accordingly, the death of a fly does not bother anyone.
There is also parallel case to be made within humanity. For example, a person who exists in a vegetative state might be judged to have so little quality of life that it would be a greater mercy for them to be allowed to die naturally rather than to have their life artificially sustained.
To make the case that the lockdown actually would result in a loss of quality of life, it must be understood that the measures which effectively placed us under house-arrest were a manifestation of totalitarianism. The state controls our business lives. The state controls our social lives. The state is not all that far off controlling our private lives, either. The state dictates where we can go, how far we can go, when we can go there, how long we may be there for, how we get there, what we do when we get there and who we talk to when we get there. That aligns with the definition of totalitarianism as being a system wherein the state exerts absolute control over the demos.
Only the most basic understanding of history is necessary to observe the ways in which totalitarianism destroys quality of life by destroying the right of individuals to say or act as they please. Recent examples are plentiful, such as Nazi Germany, the USSR, Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, which all committed acts of murder, destruction of personal property and cultural assets and cultivated a culture of fear which prevented people from speaking freely lest they should be branded an enemy of the state and punished accordingly. People all too readily give their support to totalitarian policies when they are told that it is for their own good; they refuse to consider how the very measures they have supported may be turned against them.
Naturally, people supported lockdown having been conditioned into believing that it would save lives, which is an absurd proposition when one considers the truth of Solomon’s magnificent wisdom, viz.: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” A life may be prolonged but it cannot be saved. The only guarantee in life is death; it is the price of being born. Et in Arcadia ego. Perhaps a soul can be saved, but that bears no relation to the fate of the body.
If a person wishes to justify the lockdown by claiming that they do not wish to die, they may readily be dismissed as having no grip on reality. If their justification is that they do not wish to die yet, or they do not wish to die of Covid, it merely beggars the questions of when exactly they do wish to die, or what exactly they wish to die of. Perhaps they believe they are entitled to live to at least 85. Perhaps they would prefer a tortuously slow decline into dementia, just for the sake of the extra longevity it might permit.
While I stop short of being a determinist, I am resigned to accept that my fate is beyond my control. A date has been set when I shall live no more, and it is the sheerest folly for me to attempt to rearrange it. Like King Canute at the seashore, I know that human life is answerable to greater forces than itself.
Bearing in mind the inevitability and unpredictability of death, surely it is better for us not to worry about it, and instead to rejoice in the simple fact that we are alive right now, the wonders of life are our playground, and we have but one opportunity to make the most of it? A walk through any churchyard will throw up plenty of graves of men and women of centuries past who did not make it past 60, notwithstanding all those who failed to live beyond childhood or infancy. Do we suppose that those 60-year-olds sat on their deathbeds ruing the fact that they were not 80-year-olds, or do we think they were content to have lived a full life and accepted what was inevitable? Furthermore, we have an enormous amount of leisure time on our hands today, when many of our ancestors lived lives of toil, working long hours ploughing fields, going down mines, taking to rough seas or operating dangerous machinery.
It is shameful, to me, that no one is glad of their own good fortune and instead just demands more. It is arrogant. In the years BC, three score and ten was considered a reasonable lifespan. Why should it not be so today? For me even to be 22 is a privilege many other people, for all kinds of reasons, have not been able to enjoy. I should just consider myself even more fortunate if I should make it to 44, or 66, or 88. Or maybe I don’t wish to make it to 88, if it means my eyes are failing, my joints ache and I can’t remember where I’ve put my teeth.
Besides the fact that eternal life on earth is not possible, I cannot even fathom how it could be construed as desirable. Who would want to live forever, bearing in mind we would still be powerless to resist the effects of aging? If all the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, &c., who were ever born never died, we would literally be climbing over their bodies to get anywhere, bodies which are decrepit and frail and riddled with the palsy, and yet still cling on to life by a single gossamer thread. I think being old is not something I would wish to endure for too long.
Moreover, it is not from an emotionally detached standpoint that I present my case but from a truly philanthropic one; the opposing view, which promotes fear and vanity, is motivated by misanthropy. I am not the first person to realise that truth, goodness and beauty are ultimate values, and that they are objective and universal, but I did realise as much without any prior consultation with Plato. I think I have adequately made the case for why the nature of death is true and why it is good. It remains to argue that it can and should be profoundly beautiful. While many people go to great lengths to safeguard against misfortune, it is foolish so to do, since tribulations are necessary in the development of the human character. Without sadness, there would be no jubilation; if we did not suffer pain and hardship, we would feel no reward for our labours; without failure, success would have no value.
If there were not bad things in life, neither would there be good. There would be only nothing, and people who cannot embrace misfortune are mired in a subconscious nihilism. To exist unchallenged by pain and peril, which is so easy to do in this age of extreme material wealth, is to retard one’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. Pain, fear, inadequacy, sadness and failure are as integral to the human condition as comfort, confidence, brilliance, joy and success. If we accept the premise that truth, goodness and beauty exist only to be understood by humans, I think I can stretch to claiming that the human condition is itself the most perfect representation of beauty that can be experienced on earth. Without death, the individual qualities that comprise the human condition would lose all meaning and it would cease to be beautiful, making death, by necessity, a beautiful thing.
I put the successful implementation of a regime of fear down to two primary causes, one of which is the psychological aversion to risk that prevails today, and which does not place any value on the human condition. In part, I think this is because medicine and healthcare has advanced to such a point that people no longer perceive a closeness to death which, in ages past, they did, when many more people would lose family and friends at an earlier age. Now, I believe death seems so far away in time that people do not grasp the reality of it, and convince themselves that it is something that might always be put off just a little bit longer.
This point of view has been further enhanced by health and safety culture, which treats health and safety as an ultimate value, an end in itself, in place of truth goodness, and beauty. An example would be the legislation that requires all new cars to be fitted with seatbelts and airbags. The result is that car interiors are more cluttered, less stylised and feel very cheap in order to accommodate these changes. However, when I have given rides to people my age in my car, which being from 1962 predates these unwelcome diktats, they have expressed surprise and concern that they cannot strap themselves in, as if it put them at imminent risk of death. A rational person would see that I have driven many thousands of miles in that car over four years and that I am not dead, and conclude that it must be perfectly safe. Not wearing a seatbelt does not cause death or injury. Having an accident may, but then the idea is not to have an accident. Some accidents are unavoidable, but at this stage I must consider whether the risk of death or serious injury in an accident is worth immersing myself in a beautiful interior for the rest of my time on the road. Naturally, it is. Beauty is necessary for quality of life; without it the value of life decreases until it ceases to be worth preserving.
The second cause I propose is a kind of spiritual waywardness that diverts the individual from finding what should be their destination at the end of life: satisfaction, that is realised through excellence (arete). Many lives go to waste, being stultified by an unhealthy subsistence on bread and circuses. If a person has not put their life to good use and has not attained a state of satisfaction, death then must become something to be feared because their one shot at life has been wasted and, if they are open to the concept of an afterlife, they cannot be assured of an easy passage to paradise when their earthly life has not been excellent. For many people, modern life is full of distractions which divert their attention from the earnest pursuit of arete with a plethora of base amusements that, since the advent of the smartphone, it has been possible to carry everywhere about one’s own person.
Paradoxically, it is necessary to search for dissatisfaction in order to find satisfaction. While a person is alive, it is only by constantly conducting a critical evaluation of their activities that they can hope to progress closer to arete and at no point should one be satisfied that one has done enough. This will, out of necessity, result in them overreaching themselves, so that the arrival of death prevents the completion of whatever particular aim they had set their sights on. Only once age and infirmity physically prevents further progression can one evaluate their whole life and know that they spent it seeking excellence, and in that knowledge may they find satisfaction. Which is the greater tragedy, a man who dies at 20 having achieved great things, or a man who lives to 100 without ever putting a second of his life to good use?
It is the particular element of socialism that propounds that human life should be the concern of the state rather than the individual that is the underlying cause of much of our spiritual misguidance. It astonishes me that many people will be familiar with the line ‘To be, or not to be? That is the question–’ from Hamlet but lack the curiosity to learn what follows it, or what it means. He is debating whether or not he should kill himself to relieve himself of his anguished existence. He brands death ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished’ in order to escape ‘the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’. Nevertheless, he cannot kill himself for the uncertain knowledge of what would become of his soul afterwards. He continues:
To be, or not to be? That is the question–
Whether ’tis nobler in mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?
Taking arms against a sea of troubles does not have to mean committing suicide; it could more literally mean taking action to end troubles. The point is that Hamlet is portioning responsibility for his condition between things he cannot change and things he can. He has only two considerations, which are to accept those things which cannot be changed or do whatever he perceives as being within his power to rectify them. Regrettably, that is not the attitude taken by the modern public. When the modern public is met with troubles, as in the case of a mild virus, it does not prepare itself to endure it, nor does it consider what actions might best be taken to mitigate the consequences. Rather, it screams and begs the government to assume responsibility for a problem it lacks the courage and the sense to face. The inevitable result was summarised well in a recent article by Lord Sumption: “Free people make mistakes and willingly take risks. If we hold politicians responsible for everything that goes wrong, they will take away our liberty so that nothing can go wrong.” If my argument may be granted as true, the immorality of lockdowns must logically follow.