My fears about the ‘new normal’

Perhaps there’s light at the end of the long lockdown tunnel. The roadmap at least allows hope that life might get back to normal. For me, normal means freedom to live life as we choose, from cramming into packed planes to go on holiday to crowding into pubs for birthday parties. However, even saying that can lead to gasps of incredulity. Normal? No way! Too risky says Claire Fox in The Spectator.

It has become fashionable to now aspire to the ‘new normal’. That ‘new normal’ very often accepts, with a resigned fatalism, that a range of everyday, ‘normal’ freedoms will need to be curtailed. What’s more worrying, if you argue that freedom is one key reason for ending the lockdown sooner rather than later, you are increasingly dismissed as indulgent, selfish,
irresponsible, unrealistic. Most crudely, the response is: “What’s the point of freedom if
you’re dead?” The more generous say: “Your freedom could kill my granny.” Freedom has been downgraded from a foundation-stone of democratic society to a life-threatening,
dispensable luxury.

This is not reducible to whether you are in the increasingly polarised pro- or anti-lockdown
tribes. There were good-faith reasons to resort to extraordinary measures when confronting an unknown global pandemic. Most of us consented to the lockdown, even if reluctantly.
However, that consent – freely given as an act of social solidarity – was not intended as a
green light to giving up hard-won liberties, or a perpetual suspension of free society.

I have no truck with the faintly conspiratorial argument that international governments are gleeful about a public-health emergency to enact authoritarian measures. But I’m still shocked by the ease with which the most radical commentators – often those who pose as champions of rights – were some of the most ardent in offering up freedom on the altar of public health, demanding ever more stringent measures. Take for example Paul Mason, who in March described “Johnson’s failure to enact a lockdown” as “bordering on criminal negligence”. Compulsion and “crowd control” were advocated rather than judgement. He tweeted that “it’s no use railing at people going out when you’re not prepared to stop them”. The present lifting of restrictions – despite being mild to the point of mealy-mouthed – is opposed with similar howls of caution; each minor freedom we are granted is treated as a dangerous act of rashness.

This approach indicates a deeper estrangement from freedom than merely a pragmatic shrug of acceptance of short-term measures.

Read the full article here.