I was very interested in the response to Lord Sumption’s comment that a cancer-sufferer’s life was less valuable than a healthy person. I get what he was saying, in purely mathematical terms, and I respect that he said it to the woman’s face, but on a human level it was a cold thing to say.
But what interested me more was the response of readers, via comments in some of the tabloids.
Comments supporting his view were massively upticked, indicating that most people (or at least, most readers) supported his ‘battlefield’ view of healthcare. On reflection, I think that people are a lot tougher-minded, and maybe a fair bit harsher, than we give them credit for. When it comes to survival, we’re clear-minded, if not always sensible of our own mortality.
I heard a story the other day of someone’s grandparents who were on a bus during an air raid in WW2. The bus behind them was blown to pieces, I was told, and they were very lucky to survive. But my thought was, ‘You’re saying there was an air raid, so they got on a bus?’
And that’s not even the first time I’ve heard of how people just carried on during the blitz. I remember hearing an old lady tell me how she was pushing her pram through the streets during an air raid, watching bits of shrapnel ping off the tramlines close to her feet. And yet another story of how, if a shop was hit, everyone would dash to it, pile in and steal every scrap that was left undestroyed. While the shop was still smouldering, the building ready to collapse, people were picking up everything and taking it home. And all the while, bombs were still falling.
Anyhow, without digressing* too much, the point is this: despite the pandemic, in general, we’re enjoying period of extreme safety and comfort. The state is treating us like an infant child, to be coddled and nurtured. To the point that you can be arrested for using harsh words, even if no one was upset.
So while it’s lovely and soft and cozy, I don’t think this social swaddling reflects us as a species, or even as a nation. We’re quite happy to be protected because, why not?, but we don’t need it and we don’t really expect it. We’re a lot more durable and tougher-minded than politicians and the self-appointed elite expect us to be. They repeatedly tell us life should be safe.
But we’re not fooled.
*if you want to know how harsh people can be, ask a class of fourteen-year-olds about their attitudes to crime and punishment. It will frighten you. When it comes to the death penalty, while they’re mostly thoughtful, and extremely fair-minded, they aint liberal.