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14.10.2020 Author: Catherine Shakdam

The Empire’s New Clothes – or How Britain is NOT dealing with COVID-19


With news over the weekend that the UK registered over 22,000 new cases of coronavirus in a single day it may be time to look the Empire in the face and state the obvious: Britain’s new attire is not exactly flattering.

…“ I don’t want to blind them, I just want them to blink a little.” The Emperor’s New Clothes

And blink we have indeed!

If I may dare say so we all have been blinking to the point of intellectual blindness. When reason, rationality, and common sense appear to have evaporated before the new deities which are political correctness, herd mentality and well-to-do populist pseudo-moralism, one must in fact deduct collective blindness – that caused by one’s refusal to exercise one’s intellect.

As a child of the French Republic, to be a contrarian somewhat comes naturally. To be French is to be desagreable – alongside an innate aversion for authoritarianism, and any and all attempts to impose limits on our ability to be disagreeable. It is not so much that we like to complain but rather that we enjoy challenging one’s rationale to better assign worth.

To be French educated in the UK added smugness to my contrarianism … not that those traits are necessarily desirable but they certainly offer context to the tone of my writings. When I get annoyed… which is often, I do favour incisive prose over quiet acquiescence for fear I could become a social outcast.

As Rhett Butler once said in Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Let me put it to you bluntly, the British government has so completely missed the bar over this pandemic that it has become virtually impossible not to assume that such a display of incompetence hides a purpose. And if not … a purpose that is, then indeed we ought to climb back onto those trees Charles Darwin theorised we once upon a time called home.

Caught in the deluge of misinformation and the irrationality of our political class, Stupid managed to climb onto the driver’s seat, half drunk and in a semi-comatose state. How else would anyone EVER describe the insanity that has become our daily lives?

Allow me to elaborate on Britain’s new add-ons to Her Majesty’s government’s COVID-19 strategy. I will limit my exposé to those decisions which offering no rhyme or reason have yet been imposed on us all under the pretence such measures will protect us from the ravages of a virus, which so far, has paid little heed to our collective attempts to rein it in … but then again, viruses cannot be reason with. Before its miasmas, science is our only refuge … politicians’ propensity to weave new realities not so much.

I recall with which passion Britain’s Prime Minister, the very petulant Boris Johnson proclaimed that our youngs’ education would no longer be blighted by COVID-19 and that come what may, all schools and universities would resume their mandate come September. While education is indeed a priority, the decision to expose our youth to a ‘pandemic’ we proved unable to tame at the height of our lockdown, somewhat runs against the very narrative state officials have spat at us since March 2020.

To imagine for a second that a pathogen as deadly (or so we are told) as COVID-19 would comply with officials geographical constraints is symptomatic of our collective refusal to wield reason and oppose logical arguments before the lunacy of our ruling class.

And if the young have, according to our scientists, little to fear as far as COVID-19 is concerned, the same cannot be said of their parents and their respective extended family. No wonder the UK is in the throes of a second wave. No bubbles and other social restrictions imposed on schools across the UK will make up for the fact that such rules begin and end at our schools’ and universities’ doors. Have we forgotten that mingling is central to our youth’s social modus operandi? And mingle they do now that lockdown is no more.

Do not misunderstand! It is not the government’s desire to return to normality which irks me, but rather the arrogance of our officials before a crisis they clearly have no real plan for … and yet they all claim to have answers. I think not! I think we are following the proverbial piper, and off the cliff we may all go …

While there is scientific logic to the madness that is mask-wearing, hand sanitising and social distancing (within the context of course of an actual pandemic), pesky 10pm curfews and calls for all restaurants, bars and pub-goers to wear masks as they move to and from their assigned tables is sheer madness. Again, I would imagine that viruses care little for geographical boundaries and timetables – or is it that a domesticated coronavirus only ever attacks when the clock strikes 10 as punters move unmask between plates of salad and glasses of wine?

There is no science behind British officials’ decisions of late. I’m not alone in thinking so either. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which scrutinises the Government, has called for the publication of the science which informed Johnson’s government decision as of September 22, to issue a series of new restrictions on the public, including the decision to impose a curfew on all restaurants, bars and pubs in the UK.

So what are we to do? In truth there are no easy answers and more to the point no easy solution. What we ought to ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to sacrifice our rights to critique and question officials to the altar of political correctness and censorship. As Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews noted back in May in comments to The Guardian: “The greatest asset we have in this crisis is the trust and adherence of the public. You want trust? You need to be open with people. This isn’t open. It is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia. Not a good look.”

In their hysteric politicking state officials have demanded absolute acquiescence – let us remember that such is the basis of all authoritarian states. To follow blindly requires a suspension of our most inalienable civil right – that of our sovereign self.

To conjure up rules and regulations does not infer efficiency. For all intents and purposes British officials have failed the UK… not that other nations are faring much better, but Britain for reason we may wish to look closer into most boldly sits in a league of its own.

In this race for the erosion of our common sense and desire to engage in a democratic discourse over the future of our society, economy, and institutions, Britain is walking in the nude.

How long will we pretend otherwise for fear of being censored?

Catherine Shakdam is a research fellow at the Al Bayan Centre for Planning & Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements. She is the author of A Tale of Grand Resistance: Yemen, the Wahhabi and the House of Saud. She writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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