Summer, distinguishable from spring by nomenclature only, gave us a better manifestation of philosophical pessimism than Schopenhauer ever came up with. And as it shrivelled and dribbled away it seemingly took with it Covid, which has largely vanished from British front pages even though the infection rates on our overcrowded little island are higher than almost anywhere in Europe. In fact, the UK has among the highest number of coronavirus cases on the planet.
This ghostly there-but-not-there effect manifests itself in busy maskless streets, maskless theatres, superspreader student parties and overflowing hospitals. But instead of causing mass panic, no-one appears in the slightest bit worried. I imagine a scenario where other countries (Canada most probably, and New Zealand) would be zipping themselves into Hazmat suits while we merrily cavort with trays of canapés.
The casual attitude is largely to our PM telling people to wear masks if they want to, apparently thinking that around seventy deaths a day is an acceptable figure. Schrödinger’s Virus appears and vanishes; although the number of infections is through the roof, the number of deaths has fallen as the virus moves down through the unvaccinated age brackets. Yet all this is due to change again. Like others who are in the ‘extreme high risk immunosuppressed’ category I was vaccinated very early, back in January, and that vaccine is now hitting its sell-by date.
It means I need a booster, but they haven’t begun rolling out yet, and who even knows if they will? Our PM has yet again flip-flopped on much-needed vaccine passports, cancelling them once more. Is this a new kind of micro-responsive governance or the sinister manoeuvring of a classic Tory agenda; to restore the dying class system? Every bill seems designed to widen the gap between rich and poor. Right now, international travel is much as it was in the 1950s – extremely costly and painfully slow, hindered by Brexit and mismatched Covid rules.
Another thought springs to mind. After visiting the excellent ‘Nero’ exhibition at The British Museum, the parallels between classics-loving Johnson and the boy emperor become clear. Nero/Johnson, famed as much for his hair as for anything he uttered, built vast, pointless vanity projects to appease the people while he hid his nefarious dealings. He did not fiddle while Rome burned; he simply wasn’t in town. Nero was of course murdered at 30. That system of efficiently realigning political policies is no longer open to us.