Pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, and gyms have been closed. We’re getting close to a lock down situation similar to those already in force in Italy or Spain. Of course no one is happy about this. No one wants to have their freedom to move around and associate with friends and family be restricted in this way. Despite that, the great majority of people understand that it’s not only for their own good, even more it’s for the good of those who are at high risk, and most of all it’s for the good of our health services so that we can all help to ensure that the NHS can cope with those affected. Social distancing measures mean that it’s more likely that if we get infected ourselves then the NHS will be able to treat us appropriately because it won’t be overwhelmed.
As might have been expected, some people are far less happy than others. There’s SNP MSP and neighbour of mine, John Mason. John has been trending on social media, and whenever that happens you think “Oh God, what’s he said now.” Because usually it is indeed God related. It seems that John was upset that his local church had cancelled services in the meantime. John thinks worshippers should trust in Jesus instead of trusting in social distancing. God has issued a statement socially distancing Herself from John’s comment, adding,
But the prize of arsehat of the week most assuredly goes to Brendan O’Neill the editor of the suspiciously well funded Spiked Online. Brendan regularly pops up on Sky News paper review in order to complain that the media isn’t Brexity enough. Brendan is deeply unhappy that the British Government has ordered the closure of pubs. In an article for the Spectator, the deliberately contrary Brendan opines that closing down pubs is a really dark and sinister move. It’s even darker and more sinister than having a virus hijack the cells of your body and tricking it into destroying your own lung tissue while making you a vector of infection for everyone around you – especially those people who might not have as robust an immune system as you do. But never mind that, Brendan demands the right to sit in Wetherspoons and complain about the EU. If you die from coronavirus you don’t need a social life, problem solved.
When the pubs are open, the A&E departments of our hospitals spend a lot of their time and energy dealing with drunk people who have either injured themselves or who have got into fights. While our hospitals are faced with a far more serious crisis, we could really do without expecting them to deal with stupid too.
It’s a pity that some folk don’t put as much importance on a social conscience as they do on a social life. What all these “it’s my right to decide for myself whether I take the risk” types overlook is that social distancing isn’t all about them. It’s about protecting those in the community who are at high risk. Brendan’s bewailment is the desperate cry of a man who sees the Zeitgeist turning against him. Because if there’s anything that this crisis has taught us it’s that we need experts and we definitely don’t need the kind of selfish and self interested populism and exceptionalism that brought us Brexit. While few of us would shed a tear if Brendan caught coronavirus due to his insistence that he has the right to go and sit in the pub with Stanley Johnson, we’d be a lot more upset about all the other people they’d infect in the process.
Although to be fair, the number of other people that Brendan is likely to infect in the pub is pretty low, since he’s the guy that sits at the bar pontificating about the EUSSR who everyone else tries to give as wide a berth as possible. Don’t be like Brendan, don’t ignore the science. Don’t let your reaction to this emergency be, “Yeah mate, mine’s a pint of selfish bastard.” That applies as much to social distancing as it does to hoarding. It applies to those companies like Britannia Hotels who have evicted their staff from a hotel in Aviemore, leaving them not only jobless but also homeless in the middle of this epidemic. Well there’s one hotel chain that I’ll be making sure never to book a room in ever again.
It also applies to the likes of Richard Branson who’s laid off most of Virgin’s aircrew and other staff, and Philip Green the owner of Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Wallis. The billionaire Philip Green laid off 80% of his shop staff without pay, just before the government announced that it would help pay the wages of staff who can’t work because of the emergency. Ordinary workers are shouldering the economic burden of this crisis because the obscenely wealthy refuse to lose even a tiny fraction of the wealth that they’ve got. That’s wealth which they couldn’t possibly spend over many lifetimes. That’s wealth that they’ve only accrued due to a taxation system that the wealthy find easy to avoid. Poor Richard and poor Philip are each down to their last £4 billion. Just to put that into some sort of perspective, a net worth of £4 billion means that you could spend £122,000 every single day for over 90 years. No one needs that kind of money.
Coronavirus is affecting every aspect of our lives. It’s been suggested that it might be necessary to delay the Scottish elections due next year to 2022 instead. Let’s hope that is not required, but it may yet come to that. When we do have elections, it’s going to be important not only that we vote for a party that’s going to give Scotland an independence referendum, we also need to vote for a party that understands the importance of ensuring that the extremely rich pull their weight and proportionally contribute to society as much as those of us who live pay cheque to pay cheque. The days when the poor need to shoulder the burden of the rich must end.
When we do have a referendum on Scotland’s future, the issue of social justice and fairness will be front and foremost, because we can be certain that once this emergency is over the British state and its wealthy backers will seek to return to business as usual. It’s not enough for the state to expect sacrifices from us, the state also needs to change. We need a country with a fair taxation system. We need a country that expects the wealthy to pull their weight. We need a country that has a transparently funded media and political parties. We need a country that belongs to the people, not the rich. We’ll only get that in an independent Scotland. The battlelines for the next referendum are already being drawn. It’s a referendum when we will show the selfish that their selfishness has consequences.
Update 7.30pm : I spoke too soon, Brendan O’Neill isn’t the biggest arsehat of the week. He was pipped at the post by Scotland in Union’s very own frother Tom Gallagher. Holyrood magazine’s editor Mandy Rhodes tweeted to the UK ambassador in Colombia for help after her son got trapped in the country. He had a flight home which was cancelled by United Airlines without a refund. United then told him that they’d found another flight for him, but wanted $4000 for the ticket. On seeing Mandy’s plea, Tom Gallagher tweeted triumphantly “Britain’s envoy in Bogota is instructed by the SNP’s chief media cheerleader in Edinburgh to get her boy home. Little imagination required about Ms Rhodes’s options if Scotland now out of UK. #ZERO”
What the actual f*** is wrong with you Tom? A mother is worried about her son trapped thousands of miles away, and you try to turn it into a cheap and jeering political point. And a spurious point at that. An independent Scotland would have its own diplomatic corps Tom. Probably like the Irish one it would be considerably more helpful to citizens stranded abroad than the UK one.
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