A fortnight or so ago, GodDaughter2 and I discussed The Plague, and what a pain all the measures being taken against it were. Neither she nor any of her friends thought that The Plague itself was any problem. Nobody she knows at her place of higher education (the Royal College of Music) has actually died. But the protective measures being unleashed by the damn government are ruining all of their lives. Not only can they not get jobs as singers and musicians, they can’t even get jobs as waiters and waitresses in the meantime, because that’s all been shut down too. When, she asked me, would it end?
Trying to be reassuring, I heard myself saying to her that the tide of British public opinion was about to turn against Lockdown, on the grounds that not nearly enough people were dying, and that more and more people were, just like GD2 and all her musical friends, noticing this, and hence, if they needed persuading, being persuaded by people like this guy (who I was just then getting to grips with), that it was all bollocks.
I compared Lockdown with how smoking suddenly went from something you couldn’t complain about in polite society to something you couldn’t do in polite society. It’s a numbers thing. When the number goes from less people think Y than X to more people thing Y than X, then suddenly X ceases to count and Y becomes the new orthodoxy, at the single moment when the graphs cross. Suddenly. Blink of an eye. The impossible turns on the proverbial sixpence into the inevitable, to the amazement of those who’d not been paying close attention.
This snatch of video, lifted from Guido today, suggests to me that I’m right about what people are thinking about Lockdown, and that the graphs on what people think about Lockdown either are about to cross, or have actually crossed already. Politicians don’t talk like this Swayne guy just did unless they know something’s up:
I know, the chamber is nearly empty. But in the age of social media, all it needs is for someone to post the clip anyway, and up, up and away it goes, into Public Opinion land.
Talking of Ivor Cummins, as I just was, take a look also at what he says about Cornwall, which I did not know. In general, take a browse through his stuff. It’s not just what he says. It’s the confidence and clarity with which he says it.
To be clear, this is not one of those the-truth-lies-somewhere-between-the-two things. You either think that the government was and is roughly right, but maybe should have locked us all down sooner and more completely. Or you think that’s utter bollocks. Lockdown has either worked, but not well enough, or it has achieved bugger all besides huge collateral damage. There’s no position I can see in the middle on this thing.
The government will try to say that the continuing absence of Armageddon, which is what will be the next chapter in this story, proves that Lockdown has worked and is working. They’ve been marching down the High Street in weird robes and banging big drums to keep the elephant away, and look, no elephant! It’s working! It worked! No. There never was an elephant. A mouse, yes, maybe even a big old rat. But no elephant.
If The Plague is now everywhere, which is what the Government’s precious “testing” really serves to illustrate, but if hardly anyone is now dying from it, and if, now that The Plague has spread everywhere and now has nowhere to go and is fizzling out, then Lockdown accomplished and is accomplishing nothing, just killing or ruining or generally mucking about with lots more people.
I don’t see how Boris and his fellow Plague catastrophists can survive this, once the penny of public opinion drops, as dropping it now is. It wasn’t the original panic. That was forgivable. It was their pretence that they didn’t panic and their failure to apologise and to stop panicking that will be the end of these people.
When I spoke with her, GD2 also expressed the fear that if and when there is a real Plague, and if some actual experts of the sort who actually know what’s going on warn against it, such warnings may well be treated with contempt and be ignored, when they ought to be heeded. Good point.
I have been spending part of my morning watching Somerset v Essex, courtesy the BBC. I am backing Essex because Essex is nearly London, while Somerset is nothing of the sort. And Essex are doing well. This morning they managed to get a first innings lead, which is a big deal because if it ends as a draw, they win. If you get my drift.
If you don’t, it really doesn’t matter, because what I really want to tell you about is a cunning logo I kept seeing, at the edge of this game, in the background:
Trade Nation. TN. And I really like how they combined the T and the N there. Because of my admiration for this logo, I even investigated the product. Pass. But, investigation is all you ask from an advert. I am old. I do have savings, and spare time. Just the sort they’re looking for, in other words. And although I’m not buying it I am now writing about it. Sometimes advertising really does work this well.
The internet streaming of county cricket is getting slowly but surely better, as is presumably the case with all sports just that bit smaller than big time. For county cricket, there used to be only one camera, and if the ball got hit to the boundary it went off camera and you had to take their word for it, just like on the radio. With this streaming of this game, we cricketophiles are seeing more. Soon, this will as good as regular television. At which point, the advertising spots at the ground will become that little bit more expensive.
I can remember when the internet was going to put an end to regular advertising. Didn’t happen.
Tom Harwood, tweeting in response to a Guido tweet reporting that Starmer will support all government Covid restrictions:
On the areas it might be useful to have an opposition, we have no opposition.
Where are the voices asking at what point do lockdown measures cost more than Covid?
No, that’s rather wrong. Lockdown is not only harming everything else; it is also doing no good on the Covid front at all. The only good thing you can say about these measures is that they are failing to accomplish their purpose. They are not stopping the spread of Covid, which is good, because the sooner Covid has done its spreading, the sooner this nonsense will be over with.
The cost of Covid itself will be what it will be. Whether the frenetic failure to control Covid will cost more than Covid itself is a way to dramatise the costs of this failure, so good in that way, but not the basic point. Which is that these restrictions are doing no good whatsoever, and costing us all a fortune, and should accordingly end. Whether Covid is nasty (I think it is quite nasty and very nasty indeed for those clobbered by it), or in particular is nasty compared to the cost of the restrictions, is only being vehemently argued about by people who don’t understand the essence of this argument.
But the essence of Harwood’s argument is that there ought to be some political opposition happening, and that’s right.
Harwood’s tweet then adds, and ends with, another potent party political point:
You’d think if there ever were a niche for the Lib Dems this would be it but they dropped liberalism long ago.
Just what I had not been thinking. When did I stop despising the LibDems and start ignoring them?
The two photos below, taken at Chateau Michael Jennings, remind me yet again how valuable personal face-to-face contact is in an age of radically progressing technology. The irony being that a lot of the technology that is now progressing most radically is all about making such personal face-to-face contact less necessary. But the more such technology progresses, the more valuable it is to be sitting right next to someone who knows how to get the best out of it, and can watch you failing to do that and can correct you. What’s that you say? Zoom? Two problems for me there. One, my regular C20 computer has no camera pointing at me. Plus, I tried to get Zoom going with just the sound, for a meeting, but the damn sound didn’t work. I’ll only get Zoom going when someone clever pops by and helps me do it.
These photos were taken somewhat over a year ago, when Michael was still regularly tweaking this blog, this posting being the one on the screens. They illustrate one of the improvements of this blog over the old blog, which is that (be warned) the old blog didn’t work nearly so well on mobiles or tablets. This one works much better on such modernistical contrivances:
Another friend is due round soon to help me with get the best out of my new Dyson Graven Image, before Winter arrives. I probably could get this working okay by reading the damn instructions. But, personal face-to-face guidance from someone who already knows will work far better.
Facebook friend and actual friend Nico Metten, on Facebook, puts the case against “cases”:
One very simple thing for everyone to understand. Cases mean nothing. Deaths is what counts. There is no uptick in deaths. There isn’t even an uptick in cases. They are simply testing more. If I sample 1000 random people and count how many are female I might get something like 502. Now I sample 2000 people and I get something like 998. Headline reading “NUMBER OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY DOUBLED ON MONDAY”. No it did not. And that is what is going on with COVID cases. They have increased the number of tests. It is not rocket science, so why are so many people missing this? NUMBER OF CASES ARE MEANINGLESS.
Nico wrote that only for his Facebook friends. Hope he doesn’t mind me copying and pasting it here.
I am not hearing the British government answering this sort of objection, and the longer they seem to be ignoring it, the more I will suspect that they can’t answer it. If they have responded, good, and please tell me about it.
The Wealth Explosion by Stephen Davies is not just about the when and where of that kink in the graphs. It is also a description of what that transformation in human affairs consisted of, not just materially, and in how people thought and felt and behaved. In an early chapter, “The Way We Once Lived and The Way We Live Now”, under the heading “The Growth of Sympathy” (pp. 26-28), Davies describes (in the bibliographical note at the end of the chapter he mentions this book by Stephen Pinker) how people started being nicer to each other:
Another significant change that marks out the cultural and mental world of the modern as compared to what went before is one that attracted much attention from an early date. This was the growth of what eighteenth and early nineteenth century authors termed ‘sympathy’ and ‘sensibility: As defined by authors such as Adam Smith and Lord Kames this meant the capacity to put oneself in the position of another person and feel an intimation of what that person felt or experienced. This was associated with a general ‘softening’ or ‘polishing’ of manners and behaviour. In other words, there was a tendency for people to be gentler, less aggressive, more self-conscious and controlled, less impulsive, more sensitive to the suffering or hardship of others. This was seen as being connected to the growth of trade and commerce and what they called ‘luxury’ and we would call affluence or comfort. In other words, as people became more connected to others, often distant, by the connections of trade and by social intercourse, and as their lives became more comfortable and less harsh so their psychology changed and they became gentler, less violent and aggressive and more controlled and ‘refined’ (to use a key term) in their way of behaving. In the language of the time this meant that the ‘passions’ as they were called, that is strong and natural human desires and feelings, came to be tamed and made milder and less fierce and powerful or even subject to the check of reason and calculation.
This may seem to be simply a reflection of eighteenth century rationalism and optimism but in fact there is a lot of evidence for the view that the modern world has indeed seen such a change. Again, people such as Smith, Hume and Kames thought that the change was gradual (although they were struck by the extent and rapidity of change in their own country and lifetime) but very soon after their own lifetimes the change in this aspect of human life also underwent an abrupt acceleration. At this point, many people will simply find the argument implausible. Given the terrible political events of the last hundred years and the widespread evidence of cruelty, violence and aggression that fill the daily news, how can anyone think that over that period human beings in many parts of the world have become less passionate, gentler and more in sympathy with the suffering of others?
One point to make is that the attention given to such matters and the horror they inspire are because there has been such a change. Things that were seen as unexceptionable and normal in the past, even if regrettable, are now regarded as egregious and horrible precisely because they are less common. Clearly something as intangible yet profound as a widespread or even general shift in the way most people feel or in their psychology is hard to measure or demonstrate. However, there are a number of indicators, some of which can actually be quantified. One is the evidence of delinquent behaviour as captured in the records of the criminal justice system. The evidence here is that over the last two to three hundred years there has been a long term secular decline in interpersonal violence. Three hundred years ago the bulk of the cases brought before criminal courts were crimes of violence. They now make up only a small proportion of the courts’ business. In addition the actual incidence of such crimes on a per capita basis has also declined so that they are a much less frequent part of experience.
There are several other prominent indicators. One is the change in the functioning of the criminal justice system, with a pronounced shift away from harsh and brutal or sadistic physical punishment such as public execution, flogging or branding. Another is the transformation that we can trace in popular attitudes towards children and animals. In very recent times historically what we would regard as brutal and cruel treatment was widespread or even normal for both whereas now this arouses revulsion and disgust. Literature and personal writings such as diaries and correspondence are another kind of evidence, which again shows a significant alteration in popular psychology, at both an individual and a collective level. Finally, there is the evidence of manners, where we can clearly trace what one author calls the ‘civilising process’ by which ways of speaking and behaving become steadily more controlled and moderate. Looking at this evidence we can say firstly that there has been a radical change in what historians call the ‘collective mentality’ of modern men and women, that is the common mental assumptions, habits and ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that they share. The second thing we can say is that this change became much more rapid and widespread among all levels of society at some point in the early nineteenth century. Here we can draw the analogy and connection with trade and economic development. In the case of trade and economic development, we can indeed trace a very gradual process of increasing trade and economic integration between different parts of the world and a slow corresponding rise in the level of economic development and standards of living. After the later eighteenth century, this process becomes so much more rapid and extensive that both it and its effects are wholly different order of magnitude – explosive in fact.
Similarly, there is clearly a long-term trend in the direction just described with respect to human mentality and ways of behaving. Thus, there is a very long term trend for inter-personal violence to decline. Our Stone Age ancestors lived in a society that was unbelievably violent by contemporary standards (as do many more recent hunter-gatherers) and we can trace a decline in levels of violence since that time. However, as with trade, the process while of long standing underwent a dramatic breakthrough or acceleration after the later eighteenth century so that, as in the economic sphere, there was a greater change in popular psychology and ways of behaving between 1800 and 1900 than for several centuries at least before then.
Around three days ago, GodDaughter2 and I fixed to meet up, face to face, for the first time since Lockdown began, and before she disappears to the South of France for a month. We agreed on: Royal College of Music, 2pm. I would have preferred somewhere different, like somewhere nearer to where she’s been living over the summer (Acton), because I like having reasons to journey to and photo new places, and because the College is a bit of a walk from South Kensington tube and a walk I’ve now done many times. Also, a couple of hours later would be better, because I’m a lazy old bastard. Plus, I don’t mind long train journeys because I can sit and read a book, undistracted by the Internet, which I don’t do nearly enough of. But what the hell, RCM 2pm it is.
But, this morning, an email from GD2 arrives. She’s running a bit behind, and could we possibly (grovel grovel xxx) make it Acton Central Overground Station, 4pm?
Yes. I can do that. No problem. It’ll be fine.
Whatever I say in such circumstances will sound like a polite lie and a big old sacrifice, even though it’s nothing of the kind. Sometimes, when your Jewish Mother says to you: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine”, what she really means is: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
So, for him and for anyone else interested in such things, here’s another such circumstance, much more recent (February of this year), and much more spectacular. It’s the Royal Albert Hall, no less:
On the left, the big picture. And on the right, we can see the three elements involved in this sort of process. Top left, the ancient Greek looking frieze, that’s the actual Royal Albert Hall itself. On the right, the scaffolding, under a bog standard white covering. And then bottom left, occupying most of the picture, the photo (if that’s what it originally was) of the exact bit (or so I assume) of the Royal Albert Hall that it is covering.
The bit in the middle behind the statue is the also the building itself. “Shadows” is included in the categories list below, on account of there not being any real shadows, just fake ones, when it is just a flat surface. Which makes a real difference to how easy it is to see what the original building consists of. That difficulty actually being an early clue as to what’s really going on.
As often, the trees, although at least leafless, are not helping.
The statue in the front is of Prince Albert. On the other side of the Royal Albert Hall is his Memorial. For a view of the Royal Albert Hall from the same angle, but with rather less scaffolding, and also for some closer-up of this Prince Albert statue, see Royal Albert and his Hall.
LATER: In the original posting, the photo above on the left was a bad choice. I had a better one available, and that has now replaced the first photo.
I am no doubt biased, by my libertarian politics to start with, and by the guesses I have already expressed in (what passes for me as) public. Nevertheless, for whatever it may be worth, I found this article, and, unusually, also its quite numerous comments, about why the world became so bent out of shape by this Plague, to be very intelligent. It’s more a panic than a conspiracy, he says. Which fits what I’ve been thinking.