Never outside war time have populations been subjected to such outrageous assault and battery by government propaganda machines
In the morning, the world is as the world should be. The sun rises, as predicted for this part of England in early December, at around twenty past eight. Shortly after this, I get up, go through the usual morning routines, have a quick breakfast, wash up, and am at my computer by ten o’clock. The hours pass unexceptionably until lunchtime. And then I can no longer put off the trip to the shops.
Going to the shops is something I do as little as possible nowadays. Once I might have walked in and out of the nearby town centre several times in a day, without thinking twice: but that was when I could move from home to street seamlessly, with no jarring transition between here and there.
Now it’s different. Now, beyond the protective confines of our home lies a parallel universe, a place of outlandish rituals and dogmas, where grotesquely masked figures pass each other warily on the street or, in the supermarket, lurk out-of-touch behind symbolic plastic screens. Instead of muzak, as I follow the prescribed route between the aisles, disembodied voices warn of death and disease, order me to protect myself and others by maintaining distance and keeping my plague-ridden exhalations to myself.
“We’re in this together!” they proclaim.
In less than a year some malign necromancy has transformed the fearless social beings who once thronged shops and cafés in the run-up to each Christmas into an infestation of dangerous, outsized germs: or, if scrupulous examination of the facts has left you confident that “the novel coronavirus” is no more threatening to moderately healthy people than the nastier brands of flu, into the crazed adherents of some apocalyptic cult.
Since I have spent the past nine months scrupulously examining the facts, the eyes now peering out at me over the inadequate face-covering of that woman beating a hasty retreat behind the cans of tuna as I approach are, it seems to me, those of a poor, unhinged lunatic. But then, I am an unbeliever. I do not wear the mask of allegiance. Marked out by the lanyard around my neck, I do my shopping as quickly as possible, and hurry back to the embattled sanity of domestic life.
Yes, even here embattled: for as the onslaught of propaganda continues without remission, only complete divorce from the outside world can afford protection. Fortunately, since the arrival of the computer I am beyond the reach of programmed television, but in order to wake to the accompaniment of pleasant but undemanding music, I used to put up with the intermittent smattering of adverts on Classic FM. Now that government has become the media’s most lucrative source of income, however, this is no longer tolerable. Who wants to be roused abruptly from sleep by inane incantations of “Hands! Face! Place!”, sometimes repeated twice within five minutes ? ….