Before I address this topic I first want to tell you two stories, both true, by way of background.
An occasion when I was young and a bit poorly, probably flu, I lay down on the floor feeling too worn out to move. My two cats came down and lay on either side. It was comforting. These were not fluffy, friendly lap cats, but two un-neutered toms, father and son. The most they did in terms of affection was hail fellow well met, otherwise maintaining a suitably macho distance. Yet they responded to my being unwell.
Many years later when my husband was treated for cancer I would meet him for lunch and we drove to a nearby park. As we ate our sandwiches we noticed a pair of birds, Ravens I think. One had obviously had an accident as it had a broken wing and could not fly. Its mate always stayed nearby as if watching over it. A few weeks later we saw the birds again, still together. The injured one’s wing had healed to the extent it could fly, if a bit wobbly. I suspect the injured bird might not have survived without the presence of its mate.
When my husband’s cancer treatment finished he was left very weak and frail, and it was several years before he recovered most of his strength. But as soon as the treatment finished he forced himself to resume normal life even when it seemed it was beyond his strength. He went back to work, he drove and he dived back into his always active social life spending a great deal of time with his friends. It was like he was making a statement – death didn’t get me. I am alive and living. I am taking everything back that I had before.
And so he did, for the next five years until the cancer returned for a final round.
But what if – after his first illness someone had said to him – you are weak, you are vulnerable (true) so to make sure you don’t get ill again you must stay in solitary confinement for 20 weeks, no, indefinitely. No-one can be with you. Your friends and family cannot visit. You can’t go to the pub, or the shops or go for a drive, or go on holiday. Or do anything but stay indoors. Your food will be left on the doorstep.
It seems to me that if even animals, cats and birds offer comfort and protection in their presence to their friends when they are ill and vulnerable, and this is what is natural, an instinctive and emotional drive in people too, the concept of lockdown – effective house arrest, or in the case of people in care homes, imprisoned in virtual solitary confinement – is – it is hard to find a word – unhuman.
What kind of mentality could possibly dream up this idea and see nothing wrong with it?
I have no wish to criticise anyone caught in this trap created by lockdown rules, with the threat of being backed up by the police. But thinking that an arbitrary rule recklessly but strongly enforced can make millions of people a party to unjustified sadism to their loved ones at the time of their greatest need, must raise the reasonable questions – what kind of people are our rulers, and in the light of all that is holy, should we be following them.