Is life at the moment really that good? Social networks seem to be full of people showing off how fit they are and how much weight they have lost or, indeed, both. People are out partying, going to nice places. On the face of it, life appears to be good. Very good. So why do I feel that actually life isn’t that good at the moment?
Clearly, I am not getting fit or losing loads of weight, both of which would certainly be good for me. Indeed, I keep seeing stuff telling me how good exercise and weight loss is good for your mental health. I would say that’s true only if your mental health isn’t bad in the first place. I barely have the motivation to do anything at the moment, save going to get my daily newspaper and returning to my Man Cave hoping something will turn up. It never does.
It doesn’t help that the news from just about everywhere is gloomy. The shocking stabbings in Reading and Glasgow, the terrible attacks on police officers in London by drunken football hooligans, circa 70,000 deaths (and counting) from COVID-19, half a million people gathering on Bournemouth’s beaches, with people using the sand dunes and beach huts as public toilets where some take a shit in burger boxes, the illegal parties, the littered beaches along with the disgusting scenes in Liverpool this morning, after an irresponsible night of socially undistanced drinking and celebrations at the reds Premier League triumph. I woke up this morning relieved that the mainly lovely weather we have enjoyed since late March has made way for the traditional British summer of rain and a cold wind.
Being of an unsound mind, I am not the best judge of what’s happening in the country. My glass is almost always half empty and right now it is completely empty. For months, we slavishly went along with the government’s semi-lockdown, becoming little more than hermits. When our de facto prime minister Dominic Cummings drove a coach and horses through the rules he had played a major part in setting up by taking a car load of COVID-19 from London to Durham, the semi-lockdown was over. People, including me, have decided we too would interpret the rules to suit the interests and well-being of our family and friends. Last week, Boris Johnson announced that his semi-lockdown would be over on 4th July and, because the government had been so successful in keeping the number of deaths to ‘only’ 70,000, the highest total in Europe and there was no need to hold the daily briefing from Downing Street. Johnson’s half-arsed words said we must stay alert but they meant COVID-19 had been beaten and we could return to getting pissed again. That up to 200 people are still dying every day in Britain and there are 40,000 new infections every week would appear to suggest COVID-19 had not been beaten at all, but people looked at Johnson’s faux optimism and thought they could now resume life as they knew it, hence the crowded beaches and all the rest of it.
In the background, a growing economic crash is building that will affect many of those celebrating in the sun. Looking particularly at some of the grotesque pictures emerging from the streets of Liverpool and the beaches of Wales and Devon, many people appear to be young men, possibly just out of school or perhaps furloughed from low paid work. With the collapse of the jobs market, there may not be any work for a huge generation of young people and it does not require the brilliance of a rocket scientist to conclude that in such dark times all of them will quietly stay at home in the hope that something will turn up. But unless the government steps in to protect them, the drunken euphoria will turn into something uglier. When hope runs out, people can get desperate and frightened and react in ways in which they would normally dream of doing. That is to say, the large gatherings and the oceans of waste may represent just the start of something much worse and much bigger.
There’s another thing that bothers me and that’s where America leads Britain usually follows. In terms of COVID-19, Donald Trump’s efforts have been more like state murder than saving the lives of people, always putting business ahead of saving lives. Cummings and Johnson’s lifting of what was already a deeply flawed lockdown appears, more so every day, as policy being made on the fly. It’s almost as if they knew what was coming next, by way of wholesale abandoning of social distancing and serious anti-social behaviour. Herd immunity by stealth?
Johnson called for ‘British common sense’ and look at what he got. The way things are going, I don’t feel like doing anything apart from looking at the rain fall on a country that has had more than enough sunshine for one year. All these things and more go some way to explaining why I don’t feel life is all that great at the moment. But as I never tire of saying, maybe it’s me? Maybe I am overplaying what’s going on in our towns and cities? I’m not sure I am, though.
The worse pandemic and the worst economic crash of my lifetime playing out simultaneously, presided over by the worst prime minister of my lifetime and the worst cabinet. Johnson and his friends in the illiberal elite, the wealthy hedge-fund owners, the spivs, the crooks and the English nationalists are taking us to hell in a handcart. Even I was by nature an optimist, I wouldn’t feel any optimism about the future of England’s green but not very pleasant land.