7.30 last night the French prime minister went on TV to urge citizens to “show some discipline and get their act together” – by staying at home. He announced that all cafés bars restaurants and other “non-essential commercial outlets” were to close at midnight until further notice. The government will compensate them and their employees in various ways, promising that workers subject to “partial unemployment” will not lose pay, and that all essential services will continue. Churches will remain open, though all gatherings of more than fifty people are banned (no problem there) and today’s local elections will go ahead, the reasoning being that you don’t have to get up close when voting. The telly shows us scenes of election officials marking off the floors of primary schools with duct tape at one metre intervals so you don’t get within spitting distance of your fellow citizens. Sounds reasonable, but you have to see how a French election works.
Piles of ballot papers for the different candidates (often a dozen or more) are laid out on a table, and you pick the ballot paper of the person you’re voting for, go into the booth, stick it in an envelope, put the envelope in the ballot box and sign the voting roll. So that no-one knows who you vote for, you typically pick up the ballot papers for all the candidates and throw the unwanted ones away after having voted. Now, I challenge you to pick a dozen sheets of paper from a dozen piles without once licking your fingers. Or to do it with gloves on.
Insane. The second round of the election is next week, by which time the number of infections will have quadrupled and there’ll be no more duct tape to be had to keep us all one metre apart, because all the DIY shops will be closed. “Essential services” will be maintained, except for plumbers, electricians, builders and a thousand other specialists who can’t get the stuff they need. Kids will be educated at home on-line, except for the ones without computers, or whose computers are broken and can’t be repaired because… and so on.
But of course, the people who keep our hospitals, water, electricity, gas, sewage, transport, post, delivery services, and supermarkets running will still be risking their lives providing us essential services, working overtime because their colleagues are sick, while their neighbours who are teachers, barmen and shopkeepers are sitting at home on full pay. They just won’t have anywhere to eat at lunchtime, and the number of buses and trains to take them to work will be cut back, because of “lack of demand.” And the TV this morning is showing interviews with boozy Saturday night sheep enjoying a last glass and agreeing that it’s a good idea to effectively shut down half the country’s economy so that a few thousand people will get ill in April instead of March.
In times like this one needs government by a Committee of Public Safety, consisting of people practised in questioning the competence of experts and the sanity of our elected leaders. Stand up Sceptics. Enough of quietly using our Big Oil finance to sow doubt in the media and otherwise subvert science and the popular will. It’s time to rise up and seize the reins of power.
And don’t forget to bring a guillotine. (The stationer’s is closed, but you can buy one on-line.)