BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
Watching opportunists using the Coronavirus crisis as a lever with which to implement Communism is simultaneously entertaining and dispiriting:
I am reminded of a creepy young American geologist I was forced to work with in the Philippines a decade ago who first found a girlfriend there, then a few years later decided that transsexuals were his cup of tea, later coming out as gay and then returning to heterosexuality (but, I heard, heterosexuality manifested in a myriad of extreme forms).
I remember having a beer with the geologist and some others – oddly enough in a midget bar in old Manila – and boldly pointing out to him after one too many San Miguels that sexual desire is nothing more than God’s way of making us procreate; that the road of sexual gratification is endless; a ruse one should fast see through, as there will always be someone more perverse than you are and eventually you’ll traverse a line that will skin you down to nowt. I have no idea what happened to that American geologist fellow. I live in hope that, like survivors of the Weather Underground, he eventually grew up and swapped moral relativism for moral circumspection.
All revolutions are blighted by the swindle that humans and their nature are mutable. That there is some dreamland out there where all human beings will all find their happy place. The thing is that these dreamlands never materialise and all attempts throughout history to establish them have ended in trade-off or soaked in blood. Having the itch to make the world perfect is no bad thing – it is just part of life’s inherent swindle, to add contrast to life’s spectacle of light and dark. To continue to plan for Utopian equality for all – when YouTube exists on which the disasters of Venezuela, Cambodia and the USSR can be watched for free from all angles and viewpoints – is, frankly, more than a tad dumb. Sure, some revolutions – take the American – can seem desirable but even those that pan out well in the long run tend to be those that liberate peoples from tyranny rather than those that straitjacket all citizens into some Utopian scheme.
When the Coronavirus is dispatched the markets will bounce back and people will return to their jobs. The skies will once again be polluted, and we’ll be left mourning our dead. The bright shoots of capitalist growth and recovery will be ubiquitous. We will be still many years short of AI capable of replacing the workforce and giving us a universal basic income. All we will be able to do is lament our human fallibility and try, as before, to improve our lot – preparing better for the next reminder of our ungodliness and our enduring inability to create heaven on earth.
Socialists and other Utopians may find this conservative view of life miserable. In fact the inherent pragmatism in trade-offs should be perceived as uplifting – celebrating humanity’s variety and the unmalleable strength of individuality that expands our liberty. The totalitarian chill of Coronavirus is a taste of the alternative – locked down into more equal units of powerlessness against the commanding authority seeking to reshape the populus with its autarchic plan for humanity; inevitably, our rights are dissolved, protests against its plans ignored, and our freedoms curtailed. One man’s Utopia will always be another man’s hell – even those Utopias that start off well are broken nets increasingly incapable of confining people inside for long.
Rather than seeing Coronavirus as a great reset button for Earth and humanity we should instead recognise we humans cannot change. We are all of us – black, white, female, male – as if born in the image of God in how we dominate our planet, but we shall never be God, or even gods. We have rights – but no rights to play at being God, just as my American acquaintance on his road of sexual discovery came up against inevitable boundaries however progressive his sexual militancy. A lack of bad rights does not make us useless. We can plan for a better future and continue to improve our lot – just as individuals capable of opting in and out of community, rather than as the community marshalling individuals into some foolhardy Year Zero Utopian bog. Stick or fall for life’s inherent swindles? Stick with the best of what we’ve got and, in all humility, let’s try and build on it. That answer should be as universal as it is basic and logical – when it is, the world will be a much better place.
Dominic Wightman is the Editor of Country Squire Magazine.