Having grown up in a country where people were supposed to jump up and applaud on cue at various public rallies, I may be oversensitive to mandated collective enthusiasm.
Perhaps it does take heightened sensitivity to detect something sinister in such public displays. Yet even someone without my experience should at least sense they are in excruciatingly bad taste.
This is reflected in the ambiguous name for this new-fangled practice: CLAP FOR CARERS. It took me a while to realise that the first word is actually a verb rather than a noun. At first I couldn’t figure out why we should wish such an unpleasant disease on our heroic medics.
But double entendres aside, those clapping lemmings aren’t just potential putty in tyrants’ hands, and not merely people devoid of elementary taste. As their yesterday’s display showed, they are also stupid.
Hundreds of them gathered on Westminster Bridge at 8pm last night to prove they are happy to trade their individuality for mob membership. No social distancing was anywhere in sight: someone ought to have told the lemmings that two metres is rather more than two inches.
Hence, while celebrating the medics, the mob was doing its best to increase their workload. After all, social distancing regulations are there for a purpose, aren’t they?
Don’t closely packed crowds make it easier for the virus to spread? If so, the whole exercise looked somewhat circuitous: first the celebrants increase the number of patients in care, then they ‘clap the carers’. There’s no logic to it.
Unless, of course, they know something the rest of us don’t, that social distancing, lockdowns, face masks and so forth are a load of malarkey, ignored by people in the know.
There were quite a few possessors of that secret knowledge on the bridge: not just the ordinary happy-clappers, but also some staffers of the near-by St Thomas’ Hospital, and a heavy police presence led by the Met Police chief Cressida Dick (considering her predilections, that surname is an aptonym if I’ve ever seen one).
The back-up sound was provided by parked ambulances with their blaring sirens. The scene was sickening in every sense of the word.
Since Miss Dick’s job has less to do with policing than politics, one can understand her desire to grab any photo op going. What’s less immediately clear is how the police can then justify banning people from saying good-bye to their dying relations in hospitals.
Let’s remind ourselves that a just society is always rational, while a tyranny hardly ever is. On the contrary, it works by replacing reason with reflexes, sentiment with sentimentality and individuality with a craving for group identity.
That’s why aspiring despots always seek to draw people into a collective entity, house-trained to express joy or, as need be, indignation. Reason or – on yesterday’s evidence – prudence doesn’t come into it at all. In fact, people are actively encouraged to act irrationally and stupidly.
Yet it’s not only coronavirus but also, more important, tyranny that ought to be kept at bay. And the best way of doing so is to resist being shepherded into a herd. We are neither sheep nor lemmings – we are people created in the image and likeness of God.
That our doctors and nurses have earned our gratitude is beyond doubt. But we ought to express gratitude as people, not livestock. May I suggest a quiet prayer of thanks?