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  • Alastair Cavendish

The Light of India

The new fundamentalism that has made an idol of a virus is based on two great lies. The first is that those who worship the blessed virus are motivated entirely by altruism, rather than fear; the second is that those who question them must be wickedly selfish. The government and the media, together with the lockdown fanatics and the mask fetishists, have been so insistent on this point that they have managed, for the first time in human history, to make a virtue of cowardice. They are not concerned for themselves, of course, but they have elderly relatives… Meanwhile, your pretended concern for civil liberties, centuries of culture, and the collective sanity of nations is nothing but a façade hiding your desperation to go to the pub.

This sanctimonious propaganda has been so successful that even the plight of India is apparently not enough to alert the people of this country to an obvious truth. How should a humane and reasonable person react to the crisis currently ravaging that most magnificent of countries? The government and the media appear to be agreed on this point. The best response is to give a paltry amount of aid accompanied by a great deal of finger-wagging. It is essential to point out to the Indians that they have not handled the pandemic perfectly and that next time they really must try to be a much smaller, wealthier nation, perhaps a bit like Switzerland or Denmark (but not Sweden). At the same time, though we cannot spare many ventilators, we must be sure to send them any number of camera crews. The people of India are doubtless delighted to be providing the Western media with an endless diet of pornographic poverty, misery, and grief. The West, after all, has been getting complacent. Friends have been spotted having drinks together, couples are risking an occasional kiss, and solitary mountain-climbers even have the infernal arrogance to attempt the ascent without a mask. There is one obvious cure: pictures of the dead and dying in India, grieving relatives, despairing doctors, and the bodies piled high.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is your reaction to the sight of people dying in India? Are you terrified that the scenes of devastation in New Delhi must mean that you are equally at risk in New Malden or the New Forest? Or do you see people suffering and want to help them by the most effective means possible? Surely this is the simplest possible test of whether your response to the pandemic is driven by cowardice or compassion.

India is welcome to my shot of the vaccine. It is probably being manufactured there in any case, so why not let them keep it? This is not a statement of scepticism about the vaccine itself, it is a simple calculation of risk. All the people in Britain who were in any serious danger from the mighty Covid have now received at least one shot of the vaccine, if they wanted one. Even the sulky schoolboy who occupies the post of Secretary of State for Health has had a dose. We have now embarked on the project of vaccinating every small child, dog, cat and guinea pig in the British Isles. In a few months, we shall be jabbing needles into our soft furnishings, and refusing to drink any wine made from unvaccinated grapes. Perhaps, at this point, it might be time to think of those less fortunate than ourselves.

This should not be a difficult moral issue. We can be grateful that we are at very little risk from the virus, and concentrate on helping those who face much greater danger, or we can treat the situation in India like a horror film, terrifying ourselves with images of death and desolation. While the government and the media take the latter course, I do not feel much inclined to listen to anything they have to say on the topic of altruism and selfishness.

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