Lockdown and the Protocols of Fear

7 July 2021

by Sean Walsh

Though I walk in the valley of death I shall fear no evil, for my double jab and face mask comfort me

Psalm 23:4; Covid Version

For a Catholic the Mass is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. It culminates in a divine speech act, mediated via the priest in loco Christi, which brings us into the Real Presence of Our Lord via the Eucharistic celebration. This Sunday, as last Sunday, congregants will be thanking the Lord, in His presence. And as ever, He will be joyful in receipt of that gratitude, even though most of those offering it will be hiding their face from Him, in an act of cowardice which is, at best, a bit rude.

Our Lord offered Himself up to the rest of us in act of supreme sacrifice… the members of my parish, encouraged by the bishops, will lower the mask for about three seconds: enough time to swallow the Host, cover the face again, and then re-engage with the secular protocols of social distancing.

Because they are worried that in the presence of Jesus Christ himself, they might catch a virus.

How has it come to pass that the Government’s mechanisms of fear have been able to reach into the soul of the most observant – and most of my fellow parishioners have always struck me that way – in such a way that neutralises the instincts and teachings of the Nicene Creed? Why is it that at point of contact with Our Lord they are scared?

Laura Dodsworth’s superb A State of Fear offers a generic reply to that question – one which does not focus on religious specifics but includes them in a brilliant analysis of the weaponisation of fear.

Dodsworth describes, analyses, and gives an historical account of how this (and other) governments had, prior to 2020, mechanisms in place designed to terrify all of us. She argues that the ‘virus’ was a sort of implementational excuse, and that the State was raring to go, given the relevant opportunity. COVID-19, and the illness which goes with it (and no serious person can deny that these are real things) supplied the relevant catalyst.

She also hits on a deeper point, one which is relevant to my first description of the Church’s abandonment of genuine faith: that the government since last March has been very competent in its confiscation of the language of the discussion, and that it has operated a sort of deflection strategy which has encouraged us to overlook the real harms of its strategy of “non-pharmaceutical interventions”. Terms have been redefined and language has been bent in the direction of those with the most power. And if you control the language then you control everything, because you are also able to control the language of dissent.

This Government was criticised last year for implementing lockdown in the absence of any cost-benefit analysis. But that assumes that any such analysis could ever be available, and that assumption rests in turn on a sort of crude utilitarianism which reduces all ‘costs’ and all ‘benefits’ to evaluable points of data. The damage this Government has done to the congregants in my church – the deliberate inculcation of fear – is real, but not quantifiable. The SAGE types don’t get this. Their view of the human person is like that of the talented musician who nevertheless insists that a Chopin nocturne is not the music in the head but the notes on the sheet. Next slide please…

Some stuff cannot be reduced to that set of metrics. I hope that the public, and my fellow parishioners, are waking up to that. And I thank Laura for her wonderful crystallisation of that set of concerns.

Sean Walsh is a former university teacher.