When Corona-19 is defeated

Opinion Coronavirus outbreak

After the crisis, a new world won’t emerge as if by magic. We will have to fight for it

Neal Ascherson

What will the landscape look like when we wake from the nightmare? The fantasies, and anxieties, about the future are already with us

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Sun 19 Apr 2020 09.30 BST

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Puzzled man with an axe on his shoulder looks at a tree with buildings and people on every branch

‘The landscape after the plague will be unfamiliar.’ Illustration: Dom McKenzie/The Observer


The French used to be mad about the cure de sommeil – the sleep cure. Dr Jakob Klaesi of Bern invented it. Drugged, you pass out for days or even weeks. Then, cautiously, you are woken up. You are supposed to find you feel quite differently about things.

Politicians insist that lockdown under coronavirus is like the experience of wartime. It’s not – except in one way, which I’ll come to. It’s so quiet, for one thing. War is noisy. Sirens, soldiers tramping past singing, Luftwaffe engines in the night sky.

These lockdown weeks are more like induced sleep. Nine out of 10 of us see and hear nothing of the nurses and doctors, the bus drivers and key workers. We learn of their bravery and their deaths only by radio, from a screen or a newspaper left by a boy in a mask. For most people, life is on hold. A trance descends, soothed by birdsong, a dog barking, an ambulance in the distance.

What happens when it’s over? European literature has a genre of “the landscape after the battle” – the ruins, the hunger and cold, the search for family survivors. The landscape after the plague will be unfamiliar, but not like that.

In the first place, emerging from isolation – waking up – must be handled carefully. It’s the phase de sevrage, weaning the patient from sleep. “This prolonged dive into the world of dream can allow a patient to exercise their fantasies, perhaps to discover the links between them,” warns a French doctor. “Harmful after-effects are possible, provoking in some patients paroxysms of depressive anxiety.”

The fantasies and anxieties are already with us. And here one comparison with wartime does work. The longer the virus emergency lasts, the more the memory of the pre-virus world begins to grow unreal, unconvincing. It was like that in the Second World War. “Peacetime…”

Was there really a Britain, only a few years ago, when you could buy as many sweeties as you wanted? A time when the work of millions of men and women wasn’t wanted, when the poor couldn’t afford a doctor, when middle-class families had servants they could sack when Madam was in a bad temper? It wasn’t just working-class people who began to ask: “Could we really have lived like that? This war’s changed everything. Pity, in some ways, but it couldn’t go on.”

A doctor checks a young boy’s tonsils, December 1935.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Was there really a Britain, only a few years ago, when, outside the schools medical service, the poor couldn’t afford a doctor? Photograph: Daily Herald Archive/SSPL via Getty Images Advertisement

Now, unmistakably, there’s a feeling that “things will never be the same after it’s over” and “we can’t go back to all that”.

Can’t we, just? Some of those who govern us can imagine only restoring “their” Britain, disfigured by inequalities. They will exploit the real and moving solidarity shown in these pandemic months, as they confront the colossal debts left by rescue spending. They will impose another “we’re all in this together” campaign of savage austerity at the expense of social services and the poor.

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And yet, just as in 1945, voices are starting to say “never again”. As in: never again “austerity”, which leaves people helpless in an emergency. Never again the emaciation of the welfare state, and the NHS above all. Come to that, never again neoliberalism. But who will do the politics of “never again” when we open our eyes? Or are these hopes just “prolonged dives into the world of dream”, pathetic fantasies dissolving into “paroxysms of depressive anxiety” as Britain wakes from its corona coma?

The landscape will look different. Mass unemployment, as hundreds of firms go bust in spite of government loans, made much worse if the suicidal idiocy of a no-deal Brexit really happens at the end of this year. Concentration of wealth and power in fewer hands, as big companies cannibalise what’s left of smaller enterprises. Bankruptcies devastating those charities and funds that maintained so much welfare and research as public spending withered under austerity.

Londoners queue outside a butcher’s shop in 1947.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Never again? Londoners queue outside a butcher’s shop in 1947. Photograph: Pat English/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Yet there’s new light, too. Neoliberalism is dead, but Boris Johnson’s own path away from it leads to a UK version of European neopopulism: a powerful nationalist state, insular and xenophobic, harsh on human rights, big spender on the welfare of the “left-behind” masses. Rishi Sunak’s discovery of billions for business rescue, like the cities’ discovery of millions to house their rough sleepers, shows what was always possible. Debt and deficit soar but – turning Tory orthodoxy inside out – they seem not so lethal after all. And a dose of moderate inflation? Why not? Advertisement

The state is back. A liberating thought for Labour under Keir Starmer. But a strong British state in the 2020s – what will that smell like? The historian David Edgerton, asking himself: “When was Britain?”, answers: not in the high days of empire, not even in 1940, but in the postwar decades after 1945. Then Britain became a strictly centralised and planned state. Almost self-sufficient (“Export or Die!”), it was industrialised as never before or since. Operated by Tories as well as Labour, this “economic nationalism” only broke down in the 1980s, says Edgerton. In came free-market dogma, the shrinking of the state and devolution wrenching open the faultlines of the United Kingdom.

That “strong Britain” left its peoples healthier, safer, better educated and more equal. But there’s no way back to it. The industrial economy is over. Dragging Scotland and Wales back under Whitehall control – forget it! Johnson’s “strong Britain” may amount only to England weakly imitating the repressive populism of Poland or Hungary.

Yet a great emergency, like this shared time of pestilence, leaves people sensing their own power, aware that they can act without waiting for yesterday’s leaders. When we finally wake up from the long sleep cure, there is a chance to make those “never agains” more than a fading dream. A chance – but lasting only for a few months of creative confusion as we all stand up again and look around. “Rise like lions after slumber,” said Shelley. There is plenty to do, but we have to do it fast.

• Neal Ascherson is a journalist and writer

I have seen these lovely ladies sing in Exeter at the Hole in the Wall which is a hot bed of student life now owned by the TimePiece http://www.timepiecenightclub.co.uk/ These lovely singers also used to work at Timepeice too.

Update 17:28 19/04/2020 Just heard this beautiful song from another Devonian Earth Angel and whats more she is a childrens nurse in London what a star.

Sisters secrets and sacrifices

She died alone and penniless in Torquay – until the true story of Secret Agent Rose’s wartime heroism made headlines around the world

Neighbours thought the quiet cat lady was a lonely Eleanor Rigby – but she turned out to be one of the heroines of WWII

‘Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifices’ was written about Eileen Nearne and her sister Jacqueline

Ten years ago a quiet old lady who loved cats died alone and penniless in her tiny flat in Torquay. At first her death did not seem remarkable and neighbours compared her to an Eleanor Rigby character.

But slowly it emerged that the elderly woman who liked to sit in the sun on a bench with her ginger cat was none other than Agent Rose, a wartime secret service heroine.

And instead of a so-called pauper’s funeral, Eileen Nearne’s story spread and made headlines around the world. She was buried with all the pomp and circumstance she deserved – including a memorial unveiled by Prince Charles three years later.

Ms Nearne’s service during the war was unknown by neighbours until photographs, documents and some ancient French currency were found at the 89-year-old’s flat in Lisburne Crescent.

Agent Rose aka Eileen Nearne

She was given a guard of honour at her funeral, which was attended by representatives from all the armed forces as well as the Consul General and military attaché from the French embassy in London.

It emerged that she was Eileen Nearne MBE, who had served as a radio operator under the codename ‘Rose’ and spent WWII being parachuted behind enemy lines for the UK’s Special Operations Executive into occupied France.

The Story of Agent Rose

Three times she was captured and held out against Nazi interrogators before eventually escaping. She died as a penniless recluse after being denied her wartime pension and suffering a lifetime of mental health problems caused by the trauma of water torture for which she was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Bobs your Uncle

Well its 08:37 here and I am awake and pleased I got some sleep last night. I thought I would do a little post about my God Father, he was in a band in Liverpool called the Mojos and they had a top ten hit too. He was the drummer in the band and his name was Bobby Conrad. Unfortunately the Legend that is Bobby is no longer with us as death took his soul through a battle with bowl cancer a number of years ago. He taught me so much about how to be a good man and I am honored to have known him.

Bobby is the one standing in front of the word everything.

Well from one Bob to another good one that makes me look like a DJ, next tune is from Bob Marley another legend that is no longer with us.

How cool is this

For the record officer I don’t smoke skunk, cannabis, dope or pollen I am not saying that others can’t it just wrecks my head so not good for me. Unlike Guinness I am ok with that which is Vegan too.

There are lots of people around the world that are substance abuser’s but I think this is more of a product of an abusive environment than an abusive addictive personality. Give a person a life opportunity and they would have better things to do than be an alcoholic or druggie.

Texas chain saw potential massacre

Texas judge rules all registered voters can vote by mail if they fear catching coronavirus

By Kelly Mena, CNN

Updated 0011 GMT (0811 HKT) April 18, 2020Democrat Jamie Wilson displays a sticker after voting in the Super Tuesday primary at John H. Reagan Elementary School in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)Democrat Jamie Wilson displays a sticker after voting in the Super Tuesday primary at John H. Reagan Elementary School in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Washington, DC (CNN)A Texas judge on Friday ruled that all registered voters in the state should be allowed to request and use mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.District Judge Tim Sulak, in a ruling filed Friday in Travis County, issued a temporary injunction that eases the definition of “disability” in Texas’ vote-by-mail provision, making it apply to all registered voters who fear for their health in casting ballots in person for the state’s upcoming elections.Texas’ election code defines “disability” as “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” Voters who meet this definition and wish to vote by mail must submit applications.Sulak acknowledged during a court hearing on Wednesday that he expects an appeal from the state attorney’s office, which has issued guidance that fear of Covid-19 does not qualify as a disability.”Moreover the evidence shows that voters and these Plaintiffs … are reasonable that voting in person while the virus that causes Covid-19 is still in general circulation presents a likelihood of injuring their health, and any voters without established immunity meet the plain language definition of disability thereby entitling them to a mailed ballot,” the order read.In late March, Gov. Greg Abbott postponed dozens of election runoffs statewide for party nominations to congressional and local offices, set for May 26, until July 14. The new date was made to coincide with a competitive special election for a Texas state Senate seat. In issuing the delay, Abbott didn’t weigh in on whether to expand mail-in voting access.In a separate ruling on Friday, Sulak also aligned the dates for early voting for the special election and the runoff to July 6-10.The Texas Democratic Party, the original plaintiff in the case, rushed to declare victory after leaving court on Wednesday, in anticipation of the court ruling in their favor. The group argued that Covid-19 posed a significant health threat to voters if they were forced to cast ballots in person.”We cannot allow this public health crisis to be the death of our democracy when it is taking so many of our loved ones,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a press release.”Our state is better off when more Texans participate in our democracy. Voting by mail is safe, secure, and accessible. It allows more voters to participate in our democracy, and it’s a commonsense way to run an election, especially during a public health crisis,” Hinojosa added.”We just won a preliminary injunction in Texas. All voters get to vote by mail in the primary. No individualized excuses necessary. The coronavirus is a universal excuse. GREAT WORK,” David Cole, national legal director for the ACLU, said Wednesday in a Twitter post.In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a statement late Wednesday, expressed disappointment, saying in part that the district court had ignored the plain text of the state election code in order to allow healthy voters to take advantage of special protections made available to Texans with illnesses or disabilities.”This unlawful expansion of mail-in voting will only serve to undermine the security and integrity of our elections and to facilitate fraud. … My office will continue to defend Texas’s election laws to ensure that our elections are fair and our democratic process is lawfully maintained,” Paxton, a Republican, said in the statement.The Texas state attorney’s office, in response to the court ruling, filed a notice of appeal late Friday.

Democracy

Democracy is not descent it is decent. Long road to freedom when we speak our mind on election days we have the right to vote for who we want and the right to not tell others who we voted for or why.

It is disappointing to see the human collective act in china against the people of Hong Kong. If you are a good people why do bad things.

If you are not part of the solution you might be part of the problem.

I’m not saying that the electric can not get into each and everyone one of us I am only awake at 03:39 because I am having dream/nightmare that the devil is after me.

Hong Kong: High-profile democracy activists arrested

  • 18 April 2020

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Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai (C) leaves the Kowloon City police station in Hong Kong on February 28, 2020,
Image captionJimmy Lai (C) was also arrested in February

Police in Hong Kong have arrested 15 of some of the city’s most high-profile pro-democracy activists.

The group includes 71-year-old media tycoon Jimmy Lai as well as a number of prominent lawmakers.

They are accused of organising, taking part in or publicising unauthorised assembles during last year’s mass protests in the Chinese territory.

They are due to appear in court next month.

The government has not explained the high-profile arrests but they come days after Beijing’s most senior official in the city called for a new security law to deal with dissent.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong had witnessed almost weekly demonstrations against a proposal to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

While that was later abandoned, the protests morphed into demands for greater democracy and less control from Beijing, and anger against the government remains.

Who was arrested?

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai runs the Apple Daily newspaper, which is frequently critical of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership.

Mr Lai, who was estimated by Forbes in 2009 to be worth $660m (£512m), was also arrested in February this year on charges of illegal assembly and intimidation.

Democratic Party founder and barrister Martin Lee, 81, was another prominent figure to be detained.

The 81-year-old – who is known as the father of Hong Kong democracy – said he was “very much relieved” by his arrest, according to AFP news agency.

“For so many years, so many months, so many good youngsters were arrested and charged, while I was not arrested. I feel sorry about it,” he added.

Media caption The BBC’s Helier Cheung on why people are taking to the streets in Hong Kong

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