Why lockdown has become a lifestyle

May 2, 2021 by

by Frank Furedi, spiked:

The culture of fear has made a lifetime of quarantine look attractive.

For almost half a century, fear has dominated the outlook of Western societies. One of the distinctive features of this outlook is the tendency always to think the worst. And it is this tendency that has exerted an all too powerful influence over policymakers and experts during the Covid pandemic.

[…]  Writing of the ‘widespread compliance with lockdown restrictions’, Dr Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist, provides a compelling account of the systematic promotion of scaremongering by officialdom and the media. He notes that a paper written for the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on 22 March was concerned that the public was too relaxed about the pandemic. It argued that ‘the perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging’. Others working in the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), a subgroup of SAGE, seemed to have agreed. At least one member of SAGE was moved to admit that, ‘The British people have been subjected to an unevaluated psychological experiment without being told that is what’s happening’.

[…] Indeed, the pre-existing perspective of fear is key to understanding both the high levels of public compliance with Covid restrictions and people’s subsequent embrace of lockdown culture. In short, people were already primed to respond to a crisis like Covid in the fearful, lockdown-demanding way that they did, because safety was already being treated as a supreme value, an end in itself – one for which it was worth sacrificing virtually all aspects of societal life.

The demand for a safe space

In a sense, the embrace of lockdown by many people has been a long time coming. This is because generations of young people have been socialised in the culture of fear. Thanks to the adoption of new therapeutic childrearing and educational practices, in which protecting children from risk has been paramount, these children have grown up with a fearful perspective. Older character ideals, such as courage, have been marginalised. As the historian Peter Stearns pointed out:

‘Convincing the child that his or her environment was risk-free was essential; teaching him or her to overcome risk with courage dropped away – a truly fundamental change.’ (1)

This mode of socialisation deprived people of one of the most important moral resources that one can draw upon in the face of fear — courage.

As Aristotle and numerous other great philosophers have observed, the virtue of courage has long played an important role in the management of fear. Courage, alongside other virtues, such as reason, judgment, prudence and fortitude, offers an effective and flexible antidote to the perspective of fear. Educating young people to embrace these values can ensure that new generations of people become self-confident, and develop a more balanced and optimistic attitude towards the future.

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