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It's fun to trust our overseers as they allow us to die

If we truly believed our system can help people then we'd retain that faith in times of political, economic and social crisis.

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Democracy is like conkers for ideas. Everyone picks their best ideas and they're subjected to a battle royale of bootlaces and centripetal force in a gruelling bloodsport that makes The Hunger Games look like hopscotch. From tattered nut husks emerges one victor: the best conker or, to drop the metaphor, the best idea.

Democracy isn't perfect, but historically we're comparing this to tyranny - divine right divs slicing peasants for inadequate beets, or politburo divs labour-camping peasants for inadequate five-year plans. Democracy functions better because it subjects ideas to scrutiny, and scrutiny enforces a basic Darwinian principle onto the concepts that organise our lives.

It's strange then that during times of crisis, when making the best decisions reaches peak importance, that the desire for scrutiny almost completely drops off.

Now, to perform democracy, ask the wrong questions or apply pressure to our overseers has become unseemly, craven and careerist: the new Labour leader vowing to only oppose the government when it's absolutely necessary; columnists for Manchester Evening News and London Evening standard describing public outcry to the government's herd immunity strategy as "hipster analysis"; the political editor of ITV News copy-and-pasting government press releases and repackaging them as news.

In the beforetimes, before we were all hermetically sealed into an 8pm clapopticon, if you were experiencing a personal crisis - left starving after your benefits have been suspended, had your home swaddled in combustible cladding, trapped down a well - you'd be told to stay calm, write a letter to your MP, light a candle to the patron saint of due process, or just politely shout up through the spout of your subterranean prison.

The message given to the desperate and disenfranchised is that your only option is to work within the confines of our intentionally kafkaesque, sluggish and broken system, that no level of crisis can afford anyone special treatment because the systems of electoralism and legalism are our only recourse as a civilised society.

And yet that message is undermined the moment the institutionally powerful are in crisis because in that moment their reptile brain kicks in, takes over their body and forces them to the climb the tallest buildings to beam the words "special powers for the government" onto the night sky using secret fobs given to Journalism undergraduates by the MI5 free pizza booth on careers day.

It's civility politics and business as usual when it's children living in poverty, disabled people found dead in their houses after being stripped of benefits, people of colour being deported, left to rot in Yarl's Wood or burned alive in deathtrap housing. But the moment there's a crisis that can affect the gated communities of King's Cross, the country goes into red alert, we turn into Tracy Island, and Heathrow slides open to reveal a cannon capable of firing all due process into the sun.

There should be something deeply worrying about calls to suspend scrutiny, as though that is a luxury that should be the first to go.

Yes, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Tens of thousands of people are going to die. It is a going to be a national tragedy on a scale that will scar us as a country. But if our mourning is connected to death count alone, we should acknowledge the corona virus death count will never compete with the 120,000 deaths caused by austerity. The human life discarded to balance the books should be a scar that throbs like an aching canker on the soul. Even now, the odds are good we'll see a similar austerity programme rolled out after the pandemic to feed yet more human life into the insatiable maw of the economy.

Devoid of reckoning or resolution, we have appointed the architects of social murder our sole source of rescue while the most senior figures of press scrutiny are voluntarily refusing to question any of their decisions. All the while we clap uselessly out of our windows as a parting gesture to a health service stripped of its ability to protect us.

If we truly believed our system can help people then we'd retain that faith in times of political, economic and social crisis. But if requests for civility are all you can offer people when they are experiencing their time of crisis, then you are telling them at their bleakest hour that the best thing they can do for you is to suffer quietly.

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