This national lockdown has met with the approval of the vast majority of the voting public, at least for now: when it comes down to it, we are a nation that believes in a strong state, especially in a moment of national adversity. The comparison to the United States, from which our economic liberals draw their ideas, and often funding, is instructive.
Compared to us, and other European countries, the global superpower is barely a functioning state, far less a nation as we understand the term. In this respect, we are fortunate to have deep cultural reserves to draw on: a certain national mythos of dogged making-do and carrying-on in the face of adversity has since the Second World War defined much of the nation’s self-image, and now is the time to utilise it for the greater good.
To this end, the government has proposed a mass mobilisation of 250,000 volunteers for the NHS, to deliver food and medicine to those self-isolating at official request.
It is a good idea, and the speed and scale of the public’s response, with more than 400,000 volunteers already, is heartening but it perhaps does not go far enough. Continuing the wartime analogy, an impromptu volunteer effort is, like the Little Ships at Dunkirk, suited to a sudden crisis of short duration, but a sustained battle over the course of months or years requires a different degree of determination entirely.
If this is genuinely a national crisis on the scale of the Second World War, as the government’s extraordinary economic and political measures suggest, then we should mobilise the full resources of the state to face it. To do this, why not institute a form of conscription suited to a peacetime crisis: an NHS national service?
Because conscription is a form of slavery you dunderhead. It turns people – literally – into helots, slaves of the state.
Releasing our youth from effective house arrest and allowing them to commit their health, vitality and purpose to the nation’s greater good is not just a quick fix to a sudden manpower shortage but a statement of who we are as a nation. It is an opportunity for the British government and people to affirm that we value younger people, and that we need them to play their part.
In boosting the NHS with a transfusion of new blood where it is needed most, freeing up both trained medical staff and the armed forces for the period of greatest danger now approaching, it would be a move of some practical utility which bears within it the seeds of a far greater social good.
It’s not even disguising the drooling over Blood and Will.