Neil Oliver: For the sake of freedom – yours and mine together – I will cheerfully risk catching Covid
That is a chance, one among many, that I am prepared to take, and happily. Life is not safe. Freedom is not safe. For the sake of freedom – I will cheerfully risk much else besides.
For me it is all and only about freedom.
For me, without freedom there is no point in anything. So – take away all the numbers, all the statistics, all the models and predictions, all the promises and threats, all the steel hand in velvet glove coercion. Take all of that away. For me it all boils down to something simple. I declare that I am a free man. I was born 54 years ago into a part of the world – just a relatively small part of the world – where I was taught that my freedom had been won for me by men and women who had fought and died to make it so. I was born just 22 years after World War II, into a world still full of those men and women who had fought for my freedom and lived to tell the tale. And what a tale it was.
It had started with the sudden appearance of a force bent on tyranny. Of course the sudden appearance was an optical illusion. In truth that force had been on the rise and making plans for years before it was ready to pull the trigger. It is worth remembering that that force believed it was poised to make the world a better place, a glorious place. When that force started moving it seemed nothing could or would stop it. And in the beginning of the fight to prevent the victory of that tyranny it was a minority – a minority outgunned and shouted down by fellow citizens who felt deals might be struck with tyrants, that stood up and said no.
English writer Mervyn Peake said, “To live at all is miracle enough”. It’s a good line and I’ve quoted it for years. But now I see that merely to live is not enough, not nearly. A caged bird is alive, but without the freedom to fly in the limitless sky it is denied everything that makes it a bird in the first place. To be alive is not enough. What matters is to live in freedom. A bird is such a fragile creature. It is really all and only about movement. Take away a bird’s movement and it is a handful of feathers and air.Freedom is not negotiable. You are either free, or you are not. Freedom is not even safe. Those who have been imprisoned are often terrified of freedom – all those choices, all of that personal responsibility. This is why ex-cons often re-offend, so they can go back behind bars where it feels safer, out of harm’s way.
I have three children. They are growing up fast. Teenagers all. Often I think I would like to keep them close by me forever, where I can stop them doing stupid things, dangerous things. If I kept them in the house, no stranger could hurt them. But that would be no life – not for them, and not even for me. I would be their jailer and they would be my caged birds. As it happens, this past year and half has let me see what happens to children kept safe in the house. It is not good, not good at all. And so if I didn’t know it before I know now that I have to let them go out into a world that is full of all manner of things – danger included.
Here’s the thing: If your freedom means I might catch Covid from you, then so be it. If my freedom means you might catch Covid from me, then so be it. That is honestly how I see it. For the sake of freedom – yours and mine together – I will cheerfully risk catching Covid. That is a chance, one among many, that I am prepared to take, and happily. Life is not safe. Freedom is not safe. For the sake of freedom – yours and mine together, both freedoms being of equal value – I will cheerfully risk much else besides.
It’s the summertime now. Summertime is the time to remember the Battle of Britain. The part of that story that moves me most of all has Churchill in Uxbridge, in the operations room of Number 11 Group, tasked with defending London and the south east. The sky above them is thick with fighter planes and bombers. Churchill asks Air Vice Marshall Keith Park about the reserves – how many planes and pilots he has as back up and ready to take the place of those already committed. “Every aircraft and man we have is in the air now,” said Park. “There is no reserve.”
Those Spitfires and Hurricanes were piloted by men and also by boys not long out of school. They risked everything, for freedom, mine and yours. I cannot be sure, but I don’t think they fought and died so that a government might seize and hold that freedom like a deck of cards, dealing it out piecemeal to those deemed deserving. I think they fought for unconditional freedom for each man, woman and child. That’s what I think.
I’ve been reading about people calling other people who have chosen not to take the vaccine “plague rats”. I have read about people calling for those plague rats to be rounded up and locked away out of sight.
There is another Battle of Britain being fought now. It is being fought by a minority outgunned and shouted down by those who would accept freedom handed to them by MPs on condition that they do as they are told. That is not freedom. That is tyranny and I for one will not live under that yoke. As I have done all my life, I salute The Few. I will hope to see you on the other side.