Things are not normal. I know this, you know this, the remote and previously cut off Great Andamanese tribes know this.The shadow of coronavirus has settled like a global patina.
You could blame coronavirus focus for the lack of excitement over the polio eradication news.
Last week the World Health Organisation declared that polio had been eradicated in Africa. That’s a hell of thing. Since 1996 a vaccine programme has been under way to beat the virus on the African continent. The numbers around this are staggering. Almost nine billion vaccines were administered. An estimated 1.8 million children were prevented from what the WHO call “crippling lifelong paralysis”. It is a remarkable achievement. Now only two nations – Pakistan and Afghanistan – have polio present in the population. And there are moves to fix that.
But it wasn’t a focus on coronavirus that stopped this success dominating headlines. It was the Proms. The story that the lyrics to Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory were being banned by the pesky wokeatarian BBC during the broadcast of Last Night of the Proms flared up and focused fury for a few days. It even brought a longer statement from the Prime Minister than he delivered over the exams fiasco. It MUST have been important.
It wasn’t. It was a badly handled episode. It turned out that because there will be no crowds in the Royal Albert Hall, crowd participation won’t be possible. Also, lyrics will be back next year. Besides, there are ripe colonialist attitudes in the words that could be parked for a while. Still, it was given space and fury enough to blister into a culture war. On the one side, those who hold Britishness and a certain pride dear, on the other, those wet liberals who would do all they can to destroy it. As ever, there was no room for nuance or debate.
Culture wars flare and fester under the heat lamps of social media. Sometimes this makes them strong in the real world. Sometimes they burn out. They only live through participation. And it’s not always necessary to participate. There is no requirement to get involved in every argument.