What is kind?

By Simon O’Connor

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I wrote a while back that ‘kindness’ – as being promoted by government – is not an overly good concept. Kindness is the result of good or right actions, not a goal in itself as the Prime Minister and friends are promoting. You only have to ask yourself, what is kind? Is expecting your teenager to stay at home for a grandparent’s birthday kind, when they instead want to go to a friend’s party? Is telling your child off in public, who is screaming for candy, a kind action or not? What about deciding to put your beloved pet down instead of seeking more vet care? What is the kind? It doesn’t take much to see that on some things we would agree, but not on others. In recent days, we are seeing just how easy it is for kindness to be manipulated or even perverted. The government is suggesting that it is kind to dob in your family members, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Remember we had something similar last year, with government encouraging us to report on businesses or individuals deemed to be doing something wrong. I have to ask, how is it kind to turn the trust of everyday relations – between friends and family – into a tool for government to use for monitoring compliance? I doubt any of us would look to previous examples of this, in the likes of East Germany, as anything but wrong. Such calls – under the guise of kindness or otherwise – undermines one of the most essential foundations of society, that of trusted relationships between family and friends. Put simply, our relationships are not at the service of the state. Now, I can hear some yelling that we have to protect health and so on. That is quite true – we do need to protect health of our fellow citizens. We can do this by developing better systems – for example, wider testing, more testing options, random phone calls and visits to those in self-isolation and so forth. We can create a system of checks to ensure better compliance without, as the Labour government believes, making everyone a potential snitch under the guise of kindness. Do a simple thought experiment. Should we be reporting on very infraction a family member or friend makes while driving? They were speeding, crossed into a bus lane, ran a red light. I mean, cars kill. People die. Surely then, we should be dobbing this in too; is it not the kind thing to do? I doubt many of us reading this would agree. We might offer some advice, suggest changes … but calling police and dobbing them in? It is a step to far. Way too far.All of this is also an extension of the problems I have highlighted with the ‘team of five million’ concept. While a nice sound bite, the darker side of it is that people can quickly be deemed not team players and punished accordingly. MPs or media who challenge the government’s narrative; scientists whose opinion doesn’t quite suit today’s choices; and now those whose actions illustrate how the system is failing. It doesn’t take much to turn a team into a mob.

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