This article has been written by someone who needs to remain anonymous and who has information that the government has placed an order for 100,000 body bags. Is this true? And if it is true what does it tell us about how the government sees the disease spreading? It also raises another question which is why are non-essential workers still being forced into work often against their will?
We live in a world obsessed with measuring, grading and assessing. Every action and thought can now be appraised and a numerical value assigned. This is how the algorithms that drive social media function. This is how we’re judged competent – or not – in the workplace. This tyranny extends to dating apps and even popular children’s books. There is no escape from grading and assessing, not even when it comes to the traditionally intangible emotions: “Guess How Much I Love You” Little Nutbrown Hare asks Big Nutbrown Hare. “To the moon and back”, he replies. Now that’s a big number. Can you imagine how big?
How, then, might it be possible to assign a numerical value to the socially murderous policies of the UK government in their mishandling of Covid-19? On a scale of one-to-ten? Could we count the u-turns? How about counting the number of times Mr Johnson and company ignored World Health Organisation advice? We could count the needless deaths that have resulted from the policies, but this would only give us a running total – a horrific number to count, no doubt, but not a measure that captures the overall situation. It’s a tricky one, even for those of us familiar with the finer points of the ‘age of assessment’.
One accurate measure of the scale of Johnson’s incompetence might be the number of body bags ordered by the NHS. The odd thing is that amongst reports on the failure of the government to acquire ventilators, personal protection equipment and the rest; news items on the hastily constructed ‘super hospitals’ in converted conference centres; and the new announcements on testing kits this figure seems to be missing.
Now suppose you’ve been told – second hand and in confidence – that a major manufacturer of body bags has received an order for 100,000 of them. Would a ‘score’ of 100,000 reveal the scale of Johnson’s wrong-doing? Keeping in mind that this figure is from only one manufacturer, is it even possible to picture 100,000 ‘occupied’ body bags? I can’t imagine it. I don’t really want to imagine it but we live in a world where everything is measured, where everything is assigned a numerical value. There is no escape.
If you take time to browse the NHS supply chain website, you will find detailed information on the variety of body bags on offer. The standard adult size body bag is 220x107cm in dimension, has a three sided zip and can accommodate a human corpse of up to 140kg in weight. Suppose we lay these 100,000 body bags side by side and end by end. How big an area are we talking? 235,400 square metres. That’s about 33 football pitches.
Are 33 football pitches lined with dead bodies a good enough measure of Johnson’s crime? It’s a breath taking number, is it not?
What about it we just lined up the body bags from end to end. What distance would that take us? 220,000 metres, 220 kilometres, or 137 miles. If you drove by the side of these bodies at 30mph, it would take you just over four and a half hours to go from end to end. Can you now picture the scale of Johnson’s crime?
100,000 body bags is no real measure of the scale of what this government has done to us. The loss of human life cannot be measured in mere numbers. Human ingenuity has not yet – and never will – build a machine to measure the devastation, pain and suffering that comes with even one unnecessary death let alone social murder on the scale now anticipated. This is a crime that will not be forgotten because it will not be measured by digits on a spreadsheet. We will carry it with us for decades to come.