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There was a time when the Earth was flat. If you walked or

sailed far enough, you would fall off the edge. Yes, really. No one was in a position to disagree, since explorers who went too far fell off and never returned to tell the tale. Or so people believed. Oh, and the Sun and stars moved round the Earth, which was the centre of the universe in those days. When Galileo came along with his trusty telescope, and proved the Earth moved round the Sun, he was branded a heretic. The Inquisition sentenced him to house arrest, where he remained for the last nine years of his life. He had to renounce the truth, tell everyone it was all a big mistake and just turn a blind eye.

How could this be? After all, four thousand years ago Abraham knew the Earth was a sphere that revolved round the Sun. The Nephites, the Greeks (at least some of them) and other ancient civilisations knew this. The fact is, truth is corruptible. Rumours, even innocent mistakes may be caught in the vortex of scholarship or expediency and become firmly established. Powerful people (as in the Catholic Church versus Galileo), just hate to admit they got it wrong. They go to all sorts of extremes to defend the indefensible, silence all opposition, and justify their own incompetence.

I couldn’t help reflecting on Flat Earth Theory when some time ago I read revelations about the Covid lockdowns. Powerful people manipulated data, used suspicious statistics, doubtful science, and unsurprisingly arrived at dubious decisions. They felt justified turning the country into an inhuman police state for political expediency, using coercion strategies that rivalled East Germany’s Stasi. I’m astonished how easily the country was cowed, how quietly we gave up basic freedoms and human rights. I knew within a few weeks that things were not right. I’m not a scientist, but I know something about statistics: it was obvious we were being given flakey figures in the TV bulletins. The contradictions and absurdities of some precautions clearly had nothing to do with science and were arbitrary rules thought up on the back of an envelope.

Yes, I saw Flat Earth Syndrome in the Covid catastrophe quite early, and I’m ashamed I did nothing other than complain to a few friends. My wife will testify that I grumbled and shouted at the television during the regular Covid bulletins, but that was all. In the thick of the pandemic only a few journalists and scientists spoke out, and I cheered them on from my armchair. They attracted massive opprobrium, vicious criticism and threats, but many of their views are now being vindicated. Sadly I sent no supportive comments, no emails to my MP, no social media debates. I organised no mass protest on the North York Moors against the ban on hiking. Flat Earth, you see, is very flattening.

Of course, our politicians were facing an unknown threat, so perhaps we can forgive their panic response in the early weeks of the pandemic. But as time went on we learned more, and like Galileo with his telescope we saw a different picture. At least some did. One of the prominent issues is that projections were based on computer models, but week after week these figures were wrong, though not by a small margin—often they were massively wrong. Yet the government continued to use them. Other, more accurate projections were available but they were suppressed because they didn’t support the political narrative. The second and third lockdowns were particularly unforgivable: decisions were made based on out-of-date statistics for goodness sake! Flat Earth and a Geocentric Solar System? You Bet! Can’t help wondering if the carbon zero campaign is based on the same kind of flawed computer modelling.

Having ranted my rant I now have to fall on my knees and confess. My wife and I actually enjoyed lockdowns, especially the first one, even though we believed them to be wrong. We had a long spell of fine weather you may remember, and it was pleasant to be ordered to sit in the sun in our back garden, cool drink and a good book to hand, and relax. The rules permitted my morning jog, so I kept fit (avoiding others on the path of courser), and as retired persons we had no worries about employment. It shows how insidiously attractive and addictive a thing like this can become. The sensible Swedes famously did not impose lockdowns, and have a better outcome than almost all the countries that did. Interestingly, they claim their decision was a result of following “the science”: obviously a different science than “the science” in the UK. Mmm – and science is impartial and objective?

One of the commentators I enjoy reading is Jonathan Sumption, the retired Supreme Court judge. On one occasion he mentioned that his opposition to lockdown and government strategy was primarily ethical. He considers the lockdowns to be immoral. He accepts there are occasions when they might be justified, but persuasively argues that this was not one of them. He is damning in his forensic analysis of political failures and incompetency, but for him the greatest disgrace is an underlying thread of unethical, undemocratic decisions and process.

Think of what happened as a result of deliberate control and suppression:

Personal agency curtailed

Civil liberties removed

Normal social interaction banned

Schools closed, education paused

Masks everywhere—no smiles, no facial expression

Churches closed

When churches reopened, no hymn singing

Full funerals not allowed

Elderly isolated in care homes

Unable to comfort dying relatives in hospital

Large families unable to meet

Hospital tests & operations postponed

Deaths from undiagnosed or untreated cancer

Neighbours became inspectors of Covid compliance—much curtain twitching

Aggressive policing of restrictions

False information knowingly used to justify policy

The underlying features of these and other decrees include: personal agency drastically curtailed, disruption of communication, community support prohibited, family relationships curtailed, group activities including religious worship cancelled, productive work banned. Highly desirable objectives that Satan might desire. Which is the main reason for this blog post. Wherever we see human agency unjustly restricted, we can be sure the origin is Satan, not Jesus Christ. Many countries in the world prohibit their people from knowing and accepting our Saviour. Joseph Smith was asked how he managed to govern his people. His famous answer was “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” This was the Swedish strategy, and it worked. A challenging question for me is: “am I doing the same in my personal relationships?” One of the most memorable quotes from General Conference was in October 2019. Sister Aburto said “stop being the inspectors of the spirituality of others”. That pulled me up short. I tend to be a bit judgemental (which you might, possibly, have noticed in this post 😊). At this point I should remind any readers that these posts are a “memo to self”.

We have this thought-provoking scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 134:5

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments . . .  and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

But what are our “inalienable rights”? Verse 2 gives us a clue, though not a full answer:

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

I don’t have a complete answer to this question, or to the next: what do we do if our inalienable rights are not protected and our freedom of conscience is not held sacred? We can only do the best we can. I feel we came perilously close to this in the lockdowns. Oh, I know we’re not in the same league as North Korea, Afghanistan, or Iran—nowhere near. But it’s a slippery slope to a Flat Earth. The ease and speed we lost our liberty was breathtaking and yet, I still stood back and did very little. Maybe you did too. Civic involvement and communication with politicians and legislators is vital. At a personal level, our relationships with each other should meet the same ethical standards; these principles also apply to ordinary social interaction.

Well, it’s a wonderful world and a fascinating life. Just to be quite clear for anyone still not sure: the Earth is not flat, it’s a round ball—definitely. And the Universe is not geocentric—the Earth moves round the Sun. So now you know for sure!


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