During lockdown, I got sick of hearing people complain that it was driving them mad to go without their holidays.
This is/was the worst global plague in a hundred years, but magazines and papers were full of articles about how terrible this inconvenience was.
Toby Young for instance, in the Spectator, complained that his family normally take three holidays but this year they might not even manage one.
Sorry if a global pandemic inconveniences you, Toby.
So far there are 167 million cases and 3.75 million reported deaths worldwide.
The real figures are of course probably far higher.
Our government, not wanting to upset anyone, has been as understated as possible.
Consequently, there is no feeling of urgency.
That’s why I was impressed by this speech made by the Prime Minister of Uganda.
I know nothing about him as a person, good or bad, but I am impressed by this.
I think it’s something we could learn from.
How to cut through with simple, powerful language, not political double-speak:
“In a war situation, nobody asks anyone to stay indoors.
You stay indoors by choice.
In fact, if you have a basement, you hide there for as long as hostilities persist.
During a war, you don’t insist on your freedom.
You willingly give it up in exchange for survival.
During a war, you don’t complain of hunger.
You bear hunger and pray that you live to eat again
During a war, you don’t argue about opening your business.
You close your shop and run for your life.
You pray to outlive the war so that you can return to your business.
During a war, you are thankful for seeing another day in the land of the living.
The world is currently in a state of war.
A war without guns and bullets. A war without human soldiers.
A war without borders. The army in this war is without mercy.
It is indiscriminate – it has no respect for children, women, or places of worship. This army is not interested in spoils of war.
It is not even interested in religious, ethnic or ideological hegemony.
Its ambition has nothing to do with racial superiority.
Its only agenda is a harvest of death.
It is Coronavirus. Also known as COVID-19
Thankfully, this army has a weakness and it can be defeated.
COVID-19 cannot survive social and physical distancing.
It only thrives when you confront it. It loves to be confronted.
It capitulates in the face of collective social and physical distancing.
So this is not a time to cry about infringement of liberties like spoilt children. Let’s obey and follow the instructions of the authorities. Let’s defeat COVID-19. In no time, we shall regain our freedom, enterprise and socializing.”
Whether you like the man or not, whether you agree with the message or not, that is an example of powerful writing.
Unlike the usual political double-speak designed to offend no-one and say nothing, that speech is designed for clarity and action.
The difference between writing meant to provoke admiration and writing meant to provoke action was summed up by Adlai Stevenson many years ago.
“When Cicero had finished speaking, people said “What a fine speech”.
But when Demosthenes had finished speaking, people marched.”