Now that the ‘I always said that if I had the time I would, so I will take the lockdown time to learn the mandolin/ recreate the Boyer tapestry in 3D etcs’ have worn off and we are simply being more of what we were before, sometimes more intensely given our confinement, our household is developing a sort of pattern of life. The teenager can’t go to the gym with his friends so he goes running near them, after the initial psychological challenges my beloved has adapted to remote shouting at colleagues in the spare room and when I’m not videoing phonological awareness activities for small people (who can’t tell me that they’ve got a new pair of shoes just as we’re singing about frogs) or waiting for our local Mutual Aid phone to ring I sit around having a think.
I have never been one for physical exercise and a worldwide pandemic isn’t going to change that. I have always loved sitting about reading, writing and pondering. What is exercising my pondering muscles at the moment is this question; Is Lock-down the best way of dealing with Corona?
When Brexit was the main topic of conversation, I tried to keep all my Face-book ‘friends’ from whichever camp they were. I did not want to end up in one of those echo-chambers one reads about. I needed to hear the other side, even if it did get nasty from time to time. Now that we are all locked down I am seeing that most people are staying home as much as possible, keeping an eye out for their neighbours and doing the best they can to earn money, teach class and stay sane. But some of my friends have also begun to form into three new camps. So I have decided to make a sort of ‘Which one are you’ type game, so popular nowadays on various platforms. I am calling the groups the LUUs, the FOCs and the EH-Os. Which one are you?
Most of my friends are Lock Us Ups, some more dedicated than others. If you have attempted to turn your home into a hermetically sealed bunker full of cleaning products and food, or googled any of the following; How long can Corona live on a gas bill? Is it okay to open my windows? or electric fence, then you too are a Lock Us Up. What if an asymptomatic warehouse worker coughed on my packet of pasta? The post-man could be infecting everyone on his round? When I was in the park taking my legitimate exercise, I photographed all these people also in the park, have they no sense of personal responsibility? The Government can never do enough to close down potential sources of contagon; there is always another workplace or outdoor leisure activity that should be stopped. There is almost a glee in some people attempting to turn this crisis into a drama where the only person reacting with the correct level of zealousness is them.
Then there are the Fuck-Off Coppers, some of whom monger another sort of doom, that this is the beginning of a police-state, we will wake up in three months and find that all our civil liberties are gone and we will not be able to go out for a pizza or catch a train without a certificate of some kind. We must rise up, shout something freedom related and sit back down again because we are not actually going to go out anywhere until it’s safe. Each over-zealous Community Support Officer, every dumb cop, and the Chief of Derbyshire Police Force being a total dick-head are posted online as evidence that we are walking sheepishly into the end of freedom. Quotes from George Orwell and Star Wars are written in big font with dark backgrounds as evidence that we will all be enslaved zombies by this time next year. The Government is doing too much and strangling our work and our freedom forever. Suggestions that the UK government has actually been quite reluctant to enforce their ‘instructions’ are met with variations of ‘that is what they all say in the beginning’.
I never knew I was friends with so many modern-day Cassandras. The original Cassandra was granted the gift of prophesy by one God and the curse of not being heard by another. Thus, she was doomed to knowing that her beloved family and city of Troy were doomed to destruction and death but unable to warn them. Today’s Cassandras come in hoards and have got social media. And unless you are either picking up your deliveries on the end of a broom in a hazmat suit or using Zoom to train for the people’s army in your living room you are causing immeasurable harm. These people are certain, certain of something more terrible than counting our dead in thousands. I wish this was more of an exaggeration than it is.
Then there are the last lot, who form a group of ‘Er Hang-Ons’, people who aren’t going to take any chances that might kill someone’s grandma out of their own free will. They are more likely to acknowledge that they don’t know what is happening or going to happen and less likely to post reports from ‘A Doctor’ or make comparisons between Derbyshire and Dheli. They look at what reliable evidence there is and ask questions. Just being more reflective does help me ingest what they are saying. I have friends who, while still practicing the luxury of home-working and social distancing, are posting articles from respected scientists in the relevant fields and questioning whether we are or are not over-reacting somewhat. They ask things like ‘Why isn’t sensible Sweden doing lock-down?’, ‘Maybe if we could test more people, we would know what works?’ Could it be that a year or two will pass and fewer people will have died from Corona than the flu epidemic in 2014?
We are all sitting on something of an epidemiological ducking stool. If we hunker down and let our society, which is made up of human beings, fall apart and really any number of people die then that will be seen as proof that the policy worked, or did not work. If even a few people sit on the odd park bench it will be enough evidence to say that we spread the disease to those who did die or alternatively successfully developed herd immunity.
Most of us have come close, have ourselves, or know someone who has ‘gone off on one’ in some way at some time or other. And without friends around them to question their reasoning, pointing out contrary evidence in the real world and so on, our ‘wobblies’ can turn into quite the episode. When a person cannot hear what you are saying or reacts with pure emotion; ‘the fact that she is so completely ignoring me shows how deep her love is’, ‘you don’t care if thousands of little old ladies die of Corona/isolation’ it can be a little difficult to have a productive conversation.
Most of us have had to deal with the aftermath of our own and/or an individual person’s meltdown. We know that if we do not find a moment to ponder how our behavior may not have been entirely proportionate, we risk going on believing something is not true. We have to take a breath, pause and think; Angelique does not have it in for me and her buying the same shoes as me is not evidence of her plot. If this is the case for Corona, when lock-down ends we will have more than a bit of a headache in working out who can come down the pub with who. If society builds policy on a falsehood we will all be vulnerable in the future.
I don’t know about you but most of the people I know are actually members of all three groups, sometimes in the space of an hour. I vassilate between fear, freedom-fighting and hanging on for more information every day. When different facts, or indeed the same facts can be used
I think it is actually responsible to question and consider what we are told and what our society is doing. There are things we definitely know. Presently Parliament has dissolved itself so there is no mechanism for any group to raise their concerns with people in power. When the sirens blare and we stagger outside once more, we do know that Lock-down will have caused many old people to die of loneliness and/or ‘Don’tWantToBeABotheritus’, the NHS is clear that non-Corona related deaths are likely to rise, a million people have already lost their livelihoods, students and children will have missed out on their education and the Government will have a world-war rivalling debt that those of us still paying tax will have to repay in the years and years and years to come.
When I was discussing these concerns with a friend of mine he tried to cheer me up by reminding me of how, with the exception of Manchester cotton-mill workers who went on hunger and eviction inducing strike to oppose it, everyone in Britain; from music hall artistes, William Wilberforce himself and all the newspapers, to the Government and Opposition of the land, were all on the side of the Confederates during the American Civil War. Five years later the sea of history had closed over their position and it had been completely forgotten. Only the once popular Music Hall song remains as a nursery rhyme to remind us that the vast majority of our nation once derided ‘Yankee Doodle’ and were opposed to freeing the American slaves.
He told me this to reassure me that we don’t always have to confront delusions, history will, as usual, be written in the present, and reason and good sense will return to us all. Perhaps. If Lock-down is a really big mistake, we, having recognized that we are indeed a society of individuals, will be able to forgive ourselves, learn what we can from what evidence we have, keep looking out for our neighbours, remember that veg pickers are always really important people, and move on without being told we must.
Any road up, that’s what I’ve been pondering this week. Next time; is the NHS our new religion?