For some reason I stopped listening to the news/radio some weeks back. Perhaps well over a month ago. I don’t have a TV and I don’t read any newspaper.
I like living in ignorant bliss and from the outside, not having the same rhetoric echoing in my ears, it feels now like a massive brainwashing system; each part of which is there to mimic the official line. Not that I’m now magically immune. For all I know I should be still living by the rules as stipulated in the letter from 10 Downing Street towards the start of “Lockdown”, because that’s the only official-looking thing I’ve had presented to me, well, that and the “you can’t walk here” signs I saw dotted around some months back. Regarding that letter, I took the details therein with a pinch of salt since it was neither dated or addressed to me personally (I’m somewhat apprehensive about even acknowledging receipt of said letter here should such a public acknowledgement be used against me at any point). One word on the first page is highlighted; “must”. As in, I must stay home. The final paragraph at the end of the letter before a copy of Boris Johnson’s scribble is presented, ends with a plea so “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
The stance that any of this is now being done to protect the NHS seems to have quietly dispersed, but perhaps that’s just due to my lack of news absorption. More on the second part of that sentence in a moment.
The issue I have with the lack of date is two-fold; the second (fold) being that nowhere in the letter is an end-date presented. Am I to live by these rules/requests/regulations/laws (who knows what they are) indefinitely, until a follow-up letter is delivered?
I’ve been reluctant to have a rant about current affairs because I detect some serious polarisation; there is the “will follow all rules and accept what I’m told” camp, and then there are the ones not in that camp. I like feeling like I am part of a nice blogging community here on WordPress and I don’t want to risk ostracising myself (I guess I don’t feel like my opinions are worth that much); it’s nice to feel liked, and taking sides on anything can portray oneself in a different light, even how you present your opinions can have a marked effect. There is also the issue that this event is ever changing and picking a side now with any sure confidence could leave oneself feeling lost or confused in the weeks or months ahead; this whole thing has seemed like a mass of ever-changing confusion to me (perhaps it’s supposed to be). It’s almost like a religion in itself; relying on faith and commitment for whichever side you choose, if you’re to choose a side at all. I have faith in my immune system and my body’s ability to keep itself safe and recover from things, I can tell you that much. Why choose as side (or a religion)? Why not live each day “in the moment” that it is, based on what you see before you? I often think back to “this time last year” and think how crazy and surreal many things seem now.
A lack of compassion for an opposing camp (from whichever camp one is in) is sad to see/hear/experience, not that I’ve necessarily done so directly as such, but I’ve sensed it a little. I see comedy sketches where anti-maskers and anti-vaxers basically call everyone else, well, derogative terms. And those labelled with those terms basically, it seems, are of the belief that the labellers are threatening their lives and all of the lives of their loved ones, and well pretty much everyone, by not playing the game as they are. There are arguments from the other camp too that by not playing the game that they are upholding the freedoms for us all. Neither camp is requesting these things of the opposing camp.
The online world seems to be well suited to polarisation; Youtube’s algorithms, for example (and perhaps Facebook’s too) are said to feed you more of the same; so whichever side you side yourself with, you receive constant affirmation. The comments section on videos section backs this up, with a video from one side of the fence being filled with praise for the “truth” and a healthy dose of likes and subscribers to the channel to boot, whereas find yourself on an opposing channel and you get the opposite perspective, complete with the same dosing of praise and encouragement. I was tempted to leave an opposing comment on such a video recently, but chose to step away; either my comment would have fallen on deaf ears and slipped down the page into oblivion, or I could have landed myself with a huge backlash for which I have neither the clout or a following or my own to back me up. “Choose your arguments and enemies wisely” seemed to be the voice at the back of my head.
I don’t like labels (nor enemies), and I don’t like polarisation; I like to think of myself as a fence-sitter, acknowledging the opinions of both sides, but then it seems I can’t do that in the case of Covid; I can’t both wear a mask and not. Or can I? I have considered it; I’ve considered creating my own mask designs (similar in nature to my earlier t-shirt designs), perhaps featuring a sheep, or a zip, or just something eye catching and somewhat horrific. But then I would be turning a mask into a fashion accessory and I’m not sure I want to do that either.
It is curious to notice the shift from the mask-wearers being in the minority, and often shy about it, to perhaps being in the majority, and now confident about it. From dis-empowered to empowered. But, like from the times of the school playground, to times in later life, there are people that do things that they think are cool but need everyone else to follow suit to affirm this status; like buying a flash car or expensive gadget and wanting everyone else to drool over it and want one too. Trendy; trend-setters, or trend followers? These days I feel at my best if I’m just doing my own thing, as much as I might think that is the truth of the matter, rather than blatantly going along with whatever has been dictated to me. “Why do I even wear clothes?” I often ponder, not that I have the urge to become a Naked Rambler, but the principal seems to be a point here.
It has been coming to my attention that I may be requested to wear a mask when shopping, or perhaps I’m expected to do so already and haven’t realised it (I queued outside a supermarket last week for some ten minutes, but I stood reading a book to avoid feeling like a sheep, so wasn’t in a position to notice if everyone about me was wearing a mask; the door staff weren’t). Some weeks back a client requested I wear a mask when visiting her premises for a quick job; I obliged. It wasn’t pleasant; it was a warm day and I just wanted to get in, get the job done and get out quick so I could whip off the mask and breathe again. More recently another client filled my obedient and obliging cupped hands with enough hand sanitizer to lather my whole body; the bottle was running low and I suspect the nozzle was gunked up and it all came out at once; not pleasant. I left a trail of the stuff from the hallway to their office. Come to think of it, they had laminate flooring so it likely posed a serious slip-hazard. Injury by hand-sanitizer anyone? I doubt it would be the first or last, no one knows what’s in each of the bottles available for our use in each establishment we enter, or how one establishment’s offering might react with a previous one’s. What are the long-term effects of all this deployment of chemicals either on our skin or on the environment (how many million gallons have been produced to date I wonder). How many billion masks and gloves have been created and disposed of so far this year? I’ve seen a number of each at the roadside.
“Health reasons” is, I have decided, my go to choice of phrase to respond with.
And there we return to the crux of the polarisation: saving lives. Wearing a mask, or using hand sanitizer, or social distancing, or whatever, boils down to, it is said, saving lives. But if any of these things (if not all) are actually harmful to health in anyway, then it’s not so clear-cut that doing this or doing that will save lives. The sad thing is, those in the mask-wearing and hand-sanitizer-slathering group are echoing the compassionate sentiment that they are doing it for others, not themselves, and therefore those not doing something for the benefit of everyone else is being selfish at best, or a murderer at worst. I’m not sure how someone supposedly with the compassion to do the requested things for the benefit of everyone else could shout such un-compassionate things, but I’ve heard of instances.
I respect the requests of each establishment or residence I visit; if it’s work then I have the choice of either doing the work and complying, or not doing the work. As for shopping, this is a slightly different matter. If a place wants my custom, and to allow me to buy food from them, then my health reasons should suffice. They should suffice, at least, until I perhaps run out of places to shop, or I am forced to shop online for my groceries. If fellow customers, citizens, human beings want to question someone’s lack of mask then so be it, but then one shouldn’t feel obliged to explain themselves; quite frankly it’s not their business and a discussion about it might not be welcome. What point is a discussion when it’s just about disagreement and wanting someone else to change their minds and sides? Really, I don’t think someone screaming at someone else from behind a mask is going to make someone change their mind, especially if that kind of behaviour is deemed as a fair portrayal of that side. Sometimes discussion can perhaps be educational; Vernon Coleman, my current replacement David Icke fix on Youtube, seems to think so.