The state we are in

*For the purposes of clarity, no I am not a medical doctor or a public health expert. Nor would I claim to be. More of us should be having these complex and nuanced discussions. Leaving them to an elite small group of people, behind closed doors with no scrutiny, has not worked very well*.

We remain in the depths of a public health crisis which has been exacerbated by the continued failings of our government.

That is where the responsibility lies.

Not with your neighbour who drives 5 miles to walk her dogs at the beach, or your other neighbour who runs twice a day. Nor does is the pandemic due to any other minor infringement of the ‘rules’.

The responsibility lies with the government.

We need to stop the moralising discourse of the current public health strategy. Not only is it not working it is allowing the government to deflect the blame. Don’t allow them to.

The public have made great sacrifices over the last 10 months and continue to do so. They should be commended. Our collective trauma and grief should be recognised. Only it is not. Our sociopathic government think they can tighten the screws further and keep blaming us. They are the blueprint of gaslighting abusers. They change the rules so often that the public has no trust in the government or their ‘science’.

We cannot criminalize our way out of a public heath crisis. Nor should we want to.

Professor Stephen Reicher and Professor John Drury of the Independent SAGE write convincingly on the public’s ability to adhere to guidance.

They state: “The way in which issues of adherence have been portrayed and understood during this pandemic have been spectacularly wrong. If anything, the headline stories should not be of “fatigue” and “covidiots”’ and house parties. They should highlight the remarkable and enduring resilience of the great majority of the population – including those who have been most subject to blame such as students and young people in general – even in the absence of adequate support and guidance from government. Indeed, in many ways the narratives of blame serve to project the real frailties of government policy onto the imagined frailties of public psychology”.

It is a complete daydream that everyone can just ‘lockdown’, a middle-class removed ideal. I am privileged, I am working from home and being paid a regular wage. The more precarious somebody is, the lower paid they are, the more risk they are subjected to. The inequalities of Capitalism are being laid bare for those who chose to see them as the removed wailing of the Sociology lecture theatre.

You might get to stay at home but all the choices you make transfer risk to the most marginalized. That supermarket delivery slot you don’t need, the warehouse staff working in crowded unsafe conditions, the ubereats you claim you ‘need’ whilst simultaneously judging other members of the public for their alleged breaches of rules. I am not judging here: I am highlighting the absurdity for placing each other under this surveillance.

As I stood waiting in the socially-distanced queue on Monday night during my late evening shop when Boris had made his latest announcement, the cashier said “well they didn’t care if they killed us all last time”. Retail staff had no masks, no screens, nothing for months and months.

Rich white men do not make decisions to benefit anyone other than rich white men.

This is the most sociopathic government we have had in my lifetime. Their cruel and callous methodology is not going to change.

The government are loving the divide and rule, loving the blame being deflected. It is in their best interests for you to blame Joan over the road who made a ‘non essential’ trip for fast food and whose mask slipped a cm below her nose.

The former regional chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal had to move home after it was attacked. Afzal spearheaded the campaign calling to prosecute Dominic Cummings for his alleged lockdown breaches that annihilated public trust in the government and lockdown strategy.

Cumming’s excuses were some of the most bizarre jabberwocky we have ever seen from British politics. The public felt they were being laughed at by the elite.

Billions of pounds of our money have been wasted. We don’t have a functioning track and trace system. Millions of people have been left with no financial support. Teachers are being subjected to overcrowded schools despite them being ‘closed’ as the list of key workers grows. I am not saying there is an easy decision here. My family and close friends are teachers. I come from a background of deprivation and understand what school represents for vulnerable children.

Mental health has been ignored. Those of us who live with mental illness use a variety of tools to stay well, many of those mechanisms are depleted under lockdown. The mental health tidal wave is growing.

Lockdown causes harm to many.

This twisted cycle of lockdown-release is causing devastation globally. Unfortunately a creative and nuanced debate has not been allowed because those pushing for critical thinking are labelled as ‘deniers’ and ‘cranks’.

Stating the there has been a huge transference of wealth to the powerful during this period is not a conspiracy. Billionaires have increased their wealth rapidly through our lockdown habits and the elimination of their smaller competitors.

We can acknowledge competing concerns without diminishing the severity of the multiple harms.

Not allowing an open conversation has created the fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theorists and the right wing to prosper. Many more people should have been at the table but they were not. And it shows.

As a result we have people pushing for the erosion of civil liberties without wondering (or caring?) what that will lead to long-term. How much evil has been done in the world through convincing people to give up their freedoms for the ‘greater good’. It never ends well for minority groups.

We can also see this globally, with China excusing their abhorrent treatment of the Uighur peoples by claiming that protecting people from Covid is the most important human right.

There is concern over the political tribalism of closing borders in Australia and elsewhere.

The New York Times has reported on the ‘nightmare’ of the Australian housing lockdown that breached human rights.

People have become so blinkered to only Covid harms that they are actively punishing for lockdowns without assessing the disproportionate harms to vulnerable people. We also have people calling for expansion of state powers and ‘crackdowns’ on those found ‘flouting’ the rules.

We have police forces giving out Fixed Penalty Notices for exercising 5 miles from home and the multiple other examples that I give in my blog post here.

Hundreds of people have been wrongly charged or convicted in virus cases.

We are seeing journalists and police forces telling us to get in the ‘spirit of lockdown’ rather than adhere to the law. This is very troubling and again shifts the blame to individual actors.

The new Chair of the BBC Richard Sharp has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party since 2001.

We are living at a time where very few in the media are saying anything that dissents from the government’s narratives and where anybody who speaks out is attacked, including a war on ‘do-gooder leftie lawyers’.

Academics too are under increased pressure to ‘tow the line’.

Never has critical investigative journalism, citizen journalism, upholding human rights and the social sciences been more important.

Our government are treating the rule of law and democratic process with contempt. This should concern everybody.

Professor John Preston writes a blog post ‘Everything I know about managing the COVID-19 pandemic I learnt from the Jurassic Park film franchise’. In this post Preston asserts that the real issue is not ‘the dinosaurs’ but human greed and empire building.

Just some musings but happy to connect with people concerned about the state of exception and creative ways of problem-solving.

Gemma x