TO ACHIEVE public submission to outrageous public health interventions, the classic divide and conquer strategy was the most devastating weapon deployed by government during the pandemic.
The full spectrum of demographics were pitted against one another, on national, local and familial level. At work or at home, discord and flare-ups of varying intensity arose frequently: nothing creates a power vacuum ripe for exploitation more effectively than the inter-tribal conflict of a war of your own conjuring.
Lately I’ve found myself recalling the various public/private confrontations that I experienced personally, with often mixed feelings, and question whether at times I had always behaved appropriately, even given the horrors unfolding all around.
For example, during the early stages of the pandemic I was involved in an incident while standing in a socially-distanced supermarket queue. A little too close for comfort for the man in front, he turned to rebuke me: ‘Don’t you understand what two metres is?!’ However, he had scolded the wrong person: his condescension volleyed immediately back with a tirade of venomous expletives accompanied by body language in an obvious invitation to scrap, should he wish the fracas to escalate.
I’m in no way proud of this, but when abruptly forced to live in a public health-zombie society – one’s brain all of a sudden a delicacy to its salivating inhabitants – retrospectively I can hardly be surprised at the potency of my self-defence.
Thankfully my interlocutor turned sheepishly away, taken aback by my ferocity, yet had I merely fanned his belief in such moronic hocus-pocus countermeasures as the two-metre rule or footprints stuck on the floor? Could I have defended the affront to my dignity with decorum rather than aggression, thus helping rather than hindering the cause in which I myself believed?
Had I known at the time the future depths to which government would plumb, and that three years hence the zombies would still be socially-distancing, would I have upped the ante? Or perhaps I would have folded in despondency – knelt down, sliced off the top of my head, and popped in a spoon: enjoy!
There was the occasion when I refused to leave a shop when requested to do so, as I had declined to wear a facemask – as was my right – until the police were called to escort me off the premises. Conversely, this time I remained extremely calm throughout the debacle, although in hindsight perhaps anger would indeed have been justified when the proprietor opened the door to ‘let some fresh air in’ as she put it, whilst glaring directly at me as if I were a fetid biohazardous stink in human form.
Did I merely pour fuel on her fire, and embarrass myself in the process? The former proved certainly the case, as 48 hours later the charade was reported on DevonLive (I was screaming, apparently).
Operating along a sliding scale of stress, such incidents became relatively commonplace as the pandemic ground on, inevitable really, so cruel and absurd did I believe the hypochondriacal interventions into personal life to be, and at times it was extremely confusing to know how best to act.
Let the adrenaline dominate, and the episode quickly turned ugly: suppress it altogether and the force of one’s conviction was all too often rendered impotent. Present one’s counter-argument to the hysteria using, of all things, data from government sources, and you would be met with blank stares: try a touch more sensitivity, nuance, philosophical expression, and you were immediately branded a loon. Constantly between a rock and a hard place, could these run-ins with the state’s new army of brain-feeders have been any more infuriating?
Moral and ethical tussles with patronising strangers afforded the opportunity to give as good as you got, and then some: you’d likely never see them again anyway, but with friends and family one had to take a more cautious approach, lest rifts too wide to bridge were created. If your boss was pro the iron fist of the state you had to tread even more carefully still, lest you found yourself out of a job, or ostracised by colleagues – the last thing anyone wanted during those deeply unstable times.
Often the only sensible path was to avoid the charade altogether – totally disengage – lest yet another of one’s already dark pandemic days be marred by further exasperation. Divide and conquer.
Occasionally I ponder how I might behave should I be unfortunate enough to live through another lockdown-style ‘pandemic’. Would I do exactly as before, or would I be angrier still? Perhaps I would simply slump into desolation, knowing that ‘they’ would probably get away with it again? I’d like to assume the latter scenario would not come to pass, yet so dystopian a trajectory society is hurtling along that 20 years from now the choice to dissent or not may not even be mine to make.
On the pandemic past, ultimately I have little recourse but to conclude that my sometimes volatile behaviour was indeed self-defence commensurate with the despicable, discriminatory diktats of government attacking me from all sides.
I shudder to imagine, however, how explosively I might have reacted if prevented long-term from visiting a loved one suffering alone in a hospital or care home. It does not bear thinking about. My own pandemic boil-overs pale in comparison to the travails of those monstrously barred access to their nearest and dearest, and in that regard I got off lightly.