Thursday, October 21, 2021
HomeCOVID-19My vaccine vox pop ... what real people think of the jab

My vaccine vox pop … what real people think of the jab

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IN recent weeks I’ve been campaigning in Sheffield against vaccination passports, muzzle mandates and the tyranny of lockdown, chatting with as many people as possible to get a better measure of where we’re at.  

I did a little of this last year, but with the recent bulldozing of parental consent for vaccination of 12 to 15 year-olds, I decided to measure my outrage against that of others, by joining with like-minded locals to engage ordinary people in the city centre on Saturdays. To this end, I also knocked up a big banner to press the point. This is what I learned… 

1. BAME is where it’s at. Black and minority ethnic families are having none of it. I’ve yet to meet a black mum with school age children who agrees with government policy. Ditto Muslim parents. Communities where ‘family’ still means something are deeply suspicious of policies that undermine them. 

What I’ve found on the street chimes with data from the USA, where blacks are far less likely to have the jab than whites. I’ve seen no similar data for the UK, but nothing to suggest the same isn’t true here either.  

Indeed, so striking is the skew one wonders how the jab has escaped being racialised, along with everything else in society. Why isn’t the jab ‘racist’, when pretty much everything else is? Maybe the ‘unconscious bias training’ isn’t working. 

For white middle-class mums, there is another stark dynamic. They are uncertain. Few are keen, as such, but there is a noticeable gap between the idea and the fact.  

They pause as they ponder the proposition that 12-year-olds be given the ‘choice’ to take a novel treatment that even its inventor is questioning and for which there are no reliable long-term trials.  

After the pause there is – mostly, but not always – a declaration that the jab is necessary for us all to move on. Never once a declaration that the jab is necessary for their perfectly fit and healthy child; only for the ‘wider good.’ Always an uncomfortable moment. 

2. Masculinity isn’t dead; it’s just dormant. Contrary to the billboards and the BBC, not all young men have been led down the Primrose Path, even though it sometimes looks and feels that way. 

Many have spent too much time online, for sure, and seem to have internalised a hesitancy bordering on an apology for who and what they are. But scratch the surface and you’ll find flesh and blood blokes who are as bewildered as they’re keen to connect with others in a community that is not virtual.  

They are fewer men without chests than men out of time, looking for a way back into the fray. Invitations to ‘act like you’ve got it’ – that is; step down and play sick – are triggering many of them to stand up, stop apologising for themselves and start finding their own voice. In other words, to act like men. 

The flip side to this insight is the no less striking fact of older women standing up and being counted. It’s reminiscent of the miners’ strike in Sheffield, but no less apparent on any of the large London demonstrations, where the mix is at least 50-50.  

If (older) women score high on ‘agreeability’, as Jordan Peterson says, it is opposition to the direction of travel of government policy with which they are agreeing; in-person at least. 

3. The ‘anywheres’ are angry, apoplectic that anyone would have the temerity to doubt the sacred authority of ‘the science’, the Golden Calf of the expertariat, the idol of the Gore-Tex class.  

They were angry before this, notably in relation to Brexit, but the depth of their rage needs be seen to be believed, so furious are they that the ‘somewheres’ still aren’t getting it.   

‘Who are you to question ‘the science’? they shriek – literally – aghast that ‘know-nothing populists’ might step outside their data-set. Greta Thunberg on steroids would be more reasonable. 

So marked is this phenomenon that it is, I fear, a portent of things to come, whilst also being hard to comprehend. My take on it is that the ‘anywheres’ (so aptly coined by David Goodhart), free-floating as they are, have no moral anchorage other than that provided by the clerisy of the expertariat, the risk managers of modernity who distrust nothing more than the wisdom of crowds.  

‘Somewheres’, of course, have an epistemic home, but the ‘anywheres’ are as lost as they are furious that the narrative may yet fail them. There’s nothing more illiberal than an angry liberal; and we all know where that goes, when push comes to shove. 

These three things I have learned. All anecdotal, of course, but all in-person, away from the virus that is the mainstream media. It’s not enough and there is much to be done, but it’s a start. Join we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters attempting to understand the weirdly pre-political dystopia now infecting the entire body politic. All to play for. 

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Stephen Bowler
Stephen Bowler is a builder based in Sheffield.

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