It’s not a trick question, and I’m fully aware that the pandemic is not even remotely over – even though we’re all supposed to be panicking about the war in Ukraine now, and have forgotten about the pandemic, because, you know, we needed a distraction since it’s not really possible to stop society in its tracks because it turns out that the economy tanks, and who could have thunk that? I dunno, it’s a mystery.
But in the fairly imminent future I’m going to be going back to Sweden, where I’ve spent time but not met any of my friends since 2020. Early 2020, in the vast majority of cases.
And it’s suddenly occurred to me that I’m not the same person I was when they last saw me. For a start, it’s been two years, and two years of extreme stress haven’t been kind to my very-nearly-54-year-old self.
But the main changes are on the inside. I’ve become even more of an introvert in many ways. I expect that’s normal, given the events of the last two years. But I’ve also become far less tolerant of poor behaviour. I haven’t been able to meet the people I want to for two years. I’m buggered if I’m putting up with rudeness, bad communication or being taken for granted by anyone I don’t particularly want to encounter. I’d already been edging in this direction before the pandemic – so maybe it’s just an age thing, after all? – hence the question.
Are you the same you as before the pandemic?
For example, today has been a pretty good day. It’s even held a couple of pieces of good news, unlike almost every day in the last 700-odd. I’ve gone for a walk, worked sitting at a table in the garden, done a moving meditation that gave me a lightbulb moment, and listened to techno and birdsong simultaneously. That sounds like Jane. And yet… not quite.
Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t matter what Boris Johnson says. But nor does it matter what President Biden says. It doesn’t even matter what the WHO or the UN or any other authority, however credible or incredible, says.
The pandemic isn’t over.
COVID-19 hasn’t gone.
But I’m not saying that as an advocate of continuing mask-wearing and curfews and social distancing and keeping nightclubs and concert venues shut.
I’m saying that, in fact, as someone who thinks that – with some obvious exceptions – none of these restrictions should be in place.
Yes, you read that right. No masks, no curfews, no social distancing, no mandatory closures of any type of venue.
Why not? Have I gone mad? Well, no. Because if you remember, right back at the start of all this, I suggested we needed to take a different approach (interestingly, pretty much the one that my adoptive country of Sweden has taken, with results no worse – and in many cases better – than countries employing much more draconian measures).
I suggested then that a) the coronavirus was here to stay and that therefore b) we needed to just get on and live with it and c) in any case, if we were really interested in staying “safe” (as if such a thing exists), we’d be trying to sort out systemic inequality and, you know, tiny things like the planet literally burning before our eyes.
And that’s what I still believe. That’s what I’ll always believe. I mean could we eradicate the virus? I don’t know. Will we? With so-called developed countries still squabbling about vaccinating third world countries, and in some cases yet more people becoming billionaires at the expense of the poorest, I’d have to doubt that.
I believe that we need to take sensible measures – but things that we ought to have been doing all along in a civilised society. If you feel sick, don’t go to work. If your kid is sick, don’t send them to school. But that requires a vast shift in the entire way our society is structured. If I feel like by going to work I might infect my colleagues or customers, I need to know my employer has my back. I need to know I’m not going to be sacked or starve or lose my home by taking that time off. I need to be able to work from home whenever I choose, and there need to be local shared office spaces I can use if I don’t have space in my actual home. We need to put an end to the consumer culture, and ultimately to capitalism as a system, because it’s counterproductive for the planet and for humanity. It’s killing us in far greater numbers than the coronavirus ever will.
In other words, none of this is about to happen soon. In which case, why are we still pretending that by sticking to a set of rituals which in many cases are no better than superstition, we can keep everyone alive?
Of course the problem with this approach is that, the mass media has gleefully reported the scariest figures regardless of whether they were deaths or cases (hint – if a billion people catch COVID but nobody dies, it’s not that scary). And it’s also hammered the “do this to be safe from the deadly virus” message so much that anyone who believed it is now panicking about suggestions we should not do this. Well! Who’d have thunk irresponsible journalism could backfire?
Personally I’m with Lemmy on the concept of safety (from about 2.10)
I don’t know what’s the matter with everybody. You think you can be safe? You can’t be safe. Because a car might run you down any second. Think of that. Never come out of the house again. I don’t need you on my street, you afraid motherfucker.
Footnote: I wrote this yesterday. Today my Twitter feed is full of people ranting about the relaxation of restrictions in the UK, including this post from the BBC’s health correspondent, with which I agree wholeheartedly. Interestingly they’re using the same annual flu figures that I did in one of my blog posts last year to underline the fact that you’re never safe from this type of disease, you can’t get rid of it, and there’s nothing to be gained but enormous mental health problems from locking down in response to it.
A view that has support from:
Prof Robert Dingwall, sociologist at Nottingham Trent University
Prof Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia
Dr Muge Devik, infectious diseases specialist at the University of St Andrews
and even Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, whose work the initial UK lockdowns were based on
I’m in France at the moment, where there’s a curfew that means you can’t leave your home from 6 pm to 6 am. The government is apparently considering expanding upon this by leaving the curfew in place on weekdays but bringing back a complete lockdown at weekends, so you can leave home on Saturday or Sunday only for essential shopping, medical visits or limited exercise. In other words, you can work/go to school, but that’s it.
In view of that, I have… let’s say, certain opinions about France’s vaccination policy. But perhaps I’m just over-reacting. And in any case, there’s absolutely no way I can express how I feel about this without making every sentence extremely sweary and with every other word in italics for roll-eyed, multiple-exclamation-mark levels of emphasis.
So for those of you who don’t already know how France are going about this, here’s a summary.
Vaccinations are currently being given only in hospitals, and (almost) exclusively on weekdays. You can pick out weekends on a graph of French vaccine figures, because they’re horizontal lines.
Pharmacies still aren’t being permitted to give vaccinations.
However, as from 25 February, GPs will be able to give COVID (Astra-Zeneca) vaccinations to some patients. This will work as follows.
The GP can order one bottle of vaccine (ten doses) from their medical supplier.
Patients wanting a vaccination can, in theory, make an appointment with their doctor using the online Doctolib system, if the doctor has an account. In fact, given the few doses available, doctors probably won’t make these appointments accessible online, so they’ll actually just contact the relevant 10 patients directly.
The patient has an initial appointment during which the doctor explains the vaccine and asks the patient whether or not they want it. a) It can be administered during this appointment, or b) The patient can ask for another appointment at a later date.
The patient gets another appointment four or five weeks later for the second dose of the vaccine, although Astra-Zeneca now say this isn’t the best way to give it.
So. What’s your reaction to this procedure? Am I the only person who wants to run through the French parliament swinging an axe, screaming “If it’s a fucking war, let’s fight it, for fuck’s sake!”?