I don’t do New Year Resolutions. I haven’t done them for ages, mainly because since the millennium it seems a bit of an anticlimax to celebrate the end of a year in any way.
However, just like fellow translator Fiona Gray, in recent years I have found myself coming up with words for the year, usually sometime in January, in a completely unforced way. Last year my words were Strength and Joy, though the former disappeared during the house move from hell in March/April, and it was often hard to keep Joy going for reasons that, I’m sure, are only too obvious.
This year I’ve been a bit more structured with my words. I’m doing Strength again, because I still think I’m going to need it, both mental and physical, and Balance ditto. I’ve always been either wobbling all over the place or firm as a rock when standing on one leg, and I’m a bit like that mentally too. So I’m doing a couple of exercises a day to improve my physical balance, and I’m about to start a mental fitness coaching programme.
Last night I was in a Zoom call with the group of women I’m going to be getting to know a lot better over the next few weeks, as we do that programme together. And we split into a couple of breakout rooms to do brief intros. There were five of us in my room, and three of us had words for the year. One of the women had Joy as one of hers last year, one of them has Strength as one of hers this year. So I think we’re already on the same wavelength!
How about you? Do you set words for the year? Or set broad goals for what you want to do/make/be in some other way?
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’ve been getting increasingly angry throughout this panic, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Maybe you feel guilty about that. Because this is all for the good of society, right? So many people being scared and exhausted is the price we pay for doing the right thing. It’s for the greater good.
Well, no. The justification for us doing this is far from clear. I’ll get onto that in a later post, but to begin with here are a few of the reasons why I’m so furious at the moment – you can probably think of more – and why I think it’s perfectly justifiable to be angry in this situation.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you know I’m left wing. I’m probably as left wing as it’s possible to get. I’ve never forgiven the Tories for what they did to UK society in the 1980s, and I never will. I’m proud to call myself a socialist.
Now, socialism has always said that we should use tax revenues to fund a national health system and other services that are best and easiest provided at state level and by non-profit oriented structures. It’s always said we should protect people when they lose their jobs or their homes, because everyone can be a valuable member of society, and society as a whole benefits when the most vulnerable also benefit.
And as a result of the emergence of COVID-19, everyone else seems to have suddenly become aware of the truth of the above. Which is all fine and dandy. I’m delighted that you now see the value of a national health service that can, you know, look after the nation’s health. But the really big thing about this is… yeah, now you know this truth. Fucking well remember it. Don’t go back on it as soon as this is all over. Never, ever, ever, vote Tory – or whatever your country’s equivalent is – ever again. Never forget.
Also, “as soon as this is all over”… you do realise that it’s never going to be over? I’ve read many articles saying “when we’ve developed a vaccine…”, which is reckoned will take about 18 months.
There are two problems with this.
Firstly – and this is my quibble with the whole “lockdown” idea – can we really stand being stuck like this for 18 months? Well, I can, because this is my normal life, but I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people out there who can’t:
The second problem with the “as soon as this is all over, when we have a vaccine” idea is that “a vaccine” probably isn’t going to fix this. After all, we have a flu vaccine. And yet people still get the flu.
Speaking of which, did you know that 10-30,000 people die of the flu in England every year?
I’ll just say that again.
TEN TO THIRTY THOUSAND PEOPLE DIE OF THE FLU, EVERY YEAR, IN ENGLAND ALONE
Just like the coronavirus deaths, the vast majority of these are old people. Just like the coronavirus, it’s extremely contagious. And clearly, just like the coronavirus, it’s potentially deadly. But we don’t shut down the whole of society every year for the seasonal flu. Why not? Simply because we never have. We’ve always, all of us who are alive today, and all of our ancestors for about the last 500 years, lived in a post-flu world. We just accept it.
And we’re going to have to accept the fact that we now live in a post-corona world. It’s here. It’s not going away. We can mitigate it, we’ll ultimately be able to vaccinate the most high risk groups, but it’s not going to stop just because we all cower in our homes for a few weeks.
Finally, if all that wasn’t enough to make you angry, consider this.
How much of an impact could world governments have had on the real issues the whole of humanity faces today if they’d acted as forcefully on those problems as they have on COVID-19?