Covid and lockdowns: have we forgotten how to disagree with each other without hatred?

Have we passed a crisis point?

On Saturday night I watched a FB live stream from one Fabu-D who had been at the anti-lockdown protest in Dublin that day. It was revealing, and in the context of the crisis we are in I think it bodes badly.

It wasn’t the events in Dublin that fascinated me most, it was the dynamic in the comments. They were roughly half and half critical and supportive of the marchers, but what was really fascinating was just how extreme the dislike each side showed for each other was. This isn’t strong disagreement, it is contempt.

Watching the unbridgeable chasm between lockdown supporters and anti-lockdown protestors, I ask myself, have we as a society gone past an irredeemable crisis point.

When this never ending lockdown is over, will we be able to talk to each other again? Will we blame each other for the part each took in this madness?

We have suffered an atomisation over the past year, the likes of which we have never experienced, and over that time many close friends and relations have taken diametrically opposing and embittered views on what we have endured. How will we talk to each other when we meet face to face again?

People have suffered; people are suffering; and people will suffer more with loss of jobs, health, business and sanity.

People are asking “who is to blame?”

The government have played their part in this hyper-partisanisation with blame games and threats to the non-conforming public. To some this was an obvious cover up for their lack of a strategy; their lack of an understanding of the virus; and lack of honesty. The blame game is a get out of jail card for the devastation to the economy and social life we are enduring.

The comments underneath Fabu-D’s video are a repetition of a conversation that has been going of for a long time, and looks like a discussion amongst hostages afraid that the one obdurate hostage will draw the wrath of their psychopathic jailer.

The weaponisation of the Gardaí has given credence to the idea that lock down is righteous and that their opposition is not just wrong, but is ‘evil’. If you are arrested and fined, surely you are a miscreant.

The mask mandate quickly became a visible loyalty declaration, and a statement of tribe. You are with us or against us!

How did we come to the point that civil disagreement can be considered ‘evil’

Sometime in the coming year, people will meet their long-time acquaintances for the first time in a long time. Reunions after long separations can have tense undercurrents. I expect there will be many a blow-up and many divorces.

I keep thinking of that extraordinary forceful energy we saw in the unconstrainable Gerry Conlon of the Guilfdord Four when he was released from Her Majesty’s Prison. That furious conviction, vindication, and above all, hurt, we could all witness in his eyes, was a heavy burden. We know he suffered immensely.

The question that some forward-thinking citizens posed from the outset was; is a lockdown a greater social malaise than the virus? Could the problems associated with curtailing people’s liberty be of greater damage to society (across many parameters including economic and health), than the virus might be?

This is not a simple question (even if you could accurately predict the future) because one of the facts about human nature we have to take on board is that some people will accept draconian measures more easily than others will. However, the obvious counterpoint is that to impose such measures you have to come into conflict with the psychological impulses of a large part of society. Some people will push back, and they will have to be forced to comply.

This is simple human nature, but the type of people who were driving this Covid policy, are the type who think they have an anointed vision of society which would be perfect if only they had complete control of the leavers of society. They know best, they think; and they think that human nature is malleable and can be shaped to their vision.

The decision to make a condition of social conformity mandatory is not to be taken lightly, because when it comes to implementation you have to be ready to use the full and dreadful force of the leviathan state. Maybe the genius of Sweden was that they just asked people to be sensible, and accepted the public health risks in that policy. As it turned out that was an extremely well calculated risk assessment.

 

 

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