A few weeks ago, the government started a new campaign designed to shame and point fingers at people who disagree with lockdown. Apparently, invading our lives and homes, declaring war on our liberties and turning us against each other wasn’t enough. They’ve now upgraded their strategy to emotional blackmail because fines and treating regular people like criminals and murderers wasn’t enough either. They’ve spread divisive and inappropriate messages on billboards throughout the nation, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Messages that shame you for valuing your happiness over the health of others. They even dare to shame people for needing to work. Take a look:
In the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to redefine selfishness. I will argue that you and I have every right to be selfish and not want to sacrifice things we value. I will argue that our obligation to other people has a clear beginning and an end, and what has been asked of us this past year is just way above our pay grade.
It is not your duty to make sacrifices for others
Abraham, the Bible tells us, was convinced that he needed to kill his beloved son to prove his loyalty to God. God demanded this sacrifice to see what was more important to Abraham – his son or God. Abraham chose to sacrifice his son. He dragged him to the desert and prepared to stab him to swear his alliance with God. But God only wanted to see if Abraham had it in him to give up his own son, so at the last minute he stopped him and said it was all a test. God demanded his follower to choose between two things he valued the most – his son and God.
Most sacrifices we make don’t involve killing anyone. They involve giving up something important such us time, plans, dreams, health, career, our principles often to gain something of equal or greater importance, but something that does not replace what we are giving up. Making sacrifices for others is a different story and we aren’t always prepared or willing to do it without evaluating the circumstances.
Do you remember the last time you sacrificed something? Did you do it for yourself or for someone else? What was your relationship with that person?
You may have, for example, given up unhealthy food and your social life to get in a better shape. Or you gave up your dream job because it started to consume too much of the time you’d like to spend with your family. Or maybe you agreed to move away from all your family because your husband got a promotion that required relocation and was just too good to reject. Whatever it was, you gave up something you valued at the time for another thing and the two couldn’t coexist. Sacrifice usually carries the burden of discomfort and unease, unlike curtesy.
Can you think of people who, if in need, would deserve a small favour (curtesy) but not sacrifice?
Chances are, you would consider making a sacrifice for a close friend or a family member but not a total stranger or even a colleague. Keep this in mind as you read on, please.
This leads us to obligation, which is defined as an act to which a person is morally or legally bound, a duty or commitment.
In context of sacrifice and courtesy and how they relate to the people you interact with, I hope you can now recognise your commitment to them. Your obligation to others has a more or less defined beginning and an end. That’s why you give a homeless man £2 even though it only pays for a hot drink and doesn’t solve his problems and you don’t invite him to stay with you so he can get his life back together. If, however, a stranger needed an immediate help, say, he collapsed on the street, you would possibly call an ambulance even if it meant you’d miss a train or be late for work.
Having said that, a study has shown that people who are running late are less likely to help someone in that situation than those who have plenty of time to their appointment. The name of the study escapes me now, but in summary, a group of students were sent across the campus for a scheduled appointment. Half of them were told they could take their time and the other half were told they were going to be late unless they hurried. The former group were more likely to stop and assist a collapsed stranger who unbeknownst to them was an actor. The latter group of students were more likely to ignore the stranger even though they had to step over him. This shows that we are willing to break our moral commitment when it clashes with our tight schedule or other obligations.
In contrast, if your sister needed a place to stay for a few weeks, you would possibly offer her to move in with you even if it weren’t ideal for you. You would not simply give her £2 to buy herself a hot drink. This is because you recognise your obligation to others and what level of discomfort you are willing to suffer for them, and that level is dictated by your relationship. You’d also cancel your meetings or even a holiday if your son collapsed on the street and was taken into hospital.
This brings us to selfishness, which is defined as the lack of consideration for others, but why not call it what it really is? It is looking after your own needs because nobody else will. It is the unwillingness to give up what’s important to you for something that’s important to someone else. It is prioritizing your own happiness, goals, health and prosperity over the needs of others.
If you are not selfish, who will look after your needs and wants? Who will make you happy? Who will make your rich if that’s your goal?
If you gave that homeless man £200, sacrificing your rent this month, would he return the favour? Would your landlord understand and tell you not to worry about it? No. Your obligation to yourself and the contract with your landlord override your generosity.
If you sacrifice your time, opportunities, health, relationship or career prospects, personal growth or happiness, who will compensate you for them? Your obligations to others do not have to override your own needs. If you don’t do it for yourself, nobody will.
Hopefully, you can see the relationships formed here. Your obligation to others doesn’t always require a sacrifice and not fulfilling your obligation (if it requires a sacrifice) doesn’t make you selfish (as most people define it).
For example, let’s say your friend asks you to help him build a shed on Sunday, but you are training for a marathon. Sunday is the only day you can run longer distances as part of your training. You have an obligation to help your friend, but his need clashes with yours and requires you to give up something that is important to you. You know that if you agree, your training will suffer a setback you can’t afford. Your friend can’t physically give you back what he is asking you to give up. This is not to say that you should always get the same thing back in return, but when you’re asked to give up something you value, that is impossible to reconstruct or compensate for, you have every right to not want to make that transaction. It is, therefore, not wrong to decline your friend’s request. It’s wrong of him to ask you to forget about your training that day and help him instead.
But how does building sheds, helping a homeless man or your sister relate to coronavirus? I believe that too much has been demanded of us in the past year. We have been asked to give up the very ingredients that make life happy, and month after month more ingredients have been removed turning our once meaningful life into a tasteless existence. Three weeks, they said. We agreed. It was a curtesy, a small favour that has since become a life destroying sacrifice.
I get accused of being selfish a lot when I express my anti – lockdown views. For some reason, strangers on the internet seem to think that calling me selfish ends the argument and declares them the winners. It doesn’t.
The idea of sacrifice and obligation came to me when I walked past a homeless man outside Tesco. ‘Any spare change?’, he asked as I dismissively avoided eye contact and mumbled generic “sorry mate” before he even had a chance to finish his sentence. Then I paused and remembered that I actually had some change from my recent trip to the shop. I gave him £2 – just enough to buy himself a hot drink, which is around 0.2% of my monthly income. If you consider how often I feel generous towards homeless people throughout the year, you’ll see that it becomes even less than that. I spend probably ten times more on energy drinks.
I bet you can relate to that. Both you and I try to justify our unkindness, lack of generosity and our selfishness. How can we be so selfish and not invite this poor man to sleep on our sofa for as long as it takes him to get his life back on track? How can we not offer him our life savings so he can have a fresh start? How can we not even go to the nearest cash machine and take out £200 and give it to him? Are we selfish for not even considering any of it?
Let’s now imagine that our sister calls us late in the evening. She lives miles away and just caught her fiancé cheating. She’s in a café and doesn’t want to go home. She has no friends in the area because they have just moved there for his work. The café closes in 1 hour. It’s cold outside and she doesn’t drive and has no more money. Let’s say you want to help as much as possible. What do you do? Do you pick her up even though you hoped for an early night? Do you send an Uber to pick her up no matter the cost? Do you transfer her money for a hotel room even though you know she shouldn’t be alone, but it makes it easier for you? Or perhaps you transfer her just enough money for her to buy herself a hot drink?
Both, your sister and the homeless man need your help. They both have nowhere to stay. Their problems will not be solved with a hot drink. Why is it not acceptable to just transfer your sister £10 so she can get one, hang up the phone and go to sleep, but it is acceptable to walk past a homeless man and, more often than not, give him nothing at all? We all know the answer – we just don’t care about him that much. We are willing to give things up for those we do care about, but we are not willing to make the same sacrifices for a total stranger, even a homeless man who we know is suffering. He is right in front of us – miserable, hungry and cold, embarrassed, unseen and ignored by everyone. But, giving him £200 would cause us too much discomfort – even if we knew he wouldn’t spend it all on sweets. We can’t. We want to help him, but we don’t want to suffer ourselves. We don’t want to invite him to sleep on our sofa because it’s risky, it’s uncomfortable and feels wrong. We don’t want our efforts to cause any inconvenience to us. That is why we give him whatever change we have available, but usually we don’t even acknowledge him at all. We don’t owe him anything. He is not our responsibility.
It’s not because we are “selfish”. It is because we know where our obligations to others begin and where they end. We have our hierarchy composed of our family at the top, our friends below them, colleagues, and strangers. Strangers are then divided into subgroups of those who need immediate help, such us emergencies, and strangers experiencing regular difficulties which don’t require our help or consideration. Based on that hierarchy, we know our obligations to others. They then dictate the level of discomfort we’re willing to suffer for the people we cross paths with. We will suffer the most inconvenience for those we love, especially close family. Caring for those we love, especially our blood relatives is hardwired in our genes. It is the subconscious need to ensure survival of our bloodline. That’s why, as harsh and as heartless as it might sound, children are more valuable than the elderly. That’s why women and children were the first to be rescued from the Titanic. The year 2020 showed us that people are willing to pretend this isn’t so, that we can trick our intuition, instincts and nature and sacrifice the young to save the elderly.
When it comes to friends and strangers, there is a different mechanism at work. If you have kids, you know what lengths a parent can go to provide for their family. For example, a father might work long hours at a job he hates to provide a better life for his family. The wellbeing of his kids is more important to him than career fulfilment.
We already know that we protect our children and make sacrifices for them because we want them to survive and live a good life. We don’t expect anything in return. What we have with our friends is the unwritten contract of never-ending exchange of favours of similar value. For example, if you borrow money from your friend, you should be prepared to lend him a similar amount at some point in the future or give him another favour – as long as his needs don’t clash with yours. Helping friends is, therefore, more of an investment than sacrifice.
Strangers are part of the collective entity. We are all connected through transactions and unwritten rules of manners. We are only willing to do as much as it takes to stay out of trouble. So, we hold the door for the person behind us, we queue up in Tesco, and we respect people’s privacy, their rights, space and property. Anything extra is uncomfortable and inconvenient. We will call the police if we witness a crime, but we will not take it upon ourselves to fight crime by becoming a masked vigilante. Similarly, we will avoid littering, but we will not put rubber gloves on and go litter picking. Is it wrong of us to not want to do it? Of course not. We fulfil our contract with society with effortless deeds, but litter picking and war on crime interfere with our life, even if all we want to do is binge watch Breaking Bad. Average person avoids inconvenience and discomfort and does the minimum if it happens to be just enough for “the collective”.
The truth is, most people, myself included, won’t donate as little as 0.2% of our monthly income to save starving children in Africa, but as soon as too many old people die too close to home, we crush the entire economy and shame everyone who isn’t on board with that. The difference between me and most people is that, I don’t go around tapping myself on the back for staying home and pretend this makes me a good personLukasz Kwiatkowski
The Side Effects of lockdown
But in the past ten months we have suffered more than a simple inconvenience. Three weeks to flatten the curve – that was inconvenient, but manageable. Ten months of financial and emotional rollercoaster that has resulted and will continue to result in unemployment and suicides – that’s a big sacrifice. So, I am here to argue that yes – wanting one’s life back is selfish, but there is nothing wrong with it. I am here to argue that what has been asked of us was never our obligation or responsibility and that our very lives have been sacrificed against our will to prevent potential COVID19 deaths and protect the NHS. I strongly believe that neither of these is worth the price and I am angry that I have to keep paying it.
Back in March 2020, we were persuaded that a three – week lockdown was needed to achieve both of these goals. Most people were by then convinced that it was necessary. Then that three – week lockdown was extended again and again and never really ended. I work as a Fitness Instructor and gyms didn’t open until late July, which means I was out of work for over four months. With a baby on the way, trying to find a bigger place it wasn’t ideal because nobody wanted to rent to us, and being furloughed made it impossible to save any money. My resentment towards the government grew and I simply could not find myself agreeing with the intrusive restrictions implemented by them. I talk about it more in The Dark Side of The Greater Good – Deserts of Mars (thedesertsofmars.com), where I explain the roots of my noncompliance and anger.
The trolley dilemma is a decades old philosophical thought experiment first put forward by the British philosopher, Phillipa Foot. It has since taken many forms, but the idea remains the same since the late 1960s. As summarised by Thoughtco.com:
A tram is running down a track and is out control. If it continues on its course unchecked and undiverted, it will run over five people who have been tied to the tracks. You have the chance to divert it onto another track simply by pulling a lever. If you do this, though, the tram will kill a man who happens to be standing on this other track. What should you do?
Most people, of course, pull the lever and kill one person to save five. Today, however, we are all taking part in this experiment and we are all tied to the tracks. The government pull the lever to kill five people through destruction of our businesses, medical neglect, isolation and promoting unhealthy lifestyle. The five sacrifices represent all the lives that will be lost in the coming months and years BECAUSE of lockdown. We want to live, but we are tied up. We call for help and scream that we don’t want to die, but in response, the lever pulling government, media and the public tell us to be quiet and watch Netflix.
When the first lockdown ended, many restrictions remained. There was no real resistance to it then, either. Protests only started gaining pace and attention late Summer when people got fed up with the government’s boot on their faces. Then another pointless lockdown came. It was supposed to save Christmas, but instead angered more people and did not save Christmas or lives. We’ve made a full circle and are back where we started – another pointless, life destroying lockdown.
We’ve been kept hostage by our government for the better part of the last twelve months. I have only been allowed to work for six of them. That’s six months I have been unable to be financially independent and fulfil my OBLIGATION to my FAMILY. Six months I’ve been forced to rely on the state. And you know what? They aren’t paying me enough to continue taking this shit. Still, I am one of the lucky ones. I know some people who, for the most part, have had no help and in the end lost most of their clients.
People love to pretend that we’re just asked to sit at home and watch Netflix. They often dismiss our anxiety, rebellion or worries by bringing up the Blitz and how back then people just did the right thing. But I am pretty sure when bombs explode all around you, nobody needs to tell you what the right thing is. But people didn’t sleep on the platforms of the London Underground to protect the elderly or save the NHS. They did it for themselves. Not the same crisis at all.
People also love to dismiss us by pretending we are just frustrated about the mandatory face coverings, but that’s not true. They call us anti this and anti that, COVID deniers and conspiracy theorists. All so they never have to relate to our concerns, engage with us on the human level and understand our pain. The very real and obvious side effects of lockdown never get addressed by those who support it. They almost always go straight to calling people selfish, accusing them of murdering grannies by intentionally spreading the virus, and they dare to tell us that we don’t care about the people who are dying.
I believe that ALL of the measures and restrictions we’ve been burdened with destroy our lives and compromise our physical health and mental wellbeing, while promising to do very little in return. Everything we’ve done and given up to protect “the vulnerable” puts US in a vulnerable position to many other threats. And even though I disagree with them, for the most part I have no choice but to exist within these restrictions and rules.
Lockdown, with all its sinister and intrusive measures, is a controlled demolition of our lives, liberties and livelihoods. When the dust settles and bodies are bagged, what will emerge in our place? Our lives, our marriages and relationships, our health and fitness will be just the shadows of what they used to be.
One of the most obvious side effects is the neglect of thousands of cancer patients. Many of them, including those simply concerned about suspicious and sudden headaches or lumps on their bodies, just didn’t want to trouble the doctors during the pandemic. Others, especially those at risk of suffering from coronavirus, didn’t want to be anywhere near the hospitals. Those delays and cancellations will have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. The lever has been pulled, declaring their lives unimportant.
Why shouldn’t those cancer patients who have been denied the lifesaving treatment be selfish? Is it wrong to value your own life and health over that of others? Is it your obligation to make that sacrifice?
Whenever there is an anti – lockdown protest, the mainstream media outlets release condescending articles, helping regular people completely dismiss people’s individual reasons for protesting. All so they don’t have to relate to their pain, anger and humanity and to avoid the uncomfortable conversations within themselves. People in Italy, Denmark, The Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Poland, Australia and many other countries have taken to the streets and demanded their lives back. Each time these people gathered, they were more desperate, angry and upset. Why? They are business owners who have lost everything they worked for their entire lives. They are fathers who haven’t seen their kids for months. They are people whose parents have been sentenced to death in a lonely room of a care home. They are young men and women whose education has been put on hold and future destroyed. They are boyfriends and girlfriends who haven’t been able to see each other without feeling like Bonnie and Clyde. They are people who have lost friends and family to suicide and cancer. They are working people whose jobs, professions or entire industries may never reopen and return. Yet again, the lever has been pulled, declaring them unimportant.
Is it wrong of them to fight for things they value? Things that, without their consent, have been sacrificed?
Some of these men and women don’t mind wearing a mask. Some are in the risk group themselves. They just want to see their family. They accept the risk. They want to go back to work and give their life meaning and purpose again. Some don’t mind taking the vaccine when it’s their turn, but they also want to enjoy retirement by living like every day may be their last. Sure, some people believe the world is flat, the queen is a lizard, but also want to live in a country where police won’t chase them out of the park for having a picnic. The anti – lockdown crowd, whether gathered in Hyde Park or on Twitter, is very diverse, indeed. We all have our reasons to be here and all those reasons are valid, and the only way to preserve them is through selfishness. After lockdown has claimed everything we love and treasure, our lives will not be returned to us in the same condition as they were taken. Our jobs will be gone, relationships will be over, savings spent, children anti – social, fat and lazy. Who will reverse that?
Selfishness IS required. It IS essential. None of those people calling us COVIDIOTS will be there when you’ve lost everything. None of them will pause and reflect on the reasons for your misery and misfortune. As soon as they are allowed, they will be travelling to Dubai pretending they are someone they’re not.
Gyms are closed. People aren’t moving as much as they used to. Our bodies are made to move, to work – not to sit down the entire day. People will get fat and unhealthy which will put them in a COVID risk group and lead to other life-threatening conditions. Not to mention chronic pain that will result from almost an entire year of being largely inactive. Our options to maintain physical health are limited. With outdoor gyms closed off, it seems like the only legal types of exercise are running and walking – none of which will make up for our new inactive lifestyle that’s been forced upon us.
Most people will simply lack motivation to do any type of exercise right now. They will lack knowledge and experience to make their exercise intense enough to make up for sitting the rest of the day. They will not be spending money on running gear or weights to use at home (if they are lucky to have enough space). Most people will not invest in these because they simply don’t care enough. Not to mention that right now, as in previous lockdowns, fitness equipment is mostly sold out or hugely overpriced because of such big demand. Everyone will just collapse into their sofas doing what they are told and paid to do – getting more unhealthy, more unfit, more miserable, unhappy with themselves, or as some put it – sitting at home and watching Netflix. The lever has been pulled again.
As a Fitness Instructor and a former fat guy, I know that getting fit is much more than just deciding to do it. A person has to find motivation, have a goal in mind that often is accompanied by a deadline in the form of a life event such as a wedding. But most of all, he or she needs to ENJOY the exercise. Gym provides that variety allowing trainees to pursue their goals without sticking to one boring exercise or routine.
What about people who don’t want to end up obese, who want to maintain their healthy lifestyle, but can’t adapt because they lack motivation or purpose? Is it wrong of them to demand that gyms reopen? That lives resume? A few months ago, an elderly lady, Ann, came to the gym asking me to show her our treadmills. She was in her 70s, overweight and asthmatic. She said she hated walking outdoors, but she needed to exercise after shielding for several months and didn’t mind using the treadmill. What if she doesn’t find the motivation to adapt to the current circumstances and instead gives up on exercise all together putting herself at an even greater risk?
Right now, people like Ann don’t even have the right to look after their own health and boost their immune system. Ann realises that staying home “might” save her from coronavirus but walking on the treadmill will save her from heart disease and other serious threats. She took responsibility because she knew that nobody else could get on that treadmill for her. I applaud people like Ann. Unfortunately, she has been sacrificed. The lever was pulled once again, declaring Ann unimportant and her needs nonessential.
Nobody will reverse what’s been done to your mental health because of lockdown. Nobody will pay your debt or reconstruct your business, save your marriage and turn back time so you don’t have that abortion you had because you were worried about the future. Nobody will buy you more time when you are given six months to live because your cancer was discovered too late. Nobody will resurrect you when you’ve taken your own life because you’ve lost everything. None of these people who dismiss you as a selfish COVIDIOT will be there when you fall. None of them. They do, however, demand that you give all that up, sacrifice your own happiness, stability and health to protect others yet nobody is willing to protect you from the misery caused by your sacrifice. They don’t think it’s their responsibility, but demand that you take responsibility for them.
My theory is that this lust for lockdowns is based on the short sighted imagination of lockdown supporters and our ancient instinct to prioritise immediate rewards and avoid immediate threats. This primitive voice dictates to people that, sure, lockdowns will cause hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths, but they won’t be immediate and will be spread out over a longer period of time. Same with suicides caused by unemployment and loneliness. Same with obesity which can take months to become a problem and years to contribute to poor health. It doesn’t make it less heartless, to use one of their words, to sacrifice these people to save, or to postpone a few deaths today. It doesn’t make it less selfish, to betray the people who will die in a year from now to save a few lives today. It is, however, part of the human nature. This is why many people struggle to save money and instead buy things they want on credit even if it costs them more in the long term. But, just because this is in our nature, doesn’t mean we can’t be aware of it and make conscious decisions even if our subconsciousness disagrees.
For the lockdown strategy to be considered successful nobody’s health, happiness, freedom and wellbeing should be neglected. No lever should ever be pulled if it resulted in sacrificing some lives to save others. Especially when the measures imposed on us restrict our access to healthcare, to prosperity, happiness, privacy, family and love life, the right to form relationships and fall in love, start a family and enjoy a free and uninterrupted life. Lockdown does not meet any of this criteria and fails to deliver its promise of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
The common criticism of that approach is the “you don’t have the right to infect others with the virus” argument. People seem to have forgotten that their health is their responsibility, not others. They have forgotten that we CATCH viruses, not spread them. Yes, viruses spread through us, but there is very little we can do to stop that unless we are prepared to spend the rest of our lives living like prisoners, and even then there would be no light at the end of the tunnel for people with underlying health conditions and weakened immune system. The reality is, a virus may travel through ten different hosts before it reaches a vulnerable person, so it should always be her and her immediate family’s job to take responsible measures to “stay safe” not only now, but during every flu season. The question, however, is, what of that granny who thinks meeting her new born grandchild is worth it even if it exposes her to the threat of COVID19? If she doesn’t want to be safe, but instead happy for her remaining time on earth, no amount of self sacrifice I do will save her life and in the end, I will be the one who suffers. This is why it makes perfect sense for people to voluntarily protect themselves instead of everyone being forced to protect others through harsh and often irreversible self sacrifice.
The bottom line is this. If you support further lockdown, isolation and assault of our freedoms, you’re contributing to more death and misery than you pretend you’re preventing. Others like me recognise the long-term side effects of these restrictions. We know that we are the only ones responsible for our own wellbeing. We understand that we are the only ones who can defend ourselves against illness and physical and mental threats, but in the last ten months, we have been told to give up our guns. You think that the health of your loved ones depends on restrictions imposed on others. Restrictions that take their ability to maintain good physical and mental health. This is where you and I disagree. I know I am responsible for myself, but right now everything that gives me strength has been taken away from me because you think I should be responsible for you.
So, tell me, friend, when me and my family end up on the street because of lockdown, will you acknowledge us at all? Will you give up your job, your savings or your salary for us? Tell me, will you save us, or will you give us enough to buy a hot drink?
- Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus: The Evidence – AIER
- Every month delayed in cancer treatment can raise risk of death by around 10% | LSHTM
- The Impact of COVID‐19 Stay‐At‐Home Orders on Health Behaviors in Adults (wiley.com)
- Suicide – Lockdown Resistance (endlockdowns.org)
- Trolley Dilemma: Kill One Person to Save Five? (thoughtco.com)