When I started this blog, back in 2019, my plan was to write about a variety of subjects and express, what I hoped to be, thought-provoking opinions. It was never my intention to focus on a single issue. The pandemic, however, interrupted my attempt at exposing the world’s truths and life’s meaning. I also never thought that I would witness the collapse of human dignity, compassion and consciousness. I didn’t dare to think that I’d see our basic freedoms arrested and our fundamental rights crushed, and our very nature denied to us and debunked, our humanity ripped from our mother’s arms. But here we are – year 2021. It’s beginning to look a lot like Nineteen eighty-four.
The ordinary world
Six O Four
Malbork, Poland, 2002. I am fifteen. It’s a warm Summer afternoon. My friends and I have just been playing football and we are now hanging out at our favourite spot – the bench under the rowan tree by the road leading to our estate. As we sit here, minding our business and causing no trouble, a police van pulls over and two bulky, bald police officers step out. They can’t be a lot older than us. Early 20s, I think. They come up to us and start asking questions. They demand that we give them our details, starting with our full name, date and place of birth, and full names of our parents. They look like they’re enjoying themselves. They talk to us like we’re guilty of some crime they’re investigating, but we haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, we are just a bunch of losers and everyone knows this. Girls want nothing to do with us, cool kids don’t want to shake our hands in school and to top it off, there is this one guy, probably around the age of Bulk and Skull over here, who always kicks our ball away when it ends up anywhere near him and his friends – the real troublemakers of our estate. They smoke and do drugs, while all we want to do is play football and sit on a bench looking at nice cars and girls who are out of our league. One of the cops orders me to take my hands out of my pockets. I know it’s disrespectful, but he hasn’t earned my respect. It is clear that they are trying to intimidate us. They must hold some kind of grudge against guys like us or perhaps they used to be bullies themselves and they’ve never grown out of it. Proud of themselves, they now get back into their van and drive off. We take a note of the number, it’s 604. It happens a few more times this Summer. It’s always the same scenario and the same oversized idiots with shaved heads, trying to teach us respect through intimidation. We’re never guilty of anything, but just in case, whenever we see a police van approaching and whenever we see the number 604 on the side of it, we try to move along to avoid another humiliating encounter with the law. By the time we see the number, however, it is usually too late.
It’s my fifteenth year in the UK. My experience with the British police has been drastically different. Not only that, but I’ve also never felt threatened or intimidated by a police officer. This has been the case until lockdowns began twelve months ago. Sometime in April of last year, my respect and admiration for the British uniform started to fade.
Great Britain – the country that gave us democracy, the country that many Eastern Europeans like me escaped to in search of a better tomorrow – had begun to turn into the authoritarian regime and police state many of us ran away from. I know, as a foreigner, I should probably not speak negatively of the country I’ve settled in, but whatever was once Great about Britain, has died of COVID, I think. And I mean this about the police who forgot their oath, government officials who seem to have turned into tyrants who do things to us instead of for us anymore and think we are their property, as well as people of Britain, who have exposed their true nature of spineless cowards who play dead on the battlefield.
I sat on a bench today, just outside the library and the Town Hall which has been turned into COVID19 vaccination centre. I sat there for about an hour waiting for my wife and our three-month-old son to finish at the doctor’s. He was having his blood taken as part of the ongoing investigation into his hearing loss. I’ve attended a couple of initial appointments when we were given the diagnose and crucial information. Then, both because of their One Parent Because of COVID19 policy and my lack of challenging it when the appointments were no longer scary but routine, I just waited outside or took a walk.
Today, I decided to sit on the bench instead of waiting outside. I felt like such an outlaw. For the past few months, doing such a thing has been unthinkable. Sitting on a bench has been viewed as a dangerous crime and health hazard. I sat there and listened to Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record on Audible. As I listened to Snowden’s confession what led him to expose the US government’s betrayal of their citizens, I was looking at groups of college kids laughing, talking, hugging and chatting, eating takeaways as they walked to town or back to college. If it weren’t for the fact that the majority of them wore masks, I’d have thought it was just an ordinary day in an ordinary world where COVID19 never existed.
I used to sit on this particular bench a lot when I first came to the UK fifteen years ago. I would look at the people, couples holding hands, young guys and girls getting out of taxis and refusing to wear coats (presumably to avoid leaving them behind in the nightclub), runners, guys with gym bags drinking protein shakes, you know, all these ordinary things happening every day in the ordinary world. A world where I, sitting on that bench, could afford to struggle with my own identity as I measured the behaviour of the herd. I could afford to sit there as long as it took me to collect my thoughts, write poetry and dream. Back in the ordinary world. Back when I had my whole life ahead of me and I took it for granted. Back when I could sit there until my skin shivered or until I found the missing piece of the puzzle. What burden was I carrying? What mystery of my mind was I trying to solve? How unaware was I of what was being plotted behind the scenes? How blind was I to the strings attached to all of our shoulders? Perhaps, as I sat there unaware, ignorant and small, handshakes were being exchanged, signatures given, funds transferred, things arranged, alibi prepared, consent manufactured – all to one day take away every dream I had dreamt on that bench, crush every plan I had thought of, dispose of everything I had held dear and precious.
Today, I don’t have that luxury, that freedom. Doing such an ordinary thing belongs in the past. “The rules” say so. As I sat there, a lone police officer emerged from the underground passage. When I saw him, I had a familiar feeling. The feeling a man only gets to feel a few times in his lifetime. When he sees the love of his life, the most beautiful woman, object of his love songs and poetry walk in the room and he has to tell her how he feels. And when his great nemesis or his army charge at him and he has to fight. It’s about fear and conquering that fear. It’s a quick, sharp excitement and anxiety in his chest that make him focused yet paralysed, ready to fight and ready to hide.
That’s what I felt that moment I laid my eyes on the policeman. The sharp feeling in my chest was gone before I knew it, yet it expressed so many things all at once. ‘Is this the time I get confronted?’, it asked, exposing my lack or preparedness for the confrontation I had been anticipating and rehearsing for months. More importantly, it reminded me of the time I last felt it about the police. That summer I was harassed by 604’s Bulk and Skull. It also made me realise that as a thirty – four-year-old father, husband, legally employed and a law-abiding citizen I should never feel this about the police. After all, they are not my enemy and I’m not guilty of anything. My body should not turn on and prepare to flee or confront them. But because of how many of them have behaved over the last year, I now feel like a fugitive, who must always be ready to run, resist and sees them not as public servants, but as the enemy. Enemy of human nature, freedom and dignity.
Luckily, the cop wasn’t interested in my suspicious activity. It was just me and Edward again.
Malbork, Poland, 2002. Finally, they get what they wanted. They’ve created a monster. My friend, Adrian, isn’t a member of our group, but he hangs out with us occasionally. Part of the reason is that he lives in a tower block in a different part of town, and he prefers homework than sitting on a bench. Not all of us have mobile phones, so there are only two ways for us to all get together. We either specify time and place of assembly when at school or we pick everyone one by one by calling at their address until everyone is accounted for. Since Adrian goes to a different school and lives so far for us to get him, we simply don’t bother most of the time. When we do, however, we make his neighbours’ life a living hell. The lifts in those buildings are old, nothing like you might be imagining. The doors aren’t automatic. You have to pull or push them to open. Once the floor number is pressed and the door shut, you’re on your way. Our favourite thing to do is getting in the lift on the ground floor, pressing the button and holding the door slightly open for the next person who walks into the building. It’s often someone old. We stand there, holding the door, showing we’re waiting for them. We never hold the door wide open. Instead, we leave the smallest gap and that’s crucial to our prank. They always look very grateful as they show their appreciation and perform their mini jog to get in the lift with us. At the last second, when they are about to grab the handle on the other side, we release the door and watch their gratitude turn into disappointment as we fill the inside of the lift with mocking, knee - slapping laughter. We’ve done it countless times, but today, we’ve done it to the wrong man. He’s just chased us out of the building and as we’re in a safe distance, I extend my right arm and show him the middle finger. We are still laughing at the look on his face when his hope to get in the lift turned into embarrassment, when he appears out of nowhere and grabs me by the arm. Huffing and puffing from under his thick, unkept moustache, he looks particularly angry with me for giving him the finger. He’s not even mad about the lift thing. It’s the middle finger that bothers him. My friends abandon me, accepting that I have taken it too far and am now on my own. ‘Where do you live?’, he asks. ‘Just around the corner’, I lie, thinking he will let me go. Instead, he squeezes my arm tighter and demands I take him to my parents. ‘I’m lying, I don’t live around here’, again thinking he lets me go. I try to release myself, but my teenage strength is no match for his manly grip. His friend approaches on his bike and together they come to the conclusion that it’s best to call the police. I tell them both to fuck off, which gives the friend the permission to suggest that they “rough me up a little” before cops arrive. He does nothing. I struggle, but his hand doesn’t let go. The old man must be producing his whole strength from his front porch, I think. The police arrive and Moustache releases his sausage fingers from my arm. His grip made my coat all wrinkly. He lies to the officers, saying I “threatened him with violence”. The friend nods and confirms. I can’t see my face, but I feel angry and as I make my way to the back of the car, I call him a fucking liar and demand my version to be heard. They don’t wanna to know. It’s a short ride home in the backseat. What crime have I committed that I am being taken home for it? We drive past the rowan tree bench and it’s occupied by my friends who were quick to abandon me. Few minutes later I am being dragged upstairs and for the first time in the last half an hour, I feel anxious. I didn’t care about Moustache and his fat, sweaty hand. Not even about his courageous friend who threatened to beat me up. Hell, I didn’t even care about them calling the police. It is my mom who I am really afraid of. The police do the talking, I am just silent and embarrassed.
Just follow the rules
You can’t torture an animal forever without it lashing outJordan Peterson
If you are reading this, I’m sure I don’t have to explain in great detail what my feelings toward the police are based on. I suspect, what brought you here is the same resentment I feel after having watched hours of social media clips of police abusing their power, enforcing COVID rules. If you’re like me, these videos make you feel sick, angry and upset. They wake within you the unfamiliar rage and fury you had no idea you were capable of feeling. Maybe it even frightens you what you might do if these feelings are left unchecked. You imagine yourself punching, kicking and spitting your way out of the unlawful arrest while simultaneously knowing this would never end well for you. But it helps, doesn’t it? It feels so good seeing your fists land on their faces, making their surgical masks turn red. It feels good visualising, even for a minute, defeating the bad guys, serving justice and coming out as the hero. I know it works for me. It silences this desperation burning within me as I see people being tackled to the ground in their own homes for the crime of having dinner with their family. If you’re anything like me, this sense of injustice overwhelms you because you know these bastards get away with it every time and only their consciousness will ever be their judge and their executioner.
A few weeks ago, the government requested every concerned citizen to express in their own words the negative effects lockdown had on various aspects of their life, including mental health. I don’t know what I was hoping it would achieve, but I decided to submit my evidence, in which I say:
I imagine myself being dragged into a van after attending a protest in the near future. Then put in a cell and the rage, I am not supposed to feel as a father, returns. I shouldn’t feel like this. These emotions have come out of nowhere. In the first lockdown, I was fine. I was reading a lot, I was outside a lot. Now I feel like a ticking time bomb. These negative emotions – anger mixed with desperation, anxiety, heartbreak, rejection, bitterness – they don’t even have an outlet…
I described myself as a ticking timebomb. Probably not the wisest choice of words in a letter to the government, but I didn’t care. Perhaps I even wanted them to come for me. Take me into a room and play good cop and bad cop, asking me what I meant, who I worked for. What did I mean? This next fragment explains it well:
I should be the happiest I’ve ever been, but recently, I find myself feeling emotions I’ve never felt before. I feel anger, resentment and hopelessness. I feel powerless and desperate to the point where I want to cry or break something and who knows what I will do if I’m caught off guard? These negative feelings aren’t directed at my family. But this anger turns into rage within me, and I never knew it was there. This desperation I feel inside makes me so depressed sometimes and I feel I have no control over what happens to my life
The only time I ever feel anything close to how I’ve felt for the last few months is whenever I see a movie where the character is being kept hostage, tortured, isolated and made do things against his will by his tyrannical captors. When I see the scenes of this injustice, I boil inside, crave revenge and imagine what I would do to them if I managed to set myself free. In my mind, I do unspeakable things.
I see the same injustice when I watch a video of police attacking protesters, mothers with children, friends having coffee together and families in their homes. People often say that to avoid being fined or arrested, all we have to do is just “follow the rules”. Just follow the rules, they say. Never mind that the rules intrude and trespass on our rights, ruin our freedoms, criminalise choice and oppress people’s needs and interests. These cowards who welcome this invasion with open arms often defend their submission by pointing out various laws that they claim already take away our freedom. Their best example is usually something to do with speed limits (because of course, given the freedom to do so, everyone wants to drive like a maniac).
These people don’t understand the meaning of personal rights, where they come from and why no other person, no matter their position, can take these rights away. They don’t understand the concept of personal responsibility and that they themselves are the only ones who they should rely on to stay safe, not just from COVID19, but from any threat.
Another thing they love to say, especially to me since I am a foreigner, is something along the lines of, “go back to Poland, if you don’t like the rules of this country”. This easily translates to: if you want your freedom; if you don’t want to live in an authoritarian regime; if you don’t agree that police should have such powers; if you want to have rights then go to a country that provides them. They love to ridicule and belittle you for valuing freedom over safety and individual rights over collective duty. “Grow up!”, they often tell me. As if holding these values is immature and childlike, while theirs are morally superior and wise.
“Without rules there is only chaos”, they also say, which of course is a fallacy. It implies that people would just go crazy if the rules weren’t written down. But laws, at least the criminal laws, exist mainly to discourage and punish criminals. Most people are not criminals. Laws might be printed by man, but man’s morality is the ink. Most people not only recognise that murder is wrong but are unable to even picture themselves killing anyone. The law against murder, then, exists to discourage and punish the very few who are able to commit such an act. These men, who are a small fraction of the population, who don’t share the morals of the rest of us, who don’t value another man’s life, who aren’t scared of pulling the trigger are the reason why laws are written down. I would argue even in absence of certain laws, most people would have no desire to murder, rob and rape. Most men, as an example, find the idea of rape repulsive (widely available porn only confirms that) and that’s why they don’t do it, not because they are afraid of getting caught.
Most people simply want to live and let live without causing any harm to another person and his property. Other laws exist merely as reminders how to live in the community, guidance for businesses and protection of individual rights. Furthermore, laws and morality don’t always go hand in hand. For example, in some countries, prostitution is illegal, but it’s not immoral. Lying to your friend or cheating in your relationship are immoral, but they are not illegal. Not paying your debt is not a criminal offence, but it may be considered immoral. I would argue that forbidding lovers see each other for months on end is immoral and criminalising it is unlawful. Yet here we are.
It’s also interesting to see how many people simply needed new rules to be written down to completely abandon their empathy for another person. They just needed a rule to exist to see a normal, harmless activity as a crime for which someone should be put to death. They turn into totalitarian boot lickers happy to snitch on their neighbours for having guests for dinner. This tells a lot about people in this country.
a few bad apples
Just as people needed new policies and rules to turn on their neighbours and fellow citizens, to a number of police officers they were simply an excuse to become tyrants they always had been. Perhaps the surgical mask they now have to wear provides them with anonymity they needed to disconnect from their actions towards other men and women.
They may be in a small minority, but it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of them just follow along and turn the other way. That small minority is enough for there to be hundreds of videos exposing their abuse of power during lockdown. It has been happening here in the UK and all over the Western World. In Australia, a woman was arrested in her own home, in front of her children for organising a protest on Facebook. Another man had his front door kicked in for the same reason. A video from Poland shows officers tackling a man to the ground for refusing to wear a mask and threatening his friend with a gun for attempting to intervene. Just the other day, I saw a footage from a grocery store in Netherlands, where the security man not only attempts to forcibly remove an unmasked shopper from the store but gets assistance from a man wearing a mask like a good boy. There are many more examples, way too many to list them here. In Germany, the country that should know better, the police are seen using water to disperse the crowd of protesters. Not only that, but their government also introduced the concept of quarantine camps – places for people who refuse to self–isolate after testing positive or returning from abroad. Funnily enough, a number of people in the UK fully support the idea and think it doesn’t go far enough. They think people like me should be put in prison.
What really makes these people betray their integrity and commitment to others? Is it the moral superiority of doing the right thing? What about the men in uniform? What triggers in them the brainless, unconscious and detached android mode, incapable of own thought, compassion and reasoning?
You know, I’ve been writing this for a few weeks now and I feel like I still have a long way to go. It seems like every week there is another story in the press, another video on Twitter, showing police officers intruding people’s lives and disturbing their peace. There was a video a while ago, in the Midlands I believe. A man got called an idiot by the officer and thrown in the back of the police car. The reason? The cop didn’t believe the man’s trip was essential. He didn’t believe him when he said he lived around there so he arrested him in a very disrespectful manner. If the man were a suspect of a crime, it would have been a different story, but he was only stopped, grabbed and harassed for the officer’s assumptions and misunderstanding of the law and his powers. This is not the only video I’ve seen where the police officer acts disrespectfully, threatening and patronising towards a member of the public who is just going about their daily life. And this is the crucial part – going about your business is not a crime, no matter how they put it. If you’re exercising your freedoms (in this case, the freedom of movement) and there is a law that forbids it, it is an unjust law, and your duty is to break it and resist those who come after you to enforce it. As Nelson Mandela famously said:
When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.Nelson Mandela
In other words, if the government tells a man he can’t see his loved ones, can’t start a relationship, sit in the field and listen to the voice of nature he has no other option but to defy the government for they have no business telling him how to live his private life. And I don’t buy that “what you do is affecting others because you’re spreading the virus” nonsense. Everyone is responsible for their own destiny. We are all independent human beings and need to take responsibility for our life and ownership of our choices. We don’t exist to ensure others never fall ill, go hungry or homeless. We don’t exist so others can live. We aren’t on this planet to fulfil other people’s needs. That is at the heart of freedom – it gives each individual the right and more importantly, the power to take necessary steps to protect himself from harm, because he can’t control others. In freedom, everyone gets to make choices to live the best, happiest and healthiest life available to them. The moment you let go of that freedom, hand it over to the state, who then believe they have to take everyone’s freedoms for their safety, you end up with no responsibility for yourself and no ownership of your life. Your safety and your health, your very survival depend on what others do or don’t do. What if, one day, people simply choose not to follow the rules anymore? You will have no choice but to rely on yourself. You must understand that you wash your hands for yourself. Imagine, if you lived your life always counting on others washing theirs and relying on them doing it properly.
And now we have muzzled police turned against the public. They patrol our streets, they “hide in the shadows” and sneak up on us in parks like we’re all criminals. They stalk us, flying drones over our heads if we dare to take too long of a walk. They demand we tell them where we are going and why. They are rude, dishonest and brutal.
The grip never relaxes
People cringe when I use the word tyranny to describe our current situation. They hear the word regime and imagine Germany in 1943, when Nazism was already well established. They never think to look beyond the dates they know from history books. They forget that tyranny comes about gradually and introduces itself in small, careful steps. The tyrant pushes the people to their limit or very close to their limit. He lets them settle, get used to the “new normal” and then pushes them further, lets them settle again and repeats.
Similarly, when you look back at the past year, you’ll see that the restrictions have been piling up on top of each other and we never, even after the first lockdown, went back to the pre – lockdown state. The government claimed almost full control of our lives and gave back very little of it. Then did it again and again, giving us back just scraps of the life we used to know. This is in essence how tyrants rise. They rise from the ashes of our humanity and they thrive in the flames of our desperation, fear and blind obedience. They take and very rarely give back.
We’ve created a system which pushes us further into becoming passive spectators and not active participants in social affairs and one that creates an illusion of having control of our lives. We have done it without asking questions, without looking back and without resisting. In this system, we aren’t taught how to lead, but how to follow. We have become a nation of sheep who are convinced they need a shepherd; we have convinced ourselves that we can’t make rational decisions for ourselves; we trust neither ourselves nor other individuals in the herd but will follow the majority led by the shepherd into our doom and slaughter.
Boris Johnson and his fellowship of the virus, put us in lockdown in March last year, taking almost full control of our lives, making them masters of our daily rituals and activities. They served us with a strict list of things we were and weren’t allowed to do. They pushed us to our limit by taking from us as much as they could. They then returned some of our freedoms, but their boot remained in the door. We were allowed to go back to work, but still lived very limited and restricted lives.
They then intimidated, threatened and coerced people into cancelling their Christmas plans. They trapped students in their student accommodations, miles away from home, set up police checkpoints outside towns on Christmas Eve to make sure people weren’t seeing their families. They terrorized our minds, intimidated us with bullies hoping we would not find a way and strength to nourish our relationships and do what we felt was right anyway. And many of us did.
The tyrant, very much like Mr. Unkept Moustache who captured me all these years ago, once he grabs you, never relaxes his grip.
We have the luxury now, to go back in time, browse through history, listen to the testimony of the survivor reliving her horrors and we can look the tyrant in the eyes. We can witness him rise from the ashes of people’s defeated courage and thrive in their desperation. We can follow his steps from his first day as the ruler to the brutal end. We swear we would have done something, that we would have refused, rebelled and stopped him. We are baffled why nobody did. Today, as we find ourselves in the midst of tyranny, we welcome the tyrant and baffle future historians with our inaction.
Run, fat boy, run!
Malbork, Poland, 2004 A knock on the door wakes me up. I roll over on my mattress, which is all I have to sleep on, and check the time. It’s just gone seven o’clock. I don’t need to be up for another hour to go to school. After last night, however, I am surprised I even slept at all, to be honest. Times like these I wish I had a mobile phone to check on my mates and see if they’re alright. See if they all got away too. My mom gets the door. I can hear a man’s voice, but I don’t recognise it. It could be a neighbour or a postman, I don’t know. We’ve just moved here. Is it possible, though? Could it be…? I can hear my mom’s footsteps. They’re fast, they’re angry and loud. She storms into my room and kicks my mattress, sending my pillow across the room. ‘The police are here for you! Get up! Get the fuck up and get dressed right now!’, she screams through her tears. I pretend I have no idea what this is all about, but it’s a lie. The promise I made to her last time I was brought home by the cops is broken. I swore that was the last time. I am taken back to that evening we were chased by the police outside the church and I almost got away. Almost. The cop caught up with me outside the kindergarten. ‘Wait here while I run after your friend’, he said. Of course I didn’t wait. I’m not stupid. I ran. I ran only to be caught again by the other cop. Next thing I know, the one who caught me first is dragging Andrew by his collar, which kind of made me – the fat one of the group – feel better cause he is the group’s athlete. ‘I thought I told you to wait there!’, he looked at me with disbelief and anger as I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him amazed that he really thought I was just going to wait there for him. What an idiot. This was months ago now and we weren't even doing anything wrong. We were just fooling around and ran when we saw them. But for her it is still a fresh wound, a broken promise. ‘Hurry up!’, she brings me right back to the present and says I have five minutes to get ready. The men are waiting and will drive me to the station. I’m only seventeen, what’s the worst that can happen? Oh who am I kidding? I am shitting myself.
Seventeen years later, I expect a knock on the door and prepare for it to be kicked in. The amount of times I tweeted at Metropolitan Police calling them fascists and pathetic is more than I can remember. In the country where people get charged for things they say online, for offending others, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens one day. Who will be the men at my door? Just some good men, men who joined the force to protect the innocent, defend our rights? Maybe. Or maybe it will be one or two tyrants who love their newfound powers? Or maybe it will just be some ordinary officers who are just following orders, right? Just doing their job. Just taking me away from my family for having an opinion or for spreading misinformation. Have you seen V for Vendetta? Asking for a friend…
The Great Twitter Debates: Episode 1
Trigger Warning: Contains logic and reason
I made a mistake the other day by logging into my Twitter account and engaging in a conversation with a couple of people who were very passionate about living in chains – the lifestyle also known as lockdown. I am truly surprised that after a whole year of absorbing every misinformation and lie from their telescreens, they haven’t come up with a stronger repertoire of arguments. Instead, they tweet the same long ago debunked and ridiculed opinions as they did in April of last year. Opinions they mistakenly present as facts. One of the most often repeated “arguments”, they treat as gospel, is the Speeding Driver Paradox (SDP), which they think declares them the winner of every coronavirus debate. There could, however, be nothing further from the truth, and I shall explain why. Be careful who you share this with, not everyone can handle logic and reason in such high doses.
The Speeding Driver Paradox, like every other myth and fairy tale, when repeated too often, it too eventually loses its original form. The speeding driver becomes drunk in some translations. In others, he drives a faulty car, and yet in another, he just feels like driving on the pavement, running over pedestrians simply because it makes him happy. The last one was a direct response to my argument that one’s happiness is important and in context of COVID19 lockdowns and restrictions -which lead to depression, anxiety and suicides and medical neglect – it is even more important than other people’s lives and health. The mistake, of course, is that feeling pleasure from purposely hurting people is not the same as happiness achieved through personal and professional fulfilment and living a life of meaning. I have addressed it in my article from a few weeks ago titled Redefining selfishness – why being selfish is a good thing, where I explain why one’s own health, happiness and wellbeing should be prioritised, not neglected. Link to the article will be at the bottom of the screen.
So, the SDP, and its many forms, attempts to compare seeing your partner for Valentine’s Day or your mom for her birthday, wanting to work and support your family to driving like a maniac. In other words, if you want the lockdown to end because it ruins your life by compromising your physical health, financial situation and mental wellbeing, if you deliberately break the restrictions to simply stay sane and alive, to live your life and exercise your freedom to do so, you are exactly like a speeding driver who has no regard for human life. Shame on you!
It originated somewhere around April or May of 2020, when people dared to sunbathe and leave their house for other “non – essential” reasons, such as getting fresh air, but not exercising at the same time. These people just sat on benches and were compared to lunatic drivers. It continues being repeated by those who just want to avoid harder questions and difficult conversations. They don’t want their lack of compassion and empathy to be exposed. They quote this misleading fallacy, which to the untrained eye may seem like a perfectly fitting analogy. The untrained individual will often lose sight of the real conversation and instead try to address the Speeding Driver Paradox and often lose the argument or patience in the process. It’s because this was never the topic of the discussion they were having and it’s unproductive to address points that have nothing to do with it.
Apples and oranges
First of all, it distracts us from the conversation we’re having, where the issue is coronavirus rules. Sure, the SDP tries to argue that rules are there to protect people and “we shouldn’t just let people drive like crazy because they feel like it”, as the argument often goes, but it is, nevertheless, like comparing apples to oranges. Traffic rules protect lives – that’s true – but they don’t cancel people’s individual human rights. For example, traffic rules don’t prevent you from driving your car. They don’t tell you that you are only allowed to drive to work and to get essentials. In other words, you have the right to move around and travel. Coronavirus rules, on the other hand, attempt to take away the very freedoms we were born with.
Furthermore, drivers need the rules to remain safe on the road. Those rules let them know what manoeuvres to expect from other drivers and what they expect in return. It would be quite difficult to drive to work, for example, if everyone could simply choose which side of the road they feel like driving on. They want to stay alive, they want their car to remain in one piece, and they don’t want to live with a burden of killing innocent people, so they must know what the rules are, because doing the opposite is often a life-or-death situation. And yes, if a person is driving irresponsibly, say, speeding, drunk or texting, they are directly responsible for the accident and its casualties. When a person suffers symptoms of an illness, it is often due to their lifestyle choices, daily activities or pre-existing conditions, therefore it is hardly logical to hold the “infector” responsible. Especially when not every infection leads to major symptoms or death. Car accidents, on the other hand, usually don’t end well for anyone involved.
Moreover, traffic rules aim to prevent accidents that may lead to instant death or life-threatening injuries of the participants. It would be hard to apply the same rules to, say, mask wearing in supermarkets because if two people bump into each other when choosing their nutritious ready meals, it’s hardly similar to a speeding car running over a pedestrian – who dies instantly. A person in the supermarket may or may not be infected and they may or may not infect the other person in the isle. Additionally, if someone develops the symptoms after their visit to Morrison’s, can they really know where and when they CAUGHT it? What if they caught it on the train or a bus? When there is a fatal car accident or any car accident at all, you don’t need to ask such questions. And that’s why traffic rules make sense – they prevent instant, undeniable and unquestionable death or irreversible injury.
It is, however, worth mentioning that most car accidents aren’t caused by dangerous driving. Most such tragedies involve drivers who follow the rules and like every other user of the road, try to stay alive. The number one cause of car accidents, according to Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep is, in fact, falling asleep while driving which is the result of insufficient sleep. This can be caused by not sleeping enough the night before, but in the majority of cases, people are “too busy to sleep” and regularly sleep less than six hours per night. This, as explained in the book, may eventually lead to the overpowering urge to close your eyes for a split second, which is long enough for you to lose control over your vehicle.
It would be more reasonable to call it the Sleeping Driver Paradox then, as you could argue then that the accident is the driver’s fault, because he neglects his sleep, putting others in danger. The problem is though – there is no rule against getting insufficient sleep, there’s only advice. But it would still not relate to lockdown rule breakers, though. It is worth mentioning here that many drivers do, in fact, break the rules and drive a little over the speed limit, they use their car even if it’s technically not fit for the road because of, say, a faulty headlight. People, therefore, choose which rules are less important than others.
Cars and rifles
Another reason why this argument falls apart, assuming that dangerous driving is comparable to, say, shopping without a facemask on, is something that will require us to first abandon all logic to even go there. But let’s see what we can do. The fallacy of this opinion is perfectly illustrated when you imagine a firing squad about to execute a prisoner of war. When I was a kid, I asked my mom why it always took a group men to execute one guy. It was simply, according to her, to make sure a bullet reached the target. A single shooter could easily miss all together or only wound the prisoner or his rifle could jam, all of which would make the execution longer and more unpleasant than it needed to be. A firing squad makes sure that at least one lethal shot is fired.
I believe, in addition to that, there was a deeper reason for it. Standing in a group simply takes the burden off the individual in the firing squad. Believe it or not, but even some Nazis refused to execute Jews and many others justified their actions, as demonstrated in Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning. It has also been said that many guns found or collected after the Second World War had never been fired. This shows that soldiers might find it uneasy to shoot at the enemy or execute prisoners. The firing squad provides a release and almost a guilt free fulfilment of the soldier’s task by allowing him to pull the trigger while sharing the burden with others. Only one bullet carries the death sentence. By shooting simultaneously, none of the men ever find out if it is fired from their gun, taking the man’s life or not. They know that only one out of ten rifles fired the deadly bullet, and they can choose the comforting thought that they weren’t the one pulling that trigger. In other words, it takes ten men for one man to execute another.
I’m not trying to compare apples with oranges here, I’m trying to demonstrate why comparing apples to oranges doesn’t work and why the firing squad analogy is far better to illustrate my point than the Speeding Driver Paradox could ever hope to illustrate its own. Let’s compare apples to oranges, however, and see how ridiculous the practice really is.
All of the lockdown restrictions are equally intrusive, and they all equally compromise our physical health and mental wellbeing. Somebody who wants to look after their own health must now live outside of the rules. If you take regular walks to the park, you might have noticed that all outdoor gyms have been closed. Strangely enough, playgrounds have remained open to the public and parents have been trusted to be responsible and keep others safe. The notice on the outdoor exercise area says that people shouldn’t use it because “COVID19 can stay on the surface for up to 72 hours”. I guess COVID19 doesn’t go to crowded playgrounds. It prefers the hardly ever used outdoor gyms. I do still use them, even with the tape around them. I believe it is essential for my health and fitness and I don’t see why I should compromise that. Somehow that puts me in the same category as a lunatic driver. But how many lunatic drivers does it take to kill or injure a pedestrian? When a pedestrian almost gets hit by a speeding car and sees it disappear in the distance, the risk is no longer there. In other words, the pedestrian doesn’t need to wait 72 hours to feel safe to cross that road.
Let’s ignore the obvious inconsistency of restricting access to outdoor gyms but not to playgrounds. Let’s focus on the crime committed.
I briefly covered it above, but let’s explore this unreasonable territory. When you’re involved in a car accident, you know where and when you were hit. It happened on the motorway, on your way to work. You were hit by the blue Sedan behind you, not the red Opel parked a little too close to you at work, not the car in front of you at McDonald’s drive through and not when you were at home while your spouse used the car to collect the kids from school. It also didn’t take ten different cars to finally happen to you. It’s not like the blue Sedan hit a BMW first, then the BMW hit a Ford which then hit a Seat and a Fiat, only for the Fiat to have no symptoms of the accident so it carried on and then hit you. No – the blue Sedan hit you and now you’re in the hospital. Yet, what I’ve just described is what happens when a virus “hits” you. It travels from host to host and you never really know where and when you CAUGHT it. Was it at work? Was it in the shop? Was it somewhere else? Who do you hold responsible? That guy who stood too close to you at the Post Office? That woman who wasn’t wearing her facemask properly or the cashier who touched all your groceries? Or maybe the cashier’s son who notoriously breaks lockdown rules? Or maybe the son’s girlfriend, who got sick, but ignored it, thinking it was just a cold? More importantly, why would you blame anyone?
And before all this? Who really gave your nan the flu? What chain of events led to her getting life threatening flu? Did you bring it to her that Sunday when you were a little unwell? Where did you get it? In the pub? Train? Gym? Work? School? Say, your nan sadly died of the flu that you gave her. If you were able to trace back your infection to the very person who sneezed or coughed on you or hugged you, or simply left their house knowing they were ill, what would you do to that person? Would you hold them responsible for your nan’s death? What if your viral transaction with this person was only a coincidence and your nan actually got sick at her book club? What if you were driving your nan to the book club and the blue Sedan drove right into you because the driver was texting, injuring you and killing your nan. Would you hold them responsible? Surely you can’t honestly answer “yes, I would” to both of these scenarios.
It’s just like with the firing squad. It may take multiple different people, different interactions and places to get infected (with anything). Back in ancient times, when the man flu and common cold still existed, people used a phrase, “Something’s going around”, when everyone they knew was one by one coming down with a cold. Suddenly, your work, your gym, your yoga class, the corner shop, petrol station and your evening baking class became the firing squad and you knew their rifles were loaded with the virus, but you didn’t know who would fire first. Back then, in the pre – COVID19 era, people didn’t expect all these places to shut. They simply accepted their fate or took their precautions to stay safe.
Car accident is instant and often lethal. It affects all participants, not their work colleagues or family. Say, you’re lucky enough to get out of a car accident without a scratch (asymptomatic). You go home and within a few days your spouse develops symptoms of having been in a car accident. He or she now has a broken leg and both arms. See how stupid it sounds?
Traffic rules serve as guidance for all road users so that everyone gets safely to their destination. They are more of a manual that tells us how to use the road. There is nothing restrictive about it because it’s as old as the roads themselves. Without it, there would be collisions every minute. When dealing with heavy vehicles and high speed, they need to move in harmony and agreement with one another. Each unexpected manoeuvre will almost certainly put others in danger, while infecting others (if we assume that people infect others rather than others GET infected), our virus may never actually find its way to the vulnerable person who is waiting for it at the end of this chain of interactions. Therefore, restricting EVERYONE and treating them as potentially dangerous bags of germs is unprecedented, intrusive and wrong.
Furthermore, for the Speeding Driver Paradox to make some sense, we’d have to scrap the word Speeding, since it attempts to illustrate the asymptomatic carriers of the virus – potentially infected and infectious people. As in, people who don’t know they are posing any risk. A speeding car is not potentially speeding, it’s not potentially dangerous, it’s not an asymptomatic carrier of speed. It “knows” that such high speed carries certain death and, if met with an obstacle, will deliver it. Every car on the road right this moment is potentially dangerous (asymptomatic) because as we’ve seen earlier, most accidents happen at regular speed and involve people just trying to get from point A to point B as safely as possible. It is safe to say then, that putting your foot on the gas pedal alone is potentially dangerous. Leaving your driveway potentially puts others at risk. Buying a car at all is potentially dangerous because you might one day cause an accident – even if unintentionally. Perhaps it is the car dealers or car makers who should answer for all the traffic accidents since their products might one day cause one? Or maybe, it just makes more sense for everyone to drive like their life depended on it. Oh yeah, that’s right – it does. In other words, stay alert, keep in mind that there might be a lunatic out on the road today, but don’t get paranoid. Control what you can, which is your focus and hands on the wheel and protect yourself. Hope that other drivers are as focused as you, but don’t take that for granted, don’t assume that they aren’t getting distracted as we speed. This is, by the way, a metaphor for life – protect yourself from what you’re afraid of and don’t count on others to protect you.
As you see, if we agree that wanting to open up your business to feed your family and save what you’ve worked for your entire life is the same as driving while drunk, then we are entering the realm of ignorance and stupidity. The two are not the same. The argument is mentioned, however, to point out that they are equally as dangerous, and many people agree. Some people even think that those who routinely don’t wear facemasks should be put in prison. Some even support the idea of “Quarantine Camps” where the infected would be kept against their will. If you ever need a guide in this realm of idiocy, these people will gladly show you around.
Finally, when we are on the road, we are all vulnerable and there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves from irresponsible drivers. When 2000kg of steel is travelling at 90mph and is going right at you, there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can only accept Jesus as your lord and saviour and hope Christianity got it right. When it comes to your health, there are number of things you can do not only to avoid getting sick when “something is going around”, but also to boost your immune system. This is yet another reason why not wearing a mask is unfairly compared to crazy driving. On the road, drivers are to a large extent responsible for other drivers who can’t defend themselves from unexpected manoeuvres of other cars. In a perfect world this would be enough, but we are only human and we get distracted by internal and external factors. In life, people get sick all the time and everywhere and restricting people’s freedom to stop that is unsustainable and again disturbingly wrong. We aren’t responsible for others and their health. Not like that anyway. Not even in the context of coronavirus. Speed limits don’t prevent accidents. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them, but it’s worth remembering that the majority of accidents happen in regular circumstances where cars aren’t heard before they are seen. We can’t stop driving though, can we? So why should we stop living our lives? We weren’t born to save lives, we were born to live ours.
Share it with those who are still lost in the realm of unreason or if you came from that realm and disagree with me, and if you can construct a time worthy argument, comment below and let’s discuss. Drive safe.
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Don’t let a lap dance cost lives
About eight years ago, I went to a strip club for the first time. So far, it was also the last time, but not because of what happened. It just hasn’t been that big of a deal anymore.
It was late Autumn, 2012, me and Jeff had been planning it for a while. Not wanting to spend too much, we figured we’d go there as soon as they opened at 9 p.m. when the entry was still free. So that’s exactly what we did.
I had bought a new shirt for that night. A shirt I didn’t really have money for. I had money, it just wasn’t the right time to be buying a new shirt. Especially with the night I had planned that Friday.
We’d had a couple of pints at our local and at 8.50 p.m., we headed to Beavers. Jeff had had some experience, so I thought I’d follow his lead, but when we got there the gullible strip club virgin inside got the better of me.
It was just Jeff and me and a row of about twenty strippers sitting on tall chairs, not looking busy and almost surprised to see anyone in so early. We ordered two beers and found a table. I don’t know what I was expecting since we were the only customers, but I guess I had thought it would be like in the movies – one girl always dancing and taking her clothes off, while men throw dollar bills at her feet promising they can get her away from all this.
It wasn’t long before two ladies joined us and started flirting. Both very attractive and hot. They were prepared. They had their strategy all planned out and I fell for it. The Thai looking girl chose Jeff as her prey and the curvy blonde with northern accent worked on me. I say worked, but it didn’t take long for me to accept her offer and part my ways with £20 to enjoy her company somewhere more private.
As Yasmin led me to a separate room, she never stopped flirting. She said I looked like some guy from the X Factor. ‘I bet you say that to every guy’, I joked in response to one of her compliments. She reassured me that it wasn’t the case.
She tried to convince me to upgrade the lap dance and go to the private room with her, almost suggesting that anything could happen in there, but I decided to go for the cheaper option since I was already wearing my weekly budget.
Turned out we had all the privacy we needed in the end. The room she took me in was dark and had private booths separated by thin walls. There was nobody there anyway because it was still early. She danced to the music and undressed, rubbed her curvy body against mine and made sure I would never forget my first visit at the Beavers.
Around 4 minutes and £20 later, I was back at the table with Jeff who didn’t give in to the tricks of the well-trained exotic beauty. He laughed at me for falling for it. He was right. Within minutes, two other beautiful girls wanted to join us at our table and no doubt tell us how handsome we both were and that we looked like someone famous. We kindly asked them to come back later so we could enjoy our beer.
Only – there was no “later”. We left as soon as we had finished our pints. Glad I’d had my first lap dance, I was also disappointed that I gave in to the very first stripper who approached me. Jeff knew the whole time. He’d tried to warn me, but I was blinded by Yasmin’s booty and deafened by her compliments.
I don’t know how much of Yasmin’s flirtation was honest and how much was just part of a well rehearsed routine. All I know is, when I stepped out of that club, I was ready to take on the world. I wasn’t sure if I should use my new superpowers for good or for evil, but the night was still young, and anything was possible. We headed back to our local where we’d arranged to meet another friend.
The band was already on the case, playing all the pub classics. I’m not much of a dancer, but that night, I was a different man. Still under Yasmin’s spell, I jumped, sang along and made eye contact with the girls, almost forgetting about Jeff and Anthony.
Eventually, the spell expired, and, like Cinderella, I had to go back to who I really was.
The next day, I realised that it was silly of me to have spent that money. ‘Was it really necessary?’, I asked myself. I wasn’t at all talking about the lap dance! No, that was worth every penny. The second thoughts I was having were about the shirt I had bought the day before.
I smelt it and thought, ‘Hey, I’ve only worn it for a few hours, maybe they’ll take it back’. Yeah, I was about to become one of those customers who return worn clothes. I know, women do it all the time. They simply leave all the labels on the dress, wear it on a night out and return it the next day.
Confident that I would get away with it too, I headed to River Island and went straight to the men’s section. With a bag in my hand, I found a guy with a lanyard and told him I wanted to return something. ‘Sure, no problem’, he said.
With the receipt on the desk, he was now carefully inspecting the shirt. The shirt that no less than twelve hours earlier saw the inside of a Strip Club, experienced a private lap dance, rubbed against Yasmin’s skin, whose perfume pierced through its material mixing with the sweat of my embarrassment, excitement and anticipation of her next move. ‘Hold on one moment, please’, he said and walked across the floor and disappeared behind the “Staff Only” door.
He came back a few minutes later and said he couldn’t take it back. ‘It’s been worn’, he said. ‘I’ve only tried it on and worn it for about half an hour at home’, I nervously attempted to convince him of my innocence, but he knew that I had worn it. The shirt was soaked with Yasmin’s sorcery. The sweat from the dance floor must have also given away my guilt. What an amateur!
Embarrassed and ashamed, I accepted defeat.
The shop is your life, you are the shop keeper and the shirt is everything your life is made of. Everything that makes your life worth living. A customer comes in, let’s call him Boris, and says he wants that shirt. You say that this particular shirt is not for sale, but in the end, Boris not only convinces you that you must sell him the shirt, but also give him 20% discount. You agree.
Your return policy clearly states that everything must be returned unused and unworn within three weeks. Three weeks have passed, and Boris asks for more time. You agree. Then he asks for another extension and you agree again and again.
He also pulls some strings and makes sure you’re not open for business so that your other shirts are available when he comes back one day.
A year later, Boris comes back and says, ‘hey, I changed my mind, I’d like to return the shirt, please’. You open the bag and immediately smell the whores, the sweat, the sex, the vomit, cigarettes, damp, guilt and countless walks of shame. The shirt looks like it has shrunk about two sizes. ‘I’ve tried it on a few times, but I realised it didn’t work’, he says confidently, while sanitizing his hands, ‘I’d quite like to try something different this time, so I might just do a straight exchange, if that’s alright’, he adds as if nothing is wrong.
Wouldn’t you agree that your life should be returned to you in the same condition as it was taken?
When it is returned to you, however, you will be poorer, older and fatter. Your life will have lost all the ingredients that once made it happy, turning it into a meaningless and tasteless existence.
Unlike me, Boris will not be ashamed or embarrassed when he tries to return this shirt to you after completely destroying it. No, it will be up to you to get on with it. But if you allow him to just get away with it, he will just pick another shirt, but this time he will take a tie and a belt too, explaining that he needs them. He’ll even say that it’s good for the business. That he’s helping you.
You know he’ll be back, don’t you? The tie will have tomato sauce all over it and the belt will have a few extra homemade holes that accommodated his growing belly while he was still “deciding” on these.
Every time he comes back for a refund or exchange, he returns the items he has taken from you in unsellable condition and doesn’t consider how it affects your business which is your life. In the end, your once prosperous and profitable shop turns into a junk yard filled with Boris’ failures and lies.
This is your life. What is your returns policy?
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)
In case you didn’t know, until now all these scary deaths the fear-mongers in the government and media have been feeding us with were composed of “Deaths of any cause WITHN 28 DAYS OF TESTING POSITIVE”. These deaths have so far been recorded as COVID19 deaths. Now, as the page below explains, we will also be fed even more misinformation designed to keep us scared and keep us in line and avoid sitting on park benches. The COVID19 deaths will also include any deaths that happened within 60 days of a positive COVID test.
This is why we are in lockdown. Basically, get tested and if you happen to die 59 days later, your death certificate will say COVID19. Meanwhile, people remain on house arrest, away from people they love, kids miss out on school – both in terms of education AND the very essential socialising which is just as important in career and adult life as the paper that says they passed the exams. This house arrest also promotes sedentary lifestyle, more time spent in front of the screens, unhealthy diet, anxiety to even go outside thinking you’ll be approached by the police (anxiety that should never be part of this interaction).
How can anyone justify lockdown if it promises to only protect us from a single threat while not only neglecting other threats, but creating other problems (growing obesity, lack of exercise, suicide, undiagnosed and untreated cancer, delayed dentist appointments, loneliness and many more)?
We will come out of this lockdown worse off than we entered it in March last year. The death toll is not accurate, it does not reflect the real urgency of the pandemic and only reinforces fear and division in this country.
Is all this really worth the sacrifice? The correct answer is No.
Another thing to consider is that when the unsocialised kids leave school, only to find out that jobs that would normally be their first jobs, such as retail or pubs no longer exist, how many of them will turn into crime that otherwise wouldn’t?
I know what you’re thinking, “A year of lockdowns would not have such significant impact on our behaviour”, or something along those lines. Really? Look around you. People are afraid to shake hands. Fucking hands, mate! Something that’s been in existence since men did business together. Gone! And that’s only one example.
One more thing before I end today’s rant. The government is definitely succeeding in one thing. It’s creating an army of men of all walks of life, who are getting more desperate, more lonely, depressed, angry and frustrated (some because of a simple lack of a sexual partner) every day of this lockdown. This army of men (and women) will one day have had enough. They will demand their lives back. Lives that have been put on hold, paused and in some cases neglected and pushed off the edge for “COVID19 deaths that happened within 60 days of testing positive”.
If you feel it, it must be true
In the mid – 2009, as a twenty-two-year-old atheist, I joined a local church. It wasn’t just any church. It was the Pentecostal Church, often condescendingly described as “happy – clappy”. I had been an atheist for a number of years by then. I denounced my faith in God when I was a teenager. This wasn’t what many teenagers did in Catholic Poland, where I grew up. Church had, and still has, a big influence on the way we lived and how we were supposed to view the world. There were four big rituals meant to confirm your subscription to the Church and your relationship with God. By the time you were a teenager you’d participated in three of them.
First, your family gather in the local church to witness your parents sacrifice you to God in the form of Baptism, our first ritual. Then, around seven years later comes the Holy Communion. It is almost like graduation. You spend months practicing, attending lessons in church, memorising prayers and songs. Your parents invest in a nice suit or a white dress for girls, and you get a haircut before the big day. You also must be pure of sin for this occasion, so you are made to memorise a template of the Holy Confession and confess your sins to the Priest. I remember desperately trying to make my sins realistic, but what could a seven-year-old possibly be guilty of? Not tidying his room? This was the first and last time I confessed, and it made me a bad boy among my peer group who kneeled and asked for forgiveness on regular, even weekly, basis. On the day of the ceremony, you are old enough to accept the body of Christ. Your whole family gather again to witness the renewal of your subscription to Catholicism. This is such a big deal that nobody comes empty handed. Everyone gives you more money than a seven-year-old knows what to do with.
Third ritual, called Confirmation, comes when you’re a teenager. It also requires effort, such as spending your Saturday mornings with a church group preparing to “confirm” your ongoing membership with the Faith. Failing to do so prevents you from completing your fourth assignment – getting married in the presence of God. I skipped the Confirmation and therefore freed myself of the obligation to participate in any further rituals, including a big, glamourous wedding in a church.
The education system was also infected with Catholicism. We had math, geography, history and biology, all coexisting with religion. Religion class didn’t teach us about the history of religions, different faiths or even the origins of Catholicism or Christianity as a whole. It was pretty much reading the gospel, praying and being indoctrinated. I had one teacher in the later years, who didn’t practice what he preached. He frequently sent me to the bookies to place football bets for him. Not only was gambling a sin, illegal for under 18’s, but sending me across town when I was supposed to be under his supervision was irresponsible. Maybe he calculated the risks and liked those odds.
Poland also gave the Catholic world John Paul II, who served as the head of the Catholic Church for twenty-seven years – the second longest time spent in the Vatican by any pope. He was worshipped by everyone and his death devastated Polish Catholics like the Queen’s death will, without a doubt, devastate the UK one day. You can imagine, I bet, that escaping a nationwide cult, as described above, was not the easiest thing to do. But I made it.
Apart from feeling liberated to think freely, leaving Christianity didn’t affect me that much. For the first time, I was able to question the world around me without the fear of punishment and go with my mind to places no god-fearing man ever dared. In my early twenties, I became what people called a militant atheist, meaning I would gladly debate any religious person and attempt to convince them that God, most likely, didn’t exist.
Around that time, I became good friends with a Hungarian girl at work who was the exact opposite of me. She was super religious and was a member of the Pentecostal church I mentioned at the beginning. One day, after many discussions she invited me to “see it for myself” and come to the church.
That Sunday I went to the service. It was composed of two parts – Bite Size, attended by families with kids, and the main, more intense service during which kids usually stayed in the play area. The full service took around four hours and I stayed for all of it. I went out the night before and my phone had died and failed to charge overnight. Still, by some mysterious force, I managed to wake up right on time. The session was very strange to me. Catholics, while wearing their Sunday best to every service, tend to be modest, quiet and moderate in the way they worship. This was a whole new experience to me. The group was singing, dancing and at some point a man collapsed to the floor and started mumbling in a made-up language. Speaking in tongues, they called it. It’s when you want to express your love and admiration for God, but you simply know not the right words that can capture your feelings. When you speak in tongues, it is believed you are composing a superior message that is intimate between you and God. I witnessed it on many occasions because I went to that church every Sunday for six months without missing a single service. One night, after a couple of weeks, I had a dream. The devil himself paid me a visit. I was in my bed and he was standing over me holding me down like I belonged to him. I never told anyone about it, because I knew they’d believe this to be a sign or a warning of some kind, while in reality, it was most likely just my brain making sense of the recent events.
By the second or third week, everyone knew my name and that I was a non-believer. They welcomed me with open arms and hearts hoping I would find God with their guidance. They didn’t know my true intentions. I was there to investigate, to understand, to educate myself, to research and, when possible, ask tough questions and point out flaws in their beliefs. I even attended Alpha Course – a ten-week program where we studied various lessons from the Bible which were relevant to the teachings of the Pentecostal Church. It was hosted by Trevor and Helen and I intended to ask them questions that would make them doubt their beliefs. Trevor was a scientist with a very Nobel goal of one day finding a cure for cancer. He was a runner who believed that when we die we get brand-new bodies. He believed, just like everyone else in the group, that the only way to get to heaven was through accepting Jesus and having a personal relationship with him.
As much as I wanted to ask hard questions about their beliefs, I realised soon enough that there was no converting anyone. I carried on going mainly because it felt good. I suddenly had a lot of friends, I was invited to birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Although I didn’t ask those questions, I found the answers I was looking for. Every Sunday, I showed up, but I didn’t participate. I dressed casually, I didn’t dance, didn’t sing, I did not clap once. I most certainly did not speak in tongues. I remained true to my convictions even when I was surrounded by people who knew in their hearts, not only that God was real, but that their way of communicating with Him was the only way. I did not compress my personality to fit the group who tolerated me, considered a friend, but never accepted as their own, because as soon as I stopped attending the church, the ties I’d had with anyone began to loosen. There were, of course, plenty of opportunities for me to try to blend in, do what everyone else was did and be accepted. I’d, by now, be married to one of the good-looking girls who were part of the group. I am now happily married and just became a father, but I’m just saying, there were incentives of singing up for the full membership. I, however, had seen enough and moved on with my life.
I remember Trevor’s face light up when he spoke of his relationship with Jesus Christ, even as he tirelessly worked on destroying cancer – one of his creations. He played the guitar in the church band by night and wore a white lab coat by day. With the guitar in his arms, infecting everyone with the melody of worship, he needed no evidence for his beliefs. He felt it in his heart and no amount of reason and logical thinking would convince him that what he felt was most likely not real. In the lab, however, he had to arm himself with scepticism and critical thinking, there was no room for feelings. Trevor, wherever he is now, was happy. The relationship with God made him happy. It brought him joy I did not understand and he didn’t need anything else. This is true of all truly religious people I’ve met over the years – they are genuinely happy. They don’t need approval, they have it, they feel it inside. Who was I to ever think I had the right to debunk that?
Isn’t it interesting that people can pick up the same book and conclude different, even contradictory, things from it? Trevor might have never read the Bible in its entirety. All he needed was a feeling inside his heart and a voice inside his head to be confident that God was real and that he knew exactly what God wanted. I asked Trevor once, why Catholics had a different path to God. I asked him why thousands of different denominations of Christianity existed, and all claimed they knew the one and only true way to reach the Kingdom of God. For example, The Pope has absolutely no authority for Trevor and the Pentecostal Church, but is the most important person in the Catholic hierarchy. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is another example. To millions of Catholics around the world, she is holy and has the power to listen and to answer prayers. When I asked Trevor about it, he said he believed Mary was just a woman who gave birth to Jesus and was, therefore, not qualified to answer prayers. He couldn’t answer why millions of people, reading from the same book, believed she was. To many different faiths within Christianity, in fact, believing Mary has all these powers is not only wrong, but blasphemous. Blasphemy is probably the biggest sin one can commit in all religions. But how can millions of people be both right and wrong at the same time? They are reading from the same book but come up with different recipes. Trevor wouldn’t admit it, but he believed that over one billion Catholics were simply wrong and that they would only get to heaven if they had a personal relationship with Jesus, much like the one he claimed to have. Trevor knew that those who didn’t accept Jesus would burn in hell. Somehow that never stopped him from believing that he would be truly happy by God’s side knowing that some of his friends and loved ones were burning in hell because they didn’t get the memo. Trevor also believed that no matter what bad things you had done, as long as you accepted Jesus as your lord and saviour, you’d go to Heaven. Still others, more casual believers, would say that all you needed was to be a good person and all bad people ended up in hell regardless of their beliefs.
Some Churches, like Westborough Baptist Church for example, preach that God hates homosexuals and many others also believe that homosexuals, as well as other sinners and nonbelievers, are directly responsible for God’s wrath. The wrath that manifests itself as earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. This is another characteristic of a cult – blaming the outsiders for God’s anger and disappointment. Then there are other Christians who think this is not in God’s nature and he loves us all no matter who we are attracted to. The contradictions are endless.
In the end, if God does exist and prefers one form of worship over other, then millions of Christians are screwed because of their misinterpretation of the Bible. If, however, God doesn’t really care, everyone who is a good person and/or calls themselves a Christian will go to heaven. The problem is that all these Churches claim they got it right and others are wrong.
I’ve often been accused of being stubborn. I left Catholicism and I wasn’t seduced by the happy – clappy Pentecostals despite being a part of their community for six months. In both cases I was presented with convincing evidence and personal experiences. Enormous churches in Poland, indoctrination from early age, participation of entire families and the whole country. Then ten years ago, a small church where the Pentecostals held their Sunday ritual, where everyone swore they felt God was real and that he loved them. Is it stubborn to remain yourself and stick to your values and beliefs even, or especially, when everyone around you is under the same spell?
Everyone has a compelling story
Gary was one of the first people who introduced themselves to me that Sunday I attended the service. He was immediately able to pronounce my name correctly and said he had visited Poland many times. He was in early twenties, but looked a little older and had a lot of tattoos. I made an assumption that we both had the same taste in music and that we were both the outsiders at the church, so we talked during the tea break between Bite Size and the main service. He told me that day that he had lived a selfish and careless life, abusing drugs and alcohol until he got to know Jesus. “Jesus saved me”, he said to me. Before he knew Jesus, he had spent his life pursuing short term pleasures and following false prophets, he said. “I now know the meaning of the true happiness and love that I didn’t know before”, he admitted.
To many people, Gary’s success story was a powerful evidence of the glory of God. Gary’s feelings and affirmations were enough to convince him that what he believed was real and nothing would ever contradict his beliefs. A reasonable person would suggest that perhaps the actual thing that saved him from drug abuse was the support of the group and the feeling and sense of belonging they provided. I’ll admit, I felt that too. After all, I joined them every Sunday for six months. I enjoyed being part of something bigger than myself too, but I recognised it as being nothing more than a community. After all these years, even though I don’t believe his feelings were the accurate representation of the reality, I am glad that Gary found a way out of darkness and I hope, wherever he is now, he is still as happy as I remember him.
Gary’s story is not unique. People who survive car crashes often speak of their near-death experiences. I say “often”, but it is only an illusion because we never hear from people who have no such experiences to report. Those who do, however, always seem to describe seeing the god that happens to be worshipped by those around them. That’s why in Catholic Poland people tend to see Mother Mary in their visions and not Zeus. There is a very little chance that I, as a non-believer, would ever, on my deathbed, convert to Islam. I would, in the moment of uncertainty and weakness, possibly, accept Jesus into my heart just to be safe. It wouldn’t prove Christianity to be right, just like Trevor’s feelings and Gary’s beliefs don’t. It would only prove that out of fear of the unknown, a person might accept the God they’ve been exposed to the most.
Can they all be wrong?
In 2020, I found myself in a similar situation. A spell of fear has been cast on the entire population who, without question, submitted to the demands of COVID – the new deity and his prophets – the world leaders. This god of 2020 demanded lockdowns, separating families, suspending education of the next generation of fathers, lawyers, scientists and politicians. He spoke only through his prophets who swore they and only they knew how to please him.
The majority of people were thankful for the politicians who were able to guide them through the process of understanding the demands of COVID. It was the “stubborn” and “selfish” few who took a step back, distanced themselves from the fear and looked at it all with a sober eye and said they didn’t believe this was right. I was among those few and I have been this whole time. Not seduced by the propaganda, not pressured by the majority we said that what was demanded of us was too much and that COVID wasn’t as big and powerful as his spokesmen had introduced him to be.
Moses went up the mountain, so the story goes, and spoke to the burning bush. He returned to his people with the list of ten rules for humanity to obey to please God. The Ten Commandments were thus created. Some of these laws were based on already existing laws of human nature. Respect your parents, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t cheat – these more or less predate Moses and his Commandments. It is easy to follow rules that you already follow voluntarily because they reflect your nature. Sure, those were violent times, but people understood that stealing or murdering felt wrong and was wrong for one reason or another.
Boris Johnson, back in March 2020, didn’t speak to a burning bush on the top of a mountain, but that didn’t stop him from claiming the higher ground and presenting us with his list of Commandments and saying we “must” obey them. Some of them were pretty easy to follow because they were things we had always done already like hand washing or staying away from sick people and staying home when feeling ill if possible. As the first lockdown continued, the list of Johnson’s Commandments expanded to more intrusive rules. Rules that went against our nature. We were told that seeing our family, sitting alone on a bench, holding hands with our partner displeased our great deity, COVID. The Corona Police force was deployed onto our streets and parks to make sure everyone was obeying Prime Minister’s laws. He banned families from meeting, people from protesting, Christians from celebrating Christmas, and suspended young people’s education and cancelled their plans for the possible future and careers. And what was the majority of people’s response? They asked for more restrictions. They still believed COVID was displeased with people’s actions and selfishness and demanded more sacrifices and restrictions on the infidels and heretics.
Here we have a perfect example of another cult like behaviour, blaming others – in this case the non – cult – members, non – followers of its rules and COVID deniers – for angering and disappointing their deity. Or to put it in simpler terms, blaming them for the rising cases and delay in returning to normality – whatever that means anymore. Just like various religions blame the sinners for the humanity’s misery and God’s anger, Covidians blame the non – mask – wearer or a grandma who, against all odds and risks, decides to witness her grandchildren grow. The fault always lies with the “others”. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, other world leaders also locked down their citizens. “How can all the world leaders and their experts be wrong?”, say the supporters of lockdown and haters of freedom and personal responsibility. We have already seen earlier that a large number of people believing the same thing can still be wrong. It is important to note that, although many countries implemented a lockdown of their population, they did so with many different measures. To name a few examples, in Poland, Spain and in Melbourne, Australia facemasks have, at one stage or another, been mandatory outside, but that’s never been the case in the UK. During the most recent lockdown in Greece, people had to send a text to their local authorities before leaving home, but Poles, Germans or the British never had to do it in their countries. In part of Australia, people weren’t allowed to leave their house for any reason, even to walk their dog or to exercise for a whole week. Such strict measures were never introduced in the UK. So, while the world leaders had the same initial goal, they had a different idea of how to get there. Why, for example, is it safe (for now) to go outside without a facemask in London, but in Madrid you risk being fined or arrested for doing so?
It’s the Pentecostal beliefs VS Catholic beliefs all over again. They both believe in the same God, but they both believe he expects different things from us. Ultimately, both of them believe the other ones are wasting their time. The same way the Spanish authorities might look at Boris Johnson and think he is never going to please COVID, unless he mandates facemasks outside. Boris, on the other hand, follows the words of SAGE – his burning bush – and thinks facemasks outside are nonsensical. Greek leaders salute Australians for enforcing a very strict lockdown, but think they are missing one crucial element – the text the authorities part of the equation. How can Brits feel safe from COVID’s wrath knowing that all these different measures exist elsewhere, but not in the UK?
Can they all be wrong? In my opinion, they can. And by the looks of it, COVID is never truly satisfied. Peruvians have lived under the world’s strictest lockdowns and suffered the highest death rate. Melbourne was on lockdown for months, with very strict mask rules and police presence on the streets. They then celebrated victory over the virus, only to see it return in December. I won’t even mention Sweden, where the government imposed almost no rules on their people and trusted them instead. The alternative to lockdown doesn’t have to be ignoring COVID completely, but it has been almost a year and he still hasn’t been satisfied, so maybe, just maybe it is time to rethink our relationship with him.
Personal relationship with COVID
COVID works in mysterious ways. For example, if the charlatans who call themselves politicians didn’t tell us about it, most of us wouldn’t even know of his existence. Most of us would confuse him with the flu and that would be a blasphemy. Somewhere in the middle of this world, dominated by the COVID cult, are people like me – those who have read the book, went along with the recipe for a while before realising this was not the way to go. When lockdown became the status quo, we questioned it. We wanted out. We weren’t happy that the beliefs and fears of the COVID cult ruled our lives as well. We had other worries, other values and other priorities. Sacrificing them to COVID was no longer an option for us. For me, the moment of realisation came early, back in April 2020. Others are slowly beginning to wake.
Of course, for every sceptic, there is a Trevor or a Gary – those who have seen the light and now have an undeniable personal relationship with COVID. They have experienced his power and his wrath in one way or another. They’ve seen what he can do to an old person with a weakened immune system or multiple underlying health conditions, who would otherwise live up to a hundred years if it weren’t for COVID. These born again Covidians, want more sacrifice. They want to please COVID by destroying jobs, killing cancer patients and lonely and desperate people through neglect and suicide. They demand their leaders to implement more restrictions so that these sacrifices can be made and COVID be satisfied. For now.
Covidians use the same flawed logic as members of other cults. They think that their personal experience is proof of what they believe to be true already. Just like my old friend Gary, they have a compelling story of how they came to know COVID and now believe we should all sacrifice our freedoms to him. I’ve seen someone share a story of a nurse, working in New York, who claims to have seen people die way too many times now. Her story sounds like a fabricated propaganda to persuade people to stay at home and wear a mask, but I don’t doubt there are nurses who, in between their TikTok routine rehearsals, have experienced tough times. Then again, we could find an overwhelmed nurse anytime and anywhere in the world, I’m sure. We could also find thousands of nurses who, apart from going viral on TikTok, have had a rather boring and uneventful pandemic.
The difference is that the stories like the one above, find their way to the surface precisely because they are rare, uncommon and, most of all, shocking. Recall from earlier the example of near-death experiences and how we never hear from people who nearly died, or even came back from the dead and saw absolutely nothing on the other side. We always hear from those who see their dead relatives or the god they happen to believe in. The reason is, nobody cares that an accident survivor hasn’t seen anything on the other side, just like nobody wants to hear about a nurse’s boring day taking urine samples.
In another example, four weeks ago I spent a day in the maternity ward at my local hospital. My wife was in labour with our son. Tina, the midwife who was looking after her, seemed to have had everything under control. The labour, however, didn’t go as planned. It was taking too long, and my wife’s contractions weren’t getting any stronger or more frequent. The baby was getting tired and Tina’s shift was coming to an end. When she had left, we were told our son had to be pulled out for his and my wife’s safety. They were both fine in the end, but let’s focus on Tina. She might have gone home that evening and told her husband that she’d just had a lady with a really long labour, the baby didn’t want to come out and she was really starting to get worried. Or maybe this was a normal shift to her. No doubt, she loves what she does but delivering babies might just be a routine to her and usually end with happy endings that have become such common place that she doesn’t inform her husband about every single baby she delivers. When he asks her how her day was, she just says it was busy.
Now imagine Tina having a really bad day. In 2017, according to World Health Organization, around 810 women worldwide died every day during childbirth. Of course, many of the deaths happened in developing countries, but let’s put one of these mothers to be on Tina’s bed. Now, her slow Tuesday turns into a nightmare she hoped would never happen to her. A woman dies in her care. It doesn’t even have to be such dark scenario. She might have a woman who’s expecting triplets and that is also very unusual and worthy of sharing with her husband. The point is, we aren’t interested in the average, only the extremely good or extremely bad and that’s exactly what we get and demand. If this happened to Tina, however, it wouldn’t prove that these things happen all the time. It would only show that they happen occasionally, but by collecting stories like Tina’s extremely bad or extremely good day, we could create an illusion that the work of midwife is full of twins and triplets and mothers dying at childbirth when, in fact, they only happen sometimes.
Let me give you another example. When I was a teenager I had a group of friends. We used to hang out all the time for a few years. One day, our group split after a minor argument and we never really got back together because adulthood got in the way. Some of us got jobs, girlfriends, went away to university and I left the country and came to the UK. For the last fourteen years, I’ve kept touch with half of the group and almost forgot about the other guys. I haven’t heard from them or about them, so their lives have most likely been uneventful or, in other words, not worthy of gossiping about. Just regular guys getting jobs, starting families and going on holiday to Turkey and Spain.
Until one day, in December of 2018, just before Christmas, I received a message from one of my friends. “Have you heard about Andy?”, he asked. As I later learned, even my aunt had heard about Andy by then. Andy, who I hadn’t seen since our group’s disagreement sixteen years ago, stabbed his girlfriend to death after a drunken argument and was then on the run. To make it worse, it all happened in front of her kids. I couldn’t believe it even when I saw the article with his picture and his name in it. Even though we parted our ways as teenagers, I remembered him as calm, shy, responsible and reasonable boy. As I then learned, his life had taken an unexpected turn and he fell a victim of alcohol and drug abuse.
It is no wonder that I hadn’t heard about him until that December morning. His daily life was no headline. I didn’t need my friends to update me whenever Andy went on holiday, got a new job or bought a car. These are all normal things that don’t need to be talked about. But when he did the unexpected and the unspeakable, horrible thing, everyone was going to find out.
Stories like this emerge out of nowhere, because they happen in the sea of school runs, nine to fives, birthdays and other regular and boring activities and routines. It is easy to fall for the illusion that these events shape the world around us. We are also hardwired to seek out the unusual. Our brains don’t like surprises. We are drawn to sensations and extremes, both good and bad. It is part of our survival mechanism that dates back to when our ancestors had to know the surroundings and anticipate the unexpected to be prepared for a threat. The legacy of that instinct now comes in the form of a shock when our old friend commits a murder and excitement when the horse we bet on wins the race. This is why after sixteen years of living his average life, Andy only made the headlines on my screen when he did what he did. And you know what is really messed up about his story? He will now spend the rest of his life paying for what he did, and I can’t help but feel sorry for him. I remember him as a charming and innocent seventeen-year-old, who we all looked up to, and I know that whatever led to that drunken argument with his girlfriend, he didn’t choose it. It happened to him. Somewhere along the way, he took the wrong turn and it led him to destruction and to the night when he took another human’s life.
COVID stories follow the same rules. Whether it is the “my uncle died of COVID” or “I had it back in June and it was horrible” or “I am a nurse and I’ve never seen so many sick people in my life” story, it is all the same. It is the extreme taken out of the sea of average experiences. We won’t hear from people who’s relatives haven’t died during the pandemic. That’s not news. The news needs to shock, surprise and scare. That’s where the money is. We won’t hear from nurses and doctors whose pandemic days have mostly been just another Tuesdays. No, we will hear the testimony of the overworked nurse who has seen people die even if her experience doesn’t reflect the experience of thousands of other nurses around the country. Whenever we see a compelling story of an overwhelmed nurse asking us to stay at home, because she has seen what this virus does to people, it’s worth remembering that one gambling friend we all have. He always seems to tell you about his winnings, but never tells you about his losses. It doesn’t mean he always wins but losing is so common it is not even a shock or a surprise anymore. It happens all the time, it’s the default, the status que, he loses regularly, possibly every day or every week, so it’s not newsworthy.
Early in 2020, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. It’s not everyday that a basketball star and his family die in such a way, so when it happened, nobody was glad and relieved that Michael Jordan was alright. This is yet another example how we pay attention to the extremes and the unexpected and this is what the media serves us all the time. Next time a celebrity dies, the headlines won’t read “David Beckham is still alive” (status quo), but “So and so was found dead in his mansion” (the unexpected). When Chadwick Boseman died of cancer, nobody knew he had battled with, last year, the headlines reported exactly that, not “The Rock doesn’t have cancer”.
COVID nineteen will always have his Garys, Trevors, Andies and Tinas. They will make it easy for the untrained mind to fall for his spell. He will have compelling stories told by survivors and relatives of the deceased. But when those emerge we have to remember about the scepticism and look at the bigger picture and realise that these stories are just the highlights of a mostly boring and uneventful pandemic which does not justify sacrifices that have been demanded of us. Personal relationship with COVID is a delusion that does not excuse the attention we have, collectively, given this newfound deity. It is time COVID, just like other cults, gets left behind. The leaders, the charlatans, who tell you what COVID wants and what he doesn’t like, need to be held accountable for their lies and deception. And those who claim to have had a personal experience with COVID need to understand that their experience does not define the reality we all live in and that we all have to move on and live our lives. Lives we have all earned with freedoms we have all been given by the one true god – the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Here’s a little riddle for you. A woman is lying in hospital after just giving birth is told she has been “in contact” with a person who’s tested positive for coronavirus. She is told to self – isolate when she is released. The midwives, however, decide to do a COVID19 test. How many tests do you think is needed to determine whether the woman has COVID19?
This is what happened to my sister. She gave birth to a baby boy on Christmas Eve. When she went into labour, the midwife on shift convinced her she had to have a coronavirus test. I would imagine that most women in labour, who are already in so much pain, don’t have time or energy to think about it and whether they have the right to say no. This is what happened to my wife four weeks ago, when she went into labour. They said it was to determine whether our birth plan could go as we had planed or if we should be placed in a different room and reduce the number of midwives, doctors and nurses interacting with us. The argument of mask wearing by the medical staff is slowly starting to fall apart already. Both my sister and my wife went ahead with the test and the results were negative in both. My wife’s labour didn’t go as planned anyway and we ended up in the same room as we would have if she had refused the test or if it had been positive. During my wife’s labour, it was demanded of me to wear a mask even though such contagious disease would surely get us both or none at all. In other words, if I had it, so would she and her test wouldn’t have been negative.
My wife was already in a lot of pain, the labour was taking too long and eventually ended with forceps – the very last and the most feared option on my wife’s birth plan. So, I had no intention making a scene over a facemask that day. Things for my sister took a different turn. Her labour ended with the caesarean, but apart from a minor infection, both her and the baby were fine.
My sister was already reluctant to take the COVID19 test. Not because she believed it was all a hoax designed to bring about The New World Order, but because she simply wasn’t looking forward to having anything stuck up her nose. She let them do it to her anyway, probably because saying no to a medical staff who speak with authority and are about to deliver your baby sounded like an inappropriate thing to do. I bet that most women think they don’t have much choice in the matter too.
After her son was born, my sister and him were kept in the hospital for two days and given antibiotics for the infection. In those forty – eight hours, she was told that she had been near someone who tested positive for COVID19 and was told she would have to self – isolate when they released her from the hospital. The staff then kept my sister on lockdown in her room and told her to only leave it for essential reasons and with a mask and gloves on.
‘But hey, we are in the hospital, can we not just test her again instead and determine if she has to quarantine or not?’ Something along those lines must have been said that day because they tested my sister not once, not twice. The tests came back negative, so just to make sure they tested her again. Bear in mind that she had already hated the very idea of the test and so far she had had it four times (once in labour and three times after the birth) all in the space of two days. The result of the third test was also negative. You’d think that after three negative tests she would be told not to worry about the quarantine, but this wasn’t the case.
The nurses told her that the virus might still reveal itself which, in other words, means the tests aren’t as reliable as we are told. What was the point, in that case, of testing her three times on the same day? Another question I have is that, given they insist on testing all pregnant women before providing their services, how did someone who tested positive ended up in close proximity to my sister and her new born baby? A baby who has no immune system yet? Wouldn’t you think they would make sure these people don’t cross paths?
It poses even more questions if it was a member of staff who tested positive. For example, why panic if everyone is wearing PPE? COVID19 stands no chance against an army of people in masks, shields, gloves, plastic gowns and sanitising stations. No chance. Isn’t it how the argument goes – the medical staff wear masks to stop getting others sick? Isn’t it what every BBC watching sheep has said in a facemask argument hoping to win the debate? Just think about it. COVID19 seemed to have found a way to sneak into the most sterile environment on the planet, but people still think wearing a piece of cloth on their face when shopping in Tesco will make any change? On top of that, medical staff do not wear masks to stop others getting sick. That is not the purpose of facemasks and never was. Not until 2020 at least when science started to change to fit what politicians say. You can find this and other commonly used arguments for facemasks debunked here: Unmasking COVID19 Logic – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com).
Just a couple of final points. These tests are what decisions about your life are based on. You’d think that a test that has the power to kill the economy, close your business, stop you from working and prevent parents from seeing their kids on Christmas and for the better part of 2020 would be more reliable, wouldn’t you? Also, if facemasks are so great at stopping this virus, how did it find its way into this maternity ward? In fact, how does the virus find it possible to infect people in places where facemasks are mandatory and where people largely obey this rule – like shops and trains? Gyms for example have no mandate to wear masks and the cases are almost non – existent. Here we have a hospital – one of the most sterile places in the world right now, and COVID19 managed to find its way in.
Finally, just before releasing her, they tested my sister the fifth time. This time she is told to wait for the result. Ask yourself, if my sister “must” quarantine after four negative tests, which means she can’t have our mom over to help her with the baby, why would you ever rely on that test at all? Why would you ever self – isolate after testing positive once and having no symptoms. Why would you ever not self – isolate if you tested negative knowing that the virus may still reveal itself? Why would you ever let politicians use this test to scare you with growing cases and in turn put you into lockdown after lockdown? They recently used this test to determine whether thousands of lorry drivers stuck in Kent were allowed to go to their home countries for Christmas. Drivers that weren’t even the citizens of the UK. They were not allowed out of this country unless they tested negative using this unreliable test that even when performed four times is not trusted by the medical staff themselves.
Even if we ignore how coronavirus found its way into that maternity ward, we still are left with the problem of tests and their accuracy and reliability. If we ignore the accuracy of tests we are left with reliability of facemasks against COVID19. Regardless of what you think, these things continue to affect us all and the worst thing is, the experts seem to have learned so much about the virus that they developed a vaccine in a record time, but the government is still using the same approach as they did when they knew nothing about it at all. What do you think about it?
On Saturday, Boris Johnson told Santa Claus he wasn’t welcome in London and surrounding areas. Not only that. He ordered every man, woman and child in, what he calls, Tier 4 to stay home and not visit their families over Christmas. If this wasn’t bad, oppressive and intrusive enough, he threatened these families with fines and arrests if they broke these new and sudden rules. Leaving or entering London after midnight that day was criminalised to the point where even the mainstream media compared the packed train stations across the city to war time evacuation. This time, however, they were not escaping explosions and destruction, not even from the mutated virus, but from the tyranny of their own leader.
Many people would use the word incompetence instead of tyranny, but I do not see Boris Johnson as incompetent. At the moment of writing #BorisFailedBritain is trending on Twitter, but I do not believe he failed Britain, at least not in the way he is being accused of. He has failed and he has failed us dramatically by destroying our lives with continuous lockdowns and other restrictions designed to make us pretend COVID19 is our only weakness and the only thing we should worry about. Truth is, we are not Supermen and COVID19 is not our Kryptonite. There are other things that can and have killed us over the course of this year, and some, like cancer, growing depression and unemployment will claim more victims in the coming months and years and the blood of these men, women and children will be on Johnson’s hands, as well as on the hands of everyone who pushed for more lockdowns and other restrictions that came with them. I don’t even think Boris is a tyrant or a dictator. I think the majority of the public are so scared and incapable of making their own decisions that they need not simple guidance, but a clear list of rules to follow. If the majority are scared of that one thing – the virus – then they will hold him responsible for the handling of this virus. He then gets to pull the lever, like in the trolley dilemma, and in hopes of saving a few elderly people from dying of COVID19 and the NHS from being overwhelmed, he chooses to let the trolley run over cancer patients, anxious and depressed people, obese people, unborn children, business owners and economy as a whole. He pulls the lever because he knows people will not blame him even if in the end more lives will be lost. By then, however, it can be attributed to something else. So, he may not be a tyrant as we know it, or he may not have always been one, but that doesn’t mean that with a little help of the public he can’t become one.
His response reminds me that of every major corporation when facing a possible backlash or boycott. When corporations fail to accommodate or acknowledge an identity group it almost always leads to outrage of activists. Companies want our money, they want to survive, so they choose to avoid bad reputation and put rainbows on their displays. This strategy works because it pleases the minority who would otherwise loudly voice their outrage. So, it’s best to keep them quiet by appearing virtuous and inclusive. Those who accuse them of “bending the knee” to wokeness will be called bigots and no corporation wants to be associated with bigotry. And this is what The Prime Minister has done. He pleased those who are likely to make the loudest noise of disapproval. Fear of COVID19, in this case, is the wokeness he has to please. The anger and desperation of people like me is the bigotry he can deal with by force and nobody will feel sorry or voice their outrage in our name.
Christmas saving lockdown that ended in Tiers
“The only way to save this Christmas”, government officials said back in October, “is to introduce a four-week national lockdown”. And so, on the 5th November, we closed our businesses, cancelled our plans and worked from home if we could. Some businesses, however, did not close their doors. Before the November lockdown was announced, some parts of England had already been hit with major restrictions when they were put in Tier 3. All non-essential businesses in Tier 3 were ordered to close until further notice. This gave rise to resistance of gym owners in Liverpool, the city where the Tier 3 restrictions were in place in October.
Nick Whitcombe, one of the gym owners in Liverpool, became the face and the voice of the resistance. His gym remained open despite daily visits from the police who were delighted to fine him and the members of his gym. Nick, along with other local gym owners, campaigned to make gyms essential for mental health reasons. His mission was science and evidence based. The government data clearly showed that gyms were “part of the solution, not the problem”, which later became the slogan of the campaign. His argument to, not only allow gyms to stay open, but to make them essential, was based on the low infection rate in the gyms and huge mental health benefits of physical activity. This, he believed, could not be neglected especially in the dark, cold and depressing winter months, when many people, especially women, may not feel safe to workout outside.
The Liverpool gyms were visited by the police multiple times a day threatening their owners and members with fines and arrests. Soon after, the rest of the country faced the same fate as the North. A four-week national lockdown to save Christmas was announced. This time many gyms across the country showed solidarity with the cause and refused to bend the knee to the lockdown rules. Gainz Fitness and Strength in Bedford and Zone Gym in London were among the many who vowed to defy the lockdown rules. They were soon joined by other business owners who simply had had enough. Restaurants, beauty salons, tattoo shops and local gift shops were just a few that made themselves heard on social media and made it to the news. Police visited all of them, fined and arrested when they refused to shut.
Beauty salon owners, who put their foot down, played a big role in the movement, but it was all about the gyms. This issue became a worldwide story and Nick Whitcombe was interviewed by media and invited on London Real TV. Over six hundred sixteen thousand people signed the petition to prevent gyms from closing again. This number simply could not be ignored by the government. Supplement company, Grenade, joined the campaign and many other fitness-oriented names and brands soon followed. Many remained quiet until getting called out or boycotted by fitness enthusiasts. Gymshark, for example, remained largely silent about the importance of gyms despite having no problem whatsoever getting involved with other political issues in the recent months. They even changed their Twitter handle to Homeshark during the first lockdown to support the #StayHome cause and later joining the activists in posting black squares on their Instagram to support Black Lives Matter. It took weeks of #makegymsEssential campaign for the CEO of Gymshark to express his support for the gym industry, but in my opinion it was just to avoid backlash, especially since black Friday was just around the corner and Gymshark needed to sell as many skinny tracksuits and leggings as possible.
What happened after the lockdown surprised everyone. Boris Johnson introduced a new and redefined Tier system. Tier 3 remained the highest level of alert with the toughest restrictions, but this time gyms and beauty salons were allowed to stay open. Pubs and restaurants were delt the worst hand. Another thing people noticed was that most of England left the November lockdown worse off than they entered it. Millions of people came back to more restrictions than they had in October. Many joked that this was just another lockdown disguised as Tier System.
It was, however, a small victory for gyms. and it meant that people like me, who work in fitness, finally had some sort of certainty in their lives. Athletes could finally set their long-term goals and adhere to their fitness regime to get to them. It was a small victory because gyms were still not made essential, which meant that in case of another national lockdown, we’d be back to square one. It was, on the other hand, a huge victory for all of us and I will explain why.
To obey or to disobey?
In one of my previous posts The Dark Side of The Greater Good – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com), I addressed the communist regime that swept through Poland and Eastern Europe for four and a half decades. Russia, after defeating The Nazis in World War 2, deceived Poles into accepting communism as their saviour. The next forty years were filled with misery and foreign oppression disguised as the greater good. The disguise came in slogans like “collective good”, “equality” and “we’re in this together”. Of course, these exact words might not have been used, but it was just a cover up for the lies, deception and war crimes committed by the Soviets. It took rebellion and resistance to end this in the late 1980s. The Communist cloud was removed and for the first time in over forty years forecast for Poland looked brighter than ever before. Maybe the Soviet Union would have collapsed regardless of Polish rebellion, but maybe not. It took resistance to release Poland from the power-hungry claws of the Soviets, who used the war as the crisis and Nazis as the threat. Together they formed the excuse to invade Poland without tanks and bombers, without actually invading them.
Today, COVID19 is the threat and the pandemic is the crisis and lockdowns disguised as solution are like the Soviets disguised as the saviours. Russians agreement with Poland was based on a lie. First they murdered twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners of war and kept this crime hidden for nearly fifty years. The officers and other prisoners they shot were, if released, a potential threat and an obstacle to absolute control. Today, the government is willingly sentencing thousands of people to die of cancer and suicide, only to offer solution to the pandemic.
Today, nobody gets shot in the back of their head for refusing to believe COVID19 is a genuine threat that justifies continuous lockdowns and assaults on our liberties. As we have seen, however, the most prominent voices out there are the target of censorship online and police brutality on the streets. The police keep a close eye on those with large enough following on Instagram and whenever an anti-lockdown protest is organised, those are the people who are always the victims of arrests. The police tactics here are so transparent – find the leaders and make an example out of them. Piers Corbyn has been arrested at every protest he attended. Andreas Michili or @g00nbag on Instagram, the owner of Zone Gym in London, is another person who has been targeted by the police at two anti-lockdown protests. They deliberately searched for him in the crowd of thousands of protesters. Ellie Grey or @officialelliegrey on Instagram is another anti-lockdown activist with sixty thousand followers. She too has had bounty on her head for spreading information about the upcoming protest.
Why them? In my opinion it is as clear as day. The authorities hope their arrest will discourage their audience from attending the next protest. If I got arrested at a protest, I’d share it with my couple of hundred followers. It would most likely reach up to 25% of them and it would not make a huge impact. The police know that arresting someone who they know has thousands of followers, is like arresting all of them at once. With every arrest, more people get discouraged from attending the next protest. What other possible reason could there be? If all protesters are breaking the same rules, then should it matter who gets arrested? As long as the constables don’t come back empty handed, right?
I have recently read “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder who, apart from believing Donald Trump is a dictator (if this were true, the book, as well as all other Trump criticism, would never see the light of day), made some good points and observations. “Protests”, he says in one of the chapters, “can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets”. He continues, “If tyrants feel no consequences for their actions in the three-dimensional world, nothing will change”. It doesn’t, however, require a tyrant for protests to be needed. Whenever a group of people have witnessed or experienced injustice, oppression or inequality they almost always brought about a positive change through protests or some sort of resistance or strike. You can’t talk about gay rights, women’s rights, end of slavery, racial equality or even animal rights, and not mention that they were all achieved through protests and even riots. These activists took to the streets to question the status quo. They took a stance for what they believed in and spoke against injustice they either experienced first-hand or witnessed all around them. This is the driving force behind every protest – it is a group of people who believe they are being oppressed and they don’t see any other way but to gather and make their voice heard.
Today, many people believe our freedoms are under attack and lockdowns and intrusive rules take away our rights to be human and our access to prosperity. These people question the status quo. They believe lockdowns are unjustified and politicians enforcing them corrupt or incompetent. These people are not convinced by the pandemic argument. The government created rules banning protests because of the pandemic and for many people this is good enough. The protesters, however, some of whom are business owners who have lost everything, fathers who have not seen their children because of lockdowns, young people whose education has been interrupted and people who have lost their job, gather precisely to protest those rules that assault freedom of assembly, freedom to make a living and live with dignity. If you don’t support the protesters, you can’t quote the rules they are protesting to stop them from protesting. It would be like telling women to not demand the right to vote because they don’t have the right to vote. You may not agree with their cause, but their right to stand up for what they believe in is your right to do the same when you believe you have no other choice. I should also mention that not a single protest resulted in a spike in cases or COVID19 deaths. If you believe in freedom, in rights, in progress, in power, in corruption, then you must also believe in the right of the people to defend themselves against bad politicians and their policies.
What happened after November stay at home order then? Boris Johnson released us from our chains only to tie our hands and feet. In other words, the Tiers returned, only this time harsher and with more restrictions. Many areas went into lockdown from Tier 1 and finished it with Tier 2 or 3. Watford, where I live, was considered lucky to start December in Tier 2, only to move into Tier 3 – highest level of alert – a couple of weeks later. So far lockdown worked perfectly, didn’t it? Then, after Johnson put us all through a lockdown to save Christmas and after he promised Christmas would be saved and after he put us into Tier 3, he announced, just days later, that London and surrounding areas would go into an emergency Tier 4, of which we had never heard of before, of course. But I’ll talk about that later.
First, what changed and why in Tier 3 since October? This time, gyms and beauty salons were allowed to open across all Tiers 1 – 3. This is before the introduction of Tier 4. Before lockdown, Tier 3 meant gyms and hairdressers had to shut. Now, this was no longer the case. The government responded to over six hundred thousand signatures and rebellious gym owners. They still hadn’t recognised gyms as essential businesses, which meant that in case of yet another national lockdown, they would be told to shut again, but it was a start. Why did the government have a change of heart? I have a theory.
I believe that the government knew that fines for gyms and other businesses were unenforceable and arrests were unlawful. They knew that men like Nick Whitcombe or Andreas Michili would continue to disobey the orders. They knew that any successful resistance would expose their weakness and empower people. The resistance didn’t just come in form of protests and disobedience of business owners. It evolved into educating people about their rights and how to handle themselves in the event of an arrest or what to do when being fined or how to legally refuse to shut their business. People learned about their human rights and the laws that protect those rights from the state and that no other human, no matter what authority they have, should have the power to suspend those rights. So, the government, knowing they would eventually lose (either because of mass disobedience or loss of public support due to inability to enforce coronavirus rules), decided to “allow” people to do what they were going to do anyway. Gyms were allowed to stay open because many of them would stay open anyway. Nick Whitcombe’s campaign had by then gained a worldwide attention, hundreds of thousands of people signed the petition to save gyms so the government had no choice but to bend the knee to our demands. This is my opinion anyway. According to the experts, for example, supermarkets are the places that produce the most cases and gyms, restaurants and pubs are at the very bottom of the list, resulting in next to no cases per hundred thousand visits.
In Tier 3, however, pubs and restaurants had to shut. This meant that restaurants in Hertfordshire, for example, reopened their doors on the 2nd December, fully equipped in PPE, cleaning and sanitising stations, social distancing measures in place, reduced capacity (all of which cost money, effort and job losses), had to close again on the 16th December, as per Tier 3 rules which allowed take away only. The difference between the restaurant or pub owners and gym owners is that the former, in good faith, closed their doors in November, while the latter disobeyed and made it known to thousands of people on social media. This resulted in a win for the gyms and a loss for pubs and bars who, previously could stay open in Tier 3 provided their customers ordered a “substantial meal” with their drink, now had to shut.
As we entered Tier 3 on the 16th, people like me, fitness instructors or personal trainers still had a job to go to. Pub workers went into pretty much another lockdown just two weeks after the taste of freedom and a hope for a normal Christmas was returned to them. The promise that was given to them in November was broken. For now, however, we still had Christmas to look forward to. Then, out of nowhere, came Tier 4. I should mention here that a COVID19 test centre emerged in Watford, just on my way to work. Coincidentally that led to more cases which led to Tier 3 and then 4. No article I’ve seen mentions any deaths or even hospitalizations, only cases. My wife gave birth almost four weeks ago and the midwives, as nice as they all were, told her she “had to” have a COVID19 test before giving birth. Her test was negative, but I can imagine a lot of people’s tests came back positive even if they themselves had never felt better and could be in the hospital for a completely different reason. My sister, who gave birth on Christmas Eve, in Luton, was also forced to have the test. Tier 4 arrived to save us, in other words, from cases.
2 + 2 = 5
The announcement by the Prime Minister on the 19th was a breaking point for thousands, if not millions, of people. Everyone, including those who hadn’t previously expressed their views on coronavirus lockdowns, had something to say now. I had made my opinion known long ago. By the third week of the first lockdown, I’d already sensed something was not right about it. Police issued warnings that they’d be looking in people’s bags to see if they were buying essentials. They’d patrol parks and tape off benches and outdoor gyms. They made it criminal to sit alone in the field or take your dog for a walk in the middle of nowhere. Where I come from, this is known as the early sings of a democratic country turning into a police state. A police state voted in by fear and compliance.
When Johnson finished his announcement, which resulted in pretty much another lockdown in London and surrounding areas, the lockdown disguised as just another Tier, the whole hell broke loose. People were outraged and had every right to be. One particular group of people believed they knew who stole Christmas. Only now it wasn’t just about Christmas. For millions of people, it meant at least two more weeks of not working and not seeing family. Typical human response is to find someone to blame. I guess I have done it myself by holding those who blindly obey and never questions the orders they are given responsible. But one person, who I know personally made a statement that I believe represents the views of a growing number of people. He blamed the rule breakers for Tier 4.
“To all those who broke the rules, didn’t wear masks, and I know some of you personally, this one [Tier 4] is on you!”, said one of my friends on his Instagram. I don’t blame him for being angry. I applaud him in a way. He’s been, until now, quiet about lockdowns, but they affected him significantly. He has lost most of his clients and considered just getting a normal job for the guaranteed income. He has the right to feel angry and I am glad that he does. But I think he should aim his anger and outrage at the government and not that one occasional person without a mask he sees in the cereal isle in Tesco. Truth is, I’ve been out in the shopping centre twice in between September and October and both times I was the only person without a facemask. Most people, for one reason or another, follow the rules, so Tier 4 can hardly be blamed on that one guy here and there.
I sensed desperation in his words, which just like anger, is alright to feel. I believe he speaks for a lot of people, so it is not just about him. These people don’t seem to be too concerned with saving lives, they just want their lives back and believe the only way to do that is by pleasing the government with total obedience. He added in his post that in New Zealand, people just did what they were told and now live a normal life. He attributes that to strict lockdown and people following the rules, but I would say geography played its part too. Chances are, there is, on average, a lot less flights going in and out of New Zealand than there is in the UK. Truth is, there is always more factors at play, and simply saying “lockdown did it” is dishonest. It’s also interesting how people love to mention places where lockdown “worked”, like New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia, but fail to mention Sweden which achieved similar results without lockdown. They fail to mention countries that imposed strict lockdowns and changed absolutely nothing. Peru, for example has had the world’s toughest lockdown and still one of the worst death tolls in the world. Spain, France and Italy have also had tough lockdowns and have achieved almost nothing. In short, lockdown is a lottery – it may work this time, it may not and whatever the result, there are always other factors at play. For example, Peru might have a really poor healthcare system, which is why their deaths have gone through the roof. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it could be. People love to discredit Swedish approach by talking about their population density i.e., why lack of lockdown wasn’t the “real” reason for their success, but when they talk about countries where lockdown “did work” they forget to look into other factors that played a role or made the lockdown possible in the first place.
So, no, locking down too late is not the problem and locking down early or at all is not a solution. Even World Health Organisation urges the world leaders to not rely on economy destroying lockdowns. My friend blames the restrictions on the rule breakers. He thinks the only path to freedom is through obedience. He has accepted that most of the rules make no sense and that government has control over his life, but his only choice is to comply and hope this will end soon. I don’t blame him. He, and others like him, is a person who has sacrificed and lost a lot this year and is desperate to blame someone or something for why this keeps happening. I sympathise with him, but I do not think giving up our freedoms should be the only way to get them back one day. People he represents would go to a park, beach or a Christmas market to enjoy themselves and pretend everything is normal, only to then complain about other people being there too and call them selfish, irresponsible and lacking common sense. These people will follow some rules, bend and ignore others if they think they don’t apply to them only to then shame those who don’t follow rules they follow. It’s the mindset that says, “I wash and sanitise my hands, so I will have a workout with my friend, but if I see others enjoy aspects of their lives they aren’t willing to give up, I’ll assume they are dangerous and irresponsible granny killers”.
It takes resistance to stop tyranny, but it only takes compliance to allow it to exist and take over every aspect of our lives. We have seen politicians and media suggest what we should and should not be allowed to do in the privacy of our own homes and how we should and should not interact with out loved ones. Some even go as far as claiming they have the power to “ban sex” between partners who don’t live together. We have also seen that business owners can successfully stand their ground and win the right to remain open without harassment.
Those brave men and women who didn’t close their doors, who have been fined and have spent a night in jail showed that the only way to get back to normal is through resistance. Allowing the government to play lockdown lottery with our lives only encourages them to continue doing so. We have to show them we suffer, and we are angry, otherwise they will never know and will never change. Other businesses, both big and small, should now do the same and show our leaders that they too are essential. You and me should also make the government aware that COVID19 is not the only threat and there are long term side effects of lockdown that we will all have to live with long after those who put us through it, have resigned or retired.
It is time to stop pretending, like the media want you to, that two plus two equals five, and that lockdowns are and have always been the only way to fight a virus, or that herd immunity is just a “theory” and can only be achieved through (mandatory) vaccines. Even WHO have recently changed the definition of Herd Immunity from exposing people to a virus to protecting people from a virus. I don’t know about you, but I know that if you always lift the same weight, you will never get stronger and if you never expose your body to germs or viruses, your body will never build defence mechanism against them also known as immune system. The media just approvingly repeat the slogans, like “Christmas IS cancelled this year” without hesitation convincing viewers that it is normal and that there is nothing strange about politicians thinking they have the power to cancel a religious celebration and that they have always had this power. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Time to resist or this will never end, and lockdowns will claim more victims than COVID19 could ever dream of. The age range will also be a lot wider as we will die and suffer of unemployment leading to crime and suicide, cancer, poverty, loneliness and more in the coming months and years. Time to realise that we are in a toxic relationship with the government and the “rule breakers” aren’t to blame for this, it is the compliance of the masses.
When Big Brother hits you again, don’t pretend he didn’t mean it, fight back or he will do it again.
Freedom of speech has been going extinct in the UK for a few years now. On paper, we have the right to freely express ourselves, but in practice, if someone gets offended or if you’re spreading conspiracy theories, they will come for you with torches and demand your head. This rather long article is my way of getting my head around the subject as well as an attempt to defend free speech and why I think we should embrace it, cherish it and use it in the name of truth.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”George Orwell
Cover your eyes
I don’t have too many memories of my father. He left before he was able to pass on his wisdom to me, but today I am reminded of one particular Sunday afternoon. The year was 1996 or 1997 and I was just nine or ten. My dad had by then infected me with his love for martial arts movies. He was to me an action star himself. He could do side splits and handstand with almost no effort at all. That afternoon we were sitting in the living room and watching the newly released on VHS Rumble in the Bronx with no other than Jackie Chan, who is known for his impressive fight skills, fight choreography and being his own stunt double. His movies, though action packed, are usually family friendly with moderate violence and nothing extremely upsetting or offensive. We were both admiring his athleticism, and my dad was excited to introduce me to him. He’d say to me, “He does all these dangerous stunts himself, you know? He’s nothing like those Hollywood fakes”. As Jackie Chan kicked, punched, jumped and climbed and surfed his way through the movie, something unexpected happened. His character was about to kiss a girl.
In order to explain what happened next and why it matters in the context of free speech, let me take you back a little. My sister and I often watched movies, either on TV or on VHS, with our parents. The unwritten rule was simple: don’t look when they tell us to. This meant that whenever there was nudity or violence in the movie, we weren’t allowed to see it. This might sound like a weird practice to you, but you have to understand that this was before sex and violence were everywhere. There was no internet, no violent video games, and movies rarely included sex scenes (and when they did, they were like a kiss on the cheek in today’s standards), and music videos focused more on telling a story than on showing tits and asses. Of course, these things did exist, but they did not flood the TV screens like they do today. Not in 1990s Catholic Poland anyway. Those days the only way I could be exposed to a naked female body was by discovering my dad’s secret stash of Playboys, which I did. I remember taking some of the magazines down to my parents’ shop and showing them to their young female employee, Renata. Because I had no real concept of age and I segregated people into grownups and kids, I never thought Ms Renata, as I called her, was perhaps a lot younger than my parents. She might have been twenty at the time. Me and Renata were friends. They sold electronics, so the shop was never too busy. I often came down after school with comic books and we’d read them together. Sometimes, Ms Renata helped me with some schoolwork too. Imagine the surprise on her face when, instead of the latest Batman comic book, I brought down a bunch of Playboys. We looked through them together without a shade of embarrassment. We both laughed when one of the models’ name was Renata. I don’t know if she ever told my parents. You can see how, before the internet or on demand TV, the only time you could see these things was if you physically went to a shop (no self-check outs either), picked up a copy of the dirty magazine, walked up to the cash desk, looked the lady in the eye, handed her the magazine and paid for it. If you’ve never done it, it is a pretty embarrassing experience, trust me. So, you can imagine that even Renata might have not been exposed to such pictures too often.
And now Jackie Chan is kissing the girl. My dad looks at me and, just like a hundred times before, orders me to close my eyes. But this time, I don’t. I look on. In my head, I am ready to see this. Not necessarily because of the Playboys because I don’t remember if I discovered them before or after this afternoon. I just think I am ready. I am not a kid anymore. I want to see the forbidden scene. “I can handle this, dad”, I think to myself. The kiss doesn’t last that long, but it goes on forever in light of my disobedience. My dad is not happy. The look on his face says if all as he repeats, “Don’t look!”. The anger mixed with surprise, disappointment, embarrassment and powerlessness are all painted on his face as he witnesses, what I believe to be, the moment I become a man. “Why?”, I demand. Silence. The movie goes on, Jackie gets the girl and I learn that it’s important to be the good guy of your story, and I also learn that adults do this disgusting thing called kissing – Yuck!
Looking back, I know my parents only tried to protect me from being exposed to what they knew and thought I wasn’t ready to see. I think this is reasonable. Parents should keep their children from harm, even if it means not letting them look at scenes they may not understand or that may upset them. You could say that parents get to censor certain content to protect their children’s vulnerable minds.
What is speech?
“If everything you did was right, you would never know what was wrong“Matthew McConaughey
As I write these words, someone is making a You Tube video expressing their views on climate change. By the time I finish the next sentence, millions of Twitter users will have condensed their complex thoughts into a narrow box of a tweet and posted them on the platform. Some of them will get hundreds, perhaps even thousands of retweets by other users who either agree or disagree with the statement they’re responding to. Somewhere else two friends are having a drink and are trying to settle their argument about the ending of Inception. Some politicians are having a debate about taxes. By the time I finish expressing my views here, millions of students around the world will have raised their hands in the classroom, ready to answer a question or ask one themselves. Millions of preachers and priests around the globe will have told the faithful about the glory of God and his kingdom, while thousands if not millions of job seekers will have declared themselves non – religious on a job application. All while someone somewhere, unaware of it all, is thinking and wondering about the world. He asks questions and ponders the possibilities. He is thinking.
What is speech? It’s all of the above because speech is communication. Speech is thought spoken out loud. Speech is the extension of a thought which then becomes known as “your opinion”. A thought that finds its way out to the world. It takes the shape of an idea, a view, a theory, a narrative, a solution. Of course, not all thoughts, when spoken out loud, lead to scientific breakthroughs or million-dollar ideas, but it is by communicating these thoughts to others, can we create new ones. Only by sharing our views can we find out if we are right or wrong and come back with an upgraded worldview. Without telling others what we think, what we believe to be true, without communicating, it is impossible to replace bad ideas with good ones or see the problem we are facing from a different perspective. We must all believe we are free to speak our mind. We must all value this ancient contract in order to be able to connect, solve problems and continue to prosper. Speech is a platform, the town square for our thoughts to meet, to gather, to mate, and language is a tool that allows them to flirt and create other thoughts. Speech is an arena where thoughts of people, like the gladiators in Ancient Rome, can fight to the death. Free speech is the right of an individual to allow their thoughts to come out and hope to be interacted with. Free speech is the right of an individual to present his or her thoughts to those who will listen. It is their right to do so without the fear of violence, persecution and with hopes of being listened to, understood, agreed or disagreed with, related to, learned from. It is the right to repeat a joke, share a meme. It is their right to say, “I don’t believe you!”. It is the right to let their thoughts, which are largely influenced by the outside world, to be spoken out loud. If speech is not free, and I mean all speech, then neither is thought. If speech becomes a crime, then so does the thought.
What is a thought?
Around the time I found those Playboys, my sister had a pet parrot. We learned that pet birds enjoy seeing their own reflection in the mirror, so we put one in her cage. God, I miss those days – when you couldn’t Google everything so every fact or information you found out felt like a ground-breaking discovery. I think this is what makes my generation unique. We spent our childhoods without our faces glued to mobile phones, our parents had to worry about bruises on our knees and not online predators, sexual content and social media bullying. Now we get to spend our adulthood consuming as much information as we want without taking technology, that makes it possible, for granted. But I digress. The mirror detached from the cage and fell on top of the parrot and she died. My sister was upset. She was only about five or six. The mirror tricked the parrot into thinking she had company. Her tragic death in the loneliness of the cage was caused by something that was supposed to save her sanity.
A thought is like that parrot in the cage. Instead of feathers she is made of words, images and memories. The cage is all she knows. What if she were to escape? What if she were set free? Through the mouth of the cage the parrot would announce her presence, her freedom to the world. And so, out through the window she goes. Still just the same, but now she gets to interact with the great outside. As she flaps her wings awkwardly, trying her best to do what she’s been designed to do, she gets noticed. Other birds (thoughts), who have been free for as long as they can remember, observe her with suspicion. Her unconventional colours and her unfamiliar song threaten, puzzle, fascinate, gain admiration, cause a debate above and below all at once. From this interaction alone, they all learn something they didn’t know before. The birds who all look the same, sing the same, behave the same, have learned that it is possible to be different. They now know that there is a world beyond their colony. The parrot now understands that the outside world can be uninviting. She knows now that she has to learn to communicate. She knows that not everyone will understand her song, its meaning, its context and her intentions. Richer in experience she can now go back to her cage and reflect, then try again tomorrow.
This is what happens to our thoughts. They live in our head. They remain unchanged, unchallenged, unconfirmed for as long as they stay unrevealed. These thoughts, these ideas, claims and theories that form in our heads need to be exposed to the sunlight. Only then can they grow and become better. Bad ideas and radical thoughts, when exposed, can be stopped in their tracks. They can be debunked, criticized, ridiculed, questioned and possibly destroyed. Interesting ideas, theories and points of view, on the other hand, can be pondered, explored, learned from, praised, helpful, revealing and revolutionary. We only ever find out when our thoughts turn into speech. If our idea has the potential to make the world a little better, we won’t know until we share it with someone who can put it into practice. If our opinion is wrong, unfounded, based on false information, formed on incomplete evidence, then only by exposing it to someone who may have already battled with the same arguments, can we really know if we’re onto something or not. If we allow our thought to stare at its own reflection, it may die admiring its own greatness before ever reaching its full potential, or it may live on and forever remain a delusion. I will argue that even if our opinion is clearly wrong or offensive it needs to be free to express. It may be, no matter how incorrect or hateful, based on pure ignorance and indoctrination.
Imagine if the parrot that was set free earlier is some form of a narcist, extremist or a heretic. She loves her blue, green and yellow feathers. After all it’s all she’s ever admired when she stared in her own reflection. Nobody ever challenged her. She flies out of the window and into the city and she sees that pigeons act like savages. They fight, they eat McDonalds leftovers on the street, they lack any manners, they poop everywhere. She comes to a conclusion that all pigeons are inferior to her. All grey birds are inferior, in fact. They are dirty, she thinks. She is now convinced that parrots are smarter, superior, more intelligent, cleaner, smell nicer and are more beautiful than all grey, black and white birds. She is a bigot. We know she is a bigot because we know what she thinks. Most of the time, we don’t know what people, or parrots think. We only know what they decide to share with us. How can we engage with the parrot’s views if we don’t know what they are? If she tells us her opinion, we can then explain to her why she is wrong. Both of us must feel confident that we are free to express ourselves without the threat of violence or punishment. We both must feel comfortable that our thoughts are safe when we let them out of our cage. Without it, no real progress can be made. Our opinions and arguments will never meet, they will stay in our heads and confirm their righteousness in their own reflection. Here they don’t die, like our parrot did earlier, they remain a delusion that never gets debunked.
It seems like in the world today, we prefer to prevent people from expressing their thoughts rather than dealing with those thoughts. Stopping a heretic, extremist or a conspiracy theorist from expressing their views does not eliminate heretics, extremism or conspiracies. It only suppresses an individual’s right to tell their truth, often pushing them further into their illusion by confirming their convictions. Racism, sexism, homophobia still exist despite the so-called hate speech laws. Facebook, Twitter or You Tube can delete offensive content all they want, but it will not turn the world into a big happy politically correct utopia. I am not saying that hateful content should be unfiltered (threats of violence or calls for violence should be reported and deleted), but I am saying that this only makes things look nice on the surface and the problems it tries to solve still exist. Would we prefer our parrot to remain silent about her racism, or would we prefer to know about it and engage with it, find the root of it and try to reason with it? It wouldn’t be easy, it could be impossible, but simply censoring her speech would not solve the problem at all. We can always choose to distance ourselves from the bigots. We are free to think. Speech is the expression and extension of thought. Thoughts seek validation. Speech should, therefore, be free as it is just a thought, just an idea that can be confirmed or debunked only by someone else using his freedom to speak his mind.
Of course, we can all read a book or go online to confirm or debunk our beliefs. But even a book can only exist because the author and the scientists and philosophers, he quoted in his book, all exercised their freedom of speech. Only thanks to free speech can The Bible and The Origin of Species be sold in the same bookstore. Only thanks to freedom of speech can you pick up both of them and decide which idea makes more sense. Freedom of speech of everyone employs your critical thinking. For thousands of years there has been no other truth other than that preached in churches. As a matter of fact, a few hundred years ago, in Europe, you’d face a certain death if you made a scientific discovery or a claim that went against the teachings of Christianity. In 1600, an Italian man, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive for suggesting that Earth was not the centre of the Universe (something Galileo got away with it just a few decades later and is now credited for that discovery).
Now, thanks to free speech you can listen to ten different people telling you what they think. You can agree with some and tell others why they are wrong, and they will tell you why you are wrong. The thoughts would be mating and fighting again. This is how critical thinking works. It wouldn’t be possible if our thoughts remained trapped in our heads or censored by those who think you are not ready to see them, that you are not capable of making your own judgement, that you are not an intelligent adult who can think for himself, that you need to be protected from your own thoughts. We don’t need our fathers to cover our eyes anymore. We are ready to see nudity because nudity is truth. We are capable of deciding what to do with it. I might have been just a little kid, but I didn’t go around kissing everyone after seeing Jackie Chan do it. I wasn’t interested in it. Twenty – three years later, I can read psychology books, news articles, watch You Tube videos about UFOs, ghosts or politics, documentaries about the Universe, listen to David Icke talk about lizards, judge Trump’s presidency based on his policies or speeches. I can do all that and decide for myself what I think and believe. I don’t need my views presented to me and formed by a third party. What I need is free and equal access to all sources of information, so I can evaluate it and create my own worldview based on which I can then vote, campaign, work and raise my children. I can be wrong but let me be wrong.
We are still being parented and the content presented to us is filtered and moderated. It’s almost as if we are back in the 90s, all sitting in my living room with my dad, who is deciding what we are and aren’t allowed to see, what we may not understand, what is incorrect or “false information”. He is our moderator and our fact checker. He is our daddy, and his name is Google. You can click here Vaccines or Immune System? – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com) to see just how the information you google is manipulated before it is given to you. Don’t get put off by the title, it was just a quick experiment on what search results you get from Google and a less popular search engine when you search for the same exact phrase.
Of course, words have consequences. Whatever you say may be used against you. You tell the wrong joke at the wrong party, and you will be remembered as that inappropriate guy never to appear on the guest list again. The same joke worked when you said it to a few of your friends, and it worked even better when it was said by Ricky Gervais on the stage and in front of a thousand people. But at that party, people didn’t appreciate your dark humour. What for one person is “you shouldn’t joke about these things”, is “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s so funny!”, to another. The line is different for everyone which means no joke is inappropriate.
Of course, this has to do with political correctness and hate speech. The former has been weaponised to change how people think and the latter has been relabelled and criminalised so that anything “offensive” you say can be used against you. But remember, offense is taken, not given. What should be just a disapproval of your family and friends, now has real criminal consequences. What people who create these laws don’t seem to understand is that you can’t put a joke behind bars. You can’t fine an opinion. No matter how offensive or controversial they sound. You can’t arrest a room full of people who laugh at a racist joke, so why should you arrest the one saying it? The same joke said in a different room would be met with a disappointment and disapproval and that should be the end of it.
It isn’t only offensive content or opinions that you can get in trouble for. I remember the time when you could go on You Tube and go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about 9/11. Plenty of them arguing that either the US government or the Jews were behind the attack. These videos had hundreds of thousands of views, which over ten years ago was a big deal. I admit, I did shortly buy into the theories, but apart from wasting my time watching hours of content, it changed nothing in my life. Now, Google, who bought You Tube a few years ago, are acting like our daddy again. If you type in 9/11 in the search box, your top results will be the so – called reputable sources like CNN and other usual suspects (despite having far less views than the more intriguing conspiracy videos). Alternative journalism, commentary and sources of information are as good as dead on You Tube. Your daddy, Google, not only tells you to look away, but also deletes all the content in case you’re not able to think critically and make your own judgement about it. What used to be a great platform for people to share ideas in a video format has now become just another TV channel. Unless you’re subscribed to various Youtubers, your landing page will have some music videos, movie trailers and news stories and it will be very difficult for you to find other people like yourself and find out what they think. You Tube, Google, Facebook and increasingly the government are like a restaurant where you don’t get shown what’s on the menu. Instead they serve you a meal they think you should eat and enjoy. In this virtual restaurant you are not trusted to decide what meal is good for you. You are not trusted to look at the menu, read the ingredients for yourself and choose your food. You’re just served the same vegan salad as all other guests – bon appétit.
Over the last four years, since I started paying attention, I have witnessed a lot of controversial views being silenced, stomped down, and their authors or even messengers deleted off the internet. I’ve seen a biology professor being removed from Twitter for stating a scientific fact about males and females which went against the transgender ideology. Offensive charm, triggering rants and controversial views got Katie Hopkins deleted from the certainly left leaning platform as well. Stefan Molyneaux, a You Tuber with nearly a million subscribers and nearly a decade of making thought provoking, philosophical videos, was removed from the platform without a warning. Not to mention hundreds of lecturers and speakers on US campuses that were cancelled or met with protests by students who were triggered by their very name. Just this week I read about another attempt at censoring controversial views. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, University professor and a published author. His well thought out, evidence based and eloquently presented and controversial views gained him a large following as well as cult – like hatred. He has become a target of the Left who labelled him with every “ism” you can think of. His publisher, Penguin, have just announced his new book Beyond Order – 12 More Rules for Life. Some of Penguin employees, who believe Peterson to be a Right – Wing fascist, demand the book to be cancelled. A few months ago, a similar thing happened at Spotify, when Joe Rogan, who is Peterson’s close friend, moved his extremely popular podcast from You Tube to Spotify. Some staff at Spotify were not happy to host The Joe Rogan Experience, so they protested. Luckily, both Penguin and Spotify didn’t bend the knee. Their triggered staff however sound a lot like they don’t want you to see the menu and decide what information you want to consume.
Speaking of Joe Rogan, one of his guests and now the 2nd richest man in the world, Elon Musk, said on his show that sometime soon we might have mind reading technology. He suggested that a microchip could not only collect your thoughts but communicate them to somebody else’s brain through their chip. He argued that this technology would allow ideas to communicate more efficiently without the barrier of our vocabulary or inability to express ourselves. With a chip like this, I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing this trying to make my opinion of free speech clear. I’d simply have to transfer my thoughts through my chip to yours without having to explain what I mean. You’d just get it instantly by downloading words and images that form that idea or a thought.
My dad was right to protect my ten – year old self from offensive content I wasn’t ready for. My compass of right and wrong was still developing, and I needed guidance or perhaps he just didn’t want to or didn’t know how to address the questions I’d have after seeing that kiss. His censorship was justified. So where does this put the government or the social media platforms who take it upon themselves to decide what you can and cannot be exposed to? Censorship of speech, opinions, views is not only Orwellian, but also suggests that those who do it consider you and me to be incapable of critical thinking or dealing with negativity and offensive content. They think it is up to them, just like my dad did, to protect your eyes and ears from seeing and hearing what they think you wouldn’t be able to process. They think we are operating on that still developing compass and need them to hold our hand. They think that if you watch an interview with David Icke, you will immediately become a conspiracy theorist. They think that if you listen to Katie Hopkins, you will not be able to filter her words yourself and you will become what people accuse her of being – a racist, which I don’t believe to be the case. These people, whether they sit at the headquarters of Facebook, Google or Twitter or in the Parliament genuinely think that they are superior to us therefore get to decide what you can and cannot read, watch or listen. Yet somehow porn is easier to access than ever. What is so dangerous about believing a so called “conspiracy theory” or spreading or being exposed to so called “hate speech”? What is it that at the same time makes porn so widely available? We are all adults, and we don’t need the information, no matter how crazy or offensive, filtered by these people who think they know better. It is condescending to us and in the long run, ineffective at achieving whatever they’re trying to achieve. Are we not allowed to decide for ourselves anymore?
We already moderate our thoughts and filter what we share with people. We do it because we know words have consequences. We want to maintain social life, so we don’t tell people what we think all the time. Just imagine if someone had access to your mind just for a day. How many times did you think of something offensive? What are some of the taboos you battle over in your head sometimes? Did you ever fantasise about doing something horrible to someone you know? Do you ever have these dark thoughts that just pop into your head out of nowhere? How many of those, if you spoke them out loud, would get you in trouble or make your family, friends and colleagues distance themselves from you? Imagine if someone could open up this diary in your head and read every page. All the embarrassing memories you don’t think of too often, but when you do, you relive that embarrassment again. All those times you imagined beating up that customer. Throughout our day, we only give people a taste of what’s in that diary. Only the stuff we want them to know. In a way, we personalise the menu of what’s on offer in our head. But that’s ok. We want to maintain that friendship, keep that job, see that girl or man again. We censor ourselves and we know when to not say things that are considered crazy or controversial. Unfortunately, now, the Scottish government wants to take away your right to free speech even at your dinner table. They want it to be criminal to make a “controversial” comment while talking to your family and friends at your table. Think about it.
And yet, despite our self-moderation, thought crime is possible. It is possible because we read our diary out to people. We share some of its pages with friends and on social media. By doing so, we give people access into parts of our mind. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s cold, offensive and unfriendly and aggressive. But, if this invitation into your head triggers the wrong response, you may end up losing your friends, your job or worse – with a criminal record preventing you from taking on certain jobs in the future. All because of your thoughts. All because what was in your head came out through your mouth and landed on somebody’s sensitive ears. Now your friends don’t want to be associated with your controversial views, your boss thinks they’re bad for business or for staff integrity, and the law enforcement must defend those fragile feelings of those you did or might have offended, so they must punish you. Your speech is now that kiss scene my dad tried to “protect” me from because he “knew” what was best for me.
Freedom of speech is your right to express yourself; it is your right to be wrong; it is your right to disagree; it is your right to speak your truth; it is your right to explore ideas; it is your right to protest; it is your right to demand answers and evidence; it is your right to consent to refuse and to deny; it is your right to lie; it is your right to think out loud; it is your right to teach and to learn from others; it is your right to laugh at a joke; it is your right to defend your beliefs; it is your right to vote; your right to demand justice; it is your right to listen and say you don’t believe; it is your right to write a tweet, a blog or a book; it is your right to say the unspeakable only because you first thought the unthinkable; it is your right to criticise or to praise. If any authority tries to rob you of that right, they are inevitably robbing you of your consciousness and your right to think.
The bottom line is this. There is time and place to speak our mind. We should all be able to freely hold our beliefs and express our opinions without the interference of the government, social media platforms or our boss if they happen to be your friend of Facebook. Free speech allows us to argue and debate, disagree and criticise. It allows us to listen to and read about different ideas, problems. Free speech allows diversity of opinion, diversity of thinking which are often key to solving problems in the company to figuring out how best to tackle a crisis like COVID19. Without free speech you are not exposed to different ideas. This disables your critical thinking and the ability to think for yourself and shape your own opinions. Similarly, when your phone upgrade is due you surely spend at least a little while comparing the latest phones to choose the one that suits your needs best. The freedom of Apple or Samsung to provide you with the options is your freedom to choose from them. We need free speech. We must not let the corporations or the government take it away from us because when it comes down to it, this is one of our fundamental human rights, given not by them but by Mother Nature herself when she endowed us with the ability to think and to speak. We must not hand it over to the state because without their suits and titles they are just the same as us, governed by the same laws that come from Mother Nature.
Speech is thought, just louder.
Why I will not Comply
People don’t understand why I refuse to surrender my life to coronavirus mandates. They call me selfish for not accommodating their fear of COVID19. They call me irresponsible for not doing as I’m told by the government. They think all I care is me. I have vulnerable people in my family, including my asthmatic wife and my mother. Not once, during this pandemic, have I been worried about their health. I have been worried about another threat. This threat does not expose itself in a form of high temperature and a cough. This threat poses a far greater risk, in my opinion and this is why I will not comply…
Locked down in the darkness
When Italy went into lockdown and the UK shortly after, I, like many others, felt the crushing weight of the situation. Coronavirus had crossed our borders. Cases started rising and soon turned into deaths. It was real. My brother had just returned from a school trip in Italy. Many kids, including him, returned ill. People had emptied the supermarket shelves of everything they thought would help them survive the approaching apocalypse. Soon after my wife told me she was pregnant. She was scared and uncertain. We both were. The doctors had previously told us it was very unlikely for her to ever get pregnant. Even I had accepted the possibility of never becoming a dad.
And there I was ready to abandon everything I stood for, my principles and my dreams of fatherhood. I was ready to throw it all away by convincing myself that I couldn’t possibly bring a child into this world. A world which I believed would, by the time he or she was born, turn into a dystopian nightmare. Everything around me was pointing in that direction. I believed there was no way out and we were all doomed. It was not the mass death I was worried about. I was certain I was witnessing democracy and freedom taking their final breaths. I saw around me the symptoms of the disease that had infected them both – the disease of fear. The disease that, right before my eyes, was bringing the Orwellian future into our present.
I had never believed in abortion, yet there I was, trying to convince myself that it was the right thing to do. I was convincing myself that my baby would be born in chains of tyranny which I saw this country evolving into every week of the lockdown. My wife didn’t share my concerns, but I kept them to myself. She had her own worries. She knew this was most likely her last and only chance to be a mom. She also didn’t want to be one, not now anyway. She also didn’t want to take this away from me. When the doctors told her she would probably never become a mom, she asked me to promise this would never come between us. I reassured her that it would never happen, but I don’t think I fully believed it myself.
A few weeks had passed. I had convinced myself that I was doing it for her, and I was saving the baby from the life of misery I knew was coming for us all. I also knew that she would never… I knew it had to be me to say it. That evening I held her close. The uncertainty and fear sent tears down her cheeks. Even now, as I write this, I try to convince myself that what came out of my mouth next, was for her and the unborn baby, but I know it was just as much, if not more, for myself. I held my tears and said what she dared not to speak. It was truly the darkest moment of my life. We spent the next couple of days deciding. The deciding was mostly about us and what impact the outcome would have on our lives and how it would make us feel. Dark, dark moment. The baby had almost no say in this debate of Good and Evil. I did most of the talking. Eventually, we made the phone call. The woman on the other side was ready to take our details and arrange a quick and discreet appointment. In forty – eight hours it was promised to be all over, but would it ever be forgotten? Would it ever be forgiven? Blame the technology, fate, the universe or God, but we got disconnected. My wife collapsed into tears. The safety of my arms was not enough this time. The promise of a better tomorrow was a lie. The comforting silence was interrupted by our demons banging on the door. This next chapter would be the beginning of another human being’s story. And we were one phone call away from ending it.
But we never called back. We are now two weeks away from welcoming our son into our world. We’ve decided to name him Oliver. Every time I feel him move, kick or high – five me through the belly, I am glad we never went through with it. If I’d known then what I know now, if I’d felt then what I feel now, if we both had, we would never have gone to that dark place. And my wife? She feels the same way. It’s been interesting and beautiful to watch her transform from someone who used to say she didn’t want to be a mom, someone scared of becoming one, someone who at one point didn’t want to keep that baby, to someone who is so full of joy and love for that little human she’s been nurturing in her belly. Sadly, many people don’t give themselves a chance to see their uncertainty and hesitation in this light. They deny themselves this overwhelming joy and love. I might forever hate myself for lowering my guard and abandoning my principles in a moment of weakness, but I know I would hate myself even more if we had allowed the fear and selfishness to rule over us. But, maybe had we not been in lockdown, had our future not been uncertain, we wouldn’t have gone to that dark place in, what should have been, the happiest moment of our life. I wonder how many children never got to see the light of day because of lockdown, furlough or the doomsday predictions of our experts and fear mongering of the media…
My 6th sense – the legacy of tyranny
My grandad has told me chilling stories of his life in Poland before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s. My grandad, who had lived through it over half of his life, remembers food shortages, limitations, oppression, endless queuing to the butcher’s and grocery stores like it was yesterday. Some people, says my grandad, would sleep outside the shop for many nights to reserve, as you’ll soon find out, a very precious spot in the queue. Here is just a sample of what he’s shared with me:
‘Each month you’d get paid for your work. After the war there was no cosy desk jobs. People had lost loved ones, homes, communities, businesses and hope, you understand? The Soviets said they were there to help. So, with your paycheck you’d get a few vouchers, coupons, stamps, whatever you want to call them. These vouchers stated what you were allowed to buy from the butcher or from the grocery store that month. Some vouchers would have “2kg of potatoes” printed on them. Others would say “1 loaf of bread”, “1kg of flour”, “1kg of sugar”, and so on, you understand? You could use these throughout the month, but usually shops got empty pretty quick. That’s why people queued overnight. So, even if your stamp gave you allowance to buy, say, 1 kilogram of pork meat, there was no guarantee the butcher would have it for you or that it would be good quality. You had to get there early. Remember, there was hundreds of others who had similar stamps. There were no other places to buy these things. There were no supermarkets, you understand? You also had no choice what stamps you got. See, as you know, me and your nan don’t smoke. We never smoked, thank God! But every now and then we’d be given the cigarettes voucher. So, we traded these items with the smokers who happened to have what we wanted. The state decided what was essential for you and what wasn’t, understand? Coffee? Forget it! It was so hard to get. Sometimes we went months without it. We had to make it all last a month, and we couldn’t spend our money on things we didn’t have vouchers for, you understand? They only allowed us to buy those ‘essentials’. Bloody bastards! They only allowed us to buy what they said were those essentials. So, we didn’t go shopping. We didn’t buy clothes, and when we did, they were only what the vouchers stated. Don’t forget we all had families to raise, mouth to feed, so many times your monthly allowance wouldn’t be enough. You had to make things last.”
Sitting there, at dinner, listening to my grandad made me understand his ways a little more. My grandparents’ fridge is never empty. They never let things run out. They make things last. They save money. My grandad still works despite renting out two flats. He gets his fruits, vegetables and meat from the same places every week. At breakfast, lunch or dinner he encourages us to eat more – this is common in all Polish households, no matter how poor or wealthy they are. Growing up I found it extremely annoying, especially when he would offer me some meat I hadn’t had before. Now that I know how he had lived for decades before 1990’s, I do understand. Now he can enjoy anything he wants, and he can keep fruits of his hard labour without the fear they will be taken away by the state. But the heavy boot of Communism has left a mark in my grandad’s mind. He may not think like this, but it seems like what drives him to make sure the fridge and stomachs are full, and things never run out, is that he remembers when things weren’t so. When things did run out. When you never knew what you’d be allowed to buy with your money next month. He might even subconsciously fear of bad times coming back and of all this being taken away from him again. Maybe he has, in the last thirty years, learnt to appreciate everything he had missed out on for four long and not very prosperous decades, when the Communist Russia ruled over Poland, spreading misery, hunger and poverty disguised as “The Greater Good”.
My mom was in mid – twenties when the revolutions took place and Poland became independent. I was only a couple of years old. She also remembers stamps and constant queuing which, more often than not, ended with disappointment. To this day she has kept one of the vouchers she never got to use. She’s had it for over thirty years, and she’s brought it with her to the UK where she has settled. It’s a reminder of the dark days. It’s a reminder of what happens when tyrants decide they know what’s best for the people of a nation.
One of my oldest memories is queuing for a pint of milk in, what must have been, early 1990’s – a few years after Poland became independent from Russia. So, these things didn’t just cease to exist one day. It took time for both the economy and people’s mentality to settle into the new way of life. The newfound freedom might have even been treated with suspicion by people who thought it was a trick or a short-term victory. Some people, to this day, think life was better when the Communists were in power. These are almost always the people who are too young to remember what it was like or people who worked for or had relatives who worked for the government. The milk man would park his truck and we’d all come out with our bottles and wait for our turn. I remember feeling excited when I got to hold the bottle and hand it to the man as my grandad stood next to me. Like a child pressing the button in an elevator, I enjoyed the rewarding sight of milk being poured into my bottle and when the lid was back on, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I contributed. At the time I had no idea that this regular activity was one of the legacies of tyranny. Some of that legacy is carried in my grandad’s mentality, and it is carried in my blood. And maybe it endowed me with a sixth sense, allowing me to recognise the early symptoms of an authoritarian regime. Or maybe it is not a sixth sense at all. Maybe I am just paranoid?
My mom tells me about her experience. She remembers the curfew, the police state, the officers out on the streets every night arresting everyone who was out after 10PM without a valid permit. Police were looking into your shopping bags, approached travellers and questioned them about the reasons of their journey. One evening my mom was returning from her aunt, who lived in a nearby town. She was only a teenager. She missed the train, which meant she’d be back after 10PM. She had no valid pass, I think it was only given to people who had a valid or essential reason to be out, like work or something. I don’t know the full story, but my grandmother had to pick her up so she wouldn’t get arrested. It was all, of course, for their safety. Let me just point out that the police were not Russian. They were Polish men just following orders and enforcing rules which subjected their fellow men and women to oppression.
Freedom is an asset, safety is a luxury
What world will my son take his first breath in? Will he be born free? Or will he be born in chains? Will he be born enslaved to the algorithm, the pattern, the expectations? Or will he be born into a world that gives him a chance, a choice? A world that promises opportunity and rewards hard work and talent? Will it be a world of prosperity and equality, or will it be a world of corruption, deception, censorship, and authoritarian government? Will my son be born in, what I call – The Chains of Freedom? The chains represent suppression, censorship, inequality, government power, digital enslavement, restricted movement, and lack of ownership of one’s life. The chains that are disguised as freedom, as the greater good. The chains that have been put on us for our safety. The chains that we consent to when we give up privacy and liberty in exchange for safety. Those chains restrict and dictate how we pay for goods, how we travel, how we communicate. We said yes to them because they didn’t seem that heavy at first. They were not a burden and to many they still aren’t. But even if we seem to be free, our every step and our every move are constantly being tracked, measured and evaluated. Whether we are browsing the internet, making a phone call or walking our dog, we are under constant surveillance.
In the last few months, many people have given up responsibility for and ownership of their lives and handed them over to the state. With them they’ve given up their freedom and accepted various restrictions of their lives to feel safer. Not safe, safer because we can never truly be safe. Life is full of risks and the world is full of threats the state can’t keep us safe from. And feeling safe does not necessarily mean being safe. (Just ask yourself, after 9/11 the travelling experience has never been the same. Has it made terrorism disappear? No, because extremists find other ways to terrorise us and the government can never put a lid on them. The travel restrictions, the limitations on what you can and cannot bring on the plane have made us a little bit safer, but not safe. Euston station or Heathrow airport can still be a target of a delusional maniac. The government cannot keep us safe, only a little bit safer. I was once at Euston station. Me and my friends are going down the escalator to get the tube. About halfway down we hear screams and footsteps of a terrified herd coming from the corridor at the bottom of the escalator. Everyone panics and tries to run up against the moving escalator. The people are running from something. It’s all happening so fast. Someone apparently has a gun. First thing I do when I get to safety is I call my wife and my mom who are both somewhere in London and let them know to be careful. It’s been a few years and I’ve taken a train many times since then. The risk is small, but it exists. It can’t, however, stop me from living.)
But I digress. Back to people exchanging their freedom for safety. It started when the government announced the first national lockdown. Most people have submitted, and they have dragged us along with them because they have been asleep. So asleep, in fact, that they are sleepwalking into an authoritarian nightmare. There are many reasons why the majority of the population welcome the government into their homes. Fear of COVID19, blind faith in the experts, generations raised without ever having to take responsibility for their lives are only a handful of reasons. But I think something else plays a significant role here. I think the majority of these people fail to think long term. They want to feel safe now, they don’t care how the governments of the future might abuse the powers we have just given them with our obedience.
Let’s take the Track and Trace app. Today you can choose to download it on your phone, and if you do, you scan the QR code when entering the pub to just register your attendance. Who’s to say that in the future you won’t just have to register your presence in the pub, but you’ll also have to use the app to be able to board a train? What if the app is, in the near future, used to monitor your quarantine status, and if you’re meant to be self – isolating, you won’t be able to purchase a train ticket or order Uber? This is what I mean by short term vs long term thinking. Today it’s a harmless app, tomorrow it turns into freedom restricting, sinister tool of control. If this sounds too much like something out of Black Mirror to you, then just think that in China this is reality. If you think China’s sinister credit system can’t find its way into our cosy Western lifestyles, then think again. China’s draconian measures have spread around the globe almost as quickly as their virus itself.
Around eighty years ago, when Russia crossed Poland’s eastern border and said they were there to help and they were there for our safety, my grandad didn’t have too much to say in the matter. He was born into it. He was raised in the system that was designed to hold him back, keep him in line, make him productive just enough to contribute to “The Greater Good”, but not enough to be better off than everyone else. It took forty years for Poland to snap out of the Communist nightmare. Three decades later almost every country in Europe and in the world looks a lot like that nightmare. At the time of writing, in Wales, people can only travel if they have a good enough reason. They can’t buy books, toys and clothes for their children. In Melbourne, Australia, people are only allowed to leave their house for 1 hour of exercise per day. Not too long ago, some citizens weren’t allowed to leave their homes for any reason for two weeks of quarantine. If they tried, they were met with hundreds of armed police officers telling them to go back inside “for their own good”. Students in Manchester were forced to self – isolate against their will. For months we were told to only go out to buy essential items, shops were closed, police even looked in people’s bags to make sure only essentials were bought, supermarkets introduced queuing and limits on the quantity of goods people were allowed to buy (which was largely due to idiots panic buying, of course). French people must carry a form that states the reason of their journey. Greeks must send a text message to a special number stating reasons for leaving their house and they must carry documents on them at all times. Men and women in Ireland were, not too long ago, not allowed further than five kilometres of their homes. If you’ve been paying attention then you know this sounds a lot like tyranny described by my grandad.
Seeing all this unfold in many parts of the world is rather scary. I spoke to my grandparents. They are staying safe. They are doing what the government tells them is best for them. I will be honest with you. I don’t know how strict the coronavirus rules and their enforcement are in Poland. I know the guidelines are similar to those of the UK. But I remember what my grandad told me. I remember the look on his face when he described the way he used to live. I remember him telling me of over twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners of war being murdered by the Soviets in April 1940. This mass murder had been kept secret until 1990’s to make sure everyone believed the Communist promise and the Communist lie – that they were there to help. I remember my grandad telling me about a Catholic priest who was murdered by the police because he dared to give people hope. Because he dared to talk of the power greater than that of the state. He was thrown into the river. His feet and hands tied as he was left to drown. His death is mourned to this day by those old enough to remember. His life still gives them hope. What would my grandad say, if I wrote to him of the recent events in Great Britain? Would he think there is anything great about it anymore?
It’s been over seven months since coronavirus arrived from China and with it brought their totalitarian rule, restrictions and tyranny. They remain disguised as good intentions, the greater good and safety and many people welcome them into their lives. They are willing to exchange their freedom for safety. Their privacy for security. I saw it creeping in from the week one of the lockdown. One step at the time our lives were being transformed, choices taken away, rights were slipping through our fingers and freedoms we took for granted were disposed of by the state, possibly never to be returned again.
The NHS was used as a weapon. They made us worship it. They knew that we were not like North Korea, Communist China, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, whose leaders were the subject of worship and praise and made the nation submit to their rule in the name of the greater good. Something else was needed in a nation so politically and socially divided as the United Kingdom. “Save the NHS” slogans appeared on every billboard and every window. We were made to clap and praise the NHS every Thursday at 8PM. Not by force, though. Social pressure was the cold steel on everyone’s temple. The NHS became the god everyone could unite for. It was then used by the charlatans in the government who swore to protect this newfound deity in exchange for power and control. The false prophets who claimed that only through them could we ever be saved. And people gladly agreed, fell to their knees and expressed their submission on their front porches every Thursday evening.
The ritual started as something voluntary. It just emerged somewhere one day and spread nationwide, but after a few weeks it was ended by the government. They announced one day that the coming Thursday was going to mark the final NHS clap. And so, the clap came to an end. People did as they were told.
I wouldn’t dare to claim that my time spent in captivity of lockdown has been anything like what you lived through. I wouldn’t dare to pretend that my road to unfreedom follows the same path you once walked. But the road signs are the same. They all tell me where this road leads. The New Normal is not far away now. There is a check point ahead. The officers have warrant to take my rights, my freedoms, my consent, my free will, my dreams and my plans and dispose of them all. They are illegal beyond that point. Their uniform is different, but their commands, their practices would send shivers down your spine taking you back to a familiar place. They disguise themselves as the servants of the people and say they are here for our safety. They say we cannot be trusted with our judgement, our freedom, our rights are irrelevant, and consent is not valid. They promise a better place in exchange for obedience and following the signs.
I’m almost at the check point. Should I give them what they want and be forever enslaved or should I drive through them and feel their bones crush under the wheels and spend the rest of my life as fugitive? At least I’d hold on to my truth. My wife’s contractions are getting stronger. Our son will be here soon. I owe him something, you know? I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I might be wrong about The New Normal, but this road I’m on and the signs all point in the direction of tyranny and unfreedom and to me this is a bigger threat than COVID19. My son deserves to be born free and right now I see everyone gladly handing their freedom away to the officers.
I am sure you can relate. The state storms into our lives and makes themselves at home. This time they just waited for our invitation so they could, like a vampire, feed on our will to live and our strength to fight back. All with our initial consent that is now no longer needed. They are in our homes, they sleep in our beds, they dine at our tables. All for our safety, of course. Seems like we can only remove them by force. If this is what it takes to protect my son from the claws of tyranny, from the chains of the state then I will fight. I will not let them take his innocence, his future, his dreams, his pure curiosity and his right to be a free human being who belongs to mother nature and is protected by her and governed only by her laws.
Others can hide forever under their beds, lock their doors and beg the government’s agents to keep them safe from the invisible monster known as Coronavirus. My duty, as a man and as a father, however, is to protect my child from what I believe to be a genuine threat. This threat, as learned from you grandad, is The Greater Good. I will keep him safe. I will teach him everything I know. I will never exchange his freedom for his safety…”
History – a fading memory. Consent – the alibi of tyrants
Many people don’t understand why I am so passionate about disobeying the coronavirus rules and mandates. Why I refuse to let the state put a mask on me, tell me who I can have in my house, how long I can exercise, define my essentials and take away my ability to put food on the table. To me the lesson from history is simple. We don’t have to look very far to see that freedom is a valuable but fragile asset. People seem to think that we have learned that lesson, but they are wrong. The Second World War happened so recently that there are still a few men and women alive today who were ready to die to defend our freedom eighty years ago. This shows two things. One, that it’s really not been that long, and we might not have grown enough to not make the same mistake again. Two, that once the only people who remember the horror, the struggle, the threat of losing their freedom, people who had the courage to defend it are all dead and with them the memory of the battle, we may repeat the mistakes thinking we will do something differently this time.
I’m not even talking about another war, as I think it is very unlikely. I am talking about the death of democracy and the rebirth of tyranny. There are among us people who believe Communism can be done better. There are people who think equality is more important than opportunity. They call it Socialism and they want it to emerge after the death of Capitalism. Equality (which means everyone is equally poor) VS Opportunity (which means everyone can make something of themselves and improve the quality of their life). These people are ignorant to the horrors, hunger and poverty of Communism and they want to bring it all back because they think it can be done better. There are also people who don’t like free speech and label every advocate of it a Nazi. These people also fail to recognise the weight of this word and what it meant eighty years ago. Nazis put people in gas chambers. Today the snowflake generation uses this word to shame someone who voted for Trump. Soon the word Nazi will be so diluted, it will lose its meaning and its burden. History will be forgotten and with it its valuable lessons.
We are never too far away from stepping into this unfriendly territory. All it takes is people’s consent, which they give when there is a crisis. I do not consent. The future of my son depends on it. I almost refused him this future and it is my duty to fight for it. I am not denying that people are dying. But I am not sacrificing my child’s freedom to live the best quality of life he can for you to feel safe now. It is your job to take care of yourself, take safety measures you deem necessary. You can stay at home, order everything online and we never have to meet. My duty is to defend my child’s dignity, rights, freedom and leave a legacy that is based in truth. I can never resign because it’s more convenient to do so. I will stay out of your way, but do not take me down with you.
You may not agree. You may call me crazy for thinking we’re destroying our liberties. I don’t care. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve heard and read all about it. It doesn’t always take a tyrant. It takes the people who demand safety in exchange for their freedoms. The leader knows if he does nothing, people will blame him for the consequences of his inaction. He restricts people’s lives. People call him out for not going far enough or for doing it too late. They see others breaking the new rules, so they demand more control, more enforcement, more power given to authorities, they even demand suspension of some basic human rights, they demand punishment and persecution of the rule breakers, they demand everyone to suffer so that they can feel a little bit safer. The leader gives in. He takes stronger, more intrusive measures. He threatens the public with punishment if they don’t do as he says. He bribes the public with a promise of a better tomorrow if they do. Many people cheer. Many think it is still not enough. Others feel cornered, surrounded, afraid and angry. They feel overpowered and alone in their outrage and resent towards the government. Their only defence against the intrusive rules and the invasion on their liberties is to protest. The leader then bans protests and sends “good men who just follow orders” to do his dirty work and arrest and fine as many rebels as possible. He now faces the wrath of rebellion and feels the chilling breath of judgement on the back of his neck. If he backs off, he will be criticized. If he pressures on sending boots and batons to the battlefield, he will be hated. But anger can be beaten, he thinks. Anger can be met with force, he convinces himself. Judgement of hopeless people who are afraid and look to him for guidance can’t be avoided. It can’t be beaten. It will follow him to his retirement. Declaring war on his people will, however, follow him to his grave. He doesn’t think about it. He knows that public opinion is everything and right now most people are afraid and upset and others are angry. The angry can be dealt with by tackling them to the ground to teach them a lesson and to show the fearful his power and control. Call them selfish, ungrateful so that everybody cheers when they are met with force and riot police. He doesn’t even know when things got ugly. When things got out of control. He doesn’t remember when he crossed the line, but he can’t admit the mistake. It would be a sign of weakness. Or maybe he enjoys it. Maybe he enjoys his newfound powers. Either way, he can’t stop now. The people count on him. He knows he can’t persuade those who are out on the streets. They need to be dealt with. Hit them where it hurts. Arrest them for so much as criticizing his rule. Fine them for so much as even organising a protest. He can’t scare them with the COVID19 statistics. They can see right through them. He threatens with arrests, enormous fines and hopes this puts people back where they came from and restores the order. He was pushed to it. Or maybe he just needed a trigger. It doesn’t matter. From now on the people are not to be trusted with having their freedom. Freedom is the root of disobedience. People aren’t ready for freedom. They are corrupted, irresponsible, selfish, naive, deluded and impulsive, confirm the leader’s advisors. Their freedom can, from now on, be suspended any time there is a crisis or when the government says there is a crisis. Freedoms are never fully returned to us, haven’t you been paying attention?
Dave Cullen on You Tube illustrated it quite clearly. If you think of the governmental control of your life in a scale from 1 to 10, before Coronavirus we were at maybe 2 or 3. There were laws in place, as always, but you were free to travel, go to the pub, or work. Now and during last lockdown we jumped to 9 on the scale. Do you think that after the pandemic is over we will just go back to 2 or 3? No. The government control of our lives will go down to 5 or 6, maybe even 7. Some of our freedoms will be returned because we can’t be trusted with all of them ever again. Isn’t this what happened after the “first” lockdown? It ended and we were able to go back to work, but we still could have a limited number of guests at a birthday party, we still couldn’t protest, we couldn’t enter a pub without providing our contact details. Our lives did not return to normal at all. And now it seems like we are just going to live from one lockdown to another unless people, both in their homes and in the parliament wake up. Will we ever get our freedoms back? Will we ever go back down on that scale? It is up to us, and I owe it to my son to fight for his right to be a free human being. I may fail. I may be wrong about this, but I have to try.
If you’re still asking yourself why won’t this guy just follow the rules or get back to where he came from, I can’t help you. I’ve written enough. What I’ve written here might sound trivial to you. Wearing a mask, queuing to shops, essential travel? These aren’t that bad, are they? I should just suck it up and do the right thing. The horrors or Fascism and Communism have been widely documented, so I don’t need to get into them. What I’ve written here are, what I believe to be, the early signs and symptoms of these horrors and of that misery. What the people were and still are subjected to in communist regimes can come for us all. It can be disguised as convenience, safety, equality, a pretty smile of a politician, protection and security and before we know it, we will lose all our freedom because we consented to it one small step at a time. I value freedom, therefore I cannot sacrifice it to make you feel safe. Thank you for reading.