Deserts of Mars, like the deserts of our mind are largely unexplored and alien to us, sometimes even hostile. Yet we know what they look like. We've all walked both of these deserts, but while Mars, while mysterious, appears to be just an abandoned rock, perhaps the reflection of our future or a tale of our past, our mind is more than a desert. There are thoughts, ideas and theories. There are memories and predictions. There are opinions, beliefs and secrets. There are experiences, desires and taboos.
Not everything here is in order. Some of it may be hostile to you. It might offend and scare you, but there is beauty in this hostility. I promise, I am only an explorer myself, even though this is my desert and my mind, I am merely a tourist. Welcome to my desert.
This is something that has been on my mind for a long time – long before I became a father myself. Why do some parents pierce their infants’ and toddlers’ ears? I can’t get over it. As a parent, your job is to do what’s in the best interest of the child. Are piercings really in their best interest? Are they really necessary? Every time I see a little girl with a shiny dot in her ear, I look at the parents and wish I could ask them why they did this. Was it worth it? It’s not like it’s in the best interest of the child. The child didn’t ask for it and even if she expressed any interest in her mom’s piercings, what kind of mother just goes, “yeah, let’s get you one of these, sweetheart!”? I highly doubt any fathers out there decide to take their daughters to Claire’s and get them an ear piece, but how do they just allow it?
Some people might be sitting there thinking, “Oh, it’s just a little prick, what is the big deal?” Well, the thing is, it’s still not in the best interest of the child. It doesn’t make her life any better and it’s pretty clear it just the mom’s weird desire to put shiny things on her daughter while causing her pain in the process. Just let kids be kids and leave their bodies alone.
It’s not even that I am judging somebody’s style of parenting. This has nothing to do with parenting. Style of parenting would be the way the child is being disciplined or whether she is allowed any screen time, not whether the parents put shiny objects in her ears.
I already know the answer to the question, though. It’s probably something along the lines of, “because it’s pretty”, or “cute”. But is this really a good enough reason? I don’t think so.
It’s been so long since I wrote on this page. So long since I wrote anything at all. It seems like, since COVID ended, nothing is worth talking about. Sure there is the war and there is the big abortion debate in America, but I am not really interested in these issues. Life is moving on for me and I haven’t had time to sit down and gather my thoughts on anything for almost a year. Actually, I haven’t made time to do it. But how could I? Between working and being a father to a toddler it’s really not easy to fit many other activities. But writing is such a great tool to find out what we really think that I decided to spend even as little as ten minutes a day to spill my thoughts on the keyboard.
Looking into the notes on my phone, I can see ideas I’ve had for articles – many of them thought provoking and controversial. Many of them, unfortunately, are no longer relevant. I was writing a great piece exposing the behaviour of people during the pandemic – how many people did “the right thing” simply because everyone else was doing it. But then it became old news and I am happy with that. I don’t want to live in the past. I see so many people on social media still exposing the lies, still fighting. I can’t live like this. I even think it’s time to admit that many of our predictions were, in fact, just conspiracy theories and we were simply wrong about them.
It surprises me, for example, how many of the people who were against the lockdowns and everything that happened, were also complete lunatics when it came to other things. The whole anti-lockdown movement has been crowded with people who believe dinosaurs never existed and that the Earth is flat. They believe star signs have a real meaning in determining our past, present and future – also known as astrology. I don’t buy any of that. It’s only when I look at some of the things we have been saying with some distance or when I hear others saying them still today, I cringe with embarrassment that I at some point said the same things.
I think many people who were fighting the good fight now suffer from the same thing they accused others of suffering from – the Stockholm Syndrome. They used to say, we used to say that people wanted to be stuck in an endless circle of lockdowns and were filling to cut the government some slack for their lies and incompetence. Now that everything seems to be back to normal, at least for the most part, people still think we are in the fight between good and evil. They refuse to believe that we’ve either won the battle or that it is over and we were wrong. We were wrong to think there was a conspiracy to get us all vaccinated, microchipped or eliminated. What they think, instead, is that all this is still happening but has been postponed because of the resistance. Resistance? Please! Comparing to the compliance, resistance was fragile and tiny. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still resist if we were faced with the slightest sign of government overreach and tyranny. I’d rather die on my feet than spend my life on my knees.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the general population were getting fed up with face masks, PCR tests and all that crap we were made to do to go about our lives, the general population have also shown that no matter how inconvenient things get, how wrong they might feel they’d still comply. Especially in the UK, I think, where people don’t have a history of suffering, fighting for independence and against tyranny. If you grew up in Eastern Europe, like me, you’d have it in your blood. In England, people will be walked into by someone and still apologise. You can’t stand up to a tyrant, if you believe there is one, if you apologise for being walked into by someone.
I’m not even sorry. It’s time to admit we were wrong about some things. The sky is probably not being sprayed with chemicals designed to kill some of us. After all, the people behind it would be exposing themselves or their families to the same danger. When I pointed this out to someone, they said, “well, the elite have their way to get away from it”. The dinosaurs most likely did exist and their bones are as old as scientists say they are. Our blue planet most likely is round and not flat and Soros probably doesn’t want to see the world burn.
I won’t edit this. It was just for me to find out what’s on my mind today.
It looks like, fingers crossed, the restrictions are finally going away on the 19th July. This article may, therefore, be irrelevant, but there are still people (and a lot of them, too) who wish for the restrictions to remain and for lockdown to continue. This article is for them. It’s something I started writing a couple of months ago, but then a little bit of freedom got in the way and I didn’t see the point. As I work on other material, here is “Lockdown for Dummies”.
About a week ago, the world leaders got on their private jets and gathered in Cornwall to discuss some important issues and pose for some socially distanced pictures before mingling like old friends, laughing and drinking like the issues they had come to discuss were all a joke. Face masks were only worn by the peasants serving them alcohol and clearing their tables. The so called “elites”, including the Queen herself, were enjoying each other’s uncovered faces like the Indian, Nepal, Thai and Delta COVID strains were all made up tales they had been telling us for months to keep us obedient. Kind of like that mother in the shop who tells her naughty toddler that “the man will tell her off” or “the man will take her away”, just to make her settle down. When I worked in retail, I often found myself in the position of “the man” and I never wanted to.
As they discussed, shook hands and posed for fake pictures, we learned that Boris Johnson was planning to postpone the “Freedom Day”. This was no surprise to me, to be honest. I must admit, however, since April 12, things for me have been rather normal. I’ve even seen people commenting on feeling the same – gyms are open, shops are open, pubs are open and so on. Some people even demand that people like me explain why we continue to protest and raise our voices when things are now more or less “normal”. This normality, however, is just an illusion. There are still many things we cannot do, jobs lost, and medical treatments delayed. Many people still fail to understand those real-life consequences of prolonging this nightmare called lockdown. For these dummies, I shall use a real-life analogy to illustrate how locking the country down to protect one group of people negatively affects other groups of people and nobody can or should really claim to know what sacrifice is required by us for the greater good.
(At the moment of writing this, so called experts are calling for another “Winter lockdown”, which makes it even more essential for people to understand why lockdowns are harmful and why they are a mistake we should not only never repeat but hold our politicians criminally responsible for it.)
Back in February of this year, Mark, the CEO of the gym I work at, well, I worked at before the apocalypse, called upon all his employees to give them the good and the bad news. Before I get to them, let me give you a little background.
The gym is only a small part of the well-established charity that operates nationwide. They run charity shops, provide housing, shelter for homeless people and support physical activity by providing access to cheap gym and other fitness activities for all levels and ages, including gymnastics for young kids. They do a lot for the community and they have been for many years.
Mark organised a Zoom meeting with everyone working at the Watford gym. He had good and bad news to tell us. The good news was that the charity was expanding and extending their helping hand to the local homeless people. The heads of the charity had decided to end homelessness in the local area. Everyone agreed that it was a Nobel goal. Unfortunately, the good news was also the bad news. The only way for this to happen was to transform the gym into a living area for the homeless. The idea was to turn the gym into a couple of dozen self-sufficient (and COVID19 secure) rooms for the homeless people already sheltering using the charity’s services to move on and step back into a normal life. In other words, what Mark was telling us was that we weren’t coming back when gyms would reopen, and our jobs were gone.
I was only ever a casual worker and I still had full time job waiting for me in April, but some people had worked there for a couple of decades. I remember Vicky and Joe both working there fifteen years ago when I first signed up to be a member of the gym. We had all felt connected to that place in one way or another and felt like part of us was being ripped out of us and slaughtered in front of us with no justification. Suddenly, ending homelessness wasn’t on our minds. Joe was the most vocal about his feelings. He was devastated. He thought it was unfair. He said that he thought us and the service we provided as a fitness facility, the community we had built didn’t matter to the people signing it all away. He brought up that mental health of people relying on our gym was being neglected and the decision to close us down was disrespectful to our two thousand members and staff. He complained that there was no impact assessment, no consultation and no easy transition and concluded that he had expected better. He acknowledged that helping homeless people was a great initiative but felt betrayed. He didn’t believe that creating twenty-four affordable rooms for rough sleepers justified sacrificing gym staff and members. Mark sat in front of his laptop and responded to Joe’s points in the manner of a politician and he wasn’t taking ownership of the decision and its negative impact on thousands of people, but we all agreed with Joe, who felt very passionate about his views.
After the first lockdown, we had to telephone every member to let them know we were reopening. I was given a list of people to call and welcome them back. Almost all the people on my list were born during WW2. The vast majority of them didn’t own a mobile phone or had an email address and access to the internet. Our gym was the only gym in the area that could accommodate people in that age group. It was quiet, bright and accessible. Most gyms have adopted online joining process, but at our gym everything was still done the old-fashioned way – by filling up the paperwork at the reception, a process a lot easier for people without a computer or a smartphone. Now, these people had virtually nowhere to go to remain physically active.
Our building was also home for local Gymnastic Club, who just over two years ago spent £100k on new equipment and have now been left with nowhere to go. Their small team provided lessons for hundreds of young children a week, who are now also left with limited options. Sure, their parents might find another gymnastic club in the area, but they might not. We were in the heart of our town – easy to get to by car, bus or foot. Other places might not be that accessible for many parents. Many children might also not like the new environment and will simply give up all together.
It’s tempting to say that the gym staff, the gymnastic club team, the elderly gym members and the children and their parents simply must adapt, find a new job, new gym and new venue. It seems easy enough. But it’s not. This place meant something to all these people. They’ve invested their life and career in this place. They’ve committed to it. And for the members and the children change might not be that easy and might never come. It’s not as simple as signing up at a different place. If you’ve ever lacked motivation, focus, determination, passion, willingness to change, found it hard to adapt to a new situation, even temporarily, then you know that a lot of things have to happen inside of our minds for a simple change in our behaviour to take place. Simply put, many of these people will never resume their fitness journey.
The cause – to save the homeless people – was very generous and virtuous, but it came at a cost. It meant that people would lose jobs, careers, way to maintain good mental health and physical wellbeing and quite possibly, the only place where they could make friends. Imagine for a moment that we are not talking about saving every last homeless person in Watford, but about protecting the vulnerable from catching COVID19 or the NHS from becoming overwhelmed. To achieve these goals, the government acts like Mark, the CEO we met earlier. They decide what people need protecting and at what price. This price has been paid by many of us in multiple currencies. We’ve been told to put our own mental and physical health on hold so that we wouldn’t “pass it on”. We’ve had our cancer treatment postponed, delayed or cancelled. We’ve lost our jobs, not been able to pay rent, mortgage or simple bills because of furlough pay cut. Our marriages have suffered, relationships ended. We’ve dived deeper into loneliness and depression. We’ve lived in a state of constant fear and guilt. All this to protect a small number of people who may suffer from coronavirus. All to protect them by treating them like they all want the same thing and COVID19 is their only Kryptonite and nothing else could possibly hurt them. Many of them, just like many homeless people, simply don’t want help. They want to be left alone and do their own thing. They don’t want any authority telling them how to live and that they need their help. It’s insulting.
There you have it. Lockdown for dummies. Looks nice on paper, but in the end, behind the scenes, people suffer greatly as a result of decisions made by government who treat us like a concept, like a collective and not individuals with individual goals, wants, needs and fears. We can’t all be treated like sick people because we won’t all react to coronavirus the same way. We can’t all be protected from coronavirus if the price of this protection is too high and we end up losing valuable time and experiences just to stay alive. That’s why the best policy has always been personal responsibility. Don’t wait for the government to restrict or ruin the lives of everyone so that you can be safe. Take ownership of your life and your health and simply restrict your own life to keep yourself safe. You’ve done it for a year with government’s orders, you can now continue doing it voluntarily. Sure, you might lose your job for continuous self-isolating, but many of us have. Sure, you might lose your relationship because you don’t want to go out, but it’s ok, many of us have. You might get fat because you refuse to go back to the gym, but it’s ok, many of us have.
The choice is yours. Always has been. Are you going to be a dummy?
Nazi Germany – a dark and shameful chapter in our not-so-distant past. We have written books about it, made movies and documentaries. Some of them attempt to answer the question we all ask ourselves: How was it allowed to happen? The best answer I’ve come across comes from Milton Mayer, a German – American professor and journalist, who in the early 1950s, when the wounds of war, the shame and regret were still healing, spent six months interviewing and befriending ten Nazis to answer that very question. What Mayer hadn’t told his ten Nazi friends was that he was Jewish. In 1955, his book – They thought they were free – composed of the testimonies and memories of these Nazis, was published. It was, in my opinion, not only the answer to the question that haunts us all, but also a warning that humanity is always one obedient step away from walking into the wired fence of a new regime.
This book should, in my opinion, snap anyone out of their daydream. It should be a wake-up call for those who are still under the illusion that we will soon get our lives back, our freedom back. This illusion, this fantasy that if we just keep our heads down, follow along, listen to the guidance, obey the rules and never ask any questions we will get back to normal. But just a few fragments from Mayer’s book, which I quoted below, show that this delusion is nothing new. You will see that all the justifications for your inaction and non-resistance to the restrictions have been made before. All excuses for the existence and necessity of these restrictions have been made before. All your thoughts have been thought before. All your reasons, yes, ALL of them, to passively follow the tyrant and allow him to take your freedoms away, little by little, have been reasoned before. All your arguments have been argued before. All your nightmares, dreams of heroic uprising and resistance have been dreamt (and crushed) before. And in the near future, in five or ten years, or six months, I will tell you that your shame, regret and embarrassment have been felt before. But then, just as it one day was in Nazi Germany, it will be too late.
I am aware that there are people who get offended when COVID restrictions and Nazi Germany are used in the same sentence. But the very reason that Nazi Germany has burdened, traumatised, terrorized and haunted every generation since and yet people who lived through it, participated in it or turned a blind eye to it said EXACTLY the same things we hear today, is why it needs to be talked about. The same obedience existed in Nazi Germany – a far greater horror than “getting paid to stay at home” – and the same obedience was reasoned and excused just the same as it is today. This is what is frightening – the fact that during much worse and clear enslavement people still did nothing. That is why comparing today’s inaction and submission to the state to that in Hitler’s Germany makes sense – because people still did nothing and people today, too, are doing nothing.
Non-resistance to the milder indulgences paves the way to the non-resistance to the deadlier
Milton Mayer (They thought they were free)
Take Germany as a city cut off from the outside world by flood or fire advancing from every direction. The mayor proclaims martial law, suspending council debate. He mobilizes the populace, assigning each section its tasks. Half the citizens are at once engaged directly in the public business. Every private act - a telephone call, the use of an electric light, the service of a physician becomes a public act. Every private right - to take a walk, to attend a meeting, to operate a printing press becomes a public right. Every private institution - the hospital, the church, the club becomes a public institution. Here, although we never think to call it by any name but pressure of necessity, we have the whole formula of totalitarianism.
Please suspend for a minute your assumptions about the world you know today. Resist the urge to say that your government would never do this or that coronavirus is a different or real threat or that the measures are justified. Whether the powers that be indented or not, in the past year, they have followed the formula of totalitarianism almost to the letter. The author continues:
The individual surrenders his individuality without a murmur, without, indeed, a second thought and not just his individual hobbies and tastes, but his individual occupation, his individual family concerns, his individual needs. The primordial community, the tribe, re-emerges, its preservation the first function of all its members. Every normal personality of the day before becomes an "authoritarian personality." A few recalcitrants have to be disciplined (vigorously, under the circumstances) for neglect or betrayal of their duty. A few groups have to be watched or, if necessary, taken in hand - the antisocial elements, the liberty-howlers, the agitators among the poor, and the known criminal gangs. For the rest of the citizens, 95 per cent or so of the population, duty is now the central fact of life. They obey, at first awkwardly but, surprisingly soon, spontaneously.
Notice how this fragment describes the rise of tyranny without mentioning any atrocity, mass murder or prison camps. It just talks about an emergency.
Haven’t we all been asked, coerced and forced to abandon our individuality, our needs and interests for “the greater good”? Haven’t those who questioned it or refused to do so been disciplined, shamed, arrested, fined and censored? People who have preferred liberty over safety have been patronised and punished if they protested, while the majority have obeyed the rules (even admitting they made no sense), awkwardly at first, but then spontaneously, forming an orderly socially distanced queue and even turning on those who refused to get in line.
The community is suddenly an organism, a single body and a single soul, consuming its members for its own purposes. For the duration of the emergency the city does not exist for the citizen but the citizen for the city. The harder the city is pressed, the harder its citizens work for it and the more productive and efficient they become in its interest. Civic pride becomes the highest pride, for the end purpose of all one's enormous efforts is the preservation of the city. Conscientiousness is the highest virtue now, the common good the highest good […] What if the emergency persists, not for weeks, months, or even years, but for generations and for centuries? Unrelieved sacrifice requires compensation in the only specie available.
The author uses this analogy to show how easily regular people can obediently walk into the trap of a tyrant without even realising it, without even noticing the chains on their ankles. And still, no genocide has been mentioned. Just simple, blind and unsuspecting obedience.
But then it was too late
Men who did not know that they were slaves, do not know that they have been freed
Milton Mayer (They thought they were free)
What no one seemed to notice[...] was the ever-widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany, and it became always wider. [...] What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people little by little to being governed by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret, to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him made it easier to widen this gap and reassure those who would otherwise have worried about it.
Whether it’s deliberate or not, our government is using the same tactics, the same excuses to impose restrictions on us, create legislations and rules. They can’t trust the public to make their own decisions, can’t trust us with the information or can’t trust we would understand it. We are, after all, just ignorant peasants who need to be guided and ruled over. We are incapable of making our own decisions and choosing what’s best for us based on information available to us. We aren’t allowed to make mistakes or poor judgement – these belong in the free world. Those who adore the prime minister, will follow him even to their doom.
This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised - perhaps not even intentionally - as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crisis and reforms, real reforms too, so occupied the people that they did not see the slow-motion underneath of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
“Temporary emergency measure” – sound familiar? Each rule, each legislation over the last year has been rushed and put in place before it had a chance to be voted on and before people had the chance to familiarise themselves with their rights and how they were being violated. Notice, too, the use of “little by little” and “gradual” – everything about the rise of tyranny was slow and patient.
One had no time to think, there was so much going on [..] the dictatorship and its whole process of its coming into being was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway [...] Most of us did not want to think about the fundamental things and never had, there was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful fundamental things to think about and kept us so busy with continuous changes and crisis and fascinated, yes fascinated by the machinations of the national enemies without and within that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing little by little all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?
To live in this process it's absolutely not to be able to notice it [...] each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or on occasion regretted that unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these little measures that no patriotic German could resent must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing - one day it is over his head.
Because Nazi Germany is so terrifying to us today, it is even more important to read this man’s words and realise that he (and others in the book) didn’t just live through a questionable crisis or emergency. They were reflecting on what they by then knew had been the biggest crime against humanity. Yet they spoke so casually throughout this book as if all they had done was organising a few illegal gatherings during a pandemic.
Today, people, too, don’t like to think about their fundamental rights and freedoms. They never had to. Compared to safety and obedience, they are trivial and unnecessary to them. They don’t believe they were ever free. Now that they are enslaved they can’t even see the difference.
Notice too, that after the war and the Holocaust, these Germans were able to reflect on what had happened, what they had been blind to or obeyed willingly but had had no idea where all these small steps were taking them. You should, too, reflect on the last year and think on each of these small and inconsequential steps, often introduced as necessary, taken by the government, each small restriction and mandate, each promise and moved goalpost. Ask yourself: What if this is how it happens? What if this is how citizens lose their liberty, privacy and rights?
[...] 'resist the beginnings and consider the end', but one must foresee the end in order to resist or even see the beginnings; one must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done?
Unlike the Germans in 1930’s, we CAN learn from history. We can recognise the beginnings and foresee the end. We would be foolish to think that a modern-day tyranny can’t emerge in our country. Later in the book, the author tells us how those very Germans, living in Nazi regime, were convinced that fascism would never happen in their country. They thought such regime was only possible in Russia or Italy. Isn’t this what we say? That dictatorships are a thing of savage past or savage lands?
Pastor Muller said that 'when the Nazis attacked for the communists, he was a little uneasy, but after all he was not a communist, so he did nothing; and then they attacked the socialists and he was a little uneasier, but still he was not a socialist and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews and so on and he was always uneasier but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the church, and he was a churchman, and he did something but then it was too late.
In other words, you may be comfortable now. You may have convinced yourself by now that what has been taken from you was never of any real value to you anyway. You may think that everyone should be forced to wear a mask, get injected and require proof of it to go into a nightclub. You may believe all that because you have no problem doing any of it. You may not believe in personal choice and freedom in this matter. But there will come a day when they come for you too. On that day, remember pastor Muller and his chilling realisation.
One doesn't see exactly where or how to move; each act, each occasion is worse than the last, but only a little worse, you wait for the next and the next, you wait for one great shocking occasion thinking that others, when such shocking comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act or even talk alone, you don't want to go out of your way to make trouble. Why not? Well you're not in a habit of doing it, and it is not just fear, fear of standing alone that restrains you, it is also a genuine uncertainty. Uncertainty is a very important factor and instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside in the street, in the general community everyone is happy; one hears no protests and certainly sees none. In your own community you speak privately to your friends, some of whom certainly feel as you do, but what do they say? They say 'it's not so bad' or that you're seeing things or you're an alarmist. And you are an alarmist. You are saying that THIS must lead to THIS and you can't prove it; these are the beginnings, but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end and how do you know the end? On the one hand, your enemy - the regime, the party - intimidate you, on the other your friends poo poo you as pessimistic or even neurotic.
A few weeks ago, I attended the anti-lockdown protest in London. There were tens of thousands of people marching by my side. Last week, there was a round two and an even greater number of people marched through the streets of London, protesting vaccine passports and further restrictions. The mainstream media failed to report on such large and overwhelming gathering and when they did, they claimed there were just a few hundred protesters. Boris Johnson has not addressed any of it, even though we are his people, and we are clearly uneasy and anxious about something. This lack of response creates an illusion that there is no resistance, that everyone is happy and obedient.
And again, we are reminded of how small and insignificant the steps of the tyrant are. We are reminded that calling for resistance and mass disobedience grants you a label of an alarmist or a conspiracy theorist or a denier.
But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds of thousands will join you never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes millions would have been sufficiently shocked - if let us say, the gassing of the Jews in 1943 had come immediately after the “German firm” stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in 33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than step B, and if you didn't not make a stand at step B, why should you at step C? And so on to step D. And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy and a minor incident [...] collapses it all at once and you see that everything, EVERYTHING has changed and changed completely under your nose. [...] now you live in a world of hate and fear and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves. When everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system that rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
I think the above fragment speaks for itself. I will end on this, however: All ten Nazis interviewed in the book had trouble answering one simple question – what they thought they had done wrong. When trying to explain their actions and what was right and what was wrong, good or evil, they always answered with what had been legal or illegal, popular and unpopular. Think about it for a second – of course they were ashamed of their actions and couldn’t face the responsibility for that shame, so, instead, quoted the rules. Sound familiar? The rules dictated their morality. The law was their moral compass. They thought they were free. Do you think you are free?
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 out
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.
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…
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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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.
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 person
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?
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”.
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