Speaking out for Free Speech

Freedom of speech has been going extinct in the UK for a few years now. On paper, we have the right to freely express ourselves, but in practice, if someone gets offended or if you’re spreading conspiracy theories, they will come for you with torches and demand your head. This rather long article is my way of getting my head around the subject as well as an attempt to defend free speech and why I think we should embrace it, cherish it and use it in the name of truth.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”

George Orwell

Cover your eyes

I don’t have too many memories of my father. He left before he was able to pass on his wisdom to me, but today I am reminded of one particular Sunday afternoon. The year was 1996 or 1997 and I was just nine or ten. My dad had by then infected me with his love for martial arts movies. He was to me an action star himself. He could do side splits and handstand with almost no effort at all. That afternoon we were sitting in the living room and watching the newly released on VHS Rumble in the Bronx with no other than Jackie Chan, who is known for his impressive fight skills, fight choreography and being his own stunt double. His movies, though action packed, are usually family friendly with moderate violence and nothing extremely upsetting or offensive. We were both admiring his athleticism, and my dad was excited to introduce me to him. He’d say to me, “He does all these dangerous stunts himself, you know? He’s nothing like those Hollywood fakes”. As Jackie Chan kicked, punched, jumped and climbed and surfed his way through the movie, something unexpected happened. His character was about to kiss a girl.

In order to explain what happened next and why it matters in the context of free speech, let me take you back a little. My sister and I often watched movies, either on TV or on VHS, with our parents. The unwritten rule was simple: don’t look when they tell us to. This meant that whenever there was nudity or violence in the movie, we weren’t allowed to see it. This might sound like a weird practice to you, but you have to understand that this was before sex and violence were everywhere. There was no internet, no violent video games, and movies rarely included sex scenes (and when they did, they were like a kiss on the cheek in today’s standards), and music videos focused more on telling a story than on showing tits and asses. Of course, these things did exist, but they did not flood the TV screens like they do today. Not in 1990s Catholic Poland anyway. Those days the only way I could be exposed to a naked female body was by discovering my dad’s secret stash of Playboys, which I did. I remember taking some of the magazines down to my parents’ shop and showing them to their young female employee, Renata. Because I had no real concept of age and I segregated people into grownups and kids, I never thought Ms Renata, as I called her, was perhaps a lot younger than my parents. She might have been twenty at the time. Me and Renata were friends. They sold electronics, so the shop was never too busy. I often came down after school with comic books and we’d read them together. Sometimes, Ms Renata helped me with some schoolwork too. Imagine the surprise on her face when, instead of the latest Batman comic book, I brought down a bunch of Playboys. We looked through them together without a shade of embarrassment. We both laughed when one of the models’ name was Renata. I don’t know if she ever told my parents. You can see how, before the internet or on demand TV, the only time you could see these things was if you physically went to a shop (no self-check outs either), picked up a copy of the dirty magazine, walked up to the cash desk, looked the lady in the eye, handed her the magazine and paid for it. If you’ve never done it, it is a pretty embarrassing experience, trust me. So, you can imagine that even Renata might have not been exposed to such pictures too often.

And now Jackie Chan is kissing the girl. My dad looks at me and, just like a hundred times before, orders me to close my eyes. But this time, I don’t. I look on. In my head, I am ready to see this. Not necessarily because of the Playboys because I don’t remember if I discovered them before or after this afternoon. I just think I am ready. I am not a kid anymore. I want to see the forbidden scene. “I can handle this, dad”, I think to myself. The kiss doesn’t last that long, but it goes on forever in light of my disobedience. My dad is not happy. The look on his face says if all as he repeats, “Don’t look!”. The anger mixed with surprise, disappointment, embarrassment and powerlessness are all painted on his face as he witnesses, what I believe to be, the moment I become a man.  “Why?”, I demand. Silence. The movie goes on, Jackie gets the girl and I learn that it’s important to be the good guy of your story, and I also learn that adults do this disgusting thing called kissing – Yuck!

Looking back, I know my parents only tried to protect me from being exposed to what they knew and thought I wasn’t ready to see. I think this is reasonable. Parents should keep their children from harm, even if it means not letting them look at scenes they may not understand or that may upset them. You could say that parents get to censor certain content to protect their children’s vulnerable minds.

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What is speech?

If everything you did was right, you would never know what was wrong

Matthew McConaughey

As I write these words, someone is making a You Tube video expressing their views on climate change. By the time I finish the next sentence, millions of Twitter users will have condensed their complex thoughts into a narrow box of a tweet and posted them on the platform. Some of them will get hundreds, perhaps even thousands of retweets by other users who either agree or disagree with the statement they’re responding to. Somewhere else two friends are having a drink and are trying to settle their argument about the ending of Inception. Some politicians are having a debate about taxes. By the time I finish expressing my views here, millions of students around the world will have raised their hands in the classroom, ready to answer a question or ask one themselves. Millions of preachers and priests around the globe will have told the faithful about the glory of God and his kingdom, while thousands if not millions of job seekers will have declared themselves non – religious on a job application. All while someone somewhere, unaware of it all, is thinking and wondering about the world. He asks questions and ponders the possibilities. He is thinking.

What is speech? It’s all of the above because speech is communication. Speech is thought spoken out loud. Speech is the extension of a thought which then becomes known as “your opinion”. A thought that finds its way out to the world. It takes the shape of an idea, a view, a theory, a narrative, a solution. Of course, not all thoughts, when spoken out loud, lead to scientific breakthroughs or million-dollar ideas, but it is by communicating these thoughts to others, can we create new ones. Only by sharing our views can we find out if we are right or wrong and come back with an upgraded worldview. Without telling others what we think, what we believe to be true, without communicating, it is impossible to replace bad ideas with good ones or see the problem we are facing from a different perspective. We must all believe we are free to speak our mind. We must all value this ancient contract in order to be able to connect, solve problems and continue to prosper. Speech is a platform, the town square for our thoughts to meet, to gather,  to mate, and language is a tool that allows them to flirt and create other thoughts. Speech is an arena where thoughts of people, like the gladiators in Ancient Rome, can fight to the death. Free speech is the right of an individual to allow their thoughts to come out and hope to be interacted with. Free speech is the right of an individual to present his or her thoughts to those who will listen. It is their right to do so without the fear of violence, persecution and with hopes of being listened to, understood, agreed or disagreed with, related to, learned from. It is the right to repeat a joke, share a meme. It is their right to say, “I don’t believe you!”. It is the right to let their thoughts, which are largely influenced by the outside world, to be spoken out loud. If speech is not free, and I mean all speech, then neither is thought. If speech becomes a crime, then so does the thought.

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What is a thought?

Around the time I found those Playboys, my sister had a pet parrot. We learned that pet birds enjoy seeing their own reflection in the mirror, so we put one in her cage. God, I miss those days – when you couldn’t Google everything so every fact or information you found out felt like a ground-breaking discovery. I think this is what makes my generation unique. We spent our childhoods without our faces glued to mobile phones, our parents had to worry about bruises on our knees and not online predators, sexual content and social media bullying. Now we get to spend our adulthood consuming as much information as we want without taking technology, that makes it possible, for granted. But I digress. The mirror detached from the cage and fell on top of the parrot and she died. My sister was upset. She was only about five or six. The mirror tricked the parrot into thinking she had company. Her tragic death in the loneliness of the cage was caused by something that was supposed to save her sanity.

A thought is like that parrot in the cage. Instead of feathers she is made of words, images and memories. The cage is all she knows. What if she were to escape? What if she were set free? Through the mouth of the cage the parrot would announce her presence, her freedom to the world. And so, out through the window she goes. Still just the same, but now she gets to interact with the great outside. As she flaps her wings awkwardly, trying her best to do what she’s been designed to do, she gets noticed. Other birds (thoughts), who have been free for as long as they can remember, observe her with suspicion. Her unconventional colours and her unfamiliar song threaten, puzzle, fascinate, gain admiration, cause a debate above and below all at once. From this interaction alone, they all learn something they didn’t know before. The birds who all look the same, sing the same, behave the same, have learned that it is possible to be different. They now know that there is a world beyond their colony. The parrot now understands that the outside world can be uninviting. She knows now that she has to learn to communicate. She knows that not everyone will understand her song, its meaning, its context and her intentions. Richer in experience she can now go back to her cage and reflect, then try again tomorrow.

This is what happens to our thoughts. They live in our head. They remain unchanged, unchallenged, unconfirmed for as long as they stay unrevealed. These thoughts, these ideas, claims and theories that form in our heads need to be exposed to the sunlight. Only then can they grow and become better. Bad ideas and radical thoughts, when exposed, can be stopped in their tracks. They can be debunked, criticized, ridiculed, questioned and possibly destroyed. Interesting ideas, theories and points of view, on the other hand, can be pondered, explored, learned from, praised, helpful, revealing and revolutionary. We only ever find out when our thoughts turn into speech. If our idea has the potential to make the world a little better, we won’t know until we share it with someone who can put it into practice. If our opinion is wrong, unfounded, based on false information, formed on incomplete evidence, then only by exposing it to someone who may have already battled with the same arguments, can we really know if we’re onto something or not. If we allow our thought to stare at its own reflection, it may die admiring its own greatness before ever reaching its full potential, or it may live on and forever remain a delusion. I will argue that even if our opinion is clearly wrong or offensive it needs to be free to express. It may be, no matter how incorrect or hateful, based on pure ignorance and indoctrination.

Imagine if the parrot that was set free earlier is some form of a narcist, extremist or a heretic. She loves her blue, green and yellow feathers. After all it’s all she’s ever admired when she stared in her own reflection. Nobody ever challenged her. She flies out of the window and into the city and she sees that pigeons act like savages. They fight, they eat McDonalds leftovers on the street, they lack any manners, they poop everywhere. She comes to a conclusion that all pigeons are inferior to her. All grey birds are inferior, in fact. They are dirty, she thinks. She is now convinced that parrots are smarter, superior, more intelligent, cleaner, smell nicer and are more beautiful than all grey, black and white birds. She is a bigot. We know she is a bigot because we know what she thinks. Most of the time, we don’t know what people, or parrots think. We only know what they decide to share with us. How can we engage with the parrot’s views if we don’t know what they are? If she tells us her opinion, we can then explain to her why she is wrong. Both of us must feel confident that we are free to express ourselves without the threat of violence or punishment. We both must feel comfortable that our thoughts are safe when we let them out of our cage. Without it, no real progress can be made. Our opinions and arguments will never meet, they will stay in our heads and confirm their righteousness in their own reflection. Here they don’t die, like our parrot did earlier, they remain a delusion that never gets debunked.

It seems like in the world today, we prefer to prevent people from expressing their thoughts rather than dealing with those thoughts. Stopping a heretic, extremist or a conspiracy theorist from expressing their views does not eliminate heretics, extremism or conspiracies. It only suppresses an individual’s right to tell their truth, often pushing them further into their illusion by confirming their convictions. Racism, sexism, homophobia still exist despite the so-called hate speech laws. Facebook, Twitter or You Tube can delete offensive content all they want, but it will not turn the world into a big happy politically correct utopia. I am not saying that hateful content should be unfiltered (threats of violence or calls for violence should be reported and deleted), but I am saying that this only makes things look nice on the surface and the problems it tries to solve still exist. Would we prefer our parrot to remain silent about her racism, or would we prefer to know about it and engage with it, find the root of it and try to reason with it? It wouldn’t be easy, it could be impossible, but simply censoring her speech would not solve the problem at all. We can always choose to distance ourselves from the bigots. We are free to think. Speech is the expression and extension of thought. Thoughts seek validation. Speech should, therefore, be free as it is just a thought, just an idea that can be confirmed or debunked only by someone else using his freedom to speak his mind.

Of course, we can all read a book or go online to confirm or debunk our beliefs. But even a book can only exist because the author and the scientists and philosophers, he quoted in his book, all exercised their freedom of speech. Only thanks to free speech can The Bible and The Origin of Species be sold in the same bookstore. Only thanks to freedom of speech can you pick up both of them and decide which idea makes more sense. Freedom of speech of everyone employs your critical thinking. For thousands of years there has been no other truth other than that preached in churches. As a matter of fact, a few hundred years ago, in Europe, you’d face a certain death if you made a scientific discovery or a claim that went against the teachings of Christianity. In 1600, an Italian man, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive for suggesting that Earth was not the centre of the Universe (something Galileo got away with it just a few decades later and is now credited for that discovery).

 Now, thanks to free speech you can listen to ten different people telling you what they think. You can agree with some and tell others why they are wrong, and they will tell you why you are wrong. The thoughts would be mating and fighting again. This is how critical thinking works. It wouldn’t be possible if our thoughts remained trapped in our heads or censored by those who think you are not ready to see them, that you are not capable of making your own judgement, that you are not an intelligent adult who can think for himself, that you need to be protected from your own thoughts. We don’t need our fathers to cover our eyes anymore. We are ready to see nudity because nudity is truth. We are capable of deciding what to do with it. I might have been just a little kid, but I didn’t go around kissing everyone after seeing Jackie Chan do it. I wasn’t interested in it. Twenty – three years later, I can read psychology books, news articles, watch You Tube videos about UFOs, ghosts or politics, documentaries about the Universe, listen to David Icke talk about lizards, judge Trump’s presidency based on his policies or speeches. I can do all that and decide for myself what I think and believe. I don’t need my views presented to me and formed by a third party. What I need is free and equal access to all sources of information, so I can evaluate it and create my own worldview based on which I can then vote, campaign, work and raise my children. I can be wrong but let me be wrong.

We are still being parented and the content presented to us is filtered and moderated. It’s almost as if we are back in the 90s, all sitting in my living room with my dad, who is deciding what we are and aren’t allowed to see, what we may not understand, what is incorrect or “false information”. He is our moderator and our fact checker. He is our daddy, and his name is Google. You can click here Vaccines or Immune System? – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com) to see just how the information you google is manipulated before it is given to you. Don’t get put off by the title, it was just a quick experiment on what search results you get from Google and a less popular search engine when you search for the same exact phrase.

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Thought crime

Of course, words have consequences. Whatever you say may be used against you. You tell the wrong joke at the wrong party, and you will be remembered as that inappropriate guy never to appear on the guest list again. The same joke worked when you said it to a few of your friends, and it worked even better when it was said by Ricky Gervais on the stage and in front of a thousand people. But at that party, people didn’t appreciate your dark humour. What for one person is “you shouldn’t joke about these things”, is “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s so funny!”, to another. The line is different for everyone which means no joke is inappropriate.

In a free country social exile should be the only risk of speaking one’s mind. It is, however, not the case more often than not. In the last few years, the police in the UK have been more and more involved in policing speech and even arresting people for jokes. In 2018, Mark Meechan, a Scottish man, was found guilty of gross offence. His crime? He taught his girlfriend’s cute pug a Nazi salute, filmed it and posted it on You Tube. The video went viral, he was found out, arrested and charged. Now that he faced justice, antisemitism is surely defeated. The people who found the video funny all disappeared. Some would argue, of course, that his joke was in poor taste, but so what? It was too much for them, but the same people would possibly gladly laugh had he made fun of another sensitive subject deemed inappropriate by someone else. It is ridiculous that a man should face criminal charges for a joke, the subject of which was the dog, and not those it offended. What is weird about this situation is that You Tube already has policies in place which ban “offensive” content. Shouldn’t it be as simple as reaching out to You Tube to delete the video? What about all the people who enjoyed and shared it on Facebook? Should they get a visit from the police too? You have to ask yourself, though, who is responsible for the content they put out? If the social media site can remove the video (or entire channels as it turns out) for violation of their terms of use, but at the same time, police can come knocking on your door, shouldn’t it be one or the other? It just seems like the police gets involved to “check your thinking”, and thinking should not be a criminal offence. Thought crime belongs in the Orwellian novel.

Of course, this has to do with political correctness and hate speech. The former has been weaponised to change how people think and the latter has been relabelled and criminalised so that anything “offensive” you say can be used against you. But remember, offense is taken, not given. What should be just a disapproval of your family and friends, now has real criminal consequences. What people who create these laws don’t seem to understand is that you can’t put a joke behind bars. You can’t fine an opinion. No matter how offensive or controversial they sound. You can’t arrest a room full of people who laugh at a racist joke, so why should you arrest the one saying it? The same joke said in a different room would be met with a disappointment and disapproval and that should be the end of it.

It isn’t only offensive content or opinions that you can get in trouble for. I remember the time when you could go on You Tube and go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about 9/11. Plenty of them arguing that either the US government or the Jews were behind the attack. These videos had hundreds of thousands of views, which over ten years ago was a big deal. I admit, I did shortly buy into the theories, but apart from wasting my time watching hours of content, it changed nothing in my life. Now, Google, who bought You Tube a few years ago, are acting like our daddy again. If you type in 9/11 in the search box, your top results will be the so – called reputable sources like CNN and other usual suspects (despite having far less views than the more intriguing conspiracy videos). Alternative journalism, commentary and sources of information are as good as dead on You Tube. Your daddy, Google, not only tells you to look away, but also deletes all the content in case you’re not able to think critically and make your own judgement about it. What used to be a great platform for people to share ideas in a video format has now become just another TV channel. Unless you’re subscribed to various Youtubers, your landing page will have some music videos, movie trailers and news stories and it will be very difficult for you to find other people like yourself and find out what they think. You Tube, Google, Facebook and increasingly the government are like a restaurant where you don’t get shown what’s on the menu. Instead they serve you a meal they think you should eat and enjoy. In this virtual restaurant you are not trusted to decide what meal is good for you. You are not trusted to look at the menu, read the ingredients for yourself and choose your food. You’re just served the same vegan salad as all other guests – bon appétit.

Over the last four years, since I started paying attention, I have witnessed a lot of controversial views being silenced, stomped down, and their authors or even messengers deleted off the internet. I’ve seen a biology professor being removed from Twitter for stating a scientific fact about males and females which went against the transgender ideology. Offensive charm, triggering rants and controversial views got Katie Hopkins deleted from the certainly left leaning platform as well. Stefan Molyneaux, a You Tuber with nearly a million subscribers and nearly a decade of making thought provoking, philosophical videos, was removed from the platform without a warning. Not to mention hundreds of lecturers and speakers on US campuses that were cancelled or met with protests by students who were triggered by their very name. Just this week I read about another attempt at censoring controversial views. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, University professor and a published author. His well thought out, evidence based and eloquently presented and controversial views gained him a large following as well as cult – like hatred. He has become a target of the Left who labelled him with every “ism” you can think of. His publisher, Penguin, have just announced his new book Beyond Order – 12 More Rules for Life. Some of Penguin employees, who believe Peterson to be a Right – Wing fascist, demand the book to be cancelled. A few months ago, a similar thing happened at Spotify, when Joe Rogan, who is Peterson’s close friend, moved his extremely popular podcast from You Tube to Spotify. Some staff at Spotify were not happy to host The Joe Rogan Experience, so they protested. Luckily, both Penguin and Spotify didn’t bend the knee. Their triggered staff however sound a lot like they don’t want you to see the menu and decide what information you want to consume.

Speaking of Joe Rogan, one of his guests and now the 2nd richest man in the world, Elon Musk, said on his show that sometime soon we might have mind reading technology. He suggested that a microchip could not only collect your thoughts but communicate them to somebody else’s brain through their chip. He argued that this technology would allow ideas to communicate more efficiently without the barrier of our vocabulary or inability to express ourselves. With a chip like this, I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing this trying to make my opinion of free speech clear. I’d simply have to transfer my thoughts through my chip to yours without having to explain what I mean. You’d just get it instantly by downloading words and images that form that idea or a thought.

My dad was right to protect my ten – year old self from offensive content I wasn’t ready for. My compass of right and wrong was still developing, and I needed guidance or perhaps he just didn’t want to or didn’t know how to address the questions I’d have after seeing that kiss. His censorship was justified. So where does this put the government or the social media platforms who take it upon themselves to decide what you can and cannot be exposed to? Censorship of speech, opinions, views is not only Orwellian, but also suggests that those who do it consider you and me to be incapable of critical thinking or dealing with negativity and offensive content. They think it is up to them, just like my dad did, to protect your eyes and ears from seeing and hearing what they think you wouldn’t be able to process. They think we are operating on that still developing compass and need them to hold our hand. They think that if you watch an interview with David Icke, you will immediately become a conspiracy theorist. They think that if you listen to Katie Hopkins, you will not be able to filter her words yourself and you will become what people accuse her of being – a racist, which I don’t believe to be the case. These people, whether they sit at the headquarters of Facebook, Google or Twitter or in the Parliament genuinely think that they are superior to us therefore get to decide what you can and cannot read, watch or listen. Yet somehow porn is easier to access than ever. What is so dangerous about believing a so called “conspiracy theory” or spreading or being exposed to so called “hate speech”? What is it that at the same time makes porn so widely available? We are all adults, and we don’t need the information, no matter how crazy or offensive, filtered by these people who think they know better. It is condescending to us and in the long run, ineffective at achieving whatever they’re trying to achieve. Are we not allowed to decide for ourselves anymore?

We already moderate our thoughts and filter what we share with people. We do it because we know words have consequences. We want to maintain social life, so we don’t tell people what we think all the time. Just imagine if someone had access to your mind just for a day. How many times did you think of something offensive? What are some of the taboos you battle over in your head sometimes? Did you ever fantasise about doing something horrible to someone you know? Do you ever have these dark thoughts that just pop into your head out of nowhere? How many of those, if you spoke them out loud, would get you in trouble or make your family, friends and colleagues distance themselves from you? Imagine if someone could open up this diary in your head and read every page. All the embarrassing memories you don’t think of too often, but when you do, you relive that embarrassment again. All those times you imagined beating up that customer. Throughout our day, we only give people a taste of what’s in that diary. Only the stuff we want them to know. In a way, we personalise the menu of what’s on offer in our head. But that’s ok. We want to maintain that friendship, keep that job, see that girl or man again. We censor ourselves and we know when to not say things that are considered crazy or controversial. Unfortunately, now, the Scottish government wants to take away your right to free speech even at your dinner table. They want it to be criminal to make a “controversial” comment while talking to your family and friends at your table. Think about it.

And yet, despite our self-moderation, thought crime is possible. It is possible because we read our diary out to people. We share some of its pages with friends and on social media. By doing so, we give people access into parts of our mind. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s cold, offensive and unfriendly and aggressive. But, if this invitation into your head triggers the wrong response, you may end up losing your friends, your job or worse – with a criminal record preventing you from taking on certain jobs in the future. All because of your thoughts. All because what was in your head came out through your mouth and landed on somebody’s sensitive ears. Now your friends don’t want to be associated with your controversial views, your boss thinks they’re bad for business or for staff integrity, and the law enforcement must defend those fragile feelings of those you did or might have offended, so they must punish you. Your speech is now that kiss scene my dad tried to “protect” me from because he “knew” what was best for me.

Freedom of speech is your right to express yourself; it is your right to be wrong; it is your right to disagree; it is your right to speak your truth; it is your right to explore ideas; it is your right to protest; it is your right to demand answers and evidence; it is your right to consent to refuse and to deny; it is your right to lie; it is your right to think out loud; it is your right to teach and to learn from others; it is your right to laugh at a joke; it is your right to defend your beliefs; it is your right to vote; your right to demand justice; it is your right to listen and say you don’t believe; it is your right to write a tweet, a blog or a book; it is your right to say the unspeakable only because you first thought the unthinkable; it is your right to criticise or to praise. If any authority tries to rob you of that right, they are inevitably robbing you of your consciousness and your right to think.

The bottom line is this. There is time and place to speak our mind. We should all be able to freely hold our beliefs and express our opinions without the interference of the government, social media platforms or our boss if they happen to be your friend of Facebook. Free speech allows us to argue and debate, disagree and criticise. It allows us to listen to and read about different ideas, problems. Free speech allows diversity of opinion, diversity of thinking which are often key to solving problems in the company to figuring out how best to tackle a crisis like COVID19. Without free speech you are not exposed to different ideas. This disables your critical thinking and the ability to think for yourself and shape your own opinions. Similarly, when your phone upgrade is due you surely spend at least a little while comparing the latest phones to choose the one that suits your needs best. The freedom of Apple or Samsung to provide you with the options is your freedom to choose from them. We need free speech. We must not let the corporations or the government take it away from us because when it comes down to it, this is one of our fundamental human rights, given not by them but by Mother Nature herself when she endowed us with the ability to think and to speak. We must not hand it over to the state because without their suits and titles they are just the same as us, governed by the same laws that come from Mother Nature.

Speech is thought, just louder.

The Dark Side of The Greater Good

Why I will not Comply

People don’t understand why I refuse to surrender my life to coronavirus mandates. They call me selfish for not accommodating their fear of COVID19. They call me irresponsible for not doing as I’m told by the government. They think all I care is me. I have vulnerable people in my family, including my asthmatic wife and my mother. Not once, during this pandemic, have I been worried about their health. I have been worried about another threat. This threat does not expose itself in a form of high temperature and a cough. This threat poses a far greater risk, in my opinion and this is why I will not comply…

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Locked down in the darkness

When Italy went into lockdown and the UK shortly after, I, like many others, felt the crushing weight of the situation. Coronavirus had crossed our borders. Cases started rising and soon turned into deaths. It was real. My brother had just returned from a school trip in Italy. Many kids, including him, returned ill. People had emptied the supermarket shelves of everything they thought would help them survive the approaching apocalypse. Soon after my wife told me she was pregnant. She was scared and uncertain. We both were. The doctors had previously told us it was very unlikely for her to ever get pregnant. Even I had accepted the possibility of never becoming a dad.

And there I was ready to abandon everything I stood for, my principles and my dreams of fatherhood. I was ready to throw it all away by convincing myself that I couldn’t possibly bring a child into this world. A world which I believed would, by the time he or she was born, turn into a dystopian nightmare. Everything around me was pointing in that direction. I believed there was no way out and we were all doomed. It was not the mass death I was worried about. I was certain I was witnessing democracy and freedom taking their final breaths. I saw around me the symptoms of the disease that had infected them both – the disease of fear. The disease that, right before my eyes, was bringing the Orwellian future into our present.

I had never believed in abortion, yet there I was, trying to convince myself that it was the right thing to do. I was convincing myself that my baby would be born in chains of tyranny which I saw this country evolving into every week of the lockdown. My wife didn’t share my concerns, but I kept them to myself. She had her own worries. She knew this was most likely her last and only chance to be a mom. She also didn’t want to be one, not now anyway. She also didn’t want to take this away from me. When the doctors told her she would probably never become a mom, she asked me to promise this would never come between us. I reassured her that it would never happen, but I don’t think I fully believed it myself.

A few weeks had passed. I had convinced myself that I was doing it for her, and I was saving the baby from the life of misery I knew was coming for us all. I also knew that she would never… I knew it had to be me to say it. That evening I held her close. The uncertainty and fear sent tears down her cheeks. Even now, as I write this, I try to convince myself that what came out of my mouth next, was for her and the unborn baby, but I know it was just as much, if not more, for myself. I held my tears and said what she dared not to speak. It was truly the darkest moment of my life. We spent the next couple of days deciding. The deciding was mostly about us and what impact the outcome would have on our lives and how it would make us feel. Dark, dark moment. The baby had almost no say in this debate of Good and Evil. I did most of the talking. Eventually, we made the phone call. The woman on the other side was ready to take our details and arrange a quick and discreet appointment. In forty – eight hours it was promised to be all over, but would it ever be forgotten? Would it ever be forgiven? Blame the technology, fate, the universe or God, but we got disconnected. My wife collapsed into tears. The safety of my arms was not enough this time. The promise of a better tomorrow was a lie. The comforting silence was interrupted by our demons banging on the door. This next chapter would be the beginning of another human being’s story. And we were one phone call away from ending it.

But we never called back. We are now two weeks away from welcoming our son into our world. We’ve decided to name him Oliver. Every time I feel him move, kick or high – five me through the belly, I am glad we never went through with it. If I’d known then what I know now, if I’d felt then what I feel now, if we both had, we would never have gone to that dark place. And my wife? She feels the same way. It’s been interesting and beautiful to watch her transform from someone who used to say she didn’t want to be a mom, someone scared of becoming one, someone who at one point didn’t want to keep that baby, to someone who is so full of joy and love for that little human she’s been nurturing in her belly. Sadly, many people don’t give themselves a chance to see their uncertainty and hesitation in this light. They deny themselves this overwhelming joy and love. I might forever hate myself for lowering my guard and abandoning my principles in a moment of weakness, but I know I would hate myself even more if we had allowed the fear and selfishness to rule over us. But, maybe had we not been in lockdown, had our future not been uncertain, we wouldn’t have gone to that dark place in, what should have been, the happiest moment of our life. I wonder how many children never got to see the light of day because of lockdown, furlough or the doomsday predictions of our experts and fear mongering of the media…

*

My 6th sense – the legacy of tyranny

My grandad has told me chilling stories of his life in Poland before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s. My grandad, who had lived through it over half of his life, remembers food shortages, limitations, oppression, endless queuing to the butcher’s and grocery stores like it was yesterday. Some people, says my grandad, would sleep outside the shop for many nights to reserve, as you’ll soon find out, a very precious spot in the queue. Here is just a sample of what he’s shared with me:

‘Each month you’d get paid for your work. After the war there was no cosy desk jobs. People had lost loved ones, homes, communities, businesses and hope, you understand? The Soviets said they were there to help. So, with your paycheck you’d get a few vouchers, coupons, stamps, whatever you want to call them. These vouchers stated what you were allowed to buy from the butcher or from the grocery store that month. Some vouchers would have “2kg of potatoes” printed on them. Others would say “1 loaf of bread”, “1kg of flour”, “1kg of sugar”, and so on, you understand? You could use these throughout the month, but usually shops got empty pretty quick. That’s why people queued overnight. So, even if your stamp gave you allowance to buy, say, 1 kilogram of pork meat, there was no guarantee the butcher would have it for you or that it would be good quality. You had to get there early. Remember, there was hundreds of others who had similar stamps. There were no other places to buy these things. There were no supermarkets, you understand? You also had no choice what stamps you got. See, as you know, me and your nan don’t smoke. We never smoked, thank God! But every now and then we’d be given the cigarettes voucher. So, we traded these items with the smokers who happened to have what we wanted. The state decided what was essential for you and what wasn’t, understand? Coffee? Forget it! It was so hard to get. Sometimes we went months without it. We had to make it all last a month, and we couldn’t spend our money on things we didn’t have vouchers for, you understand? They only allowed us to buy those ‘essentials’. Bloody bastards! They only allowed us to buy what they said were those essentials. So, we didn’t go shopping. We didn’t buy clothes, and when we did, they were only what the vouchers stated. Don’t forget we all had families to raise, mouth to feed, so many times your monthly allowance wouldn’t be enough. You had to make things last.”

Sitting there, at dinner, listening to my grandad made me understand his ways a little more. My grandparents’ fridge is never empty. They never let things run out. They make things last. They save money. My grandad still works despite renting out two flats. He gets his fruits, vegetables and meat from the same places every week. At breakfast, lunch or dinner he encourages us to eat more – this is common in all Polish households, no matter how poor or wealthy they are. Growing up I found it extremely annoying, especially when he would offer me some meat I hadn’t had before. Now that I know how he had lived for decades before 1990’s, I do understand. Now he can enjoy anything he wants, and he can keep fruits of his hard labour without the fear they will be taken away by the state. But the heavy boot of Communism has left a mark in my grandad’s mind. He may not think like this, but it seems like what drives him to make sure the fridge and stomachs are full, and things never run out, is that he remembers when things weren’t so. When things did run out. When you never knew what you’d be allowed to buy with your money next month. He might even subconsciously fear of bad times coming back and of all this being taken away from him again. Maybe he has, in the last thirty years, learnt to appreciate everything he had missed out on for four long and not very prosperous decades, when the Communist Russia ruled over Poland, spreading misery, hunger and poverty disguised as “The Greater Good”.

People queuing to buy butter

My mom was in mid – twenties when the revolutions took place and Poland became independent. I was only a couple of years old. She also remembers stamps and constant queuing which, more often than not, ended with disappointment. To this day she has kept one of the vouchers she never got to use. She’s had it for over thirty years, and she’s brought it with her to the UK where she has settled. It’s a reminder of the dark days. It’s a reminder of what happens when tyrants decide they know what’s best for the people of a nation.

This is not panic buying. This is people trying to buy their essentials

One of my oldest memories is queuing for a pint of milk in, what must have been, early 1990’s – a few years after Poland became independent from Russia. So, these things didn’t just cease to exist one day. It took time for both the economy and people’s mentality to settle into the new way of life. The newfound freedom might have even been treated with suspicion by people who thought it was a trick or a short-term victory. Some people, to this day, think life was better when the Communists were in power. These are almost always the people who are too young to remember what it was like or people who worked for or had relatives who worked for the government. The milk man would park his truck and we’d all come out with our bottles and wait for our turn. I remember feeling excited when I got to hold the bottle and hand it to the man as my grandad stood next to me. Like a child pressing the button in an elevator, I enjoyed the rewarding sight of milk being poured into my bottle and when the lid was back on, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I contributed. At the time I had no idea that this regular activity was one of the legacies of tyranny. Some of that legacy is carried in my grandad’s mentality, and it is carried in my blood. And maybe it endowed me with a sixth sense, allowing me to recognise the early symptoms of an authoritarian regime. Or maybe it is not a sixth sense at all. Maybe I am just paranoid?

My mom tells me about her experience. She remembers the curfew, the police state, the officers out on the streets every night arresting everyone who was out after 10PM without a valid permit. Police were looking into your shopping bags, approached travellers and questioned them about the reasons of their journey. One evening my mom was returning from her aunt, who lived in a nearby town. She was only a teenager. She missed the train, which meant she’d be back after 10PM. She had no valid pass, I think it was only given to people who had a valid or essential reason to be out, like work or something. I don’t know the full story, but my grandmother had to pick her up so she wouldn’t get arrested. It was all, of course, for their safety. Let me just point out that the police were not Russian. They were Polish men just following orders and enforcing rules which subjected their fellow men and women to oppression.

Somebody’s allowance of sugar, alcohol and cigarettes

*

Freedom is an asset, safety is a luxury

What world will my son take his first breath in? Will he be born free? Or will he be born in chains? Will he be born enslaved to the algorithm, the pattern, the expectations? Or will he be born into a world that gives him a chance, a choice? A world that promises opportunity and rewards hard work and talent? Will it be a world of prosperity and equality, or will it be a world of corruption, deception, censorship, and authoritarian government? Will my son be born in, what I call – The Chains of Freedom? The chains represent suppression, censorship, inequality, government power, digital enslavement, restricted movement, and lack of ownership of one’s life. The chains that are disguised as freedom, as the greater good. The chains that have been put on us for our safety. The chains that we consent to when we give up privacy and liberty in exchange for safety. Those chains restrict and dictate how we pay for goods, how we travel, how we communicate. We said yes to them because they didn’t seem that heavy at first. They were not a burden and to many they still aren’t. But even if we seem to be free, our every step and our every move are constantly being tracked, measured and evaluated. Whether we are browsing the internet, making a phone call or walking our dog, we are under constant surveillance.

I can’t let this happen to my child

In the last few months, many people have given up responsibility for and ownership of their lives and handed them over to the state. With them they’ve given up their freedom and accepted various restrictions of their lives to feel safer. Not safe, safer because we can never truly be safe. Life is full of risks and the world is full of threats the state can’t keep us safe from. And feeling safe does not necessarily mean being safe. (Just ask yourself, after 9/11 the travelling experience has never been the same. Has it made terrorism disappear? No, because extremists find other ways to terrorise us and the government can never put a lid on them. The travel restrictions, the limitations on what you can and cannot bring on the plane have made us a little bit safer, but not safe. Euston station or Heathrow airport can still be a target of a delusional maniac. The government cannot keep us safe, only a little bit safer. I was once at Euston station. Me and my friends are going down the escalator to get the tube. About halfway down we hear screams and footsteps of a terrified herd coming from the corridor at the bottom of the escalator. Everyone panics and tries to run up against the moving escalator. The people are running from something. It’s all happening so fast. Someone apparently has a gun. First thing I do when I get to safety is I call my wife and my mom who are both somewhere in London and let them know to be careful. It’s been a few years and I’ve taken a train many times since then. The risk is small, but it exists. It can’t, however, stop me from living.)

 But I digress. Back to people exchanging their freedom for safety. It started when the government announced the first national lockdown. Most people have submitted, and they have dragged us along with them because they have been asleep. So asleep, in fact, that they are sleepwalking into an authoritarian nightmare. There are many reasons why the majority of the population welcome the government into their homes. Fear of COVID19, blind faith in the experts, generations raised without ever having to take responsibility for their lives are only a handful of reasons. But I think something else plays a significant role here. I think the majority of these people fail to think long term. They want to feel safe now, they don’t care how the governments of the future might abuse the powers we have just given them with our obedience.

Let’s take the Track and Trace app. Today you can choose to download it on your phone, and if you do, you scan the QR code when entering the pub to just register your attendance. Who’s to say that in the future you won’t just have to register your presence in the pub, but you’ll also have to use the app to be able to board a train? What if the app is, in the near future, used to monitor your quarantine status, and if you’re meant to be self – isolating, you won’t be able to purchase a train ticket or order Uber?  This is what I mean by short term vs long term thinking. Today it’s a harmless app, tomorrow it turns into freedom restricting, sinister tool of control. If this sounds too much like something out of Black Mirror to you, then just think that in China this is reality. If you think China’s sinister credit system can’t find its way into our cosy Western lifestyles, then think again. China’s draconian measures have spread around the globe almost as quickly as their virus itself.

Around eighty years ago, when Russia crossed Poland’s eastern border and said they were there to help and they were there for our safety, my grandad didn’t have too much to say in the matter. He was born into it. He was raised in the system that was designed to hold him back, keep him in line, make him productive just enough to contribute to “The Greater Good”, but not enough to be better off than everyone else. It took forty years for Poland to snap out of the Communist nightmare. Three decades later almost every country in Europe and in the world looks a lot like that nightmare. At the time of writing, in Wales, people can only travel if they have a good enough reason. They can’t buy books, toys and clothes for their children. In Melbourne, Australia, people are only allowed to leave their house for 1 hour of exercise per day. Not too long ago, some citizens weren’t allowed to leave their homes for any reason for two weeks of quarantine. If they tried, they were met with hundreds of armed police officers telling them to go back inside “for their own good”. Students in Manchester were forced to self – isolate against their will. For months we were told to only go out to buy essential items, shops were closed, police even looked in people’s bags to make sure only essentials were bought, supermarkets introduced queuing and limits on the quantity of goods people were allowed to buy (which was largely due to idiots panic buying, of course). French people must carry a form that states the reason of their journey. Greeks must send a text message to a special number stating reasons for leaving their house and they must carry documents on them at all times. Men and women in Ireland were, not too long ago, not allowed further than five kilometres of their homes. If you’ve been paying attention then you know this sounds a lot like tyranny described by my grandad.

Seeing all this unfold in many parts of the world is rather scary. I spoke to my grandparents. They are staying safe. They are doing what the government tells them is best for them. I will be honest with you. I don’t know how strict the coronavirus rules and their enforcement are in Poland. I know the guidelines are similar to those of the UK. But I remember what my grandad told me. I remember the look on his face when he described the way he used to live. I remember him telling me of over twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners of war being murdered by the Soviets in April 1940. This mass murder had been kept secret until 1990’s to make sure everyone believed the Communist promise and the Communist lie – that they were there to help.  I remember my grandad telling me about a Catholic priest who was murdered by the police because he dared to give people hope. Because he dared to talk of the power greater than that of the state. He was thrown into the river. His feet and hands tied as he was left to drown. His death is mourned to this day by those old enough to remember. His life still gives them hope. What would my grandad say, if I wrote to him of the recent events in Great Britain? Would he think there is anything great about it anymore?

Dear grandad,

It’s been over seven months since coronavirus arrived from China and with it brought their totalitarian rule, restrictions and tyranny. They remain disguised as good intentions, the greater good and safety and many people welcome them into their lives. They are willing to exchange their freedom for safety. Their privacy for security. I saw it creeping in from the week one of the lockdown. One step at the time our lives were being transformed, choices taken away, rights were slipping through our fingers and freedoms we took for granted were disposed of by the state, possibly never to be returned again.

The NHS was used as a weapon. They made us worship it. They knew that we were not like North Korea, Communist China, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, whose leaders were the subject of worship and praise and made the nation submit to their rule in the name of the greater good. Something else was needed in a nation so politically and socially divided as the United Kingdom. “Save the NHS” slogans appeared on every billboard and every window. We were made to clap and praise the NHS every Thursday at 8PM. Not by force, though. Social pressure was the cold steel on everyone’s temple. The NHS became the god everyone could unite for. It was then used by the charlatans in the government who swore to protect this newfound deity in exchange for power and control. The false prophets who claimed that only through them could we ever be saved. And people gladly agreed, fell to their knees and expressed their submission on their front porches every Thursday evening.

The ritual started as something voluntary. It just emerged somewhere one day and spread nationwide, but after a few weeks it was ended by the government. They announced one day that the coming Thursday was going to mark the final NHS clap. And so, the clap came to an end. People did as they were told.

I wouldn’t dare to claim that my time spent in captivity of lockdown has been anything like what you lived through. I wouldn’t dare to pretend that my road to unfreedom follows the same path you once walked. But the road signs are the same. They all tell me where this road leads. The New Normal is not far away now. There is a check point ahead. The officers have warrant to take my rights, my freedoms, my consent, my free will, my dreams and my plans and dispose of them all. They are illegal beyond that point. Their uniform is different, but their commands, their practices would send shivers down your spine taking you back to a familiar place. They disguise themselves as the servants of the people and say they are here for our safety. They say we cannot be trusted with our judgement, our freedom, our rights are irrelevant, and consent is not valid. They promise a better place in exchange for obedience and following the signs.

I’m almost at the check point. Should I give them what they want and be forever enslaved or should I drive through them and feel their bones crush under the wheels and spend the rest of my life as fugitive? At least I’d hold on to my truth. My wife’s contractions are getting stronger. Our son will be here soon. I owe him something, you know? I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I might be wrong about The New Normal, but this road I’m on and the signs all point in the direction of tyranny and unfreedom and to me this is a bigger threat than COVID19. My son deserves to be born free and right now I see everyone gladly handing their freedom away to the officers.

I am sure you can relate. The state storms into our lives and makes themselves at home. This time they just waited for our invitation so they could, like a vampire, feed on our will to live and our strength to fight back. All with our initial consent that is now no longer needed. They are in our homes, they sleep in our beds, they dine at our tables. All for our safety, of course. Seems like we can only remove them by force. If this is what it takes to protect my son from the claws of tyranny, from the chains of the state then I will fight. I will not let them take his innocence, his future, his dreams, his pure curiosity and his right to be a free human being who belongs to mother nature and is protected by her and governed only by her laws.

Others can hide forever under their beds, lock their doors and beg the government’s agents to keep them safe from the invisible monster known as Coronavirus. My duty, as a man and as a father, however, is to protect my child from what I believe to be a genuine threat. This threat, as learned from you grandad, is The Greater Good. I will keep him safe. I will teach him everything I know. I will never exchange his freedom for his safety…”

History – a fading memory. Consent – the alibi of tyrants

Many people don’t understand why I am so passionate about disobeying the coronavirus rules and mandates. Why I refuse to let the state put a mask on me, tell me who I can have in my house, how long I can exercise, define my essentials and take away my ability to put food on the table. To me the lesson from history is simple. We don’t have to look very far to see that freedom is a valuable but fragile asset. People seem to think that we have learned that lesson, but they are wrong. The Second World War happened so recently that there are still a few men and women alive today who were ready to die to defend our freedom eighty years ago. This shows two things. One, that it’s really not been that long, and we might not have grown enough to not make the same mistake again. Two, that once the only people who remember the horror, the struggle, the threat of losing their freedom, people who had the courage to defend it are all dead and with them the memory of the battle, we may repeat the mistakes thinking we will do something differently this time.

I’m not even talking about another war, as I think it is very unlikely. I am talking about the death of democracy and the rebirth of tyranny. There are among us people who believe Communism can be done better. There are people who think equality is more important than opportunity. They call it Socialism and they want it to emerge after the death of Capitalism. Equality (which means everyone is equally poor) VS Opportunity (which means everyone can make something of themselves and improve the quality of their life). These people are ignorant to the horrors, hunger and poverty of Communism and they want to bring it all back because they think it can be done better. There are also people who don’t like free speech and label every advocate of it a Nazi. These people also fail to recognise the weight of this word and what it meant eighty years ago. Nazis put people in gas chambers. Today the snowflake generation uses this word to shame someone who voted for Trump. Soon the word Nazi will be so diluted, it will lose its meaning and its burden. History will be forgotten and with it its valuable lessons.

We are never too far away from stepping into this unfriendly territory. All it takes is people’s consent, which they give when there is a crisis. I do not consent. The future of my son depends on it. I almost refused him this future and it is my duty to fight for it. I am not denying that people are dying. But I am not sacrificing my child’s freedom to live the best quality of life he can for you to feel safe now. It is your job to take care of yourself, take safety measures you deem necessary. You can stay at home, order everything online and we never have to meet. My duty is to defend my child’s dignity, rights, freedom and leave a legacy that is based in truth. I can never resign because it’s more convenient to do so. I will stay out of your way, but do not take me down with you.

You may not agree. You may call me crazy for thinking we’re destroying our liberties. I don’t care. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve heard and read all about it. It doesn’t always take a tyrant. It takes the people who demand safety in exchange for their freedoms. The leader knows if he does nothing, people will blame him for the consequences of his inaction. He restricts people’s lives. People call him out for not going far enough or for doing it too late. They see others breaking the new rules, so they demand more control, more enforcement, more power given to authorities, they even demand suspension of some basic human rights, they demand punishment and persecution of the rule breakers, they demand everyone to suffer so that they can feel a little bit safer. The leader gives in. He takes stronger, more intrusive measures. He threatens the public with punishment if they don’t do as he says. He bribes the public with a promise of a better tomorrow if they do. Many people cheer. Many think it is still not enough. Others feel cornered, surrounded, afraid and angry. They feel overpowered and alone in their outrage and resent towards the government. Their only defence against the intrusive rules and the invasion on their liberties is to protest. The leader then bans protests and sends “good men who just follow orders” to do his dirty work and arrest and fine as many rebels as possible. He now faces the wrath of rebellion and feels the chilling breath of judgement on the back of his neck. If he backs off, he will be criticized. If he pressures on sending boots and batons to the battlefield, he will be hated. But anger can be beaten, he thinks. Anger can be met with force, he convinces himself. Judgement of hopeless people who are afraid and look to him for guidance can’t be avoided. It can’t be beaten. It will follow him to his retirement. Declaring war on his people will, however, follow him to his grave. He doesn’t think about it. He knows that public opinion is everything and right now most people are afraid and upset and others are angry. The angry can be dealt with by tackling them to the ground to teach them a lesson and to show the fearful his power and control. Call them selfish, ungrateful so that everybody cheers when they are met with force and riot police. He doesn’t even know when things got ugly. When things got out of control. He doesn’t remember when he crossed the line, but he can’t admit the mistake. It would be a sign of weakness. Or maybe he enjoys it. Maybe he enjoys his newfound powers. Either way, he can’t stop now. The people count on him. He knows he can’t persuade those who are out on the streets. They need to be dealt with. Hit them where it hurts. Arrest them for so much as criticizing his rule. Fine them for so much as even organising a protest. He can’t scare them with the COVID19 statistics. They can see right through them. He threatens with arrests, enormous fines and hopes this puts people back where they came from and restores the order. He was pushed to it. Or maybe he just needed a trigger. It doesn’t matter. From now on the people are not to be trusted with having their freedom. Freedom is the root of disobedience. People aren’t ready for freedom. They are corrupted, irresponsible, selfish, naive, deluded and impulsive, confirm the leader’s advisors. Their freedom can, from now on, be suspended any time there is a crisis or when the government says there is a crisis. Freedoms are never fully returned to us, haven’t you been paying attention?

Just following orders?

Dave Cullen on You Tube illustrated it quite clearly. If you think of the governmental control of your life in a scale from 1 to 10, before Coronavirus we were at maybe 2 or 3. There were laws in place, as always, but you were free to travel, go to the pub, or work. Now and during last lockdown we jumped to 9 on the scale. Do you think that after the pandemic is over we will just go back to 2 or 3? No. The government control of our lives will go down to 5 or 6, maybe even 7. Some of our freedoms will be returned because we can’t be trusted with all of them ever again. Isn’t this what happened after the “first” lockdown? It ended and we were able to go back to work, but we still could have a limited number of guests at a birthday party, we still couldn’t protest, we couldn’t enter a pub without providing our contact details. Our lives did not return to normal at all. And now it seems like we are just going to live from one lockdown to another unless people, both in their homes and in the parliament wake up. Will we ever get our freedoms back? Will we ever go back down on that scale? It is up to us, and I owe it to my son to fight for his right to be a free human being. I may fail. I may be wrong about this, but I have to try.

If you’re still asking yourself why won’t this guy just follow the rules or get back to where he came from, I can’t help you. I’ve written enough. What I’ve written here might sound trivial to you. Wearing a mask, queuing to shops, essential travel? These aren’t that bad, are they? I should just suck it up and do the right thing. The horrors or Fascism and Communism have been widely documented, so I don’t need to get into them. What I’ve written here are, what I believe to be, the early signs and symptoms of these horrors and of that misery. What the people were and still are subjected to in communist regimes can come for us all. It can be disguised as convenience, safety, equality, a pretty smile of a politician, protection and security and before we know it, we will lose all our freedom because we consented to it one small step at a time. I value freedom, therefore I cannot sacrifice it to make you feel safe. Thank you for reading.

I value freedom more than safety. This is what drives me
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Lockdown – The Cage of Safety

COVID19 has the recovery rate of 99% – with or without lockdown and whether you have a Christmas meal for eight or not. Another lockdown will destroy lives and open doors for the disease of misery. Sadly, the symptoms won’t be immediately apparent. There will be no treatment. There will be no light at the end for those affected by it. They will be, as they have been, left to fend for themselves.

Another lockdown will fail to stop Coronavirus. It may postpone some deaths because Coronavirus does not care what we do. It does not obey our rules and laws. It does not speak our language. It just waits. It will always come back stronger the day Boris let’s you out of your cage you call safety and out of your chains you call security.

And those who demand another lockdown with strict and enforceable measures lack imagination. The selfish fear has blinded them to the road ahead of them. They fail to realise that inviting the government to their homes, their bedrooms and dinner tables can only lead back to that cage and back in those chains. You might think this is a life worth existing for, but I don’t. Yes, I said existing, not living. It is just surviving in anticipation of another lockdown or an announcement that safety has been restored. And while you sit in that cage, hoping for a brighter day you hear the screams and suffering of agony. That is your future being slaughtered. That is the future of your children dissolving in the fears of the present.

You convince yourself that it’s not that bad. You can stretch your legs, your food gets delivered and left just outside of your cage. Life is good. You know everyone else’s chains are just as tight, so you know you are all in this together. You know it will be alright. You know that whoever’s put you all in here will look after you all. There it is again – that brighter day you dream of night after night before the cold, soulless steel of your cage snaps you out of that fantasy.

You see across the room people shouting, people planning escape, people plotting against the ruler. You see people getting sick and being left to rot in isolation. You see a woman giving birth to another slave of the system. You see another man killing himself because his hope for a better tomorrow didn’t wake up with him this morning. You see a little girl who, you know, will soon be absorbed by the algorithm. But “It’s for our own good”, you convince yourself. You wish these shouting, plotting and resisting idiots would see it your way.

The mornings are your favourite. The screen plays your favourite show. It’s the glamourous people of the Capitol with their big words, expensive suits, plastic faces and plastic personalities who get paid thousands every day telling you what a great job you’re doing obediently sitting in your cage. Their life continues. Your life and your struggle are just entertainment to them. They go back to their mansions and care only that you tune in every morning and treat them like prophets. They debate, they argue, they invite guests who don’t give a shit about you and decide how long you need to stay in that cage while poverty, misery, suicide, bankruptcy, cancer, abuse join forces for a prosperous purge every night.

You sit quietly. You look the other way repeating the mantra dictated to you by the screen

It’s for the greater good, comrade

The end justifies the means, you add, while the slaughter and terror happen all around you. As long as you’re safe from that one single threat, you don’t think what might come for you tomorrow. You think you will be spared by the purge if you just sit quietly and do as you are told. You don’t realise that your fate has already been decided and your soul has already been sold to the highest bidder – the Devil himself. And the chains that you wear as virtue and for your safety will be the very reason why you will remain enslaved while gratefully repeating the mantra and thanking your masters for keeping you safe.

Unmasking COVID19 Logic

Who would have thought that a piece of cloth would cause so much controversy? Who would have thought it would divide us just like the Brexit vote did? And yet, here we are. The Facemask. It’s on everybody’s mouth right now. Literally and figuratively. Some people oppose the facemasks being mandatory in public settings, some claim they don’t mind it. Which camp are you in? Me, personally, I don’t wear them, haven’t worn them, and don’t plan to. I don’t believe I can convince anyone not to wear them, so I am not going to try, at least not in this article. Today, I will just attempt to deconstruct some of the most common arguments, statements, accusations, choices, beliefs, and claims, and more made by mask wearers or mask supporters. These come largely from Twitter, so in no way am I trying to paint everyone with the same brush. I know Twitter brings the worst of us and in no way represents the entire group of people, in this case mask wearers, Karens, whatever you want to call them. Some of the things I mention are my personal observations in my daily life, so again, I only interact with a small sample of the population so the conclusions, whatever they may be, are drawn from this small sample, and they are all my reflections. This is why I will try to stay away from scientific research on whether facemasks work, how they work, and who should wear them. I may include some links at the bottom. I should say this though – not all doctors and scientists agree that facemasks work or should be worn by the healthy individuals, so let’s stop pretending that they do. And now on with the Facemask Logic.

Facemasks and other measures explained

  1. The mandatory facemasks in shops. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? But which beginning? Beginning of mandatory masks, or all non – essential shops reopening? Because the former happened nearly two months later. For two months people had a choice and could make their own judgement whether or not to wear a mask. Nobody judged those who chose not to wear it. Nobody called them “conspiracy theorists” or “anti – maskers”. Not until 24th July. Then, just because the government had pulled this rule out of their ass, if you opted out of covering your face, you became a fugitive, a criminal, a serial killer and a sociopath. Even though a day earlier, you could walk into the same places and you would have been greeted and all your needs would have been met. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Is it about the health, or is it about obeying the rule? What really makes one a bad person? Seems like disobedience is the answer. Nobody likes the rule breakers who get away with it.
  • The baggy mask. This is something I see all the time. That baggy, moist, blue cloth flopping around on your face. I know you think you’re helping, but you’re really not, darling. Assuming that your facemasks is supposed to prevent you from spreading this deadly disease, how exactly is this baggy parachute, you call face covering, supposed to stop anything?
  • The mask on the chin. This comes in many forms. The chin is definitely the second, after the face, most common body part people wear their masks on. I get it. It’s a drag. You hate it, but you must obey the rules. You’re in and out of shops, so you pull it down when you can, and put it back on as soon as you step into Poundland. Not to mention pulling your mask down to unlock your phone using face recognition. You probably touch many things in between. Your face becomes itchy, so, instinctively, you give it a little scratch. The constant touching of your face and your mask creates more problems than it solves. To protect yourself from the harmful side effects of wearing it throughout the day, you’d have to change masks every time you touch it after your hands have touched an item in the shop or a door handle. Something tells me many people don’t do it and they just use the same mask. Later they either put it in their pocket, as my friend told me he does, for later use (I don’t even want to know what collects on it from loose change, sweat or hands).
  • The Mask graveyard. The street is where many masks reach the end of their road. They die slow and miserable death. First they get flattened, almost like that legendary curve. Then the blue fades and they die. You’d think that such dangerous items should be disposed of more carefully. Instead, apparently they can just be binned, if they’re lucky. Some get picked up by birds. Others tangled around their legs, or necks. Whatever the way, the fate is the same – death. They served their purpose – they saved humanity.
Some end up in the sea
  • The Seatbelt. “So, you refuse to wear a seatbelt as well?” People use this argument thinking it will win them the argument. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it. Those who use it fail to see their own fallacy. First they will try to convince you that facemask protects others from you, then they compare it to a seatbelt. Seatbelt protects the wearer. While we’re on the subject of seatbelts, I must mention another common disagreement I often have with people. I strongly believe that we are, or at least we should be, responsible for ourselves, not for each other. At least not constantly. I think our priority should be our health and safety and that of our loved ones. It is your job to look after yourself, not mine. To illustrate what I mean, let’s use the seatbelt analogy. As a driver, I am responsible for my passengers. I make sure everyone has a seatbelt on. It is not my problem if people in other cars are wearing their seatbelts. They make their own choices, however bad they are. I obey the traffic rules, but they are there to prevent accidents, not just potential accidents. There are no exemptions. There is no conflicting science about the traffic rules. They are there because all drivers must know and agree on them when driving at high speed. Let me give you a better argument. Sufficient sleep can be better used to argue for the use of masks to protect others. Insufficient sleep is the leading cause of driving accidents. If you routinely sleep less than six or even seven hours, you increase the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel and causing an accident. To protect others, you should only drive if you’ve been sleeping enough.
  • The Titanic. Someone shared this meme on Facebook. It attempts to ridicule “conspiracy theorists” in a similar way as the above nonsense. I want to focus on a couple of points here. The “Nobody can force me to wear a lifejacket” is just another version of the above argument. Lifejackets save the life of the wearer, not the others who are drowning. Also, we can’t really be comparing the sinking of the Titanic to our current situation. Just think about it. You’re on board and even if you’re on the “dry” bit, you can’t deny that the ship is sinking. It is happening. The disaster is unfolding right in front of your eyes. It is inevitable. You don’t need to see data, statistics or evidence of it. You don’t ask for a second opinion. With things like mask wearing, lockdowns and various other restrictions, you can and should be asking questions. There are many discrepancies in the official COVID19 narrative and calling those who point them out “conspiracy theorists” is simply not good enough of an argument. People on the Titanic had no reason to doubt the reality and seriousness of the situation. There were no “sinking deniers”. Coronavirus data, on the other hand, is conflicting, and many people wonder if we aren’t simply overreacting. And many of us have lost and sacrificed a lot blindly trusting the government and listening to the so-called experts.
  • “You wear clothes, don’t you?”. Before he blocked me, one Twitter user tried to persuade me with another weak argument. He argued that I disobey the mask rule, while happily complying with the rules concerning wearing clothes. As in covering my naked body with clothes. This is actually one of my favourite stupid argument because it reaches into areas I find interesting and fascinating – anthropology, biology, history, evolution and psychology. I am in no way an authority on any of these, but I’ve read enough to know that we don’t wear clothes simply because of some rules imposed on us by society or authorities. What we wear, of course is influenced by where we live, how old we are, what is available to us, and if we’re trying to advertise our personality with our clothes. Why we wear clothes is a different matter. Protection is the main if not the only reason for covering our bodies. We have to remember that modern humans emerged around 100 000 years ago, but human evolution that led up to it happened over millions of years. Most of this time was evolutionarily uneventful, however some tools were invented. Humans lived in small tribes and moved around a lot. As we left Africa, we had to protect ourselves from new and often challenging weather conditions. Predators and parasites, mosquitoes were also a threat. I am not saying we covered our bodies head to toe, and I am not saying that whatever we used was effective either. Another reason for wearing clothes as protection is our upright posture. It exposes our most vulnerable and essential body parts and organs to potential threats whether it’s from the predators, infection or other humans. On the outside we have our reproductive organs which are essential and female breasts for feeding the offspring. All other mammals have their backs to provide hard and wide cover for the internal and external body parts. We needed to find another way as our upright posture open a whole new world of possibilities. Shame and embarrassment were probably introduced by our brain to reinforce this new habit of covering up the vulnerable body parts. They are still with us today. If wearing clothes was just some rule written down in a book somewhere, then we wouldn’t feel embarrassed about being seen naked or exposed. But we do, which shows that covering up is rooted in our psychology and is governed by subconscious rules rather than societal policies, and it had to evolve over tens of thousands of years, if not millions. And what was once used as means to protect our bodies from climate and predators led to men wearing skinny jeans and women exposing their most attractive parts and covering those unappealing. But this is something for another time – what we do to attract the opposite sex.

  • The Coronavirus doesn’t go to the gym . Turns out she doesn’t like pubs either. The experts in the government seem to have made the masks mandatory in certain places, but not others. Apparently the masks aren’t mandatory where they are inconvenient. Of course, in a pub or restaurant you eat and drink, so a facemask can be very inconvenient. But, if you take into consideration that we are meant to be in the middle of the worst pandemic known to mankind, you’d think inconvenience is a small price to pay to keep everyone safe. However, recently Boris and his advisors must have read my mind because they have now made facemasks mandatory in those places too. You are now very likely to spread the virus when waiting to be seated, walking to the toilet, but not when seated. Same thing with gyms. COVID19 will apparently not target you when you’re squatting or bench pressing. You can go mask free and enjoy your workout. Having said that, The Pure Gym have apparently made their members wear masks between each set and each exercise. Huffing and puffing in front of a dumbbell rack is ok, but when you’re done, please keep everyone safe, and #WearTheDamnMask

  • “Go back to your country if you’re not happy”. I wasn’t going to include this one, but I have since heard it so many times that it just begs to be addressed. Usually someone on Twitter, without having much to say to defend their argument, would look at my Twitter bio and think they found a way to shut me up for good. “Go back to your country, if you don’t like censorship, dictatorship, suppression of freedom of speech and assembly” was the most recent response I got when I defended people’s right to gather and protest what they think are injustices, which include coronavirus measures taken by the government. These people, don’t for a minute, stop and think that they, or their children will be next. They seem to see nothing wrong with the government arresting people for speaking out. But the very reason why this argument is a fallacy is because it is personalised to me. To win an argument or debate, one must address opposing arguments, not who they are coming from. My views are shared by thousands of Brits who can’t “go back to their own country”. What will you say to them?

  • Asian people wear masks all the time. They do. They do because of pollution which affects them more than it affects us. Also, if they are wearing masks, then how did coronavirus ever manage to escape China and travel the world as quickly as it did? I mean you see Asians wear their masks in London too, so it’s not like they stop when they leave Beijing. Another interesting fact is that Chinese people get seasonal flu just like the rest of us despite the growing mask culture. We also can’t neglect the psychological effects constant mask wearing poses, not to mention long term medical problems that can occur. China and other Asian countries are collectivist societies, while we, in the West, are individualistic. This means that it may be easier for them to get in the spirit of “We are all in this together” or “The greater good”, than us. I am not saying one is better than the other and we ought to be like Japan, but we simply cannot ignore the differences between us and say we should just over night become like them. Let’s not forget that China is a communist regime, where citizens must be on their best behaviour all the time, including their private life or they face consequences. Let’s not pretend it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Their obedience of the rules comes as a package. You can’t just pick one aspect of it, and hope it would work in the UK, which is divided politically, nationally, racially, and expect people to have the same level of commitment to the collective society. You don’t want to be like China. Trust me.

  • Facemasks are the new virtue signal. At the beginning, when countries started locking down, celebrities were all taking part in the #StayHome. When I say all, I mean all the ones we heard from, most remained quiet. All of them showed us how virtuous they were, how responsible they were by staying home and saving lives. They all did their home workouts, Instagram live from their living rooms – just to show they are staying at home. I should also mention here, how a few celebs seemed to get COVID19 at the beginning, almost like it needed more advertising, more screen time to get us all in line. Then, when facemasks were on everyone’s mouth – figuratively and literally, all these celebrities, politicians and other public figures started posting their pictures and videos with masks on – something they never had done before. Not until it became a new way to show how good and responsible you are. It’s kind of like they have to be seen wearing a facemask so that the general public sees it as the right thing to do. Quite recently The Rock also announced he had coronavirus. How strange that a man with millions of followers needs to tell them he has a cold, but Chadwick Boseman managed to keep his cancer to himself. He obviously sadly died recently, while The Rock is back on the set. Somehow, none of those who announced their infection died of it or were hospitalised. Some musicians and other artists have died AFTER testing positive (meaning not necessarily because of COVID19, but with it or simply of other causes up to 28 days after testing positive), but I don’t remember any announcements from them.

  • All governments can’t be wrong can they? Of course, they can. Most governments have locked down because they listened to a handful of men and their predictions. Neil Ferguson made a doomsday prediction which made Boris Johnson and Donal Trump decide to lockdown. Many other countries followed simply because they didn’t want to do the wrong thing by not doing anything. Most government officials are just trying to save their careers, not our lives. If they don’t do anything, people will have their heads. Sweden did pretty good, but nobody wants to talk about it. Australia has turned into a police state, where you can’t even put a Facebook post up disagreeing with lockdown or you get arrested. The UK’s rules and restrictions make no sense at all. On top of that, people seem to need to have someone hold their hand constantly and tell them when it’s ok to cross the road. Just make your own judgement. All governments can be wrong! Billions of people still believe in some version of a god and are most likely wrong. For most of the human history, people bought and sold slaves in every corner of the earth. That was wrong. In every country that faces restrictions, thousands of people have protested against them. You may believe they are wrong. One expert made a scary prediction for the entire world, and everyone listened. The question is. How many of us will get any taste of normality back after this?

  • “I really don’t mind wearing a facemask”. No, you don’t mind not having a choice but to wear a facemask. People think they don’t mind wearing it are just kidding themselves. They have simply been convinced that they can no longer make decisions about their bodies, and they are alright with it. This passive obedience is easy and comfortable. The hard thing to do is to say no. It is easier to pretend everything is fine, because if you don’t, if you admit that your rights and freedoms are being taken away from you, you face a dilemma. You either have to stand your ground and fight, which is hard and difficult, may result in losing friends and social life. Or you don’t do anything about it and admit you are a coward, hoping someone else will be the hero you need. Doing nothing is hard in this case too because every day you obey these rules, you step out into that world and live a lie, it is eating you inside, and in the long term, this will not be good for your mental health. Pretending that everything is alright is the easiest thing you can do. And that is why you do it.

  • Masks should be mandatory outside. – I watched a clip on You Tube. A reporter was asking people in Liverpool what they thought about the coronavirus measures taken by the government. One man said that masks should be mandatory outside. I found it really ironic because he was outside, and he was not wearing a facemask. He could voluntarily wear one outside, as many others do already, but he is waiting for Boris Johnson to make it mandatory, is that right? This is the state of these people. These are the people who would go to the beach and complain that there is no sign warning that the water is wet.
Man choosing not to wear a mask outside says they should be mandatory outside
  • False sense of safety. Facemasks provide false sense of safety. There have been many studies that suggest that facemasks don’t stop the spread of viruses. This includes surgical masks. This information is available, so I won’t get into that here. Not to mention the way people wear their masks, how many times they reuse the same mask, how they store their reusable masks, and what type of masks they wear. People tend to touch their face more often with their masks on. I mean, just yesterday, I was getting a haircut, and my barber kept adjusting her mask. Had she been given a choice, she would not be wearing it, but this applies to everyone else. People touch their faces more often because masks irritate them. This often happens before they get a chance to wash or sanitise their hands. Add to it the number of times they have to take off their mask to unlock their phone and eat or drink. When you look at it like this, you can’t help but think about all the bacteria you transfer directly to your face from the surfaces you constantly touch. You may think you’re helping others, but you’re harming yourself.

  • If nurses can, so can you. This argument gets thrown around a lot. It also comes in the form of “If masks don’t work, then why do nurses wear them?”. Everyone likes to sound like they know what they are talking about, but they don’t. Right now, during the pandemic, nurses and other medical staff wear facemasks throughout their shift. This, however, was never the case before. And it is the before this argument is based on. Let’s tackle it. As I mentioned, the medical staff never used to wear facemasks their entire shifts. They did so only when working close to a patient’s incision. The reason for that was and is not to not infect the patient with a flu or another virus. It is precisely to not infect that surgical cut with bacteria from their mouth. On top of that, masks are not the only way they reduce the risk of such infection. Their whole outfit is sterile and again – it is only to not infect the patient with bacteria. There is conflicting data on whether surgical masks stop the spread of flu like viruses. So, the argument is not good enough, because nurses do not wear masks all the time (in normal circumstances), and when they do, it is not to stop everyone from getting ill, but to stop the spread of the bacteria directly into patient’s incision. If, however, you want to rely on the medical staff, let me tell you something. The other day my wife went to the hospital. She is pregnant and has asthma. At the time we weren’t clued up about exemptions too much and we thought they didn’t apply in the hospitals which made it harder to stand our ground. I didn’t wear it, but I wasn’t allowed to go past the reception anyway. Tried to explain to the man that she was pregnant and had asthma. His response? He put his finger inside his mask, pushed the mask out to allow more air flow, and said this should be sufficient enough to grasp some air if she struggled to breathe. So apparently it is ok to put your finger, full of bacteria, close to your mouth (while all posters and medical advice asks you to not touch your face without washing your hands) to allow yourself to breathe freely. The man also said that without a doctor’s note, she had to wear the mask, but doctors are not allowed to give exemption notes. Had this happened a week or two ago, I would have known our rights in these illogical rules.

  • Grief. This will make me sound heartless, and maybe I am, but grief is not an argument. Feelings are not arguments. I feel sympathy with everyone who has lost a loved one in any circumstances. But losing a loved one to COVID19 does not prove the severity of this disease. I would argue that grief, just like anger blind our judgement and censor our critical thinking. Think of a boxer stepping into a ring. If he is angry with his opponent, he is very likely to let the anger rule over his experience, expertise and his plan of action. Only if he is calm, focused can he stick to the plan, rely on his skills and strength. He has to be emotionally detached from the fight. The same applies to everything else in life. No good decision is ever made when we are angry or upset. The book How Not to Worry by Paul McGee taught me this. We are less likely to make a good judgement when we are emotionally attached to the situation at hand. This is why after a breakup we might think we will never love again, but our best friend reassures us that this feeling will pass. How is the friend so confident? Because she is not emotionally attached to your problem. I am not saying we should not be emotional when we lose a loved one during the pandemic. I am saying that when we do, it is hard for us to think critically, look at the statistics, the real death rate as well as somebody else can without grief blocking their common sense. Fear, grief and anger are your worst friends when trying to remain rational. Once you block them, your vision becomes clear. But they are not arguments.

This list could probably go on. Feel free to add your own. I have been collecting these for weeks and had to narrow them down to the ones I find most illogical and stupid and the ones that come up the most. If you think I am wrong about any of this, also let me know. Who knows, you might just have the right argument and turn me into a mask wearer.

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There are no heroes

“Should I shut up and be quiet in the face of things that I think are injustices because it makes me safer? A lot of pragmatic people will say, ‘Well, yeah, you’ve done enough, you’ve done your part. Be safe, be happy’ […] The system, the world, it all gets worse every day that we don’t do something about it. Every day we stay silent about the injustices we see, the world gets worse. Yeah, it’s risky. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but that’s why we do it. Because if we don’t, nobody else will. All those years I was sitting hoping for someone else to come forward, and no one did, is because I was waiting for a hero. But there are no heroes. There are only heroic decisions. You are never further than one heroic decision away from making a difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small difference, or a big difference, because you don’t have to save the world by yourself. In fact, you can’t. All you have t do is lay down one brick. All you have to do is make things a little bit better, so that other people can lay their brick on top of that, and together, day by day, year by year, we build the foundation of something better.”

Edward Snowden

The Smart Mask

Feeling like saying misleading information about COVID19? Don’t worry. Every time the temptation to do so is stronger than your rationality, the mask will censor your speech by making a “beep” sound. The best part about it is, you can customize the censorship sound by connecting to your favourite Spotify playlist! Now, every time you want to say things like “masks don’t work”, you will instead entertain your listeners with your favourite tunes!

I bring to you The Smart Mask! You heard me folks! No more wet baggy cloth flopping around on your face. The future of masks is here, almost like they’ve been working on it for some time.

But that’s not all! Just when you thought our smart mask couldn’t get any better, it does! Whenever you question the mainstream narrative, the government, existence of coronavirus, intentions of the billionaires involved in saving you, and many more, the mask sends electric shocks, which strength varies depending on what you speak against. Full list of offences comes with the mask, but you can add your own forbidden speech too!

Do I have you at the edge of your seat yet? Well, you will just love this next feature! When you’re feeling adventurous, and decide to go on a road trip during lockdown when Pandemic 2 happens, (we call it the pandemic 1), the mask will lock on your face and restrict your air flow, suffocating you, if you do not return to the zone within the government mandated distance of your home. Don’t hesitate! Order yours now! Keeping your community safe has never been easier.

Approved by factcheckers, WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

Terms apply!

Vaccines or Immune System?

So, out of curiosity, like every other conspiracy theorist, I googled “How to boost your immune system”. I was expecting to find plenty of tips from our beloved, clap worthy NHS, and The World Health Organization. There was, however no articles, or tips from any of them on the first two pages of the search result. The closest I got to anything “reliable” was this article from April by the trustworthy BBC, who always have your best interest in mind. Here they attempted to debunk the idea that you can boost your immune system. Funny how, before the pandemic, it was a well known fact that good nutrition, sleep, rest, managing stress, regular exercise, and even sunshine boosted your immune system. They may not protect your from every virus, 100% of the time, but they increase your chance of beating it or getting away with minor symptoms.

Now, if you google “Vaccines”, NHS and WHO jump to the top of your results, all promoting vaccination. Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning effectiveness of vaccines. I have never really thought about them. I just assumed they were part of life. What I am questioning in this post is that you’d expect NHS and WHO to be your top results when you’re asking how to naturally stay healthy. Instead, they just tell you to take more pills and vaccines.

Another interesting fact is, if you use another search engine (I use duckduckgo.com whenever I want to find unfiltered results), and search for “vaccines” you don’t get bombarded with NHS and WHO sites. Instead, you get a variety of results, including articles on side effects, and pros and cons of vaccines. The first WHO page appears as number 60 in the results, comparing to number 3 when you use Google. When you use duckduckgo.com and search how to boost your immune system, the results are similar to Google, with no NHS or WHO mentions.

Are drugs the only way to keep us healthy? Why searching for exactly the same words gives different results when using different search engines? Even if you search for “pros and cons of vaccines”, Google will give you slightly different results, bringing the “pros” to the top of your results, while duckduckgo gives you a variety to look through.

Regardless of what you think about vaccines, don’t you think people should know their pros and cons, and be able to find them using any search engine? All I am saying is, it’s funny how all the ancient wisdom of immune system seems to have died of COVID19 this year. Now you are just told to stay inside, avoid people, avoid sun, wash your hands, wear a mask and stay put while they work on the magic elixir that will make you healthy. That is all you need.

Family ≠ Household

Some lockdown restrictions are back in parts of Northern England, and as I read through the news article about it, I realised something. I realised how the word “Household” quickly replaced words like “Family” and “Friends”.

If you convince us we are nothing but households, it’s easy to convince us you can put restrictions on us. After all, we are not people, persons, and definitely not families. Just households. Your mom is no longer your mom, but someone in a different household. It’s easier to dictate to households what they can and cannot do, than it is to dictate to parents and their children or boyfriend and girlfriend who want to see each other. But if you reduce us to households and get rid of our relationships, it is easy to convince us you can allow or disallow our interaction.

What is reducing us to households if not an attempt to weaken ties with our family and friends so we don’t rebel against these restrictions? Just turn us into brainless TV consuming, not questioning anything obedient members of society, where family is just some word you hear in old movies. We have Zoom, we can tell Alexa to turn on our TV, and our Amazon parcel is only 6 stops away. Who needs distractions like a family, friends, and the sense of belonging?

Control the language, control the masses.

Family can’t be reduced to “different households”

Wear The Damn Mask!

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

Benjamin Franklin

What follows might be bollox, so be warned.

Me and my wife went to London the other day. It was the first day out since lockdown started. It was also the first time either of us used public transport. It was a nice day, but it would have been nicer if it weren’t for the constant dehumanizing reminders that we are all dangerous, potentially infectious, dirty bags of germs. Before boarding the train in Watford, everyone masked up like a good, responsible citizen. Everyone apart from us. My wife had kept two masks in her purse in case we were told off, but I was not going to put one on no matter what. My wife, who is asthmatic, was willing to suffer a short-term discomfort to avoid confrontation. I wasn’t. The people in Euston stared at us like they had just seen Bonnie and Clyde – that couple they recognized from the “Wanted” posters. Some eyes spelled fear, while others expressed disgust, and confusion – how are they getting away with this disobedience?

The exact look masked people give me on the street

The ancient instinct

As the quote above suggests, I am not willing to sacrifice my liberties for temporary safety. I am responsible for my own safety and you are for yours. This should be where the mask debate ends. But it doesn’t so, if you’re persuaded by the government’s advice and “the science”, then by all means, wear a mask, gloves, goggles, and a top hat if you want. My problem is with the government trying to take my right to take responsibility for my own life away from me. I don’t need the state to be my parent. I can make my own informed decisions about my health and safety. I can take risks and those who don’t want to take them can, just as well, stay home and “stay safe”. This has been my stance throughout the lockdown. The belief that it is OUR job to take responsibility for ourselves and our immediate family and keep them safe from harm. It’s not up to me to keep you or your grandad healthy or alive. As harsh as this sounds, this is true, and no amount of online shaming is going to change that.

We care for our own. Countless scientific research, as well as common sense, confirms that we, as humans and as mammals, value the health of our own family members more than that of strangers. Our own children and children of our siblings are the priority because they carry our genes. And even though we don’t think about it like this, our genes want to survive by being passed on to our offspring. So, the genes make us love and care for our children and protect them from harm. We share genes with our brothers and sisters, so their kids are, by definition, successful copies of our genes. Unlike our parents, who have already contributed to the growth of our family tree. The job of the next generations is to continue that expansion. That’s why we love our children and want the best for them. Anyone who has children or is expecting one, like me, knows how important it is to keep them safe and everyone else, including our own parents, becomes less important. It’s not that we stop caring. Poor health or the death of a parent definitely does hurt, and we never fully expect it even when we have every reason to. It’s that we know that as they age, the chances of them getting seriously sick skyrocket and we are wired to accept that. It’s tough to think your mom or dad will die one day, but this day will come, and you know it. We never think in these terms about our children. Because we know the circle of life by now. “No mother should bury her son”, I heard once in a movie.   We, as parents, should be the first to go and it’s up to us to make sure the natural order occurs.

This instinct is hard wired so deep inside our subconsciousness that we can’t control it. We think we can. But we can’t. In the end, there is an order in which we value human life and what we are willing to do to protect, save, or defend it. This means risking our life, health or even principles, beliefs and values we hold to save somebody’s life, depend on our relationship with the person and what danger face. Another factor also plays a role. It is the hypothetical victim or a number in the statistic VS a real person we know or can relate to. Smoking illustrates it perfectly.

The older you

Research finds that approximately seven thousand non-smoking adults die from lung cancer in The United States each year because of inhaling second-hand smoke. It is not a big number in a country of three hundred and thirty million people. Nevertheless, it’s over seven thousand people whose lives are cut short because of other people’s unhealthy lifestyle. How many smokers would be willing to quit smoking if it helped lower that number? I’d say no one would when presented with a simple statistic. How many would quit or be more mindful of others if the statistic turned into real people with names, families, dreams and plans? I’d say more people would consider quitting. What if quitting smoking meant saving someone they knew? Someone they were close to? I’d say the number of quitters would rise significantly.

It is for the same reason we don’t really think or care about starving children in Africa, but we would care more about a single African child with a name, face, and dreams even if we only met him in a documentary, charity advert or a leaflet from the same organisation. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s what we do. We think it’s upsetting and unfortunate, but we aren’t willing to do anything that would cause us discomfort to help those in need.

According to the Telegraph article from 2019, six thousand non-smokers die of lung cancer in the UK each year. The article however links the deaths to pollution. How many of us, honestly, are willing to give up certain luxuries, like flying or driving to save six thousand people? My guess is this number doesn’t impress anyone even if it’s so close to home. The truth is, in my opinion, that we don’t want to give up our comfort because we convince ourselves that our effort has little to no impact on the lives of those six thousand men, women and children. It is the same with smoking. Cigarettes pose a threat to the smoker and those around him, but he is not convinced to quit. Why? I believe it’s because he doesn’t see the direct correlation between his actions and the health of his friends and family. And smoking doesn’t always lead to death of lung cancer and when it does, it takes years or decades. If cigarettes killed or caused cancer in 99% of smokers within months and not decades, then less people would smoke. Smoking however, doesn’t always lead to lung cancer and smokers often live to a very old age. In fact, cigarettes can just contribute to poor health with the help of other unhealthy habits like eating junk food and lack of exercise. So, even though there is addiction involved, many smokers just don’t see a direct threat. The damage isn’t done in a day or a month and can’t be observed in real time. One day you may or may not develop a cough and may or may not die prematurely, but the “may or may not” is not convincing enough to make a lifestyle change. This is, I believe, the reason why people start smoking even though there are no health benefits. It’s because they don’t have to deal with the consequences right now. They come later. When they are older. When they expect to be in poor health. When it almost doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is, we all make choices in the present, pursue short term pleasures and let our older selves deal with the consequences. Cigarettes, in my opinion, fall into that category. If we deliberately sabotage the health of our older selves, how can we ask others to care for the anonymous members of the risk group? Just like I stated above, as species, and as humans we prioritise the youngest among us and the fact that we are willing to destroy our bodies from within and let our older selves deal with it, shows it perfectly.

Who do we save?

Recall the scene from “Titanic” where women and children were prioritised to take the limited number of spaces on the rafts. It makes perfect sense, if we think of humans as one big organism that grows with every child and can’t afford to lose women of childbearing age and children. The same instinct, among certain social and cultural factors, sends young men to war. It’s because even a hundred years ago, when the world population was only two billion, we could afford to lose men, but not women. Once a woman is pregnant with a man, she can’t get pregnant with another man, while a man can make multiple women pregnant. Obviously, this is not what usually happens, because we are governed by many other laws of human nature, but if you think of us as mammals, and males and females, you can see how reproduction can be a big deal for us subconsciously. We are more than animals, so I am not suggesting we sacrifice the elderly because they won’t have anymore kids. No. I am saying, if we are one big organism that wants to grow then it makes sense why we don’t care how our older selves will deal with the consequences of the choices we make today. This can also explain why we may not be willing to do certain sacrifices for the “high risk” people, who are mainly the elderly, when they are presented to us as soulless and anonymous graph or statistic. I also realize that we don’t think if these categories, but I believe there is a more powerful force at work, and it promotes certain feelings and supress others to trigger a certain behaviour. It makes us feel discomfort when we experience or are about to experience something bad for our health. It makes us feel pleasure when we do things that are good for our survival or survival of our genes, like eating or sex. It makes us love our children, so we protect them and make sure they survive. In a way, this force will trick you by making you feel different things physically or mentally, to make you do what it wants you to do. Imagine picking up a pencil and piercing it through your hand. Could you do it if you wanted to or is something stopping you?

So, how does all this relate to face masks? For some people it’s just a mask. No big deal. Others, however, are clearly against it to the point where it angers and upsets them and makes them feel anxious about trying to live a normal life again. They say the new rule is invasive and the government is overstepping by taking away their freedom. They refuse to comply and prepare for war on the 24th July.

This brings me back to the previous paragraphs where I highlighted what level of discomfort we are willing to suffer for others and how it depends on our relationship with them and the level of danger they are facing. For example, if someone were drowning, we would be willing to jump in and get our clothes wet. Would we jump in if it were a frozen lake and there was a huge possibility of not making it back to the surface? What if someone were drowning when the infection rate was at its highest? Would we jump in and save the life, or would we hesitate because of the possibility of getting coronavirus and infecting our loved ones?

You must be calling me mad for even suggesting we would hesitate for the fear of the virus. We might hesitate for other reasons, including not willing to risk our own life. Nevertheless, it is a valid comparison. When facing immediate life or death situation, we are more willing to risk our life or health, sacrifice our belongings, suspend our beliefs, and suppress biases. But we wouldn’t distribute them equally. So, we would risk getting coronavirus to save a drowning child, but we wouldn’t risk drowning to save a child from getting coronavirus. Why? Because drowning is an immediate threat and the child may or may not get the coronavirus. Same applies the other way around. If we don’t jump in, he is definitely going to die, and the risk he is infected and will infect us is unknown just as how our immune system reacts, and it is just as likely for us to be carriers.

I know, I know! Nobody is drowning. Nobody has to make that decision…

The government telling me – a healthy person to wear a mask, is like telling me how many people drown each year, therefore I shouldn’t take my family to the beach or lake. The government telling me to wear a mask is like telling smokers how many non-smokers get lung cancer as a direct result of breathing their cigarette smoke and expect them to quit. In the end, I am responsible for my children at the lake, and non-smokers have a choice of waiting outside. A parent might make a good choice to never smoke around her children, but she doesn’t need to quit to contribute to lowering the statistic and save some hypothetical lives which she may or may not affect. We don’t think we are all equal. We value life according to our relationships, unconscious and conscious biases and we make sacrifices according to that hierarchy. For some of us the mandatory face covering is too much to ask to save hypothetical people who may or may not get a virus. Especially when the data about the benefits of masks is conflicting to say the least.

The argument

You can’t convince someone out of something he convinced himself into

Jonathan Swift

We could sit here all day and argue about COVID19. You’d tell me it’s killing people. I’d tell you, so do influenza and pneumonia. You’d quote the latest number of deaths. I’d ask, “Where did the flu deaths go?”, and tell you how hospitals around the world have been exposed for quoting COVID19 whether it was the cause of death or not. (One of my colleague’s relatives died recently after a hundred years old. They never had or tested positive for coronavirus, but the hospital classed them as COVID19 death – as if they were expecting a hundred-year-old person to live another twenty years if it weren’t for the pandemic.) You’d tell me how many experts say this is serious and I’d tell you about many other experts, who don’t get interviewed by the media, who suggest otherwise. You’d tell me I wouldn’t be saying all this if someone I love died or were on the ventilator. I’d say that personal experience or emotional blackmail are not arguments. I could say the same about cancer patients who have had their operation postponed. First time moms who haven’t received the same care they would have if access to hospitals and midwife service were normal. My wife, for example, is pregnant for the first time and just noticed something concerning on her breast. It could be nothing or it could be something serious. Before getting an appointment with the doctor, she first has to describe the problem to them on the phone so they can just disregard it as nothing to worry about and nothing worthy of a doctor’s time in these “uncertain times” when everyone could be a danger to others. English is not her first language, but only she knows how she feels and the sensation of the area she that worries her. What if she gets nervous when describing it on the phone, and her description of the problem will not be taken seriously? Since when do we self-diagnose mysterious lumps on our bodies? In other circumstances she would have it looked at right away.

So, the quote above perfectly illustrates our situation. You think you have every reason to believe that you need to be in the panic mode and live in fear until told otherwise, and I believe there is no pandemic, in a sense that the virus seems to be lethal to already seriously weakened immune systems. The defence systems are down and the virus attacks. We both look at the same data but see different information. I think I am the one with the glasses on and see the subliminal messages and you think I am crazy. I am convinced the only way for you to see the truth, is to put the glasses on, but you aren’t interested. We are both certain we hold the right position.

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled

Mark Twain

The quote by Mark Twain illustrates how hard it is for people to admit they’ve been fooled (and I may be guilty of it too), even in the face of new evidence. Especially when they’ve been emotionally invested in the matter. You have spent four months trusting the government and their experts, who broke their own rules, like Neil Ferguson, the man who gave us lockdown and social distancing. You are unwilling to even think that all this has been unnecessary. Even more so, you are unwilling to let your sacrifice be all for nothing. It’s like discovering your partner cheating and lying to you after you’ve invested and sacrificed so much to be with him. The realisation that it didn’t mean anything to him is hurtful. So, you block the idea that the sacrifice you’ve made for the last five months for the greater good has been for nothing, unnecessary, unreasonable. Furthermore, you might not even be willing to accept that the government is lying to you or doesn’t know what they are doing in this crisis. Between you and me, I don’t know what’s worse, lies or incompetence. Living in denial or voluntary ignorance.

All I know is that I don’t believe the threat is real. Because of that, I don’t believe I should be required to wear a mask. I would really wear it just because you are scared, and I refuse to cover my face with your fear. Remember when we talked about what sacrifices we are willing to make for others? Well I, and many others, based on our independent research, believe it is unnecessary for us to give up our bodily autonomy and right to breathe, because someone, somewhere may or may not get sick. Even if masks worked perfectly, which they don’t, their effect can’t be witnessed in real time and it is not clear whether they have stopped the virus or if the virus has simply  gone away for the Summer, as they do. We simply don’t want to let the government have the power to invade our privacy and freedoms to such extent as to mandate what to do with our faces. You, on the other hand, have come so far, haven’t you? Four months of living in fear and feeding it through your TV screen. You can’t give up now. How do you, Brits say it? In for a penny, in for a pound? Others like me refuse to join this madness and in four months wake up to a headline that says, “Research finds masks have been a waste of time”. For me and others, the evidence is not sufficient. Whether we are talking about the masks or the danger of the virus itself. So far we just have evil or incompetent government who are either executing their evil plan perfectly or are too scared to take strong initiative or unwilling to admit they were wrong to enforce lockdown in the first place. The lockdown that was enforced only because of Ferguson’s inaccurate prediction of how many would die. When he lowered his predicted number of deaths, we continued with lockdown. We continued with it even when he, himself had broken the rules and his excuse was “I thought I was immune to it because I had got it already”, which was the opposite of what the government officials had been telling us about the virus and immunity to it the whole time.

Fragment from The Checklist Manifesto explains how masks only make sense for medical staff who work with patients

The tribes we belong to

When 9/11 happened, it brought the citizens of New York together. The crisis created a sense of belonging and meaning in the community. Both the crime rate and suicide rate dropped following the attacks. New Yorkers felt they were part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone wanted to do their part even if it seemed insignificant. The Blitz made people feel the same way. People depended on each other mentally and physically. Coming together in a time of crisis is not new to our species. We evolved in small tribes for millions of years and living in big cities, often alone and away from our families (our tribes), robs us of that feeling of belonging and contributing to a community. Crisis, according to the war journalist and author of “Tribe”, Sebastian Junger, awakens our ancient instincts that helped our ancestors, who lived in tribes, to survive. Junger describes many other instances where crisis brought strangers together and points out how all men and women become equal in the face of crisis. Why can’t we come together during this pandemic and agree on a seemingly small issue like wearing a mask? I have my own theory.

It is based mainly on the fact that, in my opinion, it is almost impossible for people to relate to, let alone, care about a death toll or death rate. An anonymous graph of daily infections and weekly deaths. A death toll of a major earthquake is more relatable as it claims thousands of lives in a single day and it doesn’t discriminate based on age, race or sex. It makes all men and women equal. Maybe that’s why it’s more relatable. If the COVID19 graph is made up mostly of older people with underlying health conditions, it’s not easy to relate to it. An earthquake, however, doesn’t take hostages. The death toll might still be anonymous, but we can see the devastation, and imagine the horror of mothers looking for their children in the ruins of their homes. The COVID19 deaths aren’t, at least to people who have been against the lockdown, that scary. The fact that people don’t care too much about an anonymous graph, is supported by how we usually react to the death of a celebrity. We mourn because we have invested so much time getting to know them, watching their movies or listening to their music. We relate to them. We know their name, their face and voice. We have seen them get married, have kids or throw tantrums on live TV. The death of a celebrity is so hard to process that we even create conspiracy theories suggesting he or she is still alive somewhere or that their mysterious suicide is just a cover up for something bigger.

Final reason why COVID19 pandemic has failed to bring us together, in my opinion, is that we have spent too much time dividing ourselves. Coronavirus is so invisible and weak that it simply cannot remind us of our ancient instincts. You, me, your sister and your friend Joe, all belong to groups. We all wear many labels. We all have unconscious biases towards members or our own groups and against those in the outgroups, even if the biases are subtle. This is an evolutionary trait related to tribalism. We (our ancestors) needed to be suspicious of strangers because they could be dangerous or carry unknown disease. Something that gets developed over millions of years, doesn’t disappear overnight just because we now have skyscrapers and smartphones and don’t live in small tribes. The unconscious bias is just a tiny legacy of our ancient ancestors and their lack of trust to strangers. Research shows that while we may not always treat others differently, different areas of our brain respond to members of our group and members of the outgroup. The groups can be anything from race, accent, to political views or even star sign or shared name. Of course, we have developed other traits alongside, like empathy, being social and many others which overrun the unconscious biases in most people. The recent decade, however, has seen the rise of identity politics which divided us into Us and Them. Feminism, Black Lives Matter, the election of Donald Trump, and Brexit divide us into categories. White, black, men, women, racist, sexist, homophobic, gay, straight, and so on. Even now, during, what’s supposed to be another Spanish Flu, we have managed to divide ourselves into black and white, BLM supporters and racists. Brexit vote and the election of Boris Johnson and his delivery of Brexit, divided the UK into Leavers and Remainers. Not only are we divided, but we also view each other as enemies. How can one relate to a death toll so diverse?

Speaking of diversity. I am an immigrant. I came to the UK fourteen years ago. That’s almost half of my life. Would I die for this country? No. Do I care about the royal family? Not really. I would help my community in the time of crisis. I have a family now. Would I stay here if the country turned into an Orwellian police state or socialist Venezuela? No, I wouldn’t fight for this country. What I am saying is, that this pandemic is too weak to convince everyone to come together. Diversity isn’t our strength. When you have a multicultural society, it is harder to come together to fight a virus what has 99.96% survival rate. Whether we like it or not, we care for our own. We respond better to real victims rather than graphs. We are willing to suffer different levels of discomfort for others and the more related we are to the (potential) victims, the more discomfort we are willing to suffer. The graph below demonstrates how we measure the sacrifice against the relationship when facing an immediate threat.

You’ll have to excuse my amateur skills at making a graph, but as you can see, we would risk our own life to save or protect our loved ones but the more unrelated we are to the people who are in danger, the less we are willing to do to help them. I’ve actually seen countless videos where a fight breaks out on the train (often between a man and a woman), and the other passengers choose not to intervene. Some even remove themselves from the area. I think there is a lot of people who would sacrifice more to save their mobile phone than another human. The sacrifice isn’t always physical. If someone doesn’t believe the masks are necessary, and believe the government is overstepping by making them mandatory and threatening them with fines for disobedience, then they will not make that sacrifice for anonymous people in a graph. People who don’t want to wear masks, whether they have or haven’t looked into their risks and benefits, are already angry with the government and the police for how they have been treating all of us for the past four months. They have been treating us like children. From how often to wash our hands and what song to sing, to what to wear on our faces. Not to mention the contact tracing system which has made a lot of people question the intentions of the government. I am not going to wear a mask and I will sooner be arrested than accept a fine for it. For people like me, being unmasked is a statement. We want to be heard. For some it is just a mask, perhaps providing safety, anonymity, comfort. For others it is infringement of our freedom. It is too much to ask and maybe, if it weren’t for Trump, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, identity politics, we would have a different response and would come together. Instead the rich of this world have just got richer during the pandemic while the poorest got poorer and this alone can create rebellion against the establishment even if it comes in a form of unmasked smiling face of a free man or woman.  

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Who took your nuts?

Why economy’s live matters

In the mid 1990’s, four out of a thousand American children had nut allergy. So, schools started banning nuts and everything related to nuts including foods produced alongside nuts. Some schools with less pupils might have never even had anyone allergic to nuts, but still banned them. This meant parents were instructed not to let their kids bring these foods to school. Not that school simply stopped serving them at lunch. I think it’s a little overreaction. Preventing all kids from having nuts just in case one (hypothetical) student may be allergic. This is what we have done to our economy, in my opinion. A very small percentage of cases resulted in death (almost exclusively of people in the high risk category) and we stopped the entire country and have taken baby steps to restart it and surprise, surprise, you will never be allowed to bring your metaphorical nuts to school ever again.

In the proceeding paragraphs I will attempt to argue that we should be allowed to keep our peanuts. That is our jobs, our businesses, our education, our future plans and dreams and human interaction, and we can’t or shouldn’t be forced to give them up in case someone somewhere might get a reaction. I won’t argue that lives don’t matter. Of course, they do. I will simply express my opinion why saving the economy should have been our goal given the COVID19 death rate looks a lot like the 1990’s nut allergy.

The fall of High Street

I went into my local shopping centre the other day. I bumped into a friend of mine who is a cleaner there. He is from Algeria. His nametag reads Mark, but this is just a familiar name he goes by at work. That’s also the name I know him by. We followed the arrows towards the escalator where we parted ways. During our short conversation he pinched his orange uniform with Intu Centres logo on it and disregarded it as irrelevant.

‘This uniform, we wear just for show. The company, Intu, it’s finished, gone!’, he said and explained that the Intu staff are no longer employed by Intu. He added that if nobody saves them in the next few months, the centres will get closed down. ‘I’m going back to my country, there is nothing for me here’ he said just before we headed off in separate directions.

Later that day I checked what exactly he had meant. Turned out the Intu Centres had gone into administration. The one in Watford, previously known as and still referred to as The Harlequin by the locals, had just had an enormous upgrade. They had spent a couple of years expanding, renovating and adding new retailers to their newly built space. This investment cost them a whooping £180mln and resulted in 1.4ml square ft of retail and leisure space and this was meant to be the next chapter into an exciting future of The Harlequin and Watford.

Cineworld, Hollywood Bowl and Debenhams all cut their ribbons less than 2 years ago. Debenhams spread across three huge floors and hosted numerous brands selling anything from beauty products, fashion to home. They recently announced that some of their branches would not be reopening and would get closed down permanently. Their new-born baby, the Watford branch didn’t make the cut. It will not reopen. Now, Debenhams had been in trouble before lockdown, but it looks to me like it sealed their fate. It is said the closure of their branches will cost thousands of jobs. This would include their staff, various brands which had their booths and kiosks on their shop floor, possibly warehouse staff and anyone working for other companies that do any kind of work with Debenhams. Currier companies for example might not need as many delivery drivers now that Debenhams and many other retailers closed their doors permanently.

The Harlequin’s 30 years of existence might be coming to and end

And now Intu Watford is stuck with an empty unit that won’t be easy to fill. There already are M&S and Primark in the centre and both are spread across three and two floors, respectively. John Lewis have just announced that a number of their stores will not reopen, including the one in Watford. The store has been part of Watford town centre for thirty years and as the locals know it today, it’s spread across, I believe four enormous floors selling everything from birthday cards to furniture and big screen televisions. But John Lewis Watford is no more. The Harlequin welcomed their first customers in the early 1990’s. Their recent investment and extension were meant to rebrand the town to a new shopping destination for people in surrounding area. This dream made other businesses see Watford in a new light and it resulted in numerous cafes and restaurants introducing themselves to the people of Watford. Will the closure of Debenhams and John Lewis mean the end of Intu Watford and will it destroy other businesses who have come here searching for the big success?

With over a hundred stores, the centre provides work for thousands of people and now whether they realize it or not, they are all facing an uncertain future. I used to work at one of these stores. We had a team of less than twenty people. There are of course bigger stores with a lot more employees Boots or Sports Direct. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had close to a hundred staff members. The closure of the Harlequin could, in my opinion indirectly cause loss of jobs in other unrelated areas of economy. Take bus drivers for example. No shopping centre means less people coming to Watford, both as customers and employees. Some hard decisions will have to be made in not only in bus companies but many others. And this is just one of the shopping centres in the Intu empire.

Take Rob for example. Rob has been working for TNT curriers for fifteen years. He complains about his job sometimes, but he likes it. He likes driving his orange truck delivering pallets upon pallets of cartons filled with stock to retail shops. He likes interacting with the stockroom staff who greet him with a smile every morning. He knows every one of them by name. You never see Rob wear trousers, always shorts. “Cause when it rains, the trousers get all wet and if you wear shorts you can just dry your legs and you’re good to go.” It kind of makes sense. “Even in Winter.”. He’d never let you struggle with your delivery all by yourself. He’d always give you a hand. This job pays good enough money for him and his family of two children live comfortably and never worry about the future. Until now. Now Rob’s future at TNT is uncertain. Sure, if it comes to it, they might transfer him to another department, maybe have him do home deliveries instead, but this just means others, like Rob will lose their jobs. Or maybe it will be more cost effective in the long run to let Rob go and keep those who are on a lower wage instead? I sure hope Rob’s fate is not sealed.

Chances are, Intu Centres are not going to be saved. Who would want to invest in shopping centres right now when the government can order them to close whenever they think the risk of keeping them open is too great? Nobody will want to invest. The government can enforce a local lockdown anywhere and anytime like they have done with Leicester. What is going to happen instead, is these shops are going to close, jobs are going to be lost and the whole retail space will be abandoned, and its value is going to go down dramatically. Only then will it be bought and transformed into something different. Blocks of flats or modern apartments is my guess. Maybe Amazon warehouse? Who knows? All other retailers around will give in too and the High Street will no longer be where you go to buy clothes and trainers.

Andy is a store manager. He is in his late twenties and he has spent over ten years working his way up the retail ladder. He’s had his eyes set on becoming an area manager and he has been working hard to get there and it seemed like it would happen for him soon. The shop he has spent all his career at is facing closure because it is located inside Intu Watford. Andy picked up this shop when it was in pieces and turned it into a fun and challenging workplace for all staff. He has made sacrifices not many of us would even dream of. He has been recognized as a manager of the year and he’s always kept his eyes on the ball. Now, if retail goes extinct, what can someone, who’s spent over ten years building a career in it, do? Sure, we learn various useful skills in any job, and we can take them with us to the next one, but something tells me the job market will not look the same after coronavirus. Many businesses will fail to make profit as they adapt to the new rules and measures. Many jobs will become a thing of the past as machines become more reliable, productive and can’t get sick.

Can hard work save the High Street or is that just wishful thinking? (Getty images)

Economy is such a dirty word, baby!

Economy has become a dirty word. People who want to save it, don’t mean to sacrifice innocent lives. They understand the importance of healthy population being able to carry the economy on their shoulders, and they understand the importance of protecting the vulnerable people from the virus. Others think we shouldn’t care about the economy. When they say economy, they think about the greed of capitalism, the sins of corporations and their executives. But the economy is made of us and our jobs. And most people think their job is waiting for them on the other side but as I have shown above, the future is uncertain for all of us. Hopefully, I have made a compelling case why we should be allowed to keep our nuts (our jobs, business and livelihoods) and not have them taken away to protect hypothetical people with allergies.

The government has imposed the lockdown and has kept us on house arrest for nearly four months as if this pandemic were the next Spanish Flu, which it is not. If it were, I would be writing a completely different article. The death rate is extremely low (even though the numbers have been boosted by false death certificates and wild guesses of the medical staff), and as harsh as it may sound, the vast majority of deaths was people who died because their time had come. The elderly who survived last year’s flu season fell ill in the last few months and their weak immune system couldn’t fight it this time. Others had other serious life-threatening conditions that would have killed them in the next few months. So, the lockdown hasn’t saved lives. It has postponed some deaths while making living all about staying alive. It has taken away the fun and joy of living life to the fullest and making the most of the time we have left, which is what living should be all about,  Most of us think we have many years left in our life’s calendar. Unlimited number of days, birthdays, holidays and countless hours with our loved ones. Some people don’t have that luxury and the house arrest might have kept them alive but deprived them of the very reason for being alive. I am not trying to suggest we should let the vulnerable die. I am saying we cannot cheat death and we cannot keep everyone safe forever. What I am saying is that it is more than likely the people who died in the last few months, would have died if they had caught another virus. We can all try to keep peanuts away from our vulnerable loved ones, but we can’t keep them from peanuts. At least not all the time and not indefinitely. And we definitely can’t forbid everyone from opening a bag of M&Ms just because someone may or may not have an allergic reaction. In the end we are all responsible for ourselves and no government intervention is going to make us care about hypothetical people who may or may not get sick and may or may not die from it, when our lives and lives of our immediate family are at stake. This also means providing food, protection and a sense of security.

Flu directly kills thousands if not millions of people worldwide while COVID19 seems to be just finishing the job of the underlying conditions sick people have and still managed to kill less people than seasonal Influenza. By all means, let’s try to keep our vulnerable loved ones alive. Let’s provide them with help and support they need to stay alive and to live their final years the way they see fit. The rest of us should have never been kept locked inside our homes. We should have been allowed to work and make a living while the vulnerable are protected if they so wish. If you have a loved one who is high risk then by all means, do whatever you believe is necessary to keep them healthy but in the end we are wired to care about our immediate family first and makes sure they are healthy and live with dignity. We can’t be forced to give up our nuts, the only way to feed our loved ones,  because someone, somewhere might have an allergic reaction.

Economy is important. It is important for you and for me. For the healthy and the sick. If you have a job, you can buy medicine for your child. If you buy a pair of jeans, someone else will put food on their table. It is a never-ending cycle. We are all in this together. We all support each other with our purchases, but we are all individually responsible for ourselves. We can’t expect the world to stop to accommodate us. We can’t expect the system to slow down so we can catch up. We can’t expect the whole town to get shut down because grandad is sick. We need to keep going but it seems like this option is being taken away from us.

Do you agree? Do you think I am wrong to think we should have thought about the economy? Do you think High Street will survive this massive blow? Are you going to be affected by any of this? What is your plan looking ahead? Let me know