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…

*

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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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.  

Something tells me this is correct
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