When I started this blog, back in 2019, my plan was to write about a variety of subjects and express, what I hoped to be, thought-provoking opinions. It was never my intention to focus on a single issue. The pandemic, however, interrupted my attempt at exposing the world’s truths and life’s meaning. I also never thought that I would witness the collapse of human dignity, compassion and consciousness. I didn’t dare to think that I’d see our basic freedoms arrested and our fundamental rights crushed, and our very nature denied to us and debunked, our humanity ripped from our mother’s arms. But here we are – year 2021. It’s beginning to look a lot like Nineteen eighty-four.
The ordinary world
Six O Four
Malbork, Poland, 2002. I am fifteen. It’s a warm Summer afternoon. My friends and I have just been playing football and we are now hanging out at our favourite spot – the bench under the rowan tree by the road leading to our estate. As we sit here, minding our business and causing no trouble, a police van pulls over and two bulky, bald police officers step out. They can’t be a lot older than us. Early 20s, I think. They come up to us and start asking questions. They demand that we give them our details, starting with our full name, date and place of birth, and full names of our parents. They look like they’re enjoying themselves. They talk to us like we’re guilty of some crime they’re investigating, but we haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, we are just a bunch of losers and everyone knows this. Girls want nothing to do with us, cool kids don’t want to shake our hands in school and to top it off, there is this one guy, probably around the age of Bulk and Skull over here, who always kicks our ball away when it ends up anywhere near him and his friends – the real troublemakers of our estate. They smoke and do drugs, while all we want to do is play football and sit on a bench looking at nice cars and girls who are out of our league. One of the cops orders me to take my hands out of my pockets. I know it’s disrespectful, but he hasn’t earned my respect. It is clear that they are trying to intimidate us. They must hold some kind of grudge against guys like us or perhaps they used to be bullies themselves and they’ve never grown out of it. Proud of themselves, they now get back into their van and drive off. We take a note of the number, it’s 604. It happens a few more times this Summer. It’s always the same scenario and the same oversized idiots with shaved heads, trying to teach us respect through intimidation. We’re never guilty of anything, but just in case, whenever we see a police van approaching and whenever we see the number 604 on the side of it, we try to move along to avoid another humiliating encounter with the law. By the time we see the number, however, it is usually too late.
It’s my fifteenth year in the UK. My experience with the British police has been drastically different. Not only that, but I’ve also never felt threatened or intimidated by a police officer. This has been the case until lockdowns began twelve months ago. Sometime in April of last year, my respect and admiration for the British uniform started to fade.
Great Britain – the country that gave us democracy, the country that many Eastern Europeans like me escaped to in search of a better tomorrow – had begun to turn into the authoritarian regime and police state many of us ran away from. I know, as a foreigner, I should probably not speak negatively of the country I’ve settled in, but whatever was once Great about Britain, has died of COVID, I think. And I mean this about the police who forgot their oath, government officials who seem to have turned into tyrants who do things to us instead of for us anymore and think we are their property, as well as people of Britain, who have exposed their true nature of spineless cowards who play dead on the battlefield.
I sat on a bench today, just outside the library and the Town Hall which has been turned into COVID19 vaccination centre. I sat there for about an hour waiting for my wife and our three-month-old son to finish at the doctor’s. He was having his blood taken as part of the ongoing investigation into his hearing loss. I’ve attended a couple of initial appointments when we were given the diagnose and crucial information. Then, both because of their One Parent Because of COVID19 policy and my lack of challenging it when the appointments were no longer scary but routine, I just waited outside or took a walk.
Today, I decided to sit on the bench instead of waiting outside. I felt like such an outlaw. For the past few months, doing such a thing has been unthinkable. Sitting on a bench has been viewed as a dangerous crime and health hazard. I sat there and listened to Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record on Audible. As I listened to Snowden’s confession what led him to expose the US government’s betrayal of their citizens, I was looking at groups of college kids laughing, talking, hugging and chatting, eating takeaways as they walked to town or back to college. If it weren’t for the fact that the majority of them wore masks, I’d have thought it was just an ordinary day in an ordinary world where COVID19 never existed.
I used to sit on this particular bench a lot when I first came to the UK fifteen years ago. I would look at the people, couples holding hands, young guys and girls getting out of taxis and refusing to wear coats (presumably to avoid leaving them behind in the nightclub), runners, guys with gym bags drinking protein shakes, you know, all these ordinary things happening every day in the ordinary world. A world where I, sitting on that bench, could afford to struggle with my own identity as I measured the behaviour of the herd. I could afford to sit there as long as it took me to collect my thoughts, write poetry and dream. Back in the ordinary world. Back when I had my whole life ahead of me and I took it for granted. Back when I could sit there until my skin shivered or until I found the missing piece of the puzzle. What burden was I carrying? What mystery of my mind was I trying to solve? How unaware was I of what was being plotted behind the scenes? How blind was I to the strings attached to all of our shoulders? Perhaps, as I sat there unaware, ignorant and small, handshakes were being exchanged, signatures given, funds transferred, things arranged, alibi prepared, consent manufactured – all to one day take away every dream I had dreamt on that bench, crush every plan I had thought of, dispose of everything I had held dear and precious.
Today, I don’t have that luxury, that freedom. Doing such an ordinary thing belongs in the past. “The rules” say so. As I sat there, a lone police officer emerged from the underground passage. When I saw him, I had a familiar feeling. The feeling a man only gets to feel a few times in his lifetime. When he sees the love of his life, the most beautiful woman, object of his love songs and poetry walk in the room and he has to tell her how he feels. And when his great nemesis or his army charge at him and he has to fight. It’s about fear and conquering that fear. It’s a quick, sharp excitement and anxiety in his chest that make him focused yet paralysed, ready to fight and ready to hide.
That’s what I felt that moment I laid my eyes on the policeman. The sharp feeling in my chest was gone before I knew it, yet it expressed so many things all at once. ‘Is this the time I get confronted?’, it asked, exposing my lack or preparedness for the confrontation I had been anticipating and rehearsing for months. More importantly, it reminded me of the time I last felt it about the police. That summer I was harassed by 604’s Bulk and Skull. It also made me realise that as a thirty – four-year-old father, husband, legally employed and a law-abiding citizen I should never feel this about the police. After all, they are not my enemy and I’m not guilty of anything. My body should not turn on and prepare to flee or confront them. But because of how many of them have behaved over the last year, I now feel like a fugitive, who must always be ready to run, resist and sees them not as public servants, but as the enemy. Enemy of human nature, freedom and dignity.
Luckily, the cop wasn’t interested in my suspicious activity. It was just me and Edward again.
Malbork, Poland, 2002. Finally, they get what they wanted. They’ve created a monster. My friend, Adrian, isn’t a member of our group, but he hangs out with us occasionally. Part of the reason is that he lives in a tower block in a different part of town, and he prefers homework than sitting on a bench. Not all of us have mobile phones, so there are only two ways for us to all get together. We either specify time and place of assembly when at school or we pick everyone one by one by calling at their address until everyone is accounted for. Since Adrian goes to a different school and lives so far for us to get him, we simply don’t bother most of the time. When we do, however, we make his neighbours’ life a living hell. The lifts in those buildings are old, nothing like you might be imagining. The doors aren’t automatic. You have to pull or push them to open. Once the floor number is pressed and the door shut, you’re on your way. Our favourite thing to do is getting in the lift on the ground floor, pressing the button and holding the door slightly open for the next person who walks into the building. It’s often someone old. We stand there, holding the door, showing we’re waiting for them. We never hold the door wide open. Instead, we leave the smallest gap and that’s crucial to our prank. They always look very grateful as they show their appreciation and perform their mini jog to get in the lift with us. At the last second, when they are about to grab the handle on the other side, we release the door and watch their gratitude turn into disappointment as we fill the inside of the lift with mocking, knee - slapping laughter. We’ve done it countless times, but today, we’ve done it to the wrong man. He’s just chased us out of the building and as we’re in a safe distance, I extend my right arm and show him the middle finger. We are still laughing at the look on his face when his hope to get in the lift turned into embarrassment, when he appears out of nowhere and grabs me by the arm. Huffing and puffing from under his thick, unkept moustache, he looks particularly angry with me for giving him the finger. He’s not even mad about the lift thing. It’s the middle finger that bothers him. My friends abandon me, accepting that I have taken it too far and am now on my own. ‘Where do you live?’, he asks. ‘Just around the corner’, I lie, thinking he will let me go. Instead, he squeezes my arm tighter and demands I take him to my parents. ‘I’m lying, I don’t live around here’, again thinking he lets me go. I try to release myself, but my teenage strength is no match for his manly grip. His friend approaches on his bike and together they come to the conclusion that it’s best to call the police. I tell them both to fuck off, which gives the friend the permission to suggest that they “rough me up a little” before cops arrive. He does nothing. I struggle, but his hand doesn’t let go. The old man must be producing his whole strength from his front porch, I think. The police arrive and Moustache releases his sausage fingers from my arm. His grip made my coat all wrinkly. He lies to the officers, saying I “threatened him with violence”. The friend nods and confirms. I can’t see my face, but I feel angry and as I make my way to the back of the car, I call him a fucking liar and demand my version to be heard. They don’t wanna to know. It’s a short ride home in the backseat. What crime have I committed that I am being taken home for it? We drive past the rowan tree bench and it’s occupied by my friends who were quick to abandon me. Few minutes later I am being dragged upstairs and for the first time in the last half an hour, I feel anxious. I didn’t care about Moustache and his fat, sweaty hand. Not even about his courageous friend who threatened to beat me up. Hell, I didn’t even care about them calling the police. It is my mom who I am really afraid of. The police do the talking, I am just silent and embarrassed.
Just follow the rules
You can’t torture an animal forever without it lashing outJordan Peterson
If you are reading this, I’m sure I don’t have to explain in great detail what my feelings toward the police are based on. I suspect, what brought you here is the same resentment I feel after having watched hours of social media clips of police abusing their power, enforcing COVID rules. If you’re like me, these videos make you feel sick, angry and upset. They wake within you the unfamiliar rage and fury you had no idea you were capable of feeling. Maybe it even frightens you what you might do if these feelings are left unchecked. You imagine yourself punching, kicking and spitting your way out of the unlawful arrest while simultaneously knowing this would never end well for you. But it helps, doesn’t it? It feels so good seeing your fists land on their faces, making their surgical masks turn red. It feels good visualising, even for a minute, defeating the bad guys, serving justice and coming out as the hero. I know it works for me. It silences this desperation burning within me as I see people being tackled to the ground in their own homes for the crime of having dinner with their family. If you’re anything like me, this sense of injustice overwhelms you because you know these bastards get away with it every time and only their consciousness will ever be their judge and their executioner.
A few weeks ago, the government requested every concerned citizen to express in their own words the negative effects lockdown had on various aspects of their life, including mental health. I don’t know what I was hoping it would achieve, but I decided to submit my evidence, in which I say:
I imagine myself being dragged into a van after attending a protest in the near future. Then put in a cell and the rage, I am not supposed to feel as a father, returns. I shouldn’t feel like this. These emotions have come out of nowhere. In the first lockdown, I was fine. I was reading a lot, I was outside a lot. Now I feel like a ticking time bomb. These negative emotions – anger mixed with desperation, anxiety, heartbreak, rejection, bitterness – they don’t even have an outlet…
I described myself as a ticking timebomb. Probably not the wisest choice of words in a letter to the government, but I didn’t care. Perhaps I even wanted them to come for me. Take me into a room and play good cop and bad cop, asking me what I meant, who I worked for. What did I mean? This next fragment explains it well:
I should be the happiest I’ve ever been, but recently, I find myself feeling emotions I’ve never felt before. I feel anger, resentment and hopelessness. I feel powerless and desperate to the point where I want to cry or break something and who knows what I will do if I’m caught off guard? These negative feelings aren’t directed at my family. But this anger turns into rage within me, and I never knew it was there. This desperation I feel inside makes me so depressed sometimes and I feel I have no control over what happens to my life
The only time I ever feel anything close to how I’ve felt for the last few months is whenever I see a movie where the character is being kept hostage, tortured, isolated and made do things against his will by his tyrannical captors. When I see the scenes of this injustice, I boil inside, crave revenge and imagine what I would do to them if I managed to set myself free. In my mind, I do unspeakable things.
I see the same injustice when I watch a video of police attacking protesters, mothers with children, friends having coffee together and families in their homes. People often say that to avoid being fined or arrested, all we have to do is just “follow the rules”. Just follow the rules, they say. Never mind that the rules intrude and trespass on our rights, ruin our freedoms, criminalise choice and oppress people’s needs and interests. These cowards who welcome this invasion with open arms often defend their submission by pointing out various laws that they claim already take away our freedom. Their best example is usually something to do with speed limits (because of course, given the freedom to do so, everyone wants to drive like a maniac).
These people don’t understand the meaning of personal rights, where they come from and why no other person, no matter their position, can take these rights away. They don’t understand the concept of personal responsibility and that they themselves are the only ones who they should rely on to stay safe, not just from COVID19, but from any threat.
Another thing they love to say, especially to me since I am a foreigner, is something along the lines of, “go back to Poland, if you don’t like the rules of this country”. This easily translates to: if you want your freedom; if you don’t want to live in an authoritarian regime; if you don’t agree that police should have such powers; if you want to have rights then go to a country that provides them. They love to ridicule and belittle you for valuing freedom over safety and individual rights over collective duty. “Grow up!”, they often tell me. As if holding these values is immature and childlike, while theirs are morally superior and wise.
“Without rules there is only chaos”, they also say, which of course is a fallacy. It implies that people would just go crazy if the rules weren’t written down. But laws, at least the criminal laws, exist mainly to discourage and punish criminals. Most people are not criminals. Laws might be printed by man, but man’s morality is the ink. Most people not only recognise that murder is wrong but are unable to even picture themselves killing anyone. The law against murder, then, exists to discourage and punish the very few who are able to commit such an act. These men, who are a small fraction of the population, who don’t share the morals of the rest of us, who don’t value another man’s life, who aren’t scared of pulling the trigger are the reason why laws are written down. I would argue even in absence of certain laws, most people would have no desire to murder, rob and rape. Most men, as an example, find the idea of rape repulsive (widely available porn only confirms that) and that’s why they don’t do it, not because they are afraid of getting caught.
Most people simply want to live and let live without causing any harm to another person and his property. Other laws exist merely as reminders how to live in the community, guidance for businesses and protection of individual rights. Furthermore, laws and morality don’t always go hand in hand. For example, in some countries, prostitution is illegal, but it’s not immoral. Lying to your friend or cheating in your relationship are immoral, but they are not illegal. Not paying your debt is not a criminal offence, but it may be considered immoral. I would argue that forbidding lovers see each other for months on end is immoral and criminalising it is unlawful. Yet here we are.
It’s also interesting to see how many people simply needed new rules to be written down to completely abandon their empathy for another person. They just needed a rule to exist to see a normal, harmless activity as a crime for which someone should be put to death. They turn into totalitarian boot lickers happy to snitch on their neighbours for having guests for dinner. This tells a lot about people in this country.
a few bad apples
Just as people needed new policies and rules to turn on their neighbours and fellow citizens, to a number of police officers they were simply an excuse to become tyrants they always had been. Perhaps the surgical mask they now have to wear provides them with anonymity they needed to disconnect from their actions towards other men and women.
They may be in a small minority, but it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of them just follow along and turn the other way. That small minority is enough for there to be hundreds of videos exposing their abuse of power during lockdown. It has been happening here in the UK and all over the Western World. In Australia, a woman was arrested in her own home, in front of her children for organising a protest on Facebook. Another man had his front door kicked in for the same reason. A video from Poland shows officers tackling a man to the ground for refusing to wear a mask and threatening his friend with a gun for attempting to intervene. Just the other day, I saw a footage from a grocery store in Netherlands, where the security man not only attempts to forcibly remove an unmasked shopper from the store but gets assistance from a man wearing a mask like a good boy. There are many more examples, way too many to list them here. In Germany, the country that should know better, the police are seen using water to disperse the crowd of protesters. Not only that, but their government also introduced the concept of quarantine camps – places for people who refuse to self–isolate after testing positive or returning from abroad. Funnily enough, a number of people in the UK fully support the idea and think it doesn’t go far enough. They think people like me should be put in prison.
What really makes these people betray their integrity and commitment to others? Is it the moral superiority of doing the right thing? What about the men in uniform? What triggers in them the brainless, unconscious and detached android mode, incapable of own thought, compassion and reasoning?
You know, I’ve been writing this for a few weeks now and I feel like I still have a long way to go. It seems like every week there is another story in the press, another video on Twitter, showing police officers intruding people’s lives and disturbing their peace. There was a video a while ago, in the Midlands I believe. A man got called an idiot by the officer and thrown in the back of the police car. The reason? The cop didn’t believe the man’s trip was essential. He didn’t believe him when he said he lived around there so he arrested him in a very disrespectful manner. If the man were a suspect of a crime, it would have been a different story, but he was only stopped, grabbed and harassed for the officer’s assumptions and misunderstanding of the law and his powers. This is not the only video I’ve seen where the police officer acts disrespectfully, threatening and patronising towards a member of the public who is just going about their daily life. And this is the crucial part – going about your business is not a crime, no matter how they put it. If you’re exercising your freedoms (in this case, the freedom of movement) and there is a law that forbids it, it is an unjust law, and your duty is to break it and resist those who come after you to enforce it. As Nelson Mandela famously said:
When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.Nelson Mandela
In other words, if the government tells a man he can’t see his loved ones, can’t start a relationship, sit in the field and listen to the voice of nature he has no other option but to defy the government for they have no business telling him how to live his private life. And I don’t buy that “what you do is affecting others because you’re spreading the virus” nonsense. Everyone is responsible for their own destiny. We are all independent human beings and need to take responsibility for our life and ownership of our choices. We don’t exist to ensure others never fall ill, go hungry or homeless. We don’t exist so others can live. We aren’t on this planet to fulfil other people’s needs. That is at the heart of freedom – it gives each individual the right and more importantly, the power to take necessary steps to protect himself from harm, because he can’t control others. In freedom, everyone gets to make choices to live the best, happiest and healthiest life available to them. The moment you let go of that freedom, hand it over to the state, who then believe they have to take everyone’s freedoms for their safety, you end up with no responsibility for yourself and no ownership of your life. Your safety and your health, your very survival depend on what others do or don’t do. What if, one day, people simply choose not to follow the rules anymore? You will have no choice but to rely on yourself. You must understand that you wash your hands for yourself. Imagine, if you lived your life always counting on others washing theirs and relying on them doing it properly.
And now we have muzzled police turned against the public. They patrol our streets, they “hide in the shadows” and sneak up on us in parks like we’re all criminals. They stalk us, flying drones over our heads if we dare to take too long of a walk. They demand we tell them where we are going and why. They are rude, dishonest and brutal.
The grip never relaxes
People cringe when I use the word tyranny to describe our current situation. They hear the word regime and imagine Germany in 1943, when Nazism was already well established. They never think to look beyond the dates they know from history books. They forget that tyranny comes about gradually and introduces itself in small, careful steps. The tyrant pushes the people to their limit or very close to their limit. He lets them settle, get used to the “new normal” and then pushes them further, lets them settle again and repeats.
Similarly, when you look back at the past year, you’ll see that the restrictions have been piling up on top of each other and we never, even after the first lockdown, went back to the pre – lockdown state. The government claimed almost full control of our lives and gave back very little of it. Then did it again and again, giving us back just scraps of the life we used to know. This is in essence how tyrants rise. They rise from the ashes of our humanity and they thrive in the flames of our desperation, fear and blind obedience. They take and very rarely give back.
We’ve created a system which pushes us further into becoming passive spectators and not active participants in social affairs and one that creates an illusion of having control of our lives. We have done it without asking questions, without looking back and without resisting. In this system, we aren’t taught how to lead, but how to follow. We have become a nation of sheep who are convinced they need a shepherd; we have convinced ourselves that we can’t make rational decisions for ourselves; we trust neither ourselves nor other individuals in the herd but will follow the majority led by the shepherd into our doom and slaughter.
Boris Johnson and his fellowship of the virus, put us in lockdown in March last year, taking almost full control of our lives, making them masters of our daily rituals and activities. They served us with a strict list of things we were and weren’t allowed to do. They pushed us to our limit by taking from us as much as they could. They then returned some of our freedoms, but their boot remained in the door. We were allowed to go back to work, but still lived very limited and restricted lives.
They then intimidated, threatened and coerced people into cancelling their Christmas plans. They trapped students in their student accommodations, miles away from home, set up police checkpoints outside towns on Christmas Eve to make sure people weren’t seeing their families. They terrorized our minds, intimidated us with bullies hoping we would not find a way and strength to nourish our relationships and do what we felt was right anyway. And many of us did.
The tyrant, very much like Mr. Unkept Moustache who captured me all these years ago, once he grabs you, never relaxes his grip.
We have the luxury now, to go back in time, browse through history, listen to the testimony of the survivor reliving her horrors and we can look the tyrant in the eyes. We can witness him rise from the ashes of people’s defeated courage and thrive in their desperation. We can follow his steps from his first day as the ruler to the brutal end. We swear we would have done something, that we would have refused, rebelled and stopped him. We are baffled why nobody did. Today, as we find ourselves in the midst of tyranny, we welcome the tyrant and baffle future historians with our inaction.
Run, fat boy, run!
Malbork, Poland, 2004 A knock on the door wakes me up. I roll over on my mattress, which is all I have to sleep on, and check the time. It’s just gone seven o’clock. I don’t need to be up for another hour to go to school. After last night, however, I am surprised I even slept at all, to be honest. Times like these I wish I had a mobile phone to check on my mates and see if they’re alright. See if they all got away too. My mom gets the door. I can hear a man’s voice, but I don’t recognise it. It could be a neighbour or a postman, I don’t know. We’ve just moved here. Is it possible, though? Could it be…? I can hear my mom’s footsteps. They’re fast, they’re angry and loud. She storms into my room and kicks my mattress, sending my pillow across the room. ‘The police are here for you! Get up! Get the fuck up and get dressed right now!’, she screams through her tears. I pretend I have no idea what this is all about, but it’s a lie. The promise I made to her last time I was brought home by the cops is broken. I swore that was the last time. I am taken back to that evening we were chased by the police outside the church and I almost got away. Almost. The cop caught up with me outside the kindergarten. ‘Wait here while I run after your friend’, he said. Of course I didn’t wait. I’m not stupid. I ran. I ran only to be caught again by the other cop. Next thing I know, the one who caught me first is dragging Andrew by his collar, which kind of made me – the fat one of the group – feel better cause he is the group’s athlete. ‘I thought I told you to wait there!’, he looked at me with disbelief and anger as I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him amazed that he really thought I was just going to wait there for him. What an idiot. This was months ago now and we weren't even doing anything wrong. We were just fooling around and ran when we saw them. But for her it is still a fresh wound, a broken promise. ‘Hurry up!’, she brings me right back to the present and says I have five minutes to get ready. The men are waiting and will drive me to the station. I’m only seventeen, what’s the worst that can happen? Oh who am I kidding? I am shitting myself.
Seventeen years later, I expect a knock on the door and prepare for it to be kicked in. The amount of times I tweeted at Metropolitan Police calling them fascists and pathetic is more than I can remember. In the country where people get charged for things they say online, for offending others, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens one day. Who will be the men at my door? Just some good men, men who joined the force to protect the innocent, defend our rights? Maybe. Or maybe it will be one or two tyrants who love their newfound powers? Or maybe it will just be some ordinary officers who are just following orders, right? Just doing their job. Just taking me away from my family for having an opinion or for spreading misinformation. Have you seen V for Vendetta? Asking for a friend…
On Saturday, Boris Johnson told Santa Claus he wasn’t welcome in London and surrounding areas. Not only that. He ordered every man, woman and child in, what he calls, Tier 4 to stay home and not visit their families over Christmas. If this wasn’t bad, oppressive and intrusive enough, he threatened these families with fines and arrests if they broke these new and sudden rules. Leaving or entering London after midnight that day was criminalised to the point where even the mainstream media compared the packed train stations across the city to war time evacuation. This time, however, they were not escaping explosions and destruction, not even from the mutated virus, but from the tyranny of their own leader.
Many people would use the word incompetence instead of tyranny, but I do not see Boris Johnson as incompetent. At the moment of writing #BorisFailedBritain is trending on Twitter, but I do not believe he failed Britain, at least not in the way he is being accused of. He has failed and he has failed us dramatically by destroying our lives with continuous lockdowns and other restrictions designed to make us pretend COVID19 is our only weakness and the only thing we should worry about. Truth is, we are not Supermen and COVID19 is not our Kryptonite. There are other things that can and have killed us over the course of this year, and some, like cancer, growing depression and unemployment will claim more victims in the coming months and years and the blood of these men, women and children will be on Johnson’s hands, as well as on the hands of everyone who pushed for more lockdowns and other restrictions that came with them. I don’t even think Boris is a tyrant or a dictator. I think the majority of the public are so scared and incapable of making their own decisions that they need not simple guidance, but a clear list of rules to follow. If the majority are scared of that one thing – the virus – then they will hold him responsible for the handling of this virus. He then gets to pull the lever, like in the trolley dilemma, and in hopes of saving a few elderly people from dying of COVID19 and the NHS from being overwhelmed, he chooses to let the trolley run over cancer patients, anxious and depressed people, obese people, unborn children, business owners and economy as a whole. He pulls the lever because he knows people will not blame him even if in the end more lives will be lost. By then, however, it can be attributed to something else. So, he may not be a tyrant as we know it, or he may not have always been one, but that doesn’t mean that with a little help of the public he can’t become one.
His response reminds me that of every major corporation when facing a possible backlash or boycott. When corporations fail to accommodate or acknowledge an identity group it almost always leads to outrage of activists. Companies want our money, they want to survive, so they choose to avoid bad reputation and put rainbows on their displays. This strategy works because it pleases the minority who would otherwise loudly voice their outrage. So, it’s best to keep them quiet by appearing virtuous and inclusive. Those who accuse them of “bending the knee” to wokeness will be called bigots and no corporation wants to be associated with bigotry. And this is what The Prime Minister has done. He pleased those who are likely to make the loudest noise of disapproval. Fear of COVID19, in this case, is the wokeness he has to please. The anger and desperation of people like me is the bigotry he can deal with by force and nobody will feel sorry or voice their outrage in our name.
Christmas saving lockdown that ended in Tiers
“The only way to save this Christmas”, government officials said back in October, “is to introduce a four-week national lockdown”. And so, on the 5th November, we closed our businesses, cancelled our plans and worked from home if we could. Some businesses, however, did not close their doors. Before the November lockdown was announced, some parts of England had already been hit with major restrictions when they were put in Tier 3. All non-essential businesses in Tier 3 were ordered to close until further notice. This gave rise to resistance of gym owners in Liverpool, the city where the Tier 3 restrictions were in place in October.
Nick Whitcombe, one of the gym owners in Liverpool, became the face and the voice of the resistance. His gym remained open despite daily visits from the police who were delighted to fine him and the members of his gym. Nick, along with other local gym owners, campaigned to make gyms essential for mental health reasons. His mission was science and evidence based. The government data clearly showed that gyms were “part of the solution, not the problem”, which later became the slogan of the campaign. His argument to, not only allow gyms to stay open, but to make them essential, was based on the low infection rate in the gyms and huge mental health benefits of physical activity. This, he believed, could not be neglected especially in the dark, cold and depressing winter months, when many people, especially women, may not feel safe to workout outside.
The Liverpool gyms were visited by the police multiple times a day threatening their owners and members with fines and arrests. Soon after, the rest of the country faced the same fate as the North. A four-week national lockdown to save Christmas was announced. This time many gyms across the country showed solidarity with the cause and refused to bend the knee to the lockdown rules. Gainz Fitness and Strength in Bedford and Zone Gym in London were among the many who vowed to defy the lockdown rules. They were soon joined by other business owners who simply had had enough. Restaurants, beauty salons, tattoo shops and local gift shops were just a few that made themselves heard on social media and made it to the news. Police visited all of them, fined and arrested when they refused to shut.
Beauty salon owners, who put their foot down, played a big role in the movement, but it was all about the gyms. This issue became a worldwide story and Nick Whitcombe was interviewed by media and invited on London Real TV. Over six hundred sixteen thousand people signed the petition to prevent gyms from closing again. This number simply could not be ignored by the government. Supplement company, Grenade, joined the campaign and many other fitness-oriented names and brands soon followed. Many remained quiet until getting called out or boycotted by fitness enthusiasts. Gymshark, for example, remained largely silent about the importance of gyms despite having no problem whatsoever getting involved with other political issues in the recent months. They even changed their Twitter handle to Homeshark during the first lockdown to support the #StayHome cause and later joining the activists in posting black squares on their Instagram to support Black Lives Matter. It took weeks of #makegymsEssential campaign for the CEO of Gymshark to express his support for the gym industry, but in my opinion it was just to avoid backlash, especially since black Friday was just around the corner and Gymshark needed to sell as many skinny tracksuits and leggings as possible.
What happened after the lockdown surprised everyone. Boris Johnson introduced a new and redefined Tier system. Tier 3 remained the highest level of alert with the toughest restrictions, but this time gyms and beauty salons were allowed to stay open. Pubs and restaurants were delt the worst hand. Another thing people noticed was that most of England left the November lockdown worse off than they entered it. Millions of people came back to more restrictions than they had in October. Many joked that this was just another lockdown disguised as Tier System.
It was, however, a small victory for gyms. and it meant that people like me, who work in fitness, finally had some sort of certainty in their lives. Athletes could finally set their long-term goals and adhere to their fitness regime to get to them. It was a small victory because gyms were still not made essential, which meant that in case of another national lockdown, we’d be back to square one. It was, on the other hand, a huge victory for all of us and I will explain why.
To obey or to disobey?
In one of my previous posts The Dark Side of The Greater Good – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com), I addressed the communist regime that swept through Poland and Eastern Europe for four and a half decades. Russia, after defeating The Nazis in World War 2, deceived Poles into accepting communism as their saviour. The next forty years were filled with misery and foreign oppression disguised as the greater good. The disguise came in slogans like “collective good”, “equality” and “we’re in this together”. Of course, these exact words might not have been used, but it was just a cover up for the lies, deception and war crimes committed by the Soviets. It took rebellion and resistance to end this in the late 1980s. The Communist cloud was removed and for the first time in over forty years forecast for Poland looked brighter than ever before. Maybe the Soviet Union would have collapsed regardless of Polish rebellion, but maybe not. It took resistance to release Poland from the power-hungry claws of the Soviets, who used the war as the crisis and Nazis as the threat. Together they formed the excuse to invade Poland without tanks and bombers, without actually invading them.
Today, COVID19 is the threat and the pandemic is the crisis and lockdowns disguised as solution are like the Soviets disguised as the saviours. Russians agreement with Poland was based on a lie. First they murdered twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners of war and kept this crime hidden for nearly fifty years. The officers and other prisoners they shot were, if released, a potential threat and an obstacle to absolute control. Today, the government is willingly sentencing thousands of people to die of cancer and suicide, only to offer solution to the pandemic.
Today, nobody gets shot in the back of their head for refusing to believe COVID19 is a genuine threat that justifies continuous lockdowns and assaults on our liberties. As we have seen, however, the most prominent voices out there are the target of censorship online and police brutality on the streets. The police keep a close eye on those with large enough following on Instagram and whenever an anti-lockdown protest is organised, those are the people who are always the victims of arrests. The police tactics here are so transparent – find the leaders and make an example out of them. Piers Corbyn has been arrested at every protest he attended. Andreas Michili or @g00nbag on Instagram, the owner of Zone Gym in London, is another person who has been targeted by the police at two anti-lockdown protests. They deliberately searched for him in the crowd of thousands of protesters. Ellie Grey or @officialelliegrey on Instagram is another anti-lockdown activist with sixty thousand followers. She too has had bounty on her head for spreading information about the upcoming protest.
Why them? In my opinion it is as clear as day. The authorities hope their arrest will discourage their audience from attending the next protest. If I got arrested at a protest, I’d share it with my couple of hundred followers. It would most likely reach up to 25% of them and it would not make a huge impact. The police know that arresting someone who they know has thousands of followers, is like arresting all of them at once. With every arrest, more people get discouraged from attending the next protest. What other possible reason could there be? If all protesters are breaking the same rules, then should it matter who gets arrested? As long as the constables don’t come back empty handed, right?
I have recently read “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder who, apart from believing Donald Trump is a dictator (if this were true, the book, as well as all other Trump criticism, would never see the light of day), made some good points and observations. “Protests”, he says in one of the chapters, “can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets”. He continues, “If tyrants feel no consequences for their actions in the three-dimensional world, nothing will change”. It doesn’t, however, require a tyrant for protests to be needed. Whenever a group of people have witnessed or experienced injustice, oppression or inequality they almost always brought about a positive change through protests or some sort of resistance or strike. You can’t talk about gay rights, women’s rights, end of slavery, racial equality or even animal rights, and not mention that they were all achieved through protests and even riots. These activists took to the streets to question the status quo. They took a stance for what they believed in and spoke against injustice they either experienced first-hand or witnessed all around them. This is the driving force behind every protest – it is a group of people who believe they are being oppressed and they don’t see any other way but to gather and make their voice heard.
Today, many people believe our freedoms are under attack and lockdowns and intrusive rules take away our rights to be human and our access to prosperity. These people question the status quo. They believe lockdowns are unjustified and politicians enforcing them corrupt or incompetent. These people are not convinced by the pandemic argument. The government created rules banning protests because of the pandemic and for many people this is good enough. The protesters, however, some of whom are business owners who have lost everything, fathers who have not seen their children because of lockdowns, young people whose education has been interrupted and people who have lost their job, gather precisely to protest those rules that assault freedom of assembly, freedom to make a living and live with dignity. If you don’t support the protesters, you can’t quote the rules they are protesting to stop them from protesting. It would be like telling women to not demand the right to vote because they don’t have the right to vote. You may not agree with their cause, but their right to stand up for what they believe in is your right to do the same when you believe you have no other choice. I should also mention that not a single protest resulted in a spike in cases or COVID19 deaths. If you believe in freedom, in rights, in progress, in power, in corruption, then you must also believe in the right of the people to defend themselves against bad politicians and their policies.
What happened after November stay at home order then? Boris Johnson released us from our chains only to tie our hands and feet. In other words, the Tiers returned, only this time harsher and with more restrictions. Many areas went into lockdown from Tier 1 and finished it with Tier 2 or 3. Watford, where I live, was considered lucky to start December in Tier 2, only to move into Tier 3 – highest level of alert – a couple of weeks later. So far lockdown worked perfectly, didn’t it? Then, after Johnson put us all through a lockdown to save Christmas and after he promised Christmas would be saved and after he put us into Tier 3, he announced, just days later, that London and surrounding areas would go into an emergency Tier 4, of which we had never heard of before, of course. But I’ll talk about that later.
First, what changed and why in Tier 3 since October? This time, gyms and beauty salons were allowed to open across all Tiers 1 – 3. This is before the introduction of Tier 4. Before lockdown, Tier 3 meant gyms and hairdressers had to shut. Now, this was no longer the case. The government responded to over six hundred thousand signatures and rebellious gym owners. They still hadn’t recognised gyms as essential businesses, which meant that in case of yet another national lockdown, they would be told to shut again, but it was a start. Why did the government have a change of heart? I have a theory.
I believe that the government knew that fines for gyms and other businesses were unenforceable and arrests were unlawful. They knew that men like Nick Whitcombe or Andreas Michili would continue to disobey the orders. They knew that any successful resistance would expose their weakness and empower people. The resistance didn’t just come in form of protests and disobedience of business owners. It evolved into educating people about their rights and how to handle themselves in the event of an arrest or what to do when being fined or how to legally refuse to shut their business. People learned about their human rights and the laws that protect those rights from the state and that no other human, no matter what authority they have, should have the power to suspend those rights. So, the government, knowing they would eventually lose (either because of mass disobedience or loss of public support due to inability to enforce coronavirus rules), decided to “allow” people to do what they were going to do anyway. Gyms were allowed to stay open because many of them would stay open anyway. Nick Whitcombe’s campaign had by then gained a worldwide attention, hundreds of thousands of people signed the petition to save gyms so the government had no choice but to bend the knee to our demands. This is my opinion anyway. According to the experts, for example, supermarkets are the places that produce the most cases and gyms, restaurants and pubs are at the very bottom of the list, resulting in next to no cases per hundred thousand visits.
In Tier 3, however, pubs and restaurants had to shut. This meant that restaurants in Hertfordshire, for example, reopened their doors on the 2nd December, fully equipped in PPE, cleaning and sanitising stations, social distancing measures in place, reduced capacity (all of which cost money, effort and job losses), had to close again on the 16th December, as per Tier 3 rules which allowed take away only. The difference between the restaurant or pub owners and gym owners is that the former, in good faith, closed their doors in November, while the latter disobeyed and made it known to thousands of people on social media. This resulted in a win for the gyms and a loss for pubs and bars who, previously could stay open in Tier 3 provided their customers ordered a “substantial meal” with their drink, now had to shut.
As we entered Tier 3 on the 16th, people like me, fitness instructors or personal trainers still had a job to go to. Pub workers went into pretty much another lockdown just two weeks after the taste of freedom and a hope for a normal Christmas was returned to them. The promise that was given to them in November was broken. For now, however, we still had Christmas to look forward to. Then, out of nowhere, came Tier 4. I should mention here that a COVID19 test centre emerged in Watford, just on my way to work. Coincidentally that led to more cases which led to Tier 3 and then 4. No article I’ve seen mentions any deaths or even hospitalizations, only cases. My wife gave birth almost four weeks ago and the midwives, as nice as they all were, told her she “had to” have a COVID19 test before giving birth. Her test was negative, but I can imagine a lot of people’s tests came back positive even if they themselves had never felt better and could be in the hospital for a completely different reason. My sister, who gave birth on Christmas Eve, in Luton, was also forced to have the test. Tier 4 arrived to save us, in other words, from cases.
2 + 2 = 5
The announcement by the Prime Minister on the 19th was a breaking point for thousands, if not millions, of people. Everyone, including those who hadn’t previously expressed their views on coronavirus lockdowns, had something to say now. I had made my opinion known long ago. By the third week of the first lockdown, I’d already sensed something was not right about it. Police issued warnings that they’d be looking in people’s bags to see if they were buying essentials. They’d patrol parks and tape off benches and outdoor gyms. They made it criminal to sit alone in the field or take your dog for a walk in the middle of nowhere. Where I come from, this is known as the early sings of a democratic country turning into a police state. A police state voted in by fear and compliance.
When Johnson finished his announcement, which resulted in pretty much another lockdown in London and surrounding areas, the lockdown disguised as just another Tier, the whole hell broke loose. People were outraged and had every right to be. One particular group of people believed they knew who stole Christmas. Only now it wasn’t just about Christmas. For millions of people, it meant at least two more weeks of not working and not seeing family. Typical human response is to find someone to blame. I guess I have done it myself by holding those who blindly obey and never questions the orders they are given responsible. But one person, who I know personally made a statement that I believe represents the views of a growing number of people. He blamed the rule breakers for Tier 4.
“To all those who broke the rules, didn’t wear masks, and I know some of you personally, this one [Tier 4] is on you!”, said one of my friends on his Instagram. I don’t blame him for being angry. I applaud him in a way. He’s been, until now, quiet about lockdowns, but they affected him significantly. He has lost most of his clients and considered just getting a normal job for the guaranteed income. He has the right to feel angry and I am glad that he does. But I think he should aim his anger and outrage at the government and not that one occasional person without a mask he sees in the cereal isle in Tesco. Truth is, I’ve been out in the shopping centre twice in between September and October and both times I was the only person without a facemask. Most people, for one reason or another, follow the rules, so Tier 4 can hardly be blamed on that one guy here and there.
I sensed desperation in his words, which just like anger, is alright to feel. I believe he speaks for a lot of people, so it is not just about him. These people don’t seem to be too concerned with saving lives, they just want their lives back and believe the only way to do that is by pleasing the government with total obedience. He added in his post that in New Zealand, people just did what they were told and now live a normal life. He attributes that to strict lockdown and people following the rules, but I would say geography played its part too. Chances are, there is, on average, a lot less flights going in and out of New Zealand than there is in the UK. Truth is, there is always more factors at play, and simply saying “lockdown did it” is dishonest. It’s also interesting how people love to mention places where lockdown “worked”, like New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia, but fail to mention Sweden which achieved similar results without lockdown. They fail to mention countries that imposed strict lockdowns and changed absolutely nothing. Peru, for example has had the world’s toughest lockdown and still one of the worst death tolls in the world. Spain, France and Italy have also had tough lockdowns and have achieved almost nothing. In short, lockdown is a lottery – it may work this time, it may not and whatever the result, there are always other factors at play. For example, Peru might have a really poor healthcare system, which is why their deaths have gone through the roof. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it could be. People love to discredit Swedish approach by talking about their population density i.e., why lack of lockdown wasn’t the “real” reason for their success, but when they talk about countries where lockdown “did work” they forget to look into other factors that played a role or made the lockdown possible in the first place.
So, no, locking down too late is not the problem and locking down early or at all is not a solution. Even World Health Organisation urges the world leaders to not rely on economy destroying lockdowns. My friend blames the restrictions on the rule breakers. He thinks the only path to freedom is through obedience. He has accepted that most of the rules make no sense and that government has control over his life, but his only choice is to comply and hope this will end soon. I don’t blame him. He, and others like him, is a person who has sacrificed and lost a lot this year and is desperate to blame someone or something for why this keeps happening. I sympathise with him, but I do not think giving up our freedoms should be the only way to get them back one day. People he represents would go to a park, beach or a Christmas market to enjoy themselves and pretend everything is normal, only to then complain about other people being there too and call them selfish, irresponsible and lacking common sense. These people will follow some rules, bend and ignore others if they think they don’t apply to them only to then shame those who don’t follow rules they follow. It’s the mindset that says, “I wash and sanitise my hands, so I will have a workout with my friend, but if I see others enjoy aspects of their lives they aren’t willing to give up, I’ll assume they are dangerous and irresponsible granny killers”.
It takes resistance to stop tyranny, but it only takes compliance to allow it to exist and take over every aspect of our lives. We have seen politicians and media suggest what we should and should not be allowed to do in the privacy of our own homes and how we should and should not interact with out loved ones. Some even go as far as claiming they have the power to “ban sex” between partners who don’t live together. We have also seen that business owners can successfully stand their ground and win the right to remain open without harassment.
Those brave men and women who didn’t close their doors, who have been fined and have spent a night in jail showed that the only way to get back to normal is through resistance. Allowing the government to play lockdown lottery with our lives only encourages them to continue doing so. We have to show them we suffer, and we are angry, otherwise they will never know and will never change. Other businesses, both big and small, should now do the same and show our leaders that they too are essential. You and me should also make the government aware that COVID19 is not the only threat and there are long term side effects of lockdown that we will all have to live with long after those who put us through it, have resigned or retired.
It is time to stop pretending, like the media want you to, that two plus two equals five, and that lockdowns are and have always been the only way to fight a virus, or that herd immunity is just a “theory” and can only be achieved through (mandatory) vaccines. Even WHO have recently changed the definition of Herd Immunity from exposing people to a virus to protecting people from a virus. I don’t know about you, but I know that if you always lift the same weight, you will never get stronger and if you never expose your body to germs or viruses, your body will never build defence mechanism against them also known as immune system. The media just approvingly repeat the slogans, like “Christmas IS cancelled this year” without hesitation convincing viewers that it is normal and that there is nothing strange about politicians thinking they have the power to cancel a religious celebration and that they have always had this power. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Time to resist or this will never end, and lockdowns will claim more victims than COVID19 could ever dream of. The age range will also be a lot wider as we will die and suffer of unemployment leading to crime and suicide, cancer, poverty, loneliness and more in the coming months and years. Time to realise that we are in a toxic relationship with the government and the “rule breakers” aren’t to blame for this, it is the compliance of the masses.
When Big Brother hits you again, don’t pretend he didn’t mean it, fight back or he will do it again.
Freedom of speech has been going extinct in the UK for a few years now. On paper, we have the right to freely express ourselves, but in practice, if someone gets offended or if you’re spreading conspiracy theories, they will come for you with torches and demand your head. This rather long article is my way of getting my head around the subject as well as an attempt to defend free speech and why I think we should embrace it, cherish it and use it in the name of truth.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”George Orwell
Cover your eyes
I don’t have too many memories of my father. He left before he was able to pass on his wisdom to me, but today I am reminded of one particular Sunday afternoon. The year was 1996 or 1997 and I was just nine or ten. My dad had by then infected me with his love for martial arts movies. He was to me an action star himself. He could do side splits and handstand with almost no effort at all. That afternoon we were sitting in the living room and watching the newly released on VHS Rumble in the Bronx with no other than Jackie Chan, who is known for his impressive fight skills, fight choreography and being his own stunt double. His movies, though action packed, are usually family friendly with moderate violence and nothing extremely upsetting or offensive. We were both admiring his athleticism, and my dad was excited to introduce me to him. He’d say to me, “He does all these dangerous stunts himself, you know? He’s nothing like those Hollywood fakes”. As Jackie Chan kicked, punched, jumped and climbed and surfed his way through the movie, something unexpected happened. His character was about to kiss a girl.
In order to explain what happened next and why it matters in the context of free speech, let me take you back a little. My sister and I often watched movies, either on TV or on VHS, with our parents. The unwritten rule was simple: don’t look when they tell us to. This meant that whenever there was nudity or violence in the movie, we weren’t allowed to see it. This might sound like a weird practice to you, but you have to understand that this was before sex and violence were everywhere. There was no internet, no violent video games, and movies rarely included sex scenes (and when they did, they were like a kiss on the cheek in today’s standards), and music videos focused more on telling a story than on showing tits and asses. Of course, these things did exist, but they did not flood the TV screens like they do today. Not in 1990s Catholic Poland anyway. Those days the only way I could be exposed to a naked female body was by discovering my dad’s secret stash of Playboys, which I did. I remember taking some of the magazines down to my parents’ shop and showing them to their young female employee, Renata. Because I had no real concept of age and I segregated people into grownups and kids, I never thought Ms Renata, as I called her, was perhaps a lot younger than my parents. She might have been twenty at the time. Me and Renata were friends. They sold electronics, so the shop was never too busy. I often came down after school with comic books and we’d read them together. Sometimes, Ms Renata helped me with some schoolwork too. Imagine the surprise on her face when, instead of the latest Batman comic book, I brought down a bunch of Playboys. We looked through them together without a shade of embarrassment. We both laughed when one of the models’ name was Renata. I don’t know if she ever told my parents. You can see how, before the internet or on demand TV, the only time you could see these things was if you physically went to a shop (no self-check outs either), picked up a copy of the dirty magazine, walked up to the cash desk, looked the lady in the eye, handed her the magazine and paid for it. If you’ve never done it, it is a pretty embarrassing experience, trust me. So, you can imagine that even Renata might have not been exposed to such pictures too often.
And now Jackie Chan is kissing the girl. My dad looks at me and, just like a hundred times before, orders me to close my eyes. But this time, I don’t. I look on. In my head, I am ready to see this. Not necessarily because of the Playboys because I don’t remember if I discovered them before or after this afternoon. I just think I am ready. I am not a kid anymore. I want to see the forbidden scene. “I can handle this, dad”, I think to myself. The kiss doesn’t last that long, but it goes on forever in light of my disobedience. My dad is not happy. The look on his face says if all as he repeats, “Don’t look!”. The anger mixed with surprise, disappointment, embarrassment and powerlessness are all painted on his face as he witnesses, what I believe to be, the moment I become a man. “Why?”, I demand. Silence. The movie goes on, Jackie gets the girl and I learn that it’s important to be the good guy of your story, and I also learn that adults do this disgusting thing called kissing – Yuck!
Looking back, I know my parents only tried to protect me from being exposed to what they knew and thought I wasn’t ready to see. I think this is reasonable. Parents should keep their children from harm, even if it means not letting them look at scenes they may not understand or that may upset them. You could say that parents get to censor certain content to protect their children’s vulnerable minds.
What is speech?
“If everything you did was right, you would never know what was wrong“Matthew McConaughey
As I write these words, someone is making a You Tube video expressing their views on climate change. By the time I finish the next sentence, millions of Twitter users will have condensed their complex thoughts into a narrow box of a tweet and posted them on the platform. Some of them will get hundreds, perhaps even thousands of retweets by other users who either agree or disagree with the statement they’re responding to. Somewhere else two friends are having a drink and are trying to settle their argument about the ending of Inception. Some politicians are having a debate about taxes. By the time I finish expressing my views here, millions of students around the world will have raised their hands in the classroom, ready to answer a question or ask one themselves. Millions of preachers and priests around the globe will have told the faithful about the glory of God and his kingdom, while thousands if not millions of job seekers will have declared themselves non – religious on a job application. All while someone somewhere, unaware of it all, is thinking and wondering about the world. He asks questions and ponders the possibilities. He is thinking.
What is speech? It’s all of the above because speech is communication. Speech is thought spoken out loud. Speech is the extension of a thought which then becomes known as “your opinion”. A thought that finds its way out to the world. It takes the shape of an idea, a view, a theory, a narrative, a solution. Of course, not all thoughts, when spoken out loud, lead to scientific breakthroughs or million-dollar ideas, but it is by communicating these thoughts to others, can we create new ones. Only by sharing our views can we find out if we are right or wrong and come back with an upgraded worldview. Without telling others what we think, what we believe to be true, without communicating, it is impossible to replace bad ideas with good ones or see the problem we are facing from a different perspective. We must all believe we are free to speak our mind. We must all value this ancient contract in order to be able to connect, solve problems and continue to prosper. Speech is a platform, the town square for our thoughts to meet, to gather, to mate, and language is a tool that allows them to flirt and create other thoughts. Speech is an arena where thoughts of people, like the gladiators in Ancient Rome, can fight to the death. Free speech is the right of an individual to allow their thoughts to come out and hope to be interacted with. Free speech is the right of an individual to present his or her thoughts to those who will listen. It is their right to do so without the fear of violence, persecution and with hopes of being listened to, understood, agreed or disagreed with, related to, learned from. It is the right to repeat a joke, share a meme. It is their right to say, “I don’t believe you!”. It is the right to let their thoughts, which are largely influenced by the outside world, to be spoken out loud. If speech is not free, and I mean all speech, then neither is thought. If speech becomes a crime, then so does the thought.
What is a thought?
Around the time I found those Playboys, my sister had a pet parrot. We learned that pet birds enjoy seeing their own reflection in the mirror, so we put one in her cage. God, I miss those days – when you couldn’t Google everything so every fact or information you found out felt like a ground-breaking discovery. I think this is what makes my generation unique. We spent our childhoods without our faces glued to mobile phones, our parents had to worry about bruises on our knees and not online predators, sexual content and social media bullying. Now we get to spend our adulthood consuming as much information as we want without taking technology, that makes it possible, for granted. But I digress. The mirror detached from the cage and fell on top of the parrot and she died. My sister was upset. She was only about five or six. The mirror tricked the parrot into thinking she had company. Her tragic death in the loneliness of the cage was caused by something that was supposed to save her sanity.
A thought is like that parrot in the cage. Instead of feathers she is made of words, images and memories. The cage is all she knows. What if she were to escape? What if she were set free? Through the mouth of the cage the parrot would announce her presence, her freedom to the world. And so, out through the window she goes. Still just the same, but now she gets to interact with the great outside. As she flaps her wings awkwardly, trying her best to do what she’s been designed to do, she gets noticed. Other birds (thoughts), who have been free for as long as they can remember, observe her with suspicion. Her unconventional colours and her unfamiliar song threaten, puzzle, fascinate, gain admiration, cause a debate above and below all at once. From this interaction alone, they all learn something they didn’t know before. The birds who all look the same, sing the same, behave the same, have learned that it is possible to be different. They now know that there is a world beyond their colony. The parrot now understands that the outside world can be uninviting. She knows now that she has to learn to communicate. She knows that not everyone will understand her song, its meaning, its context and her intentions. Richer in experience she can now go back to her cage and reflect, then try again tomorrow.
This is what happens to our thoughts. They live in our head. They remain unchanged, unchallenged, unconfirmed for as long as they stay unrevealed. These thoughts, these ideas, claims and theories that form in our heads need to be exposed to the sunlight. Only then can they grow and become better. Bad ideas and radical thoughts, when exposed, can be stopped in their tracks. They can be debunked, criticized, ridiculed, questioned and possibly destroyed. Interesting ideas, theories and points of view, on the other hand, can be pondered, explored, learned from, praised, helpful, revealing and revolutionary. We only ever find out when our thoughts turn into speech. If our idea has the potential to make the world a little better, we won’t know until we share it with someone who can put it into practice. If our opinion is wrong, unfounded, based on false information, formed on incomplete evidence, then only by exposing it to someone who may have already battled with the same arguments, can we really know if we’re onto something or not. If we allow our thought to stare at its own reflection, it may die admiring its own greatness before ever reaching its full potential, or it may live on and forever remain a delusion. I will argue that even if our opinion is clearly wrong or offensive it needs to be free to express. It may be, no matter how incorrect or hateful, based on pure ignorance and indoctrination.
Imagine if the parrot that was set free earlier is some form of a narcist, extremist or a heretic. She loves her blue, green and yellow feathers. After all it’s all she’s ever admired when she stared in her own reflection. Nobody ever challenged her. She flies out of the window and into the city and she sees that pigeons act like savages. They fight, they eat McDonalds leftovers on the street, they lack any manners, they poop everywhere. She comes to a conclusion that all pigeons are inferior to her. All grey birds are inferior, in fact. They are dirty, she thinks. She is now convinced that parrots are smarter, superior, more intelligent, cleaner, smell nicer and are more beautiful than all grey, black and white birds. She is a bigot. We know she is a bigot because we know what she thinks. Most of the time, we don’t know what people, or parrots think. We only know what they decide to share with us. How can we engage with the parrot’s views if we don’t know what they are? If she tells us her opinion, we can then explain to her why she is wrong. Both of us must feel confident that we are free to express ourselves without the threat of violence or punishment. We both must feel comfortable that our thoughts are safe when we let them out of our cage. Without it, no real progress can be made. Our opinions and arguments will never meet, they will stay in our heads and confirm their righteousness in their own reflection. Here they don’t die, like our parrot did earlier, they remain a delusion that never gets debunked.
It seems like in the world today, we prefer to prevent people from expressing their thoughts rather than dealing with those thoughts. Stopping a heretic, extremist or a conspiracy theorist from expressing their views does not eliminate heretics, extremism or conspiracies. It only suppresses an individual’s right to tell their truth, often pushing them further into their illusion by confirming their convictions. Racism, sexism, homophobia still exist despite the so-called hate speech laws. Facebook, Twitter or You Tube can delete offensive content all they want, but it will not turn the world into a big happy politically correct utopia. I am not saying that hateful content should be unfiltered (threats of violence or calls for violence should be reported and deleted), but I am saying that this only makes things look nice on the surface and the problems it tries to solve still exist. Would we prefer our parrot to remain silent about her racism, or would we prefer to know about it and engage with it, find the root of it and try to reason with it? It wouldn’t be easy, it could be impossible, but simply censoring her speech would not solve the problem at all. We can always choose to distance ourselves from the bigots. We are free to think. Speech is the expression and extension of thought. Thoughts seek validation. Speech should, therefore, be free as it is just a thought, just an idea that can be confirmed or debunked only by someone else using his freedom to speak his mind.
Of course, we can all read a book or go online to confirm or debunk our beliefs. But even a book can only exist because the author and the scientists and philosophers, he quoted in his book, all exercised their freedom of speech. Only thanks to free speech can The Bible and The Origin of Species be sold in the same bookstore. Only thanks to freedom of speech can you pick up both of them and decide which idea makes more sense. Freedom of speech of everyone employs your critical thinking. For thousands of years there has been no other truth other than that preached in churches. As a matter of fact, a few hundred years ago, in Europe, you’d face a certain death if you made a scientific discovery or a claim that went against the teachings of Christianity. In 1600, an Italian man, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive for suggesting that Earth was not the centre of the Universe (something Galileo got away with it just a few decades later and is now credited for that discovery).
Now, thanks to free speech you can listen to ten different people telling you what they think. You can agree with some and tell others why they are wrong, and they will tell you why you are wrong. The thoughts would be mating and fighting again. This is how critical thinking works. It wouldn’t be possible if our thoughts remained trapped in our heads or censored by those who think you are not ready to see them, that you are not capable of making your own judgement, that you are not an intelligent adult who can think for himself, that you need to be protected from your own thoughts. We don’t need our fathers to cover our eyes anymore. We are ready to see nudity because nudity is truth. We are capable of deciding what to do with it. I might have been just a little kid, but I didn’t go around kissing everyone after seeing Jackie Chan do it. I wasn’t interested in it. Twenty – three years later, I can read psychology books, news articles, watch You Tube videos about UFOs, ghosts or politics, documentaries about the Universe, listen to David Icke talk about lizards, judge Trump’s presidency based on his policies or speeches. I can do all that and decide for myself what I think and believe. I don’t need my views presented to me and formed by a third party. What I need is free and equal access to all sources of information, so I can evaluate it and create my own worldview based on which I can then vote, campaign, work and raise my children. I can be wrong but let me be wrong.
We are still being parented and the content presented to us is filtered and moderated. It’s almost as if we are back in the 90s, all sitting in my living room with my dad, who is deciding what we are and aren’t allowed to see, what we may not understand, what is incorrect or “false information”. He is our moderator and our fact checker. He is our daddy, and his name is Google. You can click here Vaccines or Immune System? – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com) to see just how the information you google is manipulated before it is given to you. Don’t get put off by the title, it was just a quick experiment on what search results you get from Google and a less popular search engine when you search for the same exact phrase.
Of course, words have consequences. Whatever you say may be used against you. You tell the wrong joke at the wrong party, and you will be remembered as that inappropriate guy never to appear on the guest list again. The same joke worked when you said it to a few of your friends, and it worked even better when it was said by Ricky Gervais on the stage and in front of a thousand people. But at that party, people didn’t appreciate your dark humour. What for one person is “you shouldn’t joke about these things”, is “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s so funny!”, to another. The line is different for everyone which means no joke is inappropriate.
Of course, this has to do with political correctness and hate speech. The former has been weaponised to change how people think and the latter has been relabelled and criminalised so that anything “offensive” you say can be used against you. But remember, offense is taken, not given. What should be just a disapproval of your family and friends, now has real criminal consequences. What people who create these laws don’t seem to understand is that you can’t put a joke behind bars. You can’t fine an opinion. No matter how offensive or controversial they sound. You can’t arrest a room full of people who laugh at a racist joke, so why should you arrest the one saying it? The same joke said in a different room would be met with a disappointment and disapproval and that should be the end of it.
It isn’t only offensive content or opinions that you can get in trouble for. I remember the time when you could go on You Tube and go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about 9/11. Plenty of them arguing that either the US government or the Jews were behind the attack. These videos had hundreds of thousands of views, which over ten years ago was a big deal. I admit, I did shortly buy into the theories, but apart from wasting my time watching hours of content, it changed nothing in my life. Now, Google, who bought You Tube a few years ago, are acting like our daddy again. If you type in 9/11 in the search box, your top results will be the so – called reputable sources like CNN and other usual suspects (despite having far less views than the more intriguing conspiracy videos). Alternative journalism, commentary and sources of information are as good as dead on You Tube. Your daddy, Google, not only tells you to look away, but also deletes all the content in case you’re not able to think critically and make your own judgement about it. What used to be a great platform for people to share ideas in a video format has now become just another TV channel. Unless you’re subscribed to various Youtubers, your landing page will have some music videos, movie trailers and news stories and it will be very difficult for you to find other people like yourself and find out what they think. You Tube, Google, Facebook and increasingly the government are like a restaurant where you don’t get shown what’s on the menu. Instead they serve you a meal they think you should eat and enjoy. In this virtual restaurant you are not trusted to decide what meal is good for you. You are not trusted to look at the menu, read the ingredients for yourself and choose your food. You’re just served the same vegan salad as all other guests – bon appétit.
Over the last four years, since I started paying attention, I have witnessed a lot of controversial views being silenced, stomped down, and their authors or even messengers deleted off the internet. I’ve seen a biology professor being removed from Twitter for stating a scientific fact about males and females which went against the transgender ideology. Offensive charm, triggering rants and controversial views got Katie Hopkins deleted from the certainly left leaning platform as well. Stefan Molyneaux, a You Tuber with nearly a million subscribers and nearly a decade of making thought provoking, philosophical videos, was removed from the platform without a warning. Not to mention hundreds of lecturers and speakers on US campuses that were cancelled or met with protests by students who were triggered by their very name. Just this week I read about another attempt at censoring controversial views. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, University professor and a published author. His well thought out, evidence based and eloquently presented and controversial views gained him a large following as well as cult – like hatred. He has become a target of the Left who labelled him with every “ism” you can think of. His publisher, Penguin, have just announced his new book Beyond Order – 12 More Rules for Life. Some of Penguin employees, who believe Peterson to be a Right – Wing fascist, demand the book to be cancelled. A few months ago, a similar thing happened at Spotify, when Joe Rogan, who is Peterson’s close friend, moved his extremely popular podcast from You Tube to Spotify. Some staff at Spotify were not happy to host The Joe Rogan Experience, so they protested. Luckily, both Penguin and Spotify didn’t bend the knee. Their triggered staff however sound a lot like they don’t want you to see the menu and decide what information you want to consume.
Speaking of Joe Rogan, one of his guests and now the 2nd richest man in the world, Elon Musk, said on his show that sometime soon we might have mind reading technology. He suggested that a microchip could not only collect your thoughts but communicate them to somebody else’s brain through their chip. He argued that this technology would allow ideas to communicate more efficiently without the barrier of our vocabulary or inability to express ourselves. With a chip like this, I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing this trying to make my opinion of free speech clear. I’d simply have to transfer my thoughts through my chip to yours without having to explain what I mean. You’d just get it instantly by downloading words and images that form that idea or a thought.
My dad was right to protect my ten – year old self from offensive content I wasn’t ready for. My compass of right and wrong was still developing, and I needed guidance or perhaps he just didn’t want to or didn’t know how to address the questions I’d have after seeing that kiss. His censorship was justified. So where does this put the government or the social media platforms who take it upon themselves to decide what you can and cannot be exposed to? Censorship of speech, opinions, views is not only Orwellian, but also suggests that those who do it consider you and me to be incapable of critical thinking or dealing with negativity and offensive content. They think it is up to them, just like my dad did, to protect your eyes and ears from seeing and hearing what they think you wouldn’t be able to process. They think we are operating on that still developing compass and need them to hold our hand. They think that if you watch an interview with David Icke, you will immediately become a conspiracy theorist. They think that if you listen to Katie Hopkins, you will not be able to filter her words yourself and you will become what people accuse her of being – a racist, which I don’t believe to be the case. These people, whether they sit at the headquarters of Facebook, Google or Twitter or in the Parliament genuinely think that they are superior to us therefore get to decide what you can and cannot read, watch or listen. Yet somehow porn is easier to access than ever. What is so dangerous about believing a so called “conspiracy theory” or spreading or being exposed to so called “hate speech”? What is it that at the same time makes porn so widely available? We are all adults, and we don’t need the information, no matter how crazy or offensive, filtered by these people who think they know better. It is condescending to us and in the long run, ineffective at achieving whatever they’re trying to achieve. Are we not allowed to decide for ourselves anymore?
We already moderate our thoughts and filter what we share with people. We do it because we know words have consequences. We want to maintain social life, so we don’t tell people what we think all the time. Just imagine if someone had access to your mind just for a day. How many times did you think of something offensive? What are some of the taboos you battle over in your head sometimes? Did you ever fantasise about doing something horrible to someone you know? Do you ever have these dark thoughts that just pop into your head out of nowhere? How many of those, if you spoke them out loud, would get you in trouble or make your family, friends and colleagues distance themselves from you? Imagine if someone could open up this diary in your head and read every page. All the embarrassing memories you don’t think of too often, but when you do, you relive that embarrassment again. All those times you imagined beating up that customer. Throughout our day, we only give people a taste of what’s in that diary. Only the stuff we want them to know. In a way, we personalise the menu of what’s on offer in our head. But that’s ok. We want to maintain that friendship, keep that job, see that girl or man again. We censor ourselves and we know when to not say things that are considered crazy or controversial. Unfortunately, now, the Scottish government wants to take away your right to free speech even at your dinner table. They want it to be criminal to make a “controversial” comment while talking to your family and friends at your table. Think about it.
And yet, despite our self-moderation, thought crime is possible. It is possible because we read our diary out to people. We share some of its pages with friends and on social media. By doing so, we give people access into parts of our mind. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s cold, offensive and unfriendly and aggressive. But, if this invitation into your head triggers the wrong response, you may end up losing your friends, your job or worse – with a criminal record preventing you from taking on certain jobs in the future. All because of your thoughts. All because what was in your head came out through your mouth and landed on somebody’s sensitive ears. Now your friends don’t want to be associated with your controversial views, your boss thinks they’re bad for business or for staff integrity, and the law enforcement must defend those fragile feelings of those you did or might have offended, so they must punish you. Your speech is now that kiss scene my dad tried to “protect” me from because he “knew” what was best for me.
Freedom of speech is your right to express yourself; it is your right to be wrong; it is your right to disagree; it is your right to speak your truth; it is your right to explore ideas; it is your right to protest; it is your right to demand answers and evidence; it is your right to consent to refuse and to deny; it is your right to lie; it is your right to think out loud; it is your right to teach and to learn from others; it is your right to laugh at a joke; it is your right to defend your beliefs; it is your right to vote; your right to demand justice; it is your right to listen and say you don’t believe; it is your right to write a tweet, a blog or a book; it is your right to say the unspeakable only because you first thought the unthinkable; it is your right to criticise or to praise. If any authority tries to rob you of that right, they are inevitably robbing you of your consciousness and your right to think.
The bottom line is this. There is time and place to speak our mind. We should all be able to freely hold our beliefs and express our opinions without the interference of the government, social media platforms or our boss if they happen to be your friend of Facebook. Free speech allows us to argue and debate, disagree and criticise. It allows us to listen to and read about different ideas, problems. Free speech allows diversity of opinion, diversity of thinking which are often key to solving problems in the company to figuring out how best to tackle a crisis like COVID19. Without free speech you are not exposed to different ideas. This disables your critical thinking and the ability to think for yourself and shape your own opinions. Similarly, when your phone upgrade is due you surely spend at least a little while comparing the latest phones to choose the one that suits your needs best. The freedom of Apple or Samsung to provide you with the options is your freedom to choose from them. We need free speech. We must not let the corporations or the government take it away from us because when it comes down to it, this is one of our fundamental human rights, given not by them but by Mother Nature herself when she endowed us with the ability to think and to speak. We must not hand it over to the state because without their suits and titles they are just the same as us, governed by the same laws that come from Mother Nature.
Speech is thought, just louder.
Why I will not Comply
People don’t understand why I refuse to surrender my life to coronavirus mandates. They call me selfish for not accommodating their fear of COVID19. They call me irresponsible for not doing as I’m told by the government. They think all I care is me. I have vulnerable people in my family, including my asthmatic wife and my mother. Not once, during this pandemic, have I been worried about their health. I have been worried about another threat. This threat does not expose itself in a form of high temperature and a cough. This threat poses a far greater risk, in my opinion and this is why I will not comply…
Locked down in the darkness
When Italy went into lockdown and the UK shortly after, I, like many others, felt the crushing weight of the situation. Coronavirus had crossed our borders. Cases started rising and soon turned into deaths. It was real. My brother had just returned from a school trip in Italy. Many kids, including him, returned ill. People had emptied the supermarket shelves of everything they thought would help them survive the approaching apocalypse. Soon after my wife told me she was pregnant. She was scared and uncertain. We both were. The doctors had previously told us it was very unlikely for her to ever get pregnant. Even I had accepted the possibility of never becoming a dad.
And there I was ready to abandon everything I stood for, my principles and my dreams of fatherhood. I was ready to throw it all away by convincing myself that I couldn’t possibly bring a child into this world. A world which I believed would, by the time he or she was born, turn into a dystopian nightmare. Everything around me was pointing in that direction. I believed there was no way out and we were all doomed. It was not the mass death I was worried about. I was certain I was witnessing democracy and freedom taking their final breaths. I saw around me the symptoms of the disease that had infected them both – the disease of fear. The disease that, right before my eyes, was bringing the Orwellian future into our present.
I had never believed in abortion, yet there I was, trying to convince myself that it was the right thing to do. I was convincing myself that my baby would be born in chains of tyranny which I saw this country evolving into every week of the lockdown. My wife didn’t share my concerns, but I kept them to myself. She had her own worries. She knew this was most likely her last and only chance to be a mom. She also didn’t want to be one, not now anyway. She also didn’t want to take this away from me. When the doctors told her she would probably never become a mom, she asked me to promise this would never come between us. I reassured her that it would never happen, but I don’t think I fully believed it myself.
A few weeks had passed. I had convinced myself that I was doing it for her, and I was saving the baby from the life of misery I knew was coming for us all. I also knew that she would never… I knew it had to be me to say it. That evening I held her close. The uncertainty and fear sent tears down her cheeks. Even now, as I write this, I try to convince myself that what came out of my mouth next, was for her and the unborn baby, but I know it was just as much, if not more, for myself. I held my tears and said what she dared not to speak. It was truly the darkest moment of my life. We spent the next couple of days deciding. The deciding was mostly about us and what impact the outcome would have on our lives and how it would make us feel. Dark, dark moment. The baby had almost no say in this debate of Good and Evil. I did most of the talking. Eventually, we made the phone call. The woman on the other side was ready to take our details and arrange a quick and discreet appointment. In forty – eight hours it was promised to be all over, but would it ever be forgotten? Would it ever be forgiven? Blame the technology, fate, the universe or God, but we got disconnected. My wife collapsed into tears. The safety of my arms was not enough this time. The promise of a better tomorrow was a lie. The comforting silence was interrupted by our demons banging on the door. This next chapter would be the beginning of another human being’s story. And we were one phone call away from ending it.
But we never called back. We are now two weeks away from welcoming our son into our world. We’ve decided to name him Oliver. Every time I feel him move, kick or high – five me through the belly, I am glad we never went through with it. If I’d known then what I know now, if I’d felt then what I feel now, if we both had, we would never have gone to that dark place. And my wife? She feels the same way. It’s been interesting and beautiful to watch her transform from someone who used to say she didn’t want to be a mom, someone scared of becoming one, someone who at one point didn’t want to keep that baby, to someone who is so full of joy and love for that little human she’s been nurturing in her belly. Sadly, many people don’t give themselves a chance to see their uncertainty and hesitation in this light. They deny themselves this overwhelming joy and love. I might forever hate myself for lowering my guard and abandoning my principles in a moment of weakness, but I know I would hate myself even more if we had allowed the fear and selfishness to rule over us. But, maybe had we not been in lockdown, had our future not been uncertain, we wouldn’t have gone to that dark place in, what should have been, the happiest moment of our life. I wonder how many children never got to see the light of day because of lockdown, furlough or the doomsday predictions of our experts and fear mongering of the media…
My 6th sense – the legacy of tyranny
My grandad has told me chilling stories of his life in Poland before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s. My grandad, who had lived through it over half of his life, remembers food shortages, limitations, oppression, endless queuing to the butcher’s and grocery stores like it was yesterday. Some people, says my grandad, would sleep outside the shop for many nights to reserve, as you’ll soon find out, a very precious spot in the queue. Here is just a sample of what he’s shared with me:
‘Each month you’d get paid for your work. After the war there was no cosy desk jobs. People had lost loved ones, homes, communities, businesses and hope, you understand? The Soviets said they were there to help. So, with your paycheck you’d get a few vouchers, coupons, stamps, whatever you want to call them. These vouchers stated what you were allowed to buy from the butcher or from the grocery store that month. Some vouchers would have “2kg of potatoes” printed on them. Others would say “1 loaf of bread”, “1kg of flour”, “1kg of sugar”, and so on, you understand? You could use these throughout the month, but usually shops got empty pretty quick. That’s why people queued overnight. So, even if your stamp gave you allowance to buy, say, 1 kilogram of pork meat, there was no guarantee the butcher would have it for you or that it would be good quality. You had to get there early. Remember, there was hundreds of others who had similar stamps. There were no other places to buy these things. There were no supermarkets, you understand? You also had no choice what stamps you got. See, as you know, me and your nan don’t smoke. We never smoked, thank God! But every now and then we’d be given the cigarettes voucher. So, we traded these items with the smokers who happened to have what we wanted. The state decided what was essential for you and what wasn’t, understand? Coffee? Forget it! It was so hard to get. Sometimes we went months without it. We had to make it all last a month, and we couldn’t spend our money on things we didn’t have vouchers for, you understand? They only allowed us to buy those ‘essentials’. Bloody bastards! They only allowed us to buy what they said were those essentials. So, we didn’t go shopping. We didn’t buy clothes, and when we did, they were only what the vouchers stated. Don’t forget we all had families to raise, mouth to feed, so many times your monthly allowance wouldn’t be enough. You had to make things last.”
Sitting there, at dinner, listening to my grandad made me understand his ways a little more. My grandparents’ fridge is never empty. They never let things run out. They make things last. They save money. My grandad still works despite renting out two flats. He gets his fruits, vegetables and meat from the same places every week. At breakfast, lunch or dinner he encourages us to eat more – this is common in all Polish households, no matter how poor or wealthy they are. Growing up I found it extremely annoying, especially when he would offer me some meat I hadn’t had before. Now that I know how he had lived for decades before 1990’s, I do understand. Now he can enjoy anything he wants, and he can keep fruits of his hard labour without the fear they will be taken away by the state. But the heavy boot of Communism has left a mark in my grandad’s mind. He may not think like this, but it seems like what drives him to make sure the fridge and stomachs are full, and things never run out, is that he remembers when things weren’t so. When things did run out. When you never knew what you’d be allowed to buy with your money next month. He might even subconsciously fear of bad times coming back and of all this being taken away from him again. Maybe he has, in the last thirty years, learnt to appreciate everything he had missed out on for four long and not very prosperous decades, when the Communist Russia ruled over Poland, spreading misery, hunger and poverty disguised as “The Greater Good”.
My mom was in mid – twenties when the revolutions took place and Poland became independent. I was only a couple of years old. She also remembers stamps and constant queuing which, more often than not, ended with disappointment. To this day she has kept one of the vouchers she never got to use. She’s had it for over thirty years, and she’s brought it with her to the UK where she has settled. It’s a reminder of the dark days. It’s a reminder of what happens when tyrants decide they know what’s best for the people of a nation.
One of my oldest memories is queuing for a pint of milk in, what must have been, early 1990’s – a few years after Poland became independent from Russia. So, these things didn’t just cease to exist one day. It took time for both the economy and people’s mentality to settle into the new way of life. The newfound freedom might have even been treated with suspicion by people who thought it was a trick or a short-term victory. Some people, to this day, think life was better when the Communists were in power. These are almost always the people who are too young to remember what it was like or people who worked for or had relatives who worked for the government. The milk man would park his truck and we’d all come out with our bottles and wait for our turn. I remember feeling excited when I got to hold the bottle and hand it to the man as my grandad stood next to me. Like a child pressing the button in an elevator, I enjoyed the rewarding sight of milk being poured into my bottle and when the lid was back on, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I contributed. At the time I had no idea that this regular activity was one of the legacies of tyranny. Some of that legacy is carried in my grandad’s mentality, and it is carried in my blood. And maybe it endowed me with a sixth sense, allowing me to recognise the early symptoms of an authoritarian regime. Or maybe it is not a sixth sense at all. Maybe I am just paranoid?
My mom tells me about her experience. She remembers the curfew, the police state, the officers out on the streets every night arresting everyone who was out after 10PM without a valid permit. Police were looking into your shopping bags, approached travellers and questioned them about the reasons of their journey. One evening my mom was returning from her aunt, who lived in a nearby town. She was only a teenager. She missed the train, which meant she’d be back after 10PM. She had no valid pass, I think it was only given to people who had a valid or essential reason to be out, like work or something. I don’t know the full story, but my grandmother had to pick her up so she wouldn’t get arrested. It was all, of course, for their safety. Let me just point out that the police were not Russian. They were Polish men just following orders and enforcing rules which subjected their fellow men and women to oppression.
Freedom is an asset, safety is a luxury
What world will my son take his first breath in? Will he be born free? Or will he be born in chains? Will he be born enslaved to the algorithm, the pattern, the expectations? Or will he be born into a world that gives him a chance, a choice? A world that promises opportunity and rewards hard work and talent? Will it be a world of prosperity and equality, or will it be a world of corruption, deception, censorship, and authoritarian government? Will my son be born in, what I call – The Chains of Freedom? The chains represent suppression, censorship, inequality, government power, digital enslavement, restricted movement, and lack of ownership of one’s life. The chains that are disguised as freedom, as the greater good. The chains that have been put on us for our safety. The chains that we consent to when we give up privacy and liberty in exchange for safety. Those chains restrict and dictate how we pay for goods, how we travel, how we communicate. We said yes to them because they didn’t seem that heavy at first. They were not a burden and to many they still aren’t. But even if we seem to be free, our every step and our every move are constantly being tracked, measured and evaluated. Whether we are browsing the internet, making a phone call or walking our dog, we are under constant surveillance.
In the last few months, many people have given up responsibility for and ownership of their lives and handed them over to the state. With them they’ve given up their freedom and accepted various restrictions of their lives to feel safer. Not safe, safer because we can never truly be safe. Life is full of risks and the world is full of threats the state can’t keep us safe from. And feeling safe does not necessarily mean being safe. (Just ask yourself, after 9/11 the travelling experience has never been the same. Has it made terrorism disappear? No, because extremists find other ways to terrorise us and the government can never put a lid on them. The travel restrictions, the limitations on what you can and cannot bring on the plane have made us a little bit safer, but not safe. Euston station or Heathrow airport can still be a target of a delusional maniac. The government cannot keep us safe, only a little bit safer. I was once at Euston station. Me and my friends are going down the escalator to get the tube. About halfway down we hear screams and footsteps of a terrified herd coming from the corridor at the bottom of the escalator. Everyone panics and tries to run up against the moving escalator. The people are running from something. It’s all happening so fast. Someone apparently has a gun. First thing I do when I get to safety is I call my wife and my mom who are both somewhere in London and let them know to be careful. It’s been a few years and I’ve taken a train many times since then. The risk is small, but it exists. It can’t, however, stop me from living.)
But I digress. Back to people exchanging their freedom for safety. It started when the government announced the first national lockdown. Most people have submitted, and they have dragged us along with them because they have been asleep. So asleep, in fact, that they are sleepwalking into an authoritarian nightmare. There are many reasons why the majority of the population welcome the government into their homes. Fear of COVID19, blind faith in the experts, generations raised without ever having to take responsibility for their lives are only a handful of reasons. But I think something else plays a significant role here. I think the majority of these people fail to think long term. They want to feel safe now, they don’t care how the governments of the future might abuse the powers we have just given them with our obedience.
Let’s take the Track and Trace app. Today you can choose to download it on your phone, and if you do, you scan the QR code when entering the pub to just register your attendance. Who’s to say that in the future you won’t just have to register your presence in the pub, but you’ll also have to use the app to be able to board a train? What if the app is, in the near future, used to monitor your quarantine status, and if you’re meant to be self – isolating, you won’t be able to purchase a train ticket or order Uber? This is what I mean by short term vs long term thinking. Today it’s a harmless app, tomorrow it turns into freedom restricting, sinister tool of control. If this sounds too much like something out of Black Mirror to you, then just think that in China this is reality. If you think China’s sinister credit system can’t find its way into our cosy Western lifestyles, then think again. China’s draconian measures have spread around the globe almost as quickly as their virus itself.
Around eighty years ago, when Russia crossed Poland’s eastern border and said they were there to help and they were there for our safety, my grandad didn’t have too much to say in the matter. He was born into it. He was raised in the system that was designed to hold him back, keep him in line, make him productive just enough to contribute to “The Greater Good”, but not enough to be better off than everyone else. It took forty years for Poland to snap out of the Communist nightmare. Three decades later almost every country in Europe and in the world looks a lot like that nightmare. At the time of writing, in Wales, people can only travel if they have a good enough reason. They can’t buy books, toys and clothes for their children. In Melbourne, Australia, people are only allowed to leave their house for 1 hour of exercise per day. Not too long ago, some citizens weren’t allowed to leave their homes for any reason for two weeks of quarantine. If they tried, they were met with hundreds of armed police officers telling them to go back inside “for their own good”. Students in Manchester were forced to self – isolate against their will. For months we were told to only go out to buy essential items, shops were closed, police even looked in people’s bags to make sure only essentials were bought, supermarkets introduced queuing and limits on the quantity of goods people were allowed to buy (which was largely due to idiots panic buying, of course). French people must carry a form that states the reason of their journey. Greeks must send a text message to a special number stating reasons for leaving their house and they must carry documents on them at all times. Men and women in Ireland were, not too long ago, not allowed further than five kilometres of their homes. If you’ve been paying attention then you know this sounds a lot like tyranny described by my grandad.
Seeing all this unfold in many parts of the world is rather scary. I spoke to my grandparents. They are staying safe. They are doing what the government tells them is best for them. I will be honest with you. I don’t know how strict the coronavirus rules and their enforcement are in Poland. I know the guidelines are similar to those of the UK. But I remember what my grandad told me. I remember the look on his face when he described the way he used to live. I remember him telling me of over twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners of war being murdered by the Soviets in April 1940. This mass murder had been kept secret until 1990’s to make sure everyone believed the Communist promise and the Communist lie – that they were there to help. I remember my grandad telling me about a Catholic priest who was murdered by the police because he dared to give people hope. Because he dared to talk of the power greater than that of the state. He was thrown into the river. His feet and hands tied as he was left to drown. His death is mourned to this day by those old enough to remember. His life still gives them hope. What would my grandad say, if I wrote to him of the recent events in Great Britain? Would he think there is anything great about it anymore?
It’s been over seven months since coronavirus arrived from China and with it brought their totalitarian rule, restrictions and tyranny. They remain disguised as good intentions, the greater good and safety and many people welcome them into their lives. They are willing to exchange their freedom for safety. Their privacy for security. I saw it creeping in from the week one of the lockdown. One step at the time our lives were being transformed, choices taken away, rights were slipping through our fingers and freedoms we took for granted were disposed of by the state, possibly never to be returned again.
The NHS was used as a weapon. They made us worship it. They knew that we were not like North Korea, Communist China, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, whose leaders were the subject of worship and praise and made the nation submit to their rule in the name of the greater good. Something else was needed in a nation so politically and socially divided as the United Kingdom. “Save the NHS” slogans appeared on every billboard and every window. We were made to clap and praise the NHS every Thursday at 8PM. Not by force, though. Social pressure was the cold steel on everyone’s temple. The NHS became the god everyone could unite for. It was then used by the charlatans in the government who swore to protect this newfound deity in exchange for power and control. The false prophets who claimed that only through them could we ever be saved. And people gladly agreed, fell to their knees and expressed their submission on their front porches every Thursday evening.
The ritual started as something voluntary. It just emerged somewhere one day and spread nationwide, but after a few weeks it was ended by the government. They announced one day that the coming Thursday was going to mark the final NHS clap. And so, the clap came to an end. People did as they were told.
I wouldn’t dare to claim that my time spent in captivity of lockdown has been anything like what you lived through. I wouldn’t dare to pretend that my road to unfreedom follows the same path you once walked. But the road signs are the same. They all tell me where this road leads. The New Normal is not far away now. There is a check point ahead. The officers have warrant to take my rights, my freedoms, my consent, my free will, my dreams and my plans and dispose of them all. They are illegal beyond that point. Their uniform is different, but their commands, their practices would send shivers down your spine taking you back to a familiar place. They disguise themselves as the servants of the people and say they are here for our safety. They say we cannot be trusted with our judgement, our freedom, our rights are irrelevant, and consent is not valid. They promise a better place in exchange for obedience and following the signs.
I’m almost at the check point. Should I give them what they want and be forever enslaved or should I drive through them and feel their bones crush under the wheels and spend the rest of my life as fugitive? At least I’d hold on to my truth. My wife’s contractions are getting stronger. Our son will be here soon. I owe him something, you know? I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I might be wrong about The New Normal, but this road I’m on and the signs all point in the direction of tyranny and unfreedom and to me this is a bigger threat than COVID19. My son deserves to be born free and right now I see everyone gladly handing their freedom away to the officers.
I am sure you can relate. The state storms into our lives and makes themselves at home. This time they just waited for our invitation so they could, like a vampire, feed on our will to live and our strength to fight back. All with our initial consent that is now no longer needed. They are in our homes, they sleep in our beds, they dine at our tables. All for our safety, of course. Seems like we can only remove them by force. If this is what it takes to protect my son from the claws of tyranny, from the chains of the state then I will fight. I will not let them take his innocence, his future, his dreams, his pure curiosity and his right to be a free human being who belongs to mother nature and is protected by her and governed only by her laws.
Others can hide forever under their beds, lock their doors and beg the government’s agents to keep them safe from the invisible monster known as Coronavirus. My duty, as a man and as a father, however, is to protect my child from what I believe to be a genuine threat. This threat, as learned from you grandad, is The Greater Good. I will keep him safe. I will teach him everything I know. I will never exchange his freedom for his safety…”
History – a fading memory. Consent – the alibi of tyrants
Many people don’t understand why I am so passionate about disobeying the coronavirus rules and mandates. Why I refuse to let the state put a mask on me, tell me who I can have in my house, how long I can exercise, define my essentials and take away my ability to put food on the table. To me the lesson from history is simple. We don’t have to look very far to see that freedom is a valuable but fragile asset. People seem to think that we have learned that lesson, but they are wrong. The Second World War happened so recently that there are still a few men and women alive today who were ready to die to defend our freedom eighty years ago. This shows two things. One, that it’s really not been that long, and we might not have grown enough to not make the same mistake again. Two, that once the only people who remember the horror, the struggle, the threat of losing their freedom, people who had the courage to defend it are all dead and with them the memory of the battle, we may repeat the mistakes thinking we will do something differently this time.
I’m not even talking about another war, as I think it is very unlikely. I am talking about the death of democracy and the rebirth of tyranny. There are among us people who believe Communism can be done better. There are people who think equality is more important than opportunity. They call it Socialism and they want it to emerge after the death of Capitalism. Equality (which means everyone is equally poor) VS Opportunity (which means everyone can make something of themselves and improve the quality of their life). These people are ignorant to the horrors, hunger and poverty of Communism and they want to bring it all back because they think it can be done better. There are also people who don’t like free speech and label every advocate of it a Nazi. These people also fail to recognise the weight of this word and what it meant eighty years ago. Nazis put people in gas chambers. Today the snowflake generation uses this word to shame someone who voted for Trump. Soon the word Nazi will be so diluted, it will lose its meaning and its burden. History will be forgotten and with it its valuable lessons.
We are never too far away from stepping into this unfriendly territory. All it takes is people’s consent, which they give when there is a crisis. I do not consent. The future of my son depends on it. I almost refused him this future and it is my duty to fight for it. I am not denying that people are dying. But I am not sacrificing my child’s freedom to live the best quality of life he can for you to feel safe now. It is your job to take care of yourself, take safety measures you deem necessary. You can stay at home, order everything online and we never have to meet. My duty is to defend my child’s dignity, rights, freedom and leave a legacy that is based in truth. I can never resign because it’s more convenient to do so. I will stay out of your way, but do not take me down with you.
You may not agree. You may call me crazy for thinking we’re destroying our liberties. I don’t care. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve heard and read all about it. It doesn’t always take a tyrant. It takes the people who demand safety in exchange for their freedoms. The leader knows if he does nothing, people will blame him for the consequences of his inaction. He restricts people’s lives. People call him out for not going far enough or for doing it too late. They see others breaking the new rules, so they demand more control, more enforcement, more power given to authorities, they even demand suspension of some basic human rights, they demand punishment and persecution of the rule breakers, they demand everyone to suffer so that they can feel a little bit safer. The leader gives in. He takes stronger, more intrusive measures. He threatens the public with punishment if they don’t do as he says. He bribes the public with a promise of a better tomorrow if they do. Many people cheer. Many think it is still not enough. Others feel cornered, surrounded, afraid and angry. They feel overpowered and alone in their outrage and resent towards the government. Their only defence against the intrusive rules and the invasion on their liberties is to protest. The leader then bans protests and sends “good men who just follow orders” to do his dirty work and arrest and fine as many rebels as possible. He now faces the wrath of rebellion and feels the chilling breath of judgement on the back of his neck. If he backs off, he will be criticized. If he pressures on sending boots and batons to the battlefield, he will be hated. But anger can be beaten, he thinks. Anger can be met with force, he convinces himself. Judgement of hopeless people who are afraid and look to him for guidance can’t be avoided. It can’t be beaten. It will follow him to his retirement. Declaring war on his people will, however, follow him to his grave. He doesn’t think about it. He knows that public opinion is everything and right now most people are afraid and upset and others are angry. The angry can be dealt with by tackling them to the ground to teach them a lesson and to show the fearful his power and control. Call them selfish, ungrateful so that everybody cheers when they are met with force and riot police. He doesn’t even know when things got ugly. When things got out of control. He doesn’t remember when he crossed the line, but he can’t admit the mistake. It would be a sign of weakness. Or maybe he enjoys it. Maybe he enjoys his newfound powers. Either way, he can’t stop now. The people count on him. He knows he can’t persuade those who are out on the streets. They need to be dealt with. Hit them where it hurts. Arrest them for so much as criticizing his rule. Fine them for so much as even organising a protest. He can’t scare them with the COVID19 statistics. They can see right through them. He threatens with arrests, enormous fines and hopes this puts people back where they came from and restores the order. He was pushed to it. Or maybe he just needed a trigger. It doesn’t matter. From now on the people are not to be trusted with having their freedom. Freedom is the root of disobedience. People aren’t ready for freedom. They are corrupted, irresponsible, selfish, naive, deluded and impulsive, confirm the leader’s advisors. Their freedom can, from now on, be suspended any time there is a crisis or when the government says there is a crisis. Freedoms are never fully returned to us, haven’t you been paying attention?
Dave Cullen on You Tube illustrated it quite clearly. If you think of the governmental control of your life in a scale from 1 to 10, before Coronavirus we were at maybe 2 or 3. There were laws in place, as always, but you were free to travel, go to the pub, or work. Now and during last lockdown we jumped to 9 on the scale. Do you think that after the pandemic is over we will just go back to 2 or 3? No. The government control of our lives will go down to 5 or 6, maybe even 7. Some of our freedoms will be returned because we can’t be trusted with all of them ever again. Isn’t this what happened after the “first” lockdown? It ended and we were able to go back to work, but we still could have a limited number of guests at a birthday party, we still couldn’t protest, we couldn’t enter a pub without providing our contact details. Our lives did not return to normal at all. And now it seems like we are just going to live from one lockdown to another unless people, both in their homes and in the parliament wake up. Will we ever get our freedoms back? Will we ever go back down on that scale? It is up to us, and I owe it to my son to fight for his right to be a free human being. I may fail. I may be wrong about this, but I have to try.
If you’re still asking yourself why won’t this guy just follow the rules or get back to where he came from, I can’t help you. I’ve written enough. What I’ve written here might sound trivial to you. Wearing a mask, queuing to shops, essential travel? These aren’t that bad, are they? I should just suck it up and do the right thing. The horrors or Fascism and Communism have been widely documented, so I don’t need to get into them. What I’ve written here are, what I believe to be, the early signs and symptoms of these horrors and of that misery. What the people were and still are subjected to in communist regimes can come for us all. It can be disguised as convenience, safety, equality, a pretty smile of a politician, protection and security and before we know it, we will lose all our freedom because we consented to it one small step at a time. I value freedom, therefore I cannot sacrifice it to make you feel safe. Thank you for reading.
“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
“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 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.
“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.
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.