It looks like, fingers crossed, the restrictions are finally going away on the 19th July. This article may, therefore, be irrelevant, but there are still people (and a lot of them, too) who wish for the restrictions to remain and for lockdown to continue. This article is for them. It’s something I started writing a couple of months ago, but then a little bit of freedom got in the way and I didn’t see the point. As I work on other material, here is “Lockdown for Dummies”.
About a week ago, the world leaders got on their private jets and gathered in Cornwall to discuss some important issues and pose for some socially distanced pictures before mingling like old friends, laughing and drinking like the issues they had come to discuss were all a joke. Face masks were only worn by the peasants serving them alcohol and clearing their tables. The so called “elites”, including the Queen herself, were enjoying each other’s uncovered faces like the Indian, Nepal, Thai and Delta COVID strains were all made up tales they had been telling us for months to keep us obedient. Kind of like that mother in the shop who tells her naughty toddler that “the man will tell her off” or “the man will take her away”, just to make her settle down. When I worked in retail, I often found myself in the position of “the man” and I never wanted to.
As they discussed, shook hands and posed for fake pictures, we learned that Boris Johnson was planning to postpone the “Freedom Day”. This was no surprise to me, to be honest. I must admit, however, since April 12, things for me have been rather normal. I’ve even seen people commenting on feeling the same – gyms are open, shops are open, pubs are open and so on. Some people even demand that people like me explain why we continue to protest and raise our voices when things are now more or less “normal”. This normality, however, is just an illusion. There are still many things we cannot do, jobs lost, and medical treatments delayed. Many people still fail to understand those real-life consequences of prolonging this nightmare called lockdown. For these dummies, I shall use a real-life analogy to illustrate how locking the country down to protect one group of people negatively affects other groups of people and nobody can or should really claim to know what sacrifice is required by us for the greater good.
(At the moment of writing this, so called experts are calling for another “Winter lockdown”, which makes it even more essential for people to understand why lockdowns are harmful and why they are a mistake we should not only never repeat but hold our politicians criminally responsible for it.)
Back in February of this year, Mark, the CEO of the gym I work at, well, I worked at before the apocalypse, called upon all his employees to give them the good and the bad news. Before I get to them, let me give you a little background.
The gym is only a small part of the well-established charity that operates nationwide. They run charity shops, provide housing, shelter for homeless people and support physical activity by providing access to cheap gym and other fitness activities for all levels and ages, including gymnastics for young kids. They do a lot for the community and they have been for many years.
Mark organised a Zoom meeting with everyone working at the Watford gym. He had good and bad news to tell us. The good news was that the charity was expanding and extending their helping hand to the local homeless people. The heads of the charity had decided to end homelessness in the local area. Everyone agreed that it was a Nobel goal. Unfortunately, the good news was also the bad news. The only way for this to happen was to transform the gym into a living area for the homeless. The idea was to turn the gym into a couple of dozen self-sufficient (and COVID19 secure) rooms for the homeless people already sheltering using the charity’s services to move on and step back into a normal life. In other words, what Mark was telling us was that we weren’t coming back when gyms would reopen, and our jobs were gone.
I was only ever a casual worker and I still had full time job waiting for me in April, but some people had worked there for a couple of decades. I remember Vicky and Joe both working there fifteen years ago when I first signed up to be a member of the gym. We had all felt connected to that place in one way or another and felt like part of us was being ripped out of us and slaughtered in front of us with no justification. Suddenly, ending homelessness wasn’t on our minds. Joe was the most vocal about his feelings. He was devastated. He thought it was unfair. He said that he thought us and the service we provided as a fitness facility, the community we had built didn’t matter to the people signing it all away. He brought up that mental health of people relying on our gym was being neglected and the decision to close us down was disrespectful to our two thousand members and staff. He complained that there was no impact assessment, no consultation and no easy transition and concluded that he had expected better. He acknowledged that helping homeless people was a great initiative but felt betrayed. He didn’t believe that creating twenty-four affordable rooms for rough sleepers justified sacrificing gym staff and members. Mark sat in front of his laptop and responded to Joe’s points in the manner of a politician and he wasn’t taking ownership of the decision and its negative impact on thousands of people, but we all agreed with Joe, who felt very passionate about his views.
After the first lockdown, we had to telephone every member to let them know we were reopening. I was given a list of people to call and welcome them back. Almost all the people on my list were born during WW2. The vast majority of them didn’t own a mobile phone or had an email address and access to the internet. Our gym was the only gym in the area that could accommodate people in that age group. It was quiet, bright and accessible. Most gyms have adopted online joining process, but at our gym everything was still done the old-fashioned way – by filling up the paperwork at the reception, a process a lot easier for people without a computer or a smartphone. Now, these people had virtually nowhere to go to remain physically active.
Our building was also home for local Gymnastic Club, who just over two years ago spent £100k on new equipment and have now been left with nowhere to go. Their small team provided lessons for hundreds of young children a week, who are now also left with limited options. Sure, their parents might find another gymnastic club in the area, but they might not. We were in the heart of our town – easy to get to by car, bus or foot. Other places might not be that accessible for many parents. Many children might also not like the new environment and will simply give up all together.
It’s tempting to say that the gym staff, the gymnastic club team, the elderly gym members and the children and their parents simply must adapt, find a new job, new gym and new venue. It seems easy enough. But it’s not. This place meant something to all these people. They’ve invested their life and career in this place. They’ve committed to it. And for the members and the children change might not be that easy and might never come. It’s not as simple as signing up at a different place. If you’ve ever lacked motivation, focus, determination, passion, willingness to change, found it hard to adapt to a new situation, even temporarily, then you know that a lot of things have to happen inside of our minds for a simple change in our behaviour to take place. Simply put, many of these people will never resume their fitness journey.
The cause – to save the homeless people – was very generous and virtuous, but it came at a cost. It meant that people would lose jobs, careers, way to maintain good mental health and physical wellbeing and quite possibly, the only place where they could make friends. Imagine for a moment that we are not talking about saving every last homeless person in Watford, but about protecting the vulnerable from catching COVID19 or the NHS from becoming overwhelmed. To achieve these goals, the government acts like Mark, the CEO we met earlier. They decide what people need protecting and at what price. This price has been paid by many of us in multiple currencies. We’ve been told to put our own mental and physical health on hold so that we wouldn’t “pass it on”. We’ve had our cancer treatment postponed, delayed or cancelled. We’ve lost our jobs, not been able to pay rent, mortgage or simple bills because of furlough pay cut. Our marriages have suffered, relationships ended. We’ve dived deeper into loneliness and depression. We’ve lived in a state of constant fear and guilt. All this to protect a small number of people who may suffer from coronavirus. All to protect them by treating them like they all want the same thing and COVID19 is their only Kryptonite and nothing else could possibly hurt them. Many of them, just like many homeless people, simply don’t want help. They want to be left alone and do their own thing. They don’t want any authority telling them how to live and that they need their help. It’s insulting.
There you have it. Lockdown for dummies. Looks nice on paper, but in the end, behind the scenes, people suffer greatly as a result of decisions made by government who treat us like a concept, like a collective and not individuals with individual goals, wants, needs and fears. We can’t all be treated like sick people because we won’t all react to coronavirus the same way. We can’t all be protected from coronavirus if the price of this protection is too high and we end up losing valuable time and experiences just to stay alive. That’s why the best policy has always been personal responsibility. Don’t wait for the government to restrict or ruin the lives of everyone so that you can be safe. Take ownership of your life and your health and simply restrict your own life to keep yourself safe. You’ve done it for a year with government’s orders, you can now continue doing it voluntarily. Sure, you might lose your job for continuous self-isolating, but many of us have. Sure, you might lose your relationship because you don’t want to go out, but it’s ok, many of us have. You might get fat because you refuse to go back to the gym, but it’s ok, many of us have.
The choice is yours. Always has been. Are you going to be a dummy?