This piece is being written as the UK enters the fourth week of the lockdown aimed at curbing the rate at which the COVID-19 virus is spreading in order to ease pressure on an overstretched NHS. Already, it feels like it’s been a heck of a lot longer than three weeks! At the time of writing, there’s no indication that the lockdown will be eased in any significant way for some time to come. It does look as though we’re in this for the long haul.
Before the Easter weekend, the government, police and the other authorities charged with implementing the measures outlined in the emergency legislation that now governs our lives expressed concerns about them being flouted on a large scale. By and large, the majority of the population went along with the measures with seaside resorts, beauty spots and parks remaining pretty much empty. Sure, there were probably some localised breaches but overall, the authorities are probably heaving a massive sigh of relief right now.
Commentators will put this down to whatever fits their political world view. The likes of the Daily Heil will doubtless put it down to British stoicism and the so called ‘Blitz’ spirit. A fair number of our anarchist comrades will put it down to a sense of social solidarity and wanting to pull together to get through the COVID-19 crisis. Having said that, some anarchists plus maverick thinkers of a libertarian persuasion will put it down to the populace being scared into submission in the face of something that’s ‘not much worse than a bad dose of the flu’.
As we’ve written before, we’re not epidemiologists so we’re not really qualified to comment on how serious the threat from COVID-19 is. Having said that, we are trying to understand the factors that may compromise someone’s immune system which would result in the consequences of contracting COVID-19 being considerably worse than ‘a bad dose of the flu’, if not fatal for some sectors of the population. This is one such piece of research that has caught our eye: Connecting the Dots: Glyphosate and COVID-19 (Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D.). Needless to say, research like this does pose a lot of difficult questions not just about the response to COVID-19 but also about the kind of political and economic systems we live under that create the conditions which make certain sectors of the population considerably more vulnerable to it.
It’s not rocket science to realise that the authorities much prefer a narrative of ‘we’re all in it together’ to one that exposes the literal toxicity of the political and economic system they want to preserve for their own venal interests. The ‘we’re all in it together’ narrative has had a boost, albeit a possibly temporary one, with none other than Boris Johnson being struck down with COVID-19. Some of the more cynical observers of the situation have remarked on how ‘convenient’ Johnson’s affliction is for those wishing to promote that narrative.
If the majority of the population can be persuaded to buy into the ‘we’re all in it together’ narrative, then it does make it a lot easier to enforce the measures brought in by the emergency legislation. A population that by and large is willing to police itself regarding these measures has to be something the authorities will be immensely grateful for. When the jury is still out on how serious the threat from COVID-19 is and what factors exacerbate susceptibility to it’s deadlier impacts, the populace policing itself could be seen as common sense allied with a basic sense of decency and social solidarity.
However, without wanting to be controversial for the sake of it, we feel obliged to point out some more worrying and potentially sinister aspects of this self policing. Namely, the willingness of elements of the population to snitch on their neighbours and others they suspect to be in breach of the emergency measures that currently govern and restrict our lives. These are two of the most recent posts we’ve put up about this aspect of the situation: Solidarity yes, snitching on your neighbour, no! and: Police use Stasi-style snitching portals as hypocrisy over park use rumbles on.
You don’t have to dig too deep into the many social media exchanges out there on the way these emergency measures are being implemented to see how this is manifesting itself. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of anger out there aimed at people perceived to be breaching these measures. Some of that anger does come from genuine fears about the spread of COVID-19 and the pressures it’s placing on an already over-stretched, badly managed NHS. Fears that we acknowledge some commentators and activists feel are exaggerated or even misplaced. Fears they feel have persuaded people to surrender their liberty in exchange for what may just be an illusion of security.
On the other hand, some of that anger comes from an element of the population that not only accepts measures that have already impacted many of our lives but also think they don’t go nearly far enough and need to be considerably harsher. We’re talking about the kind of people who are only too happy to contact the police to report what they feel are breaches of the emergency measures. Basically, we’re talking about curtain twitching, snitching grasses who are the willing tools of the powers that be who want us divided and at each others throats.
Somehow, we have to win the argument for preserving our individual and collective liberties in the face of these measures. The people we have to make the most effort to persuade are those who have genuine concerns about COVID-19 and it’s impact on the NHS. In a charged, emotive situation, this will not be an easy argument to have. As for the curtain twitching lovers of authoritarianism, there’s little point in wasting time or energy trying to persuade them of the errors of their ways. All we need to do is to try and identify who these people are and do what we can to eliminate their toxic and divisive impact on our communities.
Why are we raising these issues at this point? Namely that once the COVID-19 crisis has subsided, we will not be going back to ‘normal’ because a lot of what we used to regard as ‘normal’ has either gone or is fatally damaged. An already fragile and ultimately unsustainable economy is flat on its back. This will have drastic social and political consequences in the months and years to come. The government will be struggling to keep the lid on what may well be a restive and increasingly angry population. They will use whatever divide and rule tactics they can to deflect that anger from impacting them while having us at each others throats. This is why we have to re-double our efforts to win the argument for collective and individual solidarity and freedom while dealing with those in our midst who would welcome more in the way of authoritarian governance.