Dave (the editor)

Saturday 4th July was billed as the day we emerged from lockdown into a ‘new normal’. In the days running up to the 4th, the doomsters were predicting utter carnage on the streets on the assumption that after being in lockdown for months, people would abandon all restraint and get totally annihilated at the first opportunity. After scanning through the news items this morning, unsurprisingly, it turns out that the picture is a bit more nuanced and complex than the doomsters would have us believe.

Sure there were a few ‘scenes’ but by and large, it wasn’t anything remotely resembling a New Year’s Eve meltdown. There were a variety of reasons for that. One being that people still concerned about the risks of being infected by COVID-19 are staying away frown situations they think will be crowded. Another being that the weather has been a bit shite and if the only option was outside drinking, people might not have fancied it.

Then there’s all the rigmarole involved in attending a pub in the ‘new normal’. Those implementing the guidelines shown in the image above may think they’re doing it for the best of reasons but when taken in total, they make going to a pub a bit of a weird and not very welcoming experience. The spontaneity of going out to the pub to meet up with mates has gone – for the forseeable future, it’s an operation that involves a bit of forward planning. A fair few people are concluding that it’s not worth going through all that hassle. If the weather improves, people may instead opt for the alfresco and less intrusively monitored (for the moment) option of meeting up in the park or on the beach.

Then there’s the documentation that you’re obliged to fill in before you can cross the threshold into a pub. Again, those charged with implementing this may think they’re doing it for the best of reasons but it’s another step towards a total surveillance society. People may well ask what’s the issue with filling in a few details that may help in tracking the spread of COVID-19 before entering a pub or bar. Well, firstly, it’s a case of not just trusting the person taking your details but also, whoever may be in the queue behind you who may be able to see what’s been written down. Secondly, even if the above concerns can be addressed satisfactorily, while filling in a form may seem like a small deal to some people, it’s all incremental.

From cashless payments offering a record of what you’ve brought and where, having the location on your phone switched on, through to having to book ahead and fill in a form just to have a drink to being pressured into downloading the contact tracing app, when you add all of this together, the total is greater than the sum of it’s parts. These are all steps towards a surveillance state. One in which you hand over increasing amounts of personal information to a combination of government and the corporations. Once you start to look at how they behave and how easy it would be for them to use your data to give you a hard time if you’re deemed to be ‘uncompliant’, it’s not hard to see why a growing number of people are questioning what we’re being asked to do.

So, for as long as there’s a requirement to surrender personal data before being allowed to enter a pub to indulge in what used to be the simple please of having a drink, we’re staying out of it. It’s about principles and not wanting to legitimise the accelerating drift towards a surveillance society. If that means we don’t get to a pub for months, years and possibly never again, so be it, that’s a price we’re prepared to pay to start resisting what’s being done to us.

We’re also reviewing our usage and reliance on smartphones – already, they’re starting to stay at home while we’re out and about. We’re being conned into thinking they’re essential when if you take a step back and think about it, they’re not. We’re old enough to have spent most of our adult lives and much of our activism without them so it wouldn’t be too hard to go back to that situation.

We’re in a situation where we have to work out new ways of negotiating our way round and resisting these regressive trends while finding people and groups willing to work with us. Unplugging ourselves as far as possible from the surveillance matrix is where we’re starting this process.