Discourse and debate… It used to be okay to disagree on all sorts of stuff. Didn’t it? Or am I romanticising and being nostalgic?
Now adays I worry about saying most things on my mind because I might get labelled and dismissed.
And I feel like I am going mad – or is it the social world around me that is becoming more and more maddening? More divisive, more orthodox and more confused and confusing?
I have found it increasingly difficult to know where its okay to express myself. With whom and to what degree can I just share what’s on my mind without worrying about being annoying or too much or taken too seriously. Where can I talk and have a debate and think out loud with other people?
I am used to feeling like this in general around people I don’t know because my thoughts on various things don’t follow dominant narratives. Like around mental health. But this feeling has crept in to relationships closer to me. More often than not I feel like the odd one out – even with friends. I find myself feeling more and more cautious and unsure whether my thinking out loud will be tolerated.
And I try to understand what this is about. Is it me and am I just paranoid? Or is there a general narrowing of what is okay to say – not just in public but anywhere? Have I lost my ability to navigate social stuff – was it always like this for me and have I just forgotten?
Lockdowns, restrictions and intense collective states of threat and fear have messed with my head. And my heart. My spirit has not been completely crushed but I do feel deeply disheartened.
I always look to writing or other forms of human expression to try and make sense of things. I have done a lot of trawling online the past couple of months looking for words, art, people and communities that might help me feel less despairing about the state of the world. It has been weird to see how things I find helpful will be labelled ‘mad’, socially irresponsible, misinformation or dissenting.
In the face of fear of death and fear of loss and fear of illness and fear of causing harm, to me there is no longer a sense of unity, no sense of working together towards a greater good, there is only the sense of being divided into categories of the sane and the insane, good and the bad, the pro and the anti and there is no place for discourse, debate or meeting of minds.
Without diversity of experiences and opinions and without spaces to share what we feel and think, it becomes so easy to default into thinking that other people are either with me or against me.
It’s probably natural that intense fear and confusion makes us look for a sense of belonging. To find our group and our territory and defend it. Makes us insular and authoritarian rather than open and tolerant.
The skills needed to engage in uncomfortable conversations without resorting to black and white thinking or namecalling are learned by getting together face to face and talking. And by witnessing other people doing that. It can be a difficult skill to learn and it would seem a skill that needs regular practice. I feel like I have regressed but maybe that’s just me… I am no longer able to negotiate reality with other people.
How are your relationships now compared to 18 months ago? How are your relational skills? How safe do you feel sharing your thoughts and feelings with other people?
There is talk of a covid anxiety disorder emerging… And I find it so strange that the focus is on fear of the virus when the real disaster has been the fear of each other. Of course people are full of fear. That’s been the whole message since early 2020. Be afraid and conform or you are stupid, irresponsible and should be punished. Governments and mainstream media has been telling people that they are dangerous and deadly to others just by living and breathing. Advertising and promoting restrictions that have never before been implemented on mass scale as common sense and not considering the consequences long term of how this has interfered with most areas of daily life for the majority of people. Using coercion and normalising coercion, inducing confusion and doubt. Attacking and ridiculing people who disagree or just ask questions.
I am exhausted with the fear and with the pandemic narrative. I am tired of preparing myself for listening to people talk about restrictions and mass scale injections and testing as if it is perfectly acceptable. Because it keeps us all safe…
Well I don’t feel safe at all. Not at all. This is not the kind of society I feel able to be part of. Where medical apartheid is okay and rolled out across countries without debate. Where compliance is celebrated and rewarded with illusory promises of freedom…
The virus didn’t impose the restrictions. Fear did. And humans beings, the decision makers. Freedom from the restrictions can’t come from complying…
If you have had an injection with one of the vaccines approved for emergency use, if you wear a mask because you trust that it protects you and others and if you regularly get tested in order to be able to do everyday things like work or go shopping or socialise that is okay with me. That’s your choice, and I realise that for many it probably doesn’t feel like choice because of the threat of the consequences if you don’t do these things.
But are you okay with other people making other choices about how to do things? And will you fight for other peoples right not to be tested or wear a mask or be isolated in their homes because they cannot for whatever reason – be it health, beliefs or other personal reasons – comply with the pandemic emergency rules? Do you think those rules will go away by themselves? Do you think viruses like sars-cov-2 will just go away? Do you think illness and death can be beaten with restrictions and coercion and medical interventions?
What if they can’t?
What if we have to live with death and horrible illnesses? Novel viruses and killer bacteria and unimagined illnesses of all sorts. Would you want to live in communities full of fear and division and restrictions while dealing with this? Do you want acces to health services as well as libraries, sports events, local cafes and shops to be restricted to those who comply with the latest measures imposed in order to control whatever is threatening the human body at any time?
The whole rethoric around avoidable deaths is maddening… A death avoiding society – what is that? I am not sure I want part of it.
I keep trying to focus on how I want to live. How I want to be with others. But even though things are ‘opening up’ I just feels like things get harder and harder…
My options about what I can do and how and with whom seem to be shrinking. Not just practically but also socially.
Maybe they were always just privileges I didn’t really appreciate, the options I had. Maybe some of the people I’ve come across advocating masks and injections and tests as necessary are right and I only have myself to blame if I exclude myself by not complying and not agreeing to the coercion. Maybe its my problem alone and no one elses…
If I am the minority and the majority is okay with what is going on and unwilling to make space for people who make the kind of choices I make, then maybe I just need to accept living on the edges of society…
Maybe I just need to get better at thinking ‘it is what it is’ and accept that the way the world is changing is beyond my control. It seems to be beyond everybodys control. It just seems to be happening and nobody is responsible. The virus is responsible…
Here is some stuff I’ve been reading and listening to in my search for places where I don’t feel like I am the odd one out.
A blanket of doubt.
A podcast which touches on different ideas about whether there are things we can do to be more curios and open minded? How do we stop thinking like the group and thinking independently?
A nurse who tries to find ways to make it okay to question things
A group of all kinds of people with academic backgrounds trying to share alternatives to the dominant pandemic narrative https://www.hartgroup.org/bios/
A pretty awesome project about the impact of lockdowns on working class people
Counting the dead is not as straightforward as one might assume…
Law and lockdown. One of the most confusing things the past 18 months has been the threat of punishment and the vague sense of what was law and what was guidelines. Also I think we as citizens forget that we can change laws and if enough of us don’t follow the laws prosecution and punishment becomes logistically impossible…