Approaching Freedom Day, I looked around at how the nation is reacting in different places. We thought the nation was divided over Brexit, but Maskxit…
In London, the original plague-pit of COVID-19, masks are a rare, exotic fashion accessory. Shops still insist, but wearing one in the street draws a double-take. On the Tube the full force of law demands that all travellers be muzzled, but I have seen journeys where only a minority are. The young and fit frequently do not bother, and they must know that if they get it they are barely at risk. The double-jabbed (as I am) should not have to worry, but the law still insists, and if one is to be a pillar of the community one is expected to look like a pillock in the community. As soon as the crowd though crushes together through the exit, the masks are ripped off in disgust.
One observation: amongst those of East Asian extraction, masks are more commonly worn on the street – maybe more amongst those visiting from those plague-ridden lands who are in the habit.
In other towns there is no observable pattern, other than to see that lockdown is breaking down and has been for some time, not just in anticipation of Freedom Day. The vulnerable elderly are more likely to be in masks, even though presumably they have been jabbed, and it is one-use surgical masks as the muzzle of choice. (Cambridge I found works by a different rhythm: you see more masks on the street, worn apparently for virtue-signalling, or a political statement. You can tell the type.)
Shops are a mixture. Some do the bare minimum on masks and things: they know it has all got a bit silly. Some are all so uptight and demanding on muzzles, tracking, one-way systems and that goo that causes your hands to come out in blotches, that you wonder if they actually want customers. Some pubs will allow no one through threshold unless they have the government’s spy-app (so I go elsewhere). On the other side, in plenty of shops and pubs no one wears a mask, so it would be impolite to do so myself: it would look as if I were silently judging everyone who goes bare-faced.
Monday approaches; Freedom Day. However it is far from back to normal. The lamentable Mayor of London is insisting on masks on London Underground for as long as the virus is with us – but since it is now endemic in the population, that will be forever. He may find his rule impossible to enforce: even when the rule is law, it is commonly flouted. Several venues public and private up and down the land have announced that face-nappies must still be worn, without an end date. (What are they worried about? They can’t be prosecuted or blamed.)
Self-isolation is to remain too, and they are not even allowing the partial exemption for the fully vaccinated until August (and that exemption will be limited even so). It is particularly poor timing that Sajid Javid has just been tested positive with a snuffle: it has fuelled demands for eternal lockdown. Well, if the disease has still been spreading in spite of the lockdown, it’s not going to help to do it again.
It comes down to the analysis Fay wrote at the beginning: the nation is divided into the terrified the fed up and the bullies. The bullies are certainly in the ascendant at the moment.
It is a stifled cheer then for Freedom Day on Monday, but a look forward to genuine freedom when the unofficial lockdown breaks down entirely.
- Spinning doctors
- Yearning to be unfree
- Competitive panicking
- Does anyone understand the rules?
- The necessity of normality
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay (1841)
- A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
- Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney
- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath
- The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes
- By Boris Johnson:
- By Aristotle:
- By Anthony Burgess: