In the morning, the world is as the world should be. The sun rises, as predicted for this part of England in early December, at around twenty past eight. Shortly after this, I get up, go through the usual morning routines, have a quick breakfast, wash up, and am at my computer by ten o’clock. The hours pass unexceptionably until lunchtime. And then I can no longer put off the trip to the shops.
Going to the shops is something I do as little as possible nowadays. Once I might have walked in and out of the nearby town centre several times in a day, without thinking twice: but that was when I could move from home to street seamlessly, with no jarring transition between here and there.
Now it’s different. Now, beyond the protective confines of our home lies a parallel universe, a place of outlandish rituals and dogmas, where grotesquely masked figures pass each other warily on the street or, in the supermarket, lurk out-of-touch behind symbolic plastic screens. Instead of muzak, as I follow the prescribed route between the aisles, disembodied voices warn of death and disease, order me to protect myself and others by maintaining distance and keeping my plague-ridden exhalations to myself.
“We’re in this together!” they proclaim.
In less than a year some malign necromancy has transformed the fearless social beings who once thronged shops and cafés in the run-up to each Christmas into an infestation of dangerous, outsized germs: or, if scrupulous examination of the facts has left you confident that “the novel coronavirus” is no more threatening to moderately healthy people than the nastier brands of flu, into the crazed adherents of some apocalyptic cult.
Since I have spent the past nine months scrupulously examining the facts, the eyes now peering out at me over the inadequate face-covering of that woman beating a hasty retreat behind the cans of tuna as I approach are, it seems to me, those of a poor, unhinged lunatic. But then, I am an unbeliever. I do not wear the mask of allegiance. Marked out by the lanyard around my neck, I do my shopping as quickly as possible, and hurry back to the embattled sanity of domestic life.
Yes, even here embattled: for as the onslaught of propaganda continues without remission, only complete divorce from the outside world can afford protection. Fortunately, since the arrival of the computer I am beyond the reach of programmed television, but in order to wake to the accompaniment of pleasant but undemanding music, I used to put up with the intermittent smattering of adverts on Classic FM. Now that government has become the media’s most lucrative source of income, however, this is no longer tolerable. Who wants to be roused abruptly from sleep by inane incantations of “Hands! Face! Place!”, sometimes repeated twice within five minutes ?
“It’s just an actor!” my husband pleads with me, as I hurl execrations, and worse, at the radio. But whether it comes from actors or health ministers, the brain-washing stinks. “Don’t you just long for a nice commercial about sofas?” a friend asks mournfully, as we discuss the incremental take-over of advertising slots by the government’s ‘nudge unit‘. Even bona fide adverts from the likes of Boots and the big supermarkets are made nauseous by mealy-mouthed assurances of “safe” shopping. The only kind of safe shopping I long for is shopping safe from constant reminders of The Virus: shopping unmasked and convivially mingling; the chance to browse unimpeded in bookshops, and linger socially-undistanced over cups of coffee in a crowded café.
Why this campaign of terror, you have to ask? Why, in the midst of a genuine pandemic, would anyone need to be reminded unceasingly that death is dogging their footsteps? That at any moment The Virus, wafted abroad by some super-spreader passed fleetingly in the street, might be insinuating itself into one’s body – or, worse, that we ourselves, infected but unaffected, might be silently contaminating a loved-one?
The short answer is, they wouldn’t. In a genuine pandemic, this constant mental battering would be superfluous. If the Black Death were raging outside my door, government would know full well that they didn’t have to fork out millions to convince me to stay inside; more likely, they would have to pay me to leave the house.
Yet this government has bought the mass media lock, stock and barrel, at vast expense, with the sole purpose, it seems, of hammering home a message of impending doom. Instead of calming our fears with facts and rational arguments, they have seen fit to flood the airwaves with slogans calculated to maintain panic; with disingenuous appeals to the emotions; with out-of-context death counts, wilful obfuscation of the difference between cases and infections, a criminally dodgy PCR test and graphs and computer models (rubbish in, rubbish out) carefully selected to emphasise the worst possible eventualities.
And not content to cow us into submission with a constant diet of skewed and incomplete information, they have unleashed the army’s 77 Brigade to troll social media exchanges and snuff out any lingering dissent – or, as the government prefer to call it, “misinformation“. The aim can only be to induce maximum public terror in the face of a virus which, without all this deceptive ballyhoo, would hardly have been noticed by the population at large.
Why are they doing this ? Surely, by now, they must be aware that increasing numbers of highly esteemed and experienced scientists contest policies which are killing vastly more people than they are saving, and which will go on killing well into the future!Why this campaign of terror?