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Survival is not good enough

Bob Dylan once said: “I accept chaos. I’m not sure whether it accepts me.” He wasn’t speaking about the COVID regulations at the time, but his comment seems particularly appropriate as the virus-plagued summer of 2020 turns to mysterious autumn. 

Unlike Mr Dylan (né Zimmerman), I have never been happy with chaos, except as an artistic tool. In real life, I like to know what’s going on; that’s why I react so strongly against a bunch of anarchists stopping the newspapers being printed – among other things. 

It’s not just anarchists, though. No-one really has any idea what the Government will do next, because the coronavirus is as unpredictable as Boris. And vice versa. In looking for solid ground, one feels tempted to echo author Neil Gaiman’s words in his novel The Kindly Ones: “I would feel infinitely more comfortable in your presence if you would agree to treat gravity as a law, rather than one of a number of suggested options.”

Admittedly, gravity is not the issue here. Indeed, scientific laws are not really the issue, because although we are supposed to be following the “science”, what we really see is a number of scientists holding different views. Indeed, that is what science is about. That is why taking what “most scientists” say as gospel is a particularly dangerous thing to do. All those conflicting studies and all that contrasting research. 

What effect is all this chaos having on us? The three major constraints imposed on us at the time of writing are to wear masks in shops, in church and on public transport (plus a number of other places that I don’t remember at the moment); to not meet in groups of more than six – a pretty random figure; and to keep two metres (another pretty random figure) away from people you don’t know.

You can’t hug, you can’t smile (or be seen to smile), and you can’t sing. Is this sensible restraint, or is it taking away from us a large proportion of what it means to be human? To be human means to move towards other people; following COVID regulations is to erect barriers between us, like the Mexican border wall.

You can see your friends or colleagues on Zoom, but you can’t touch them. Is this really what we want? To be in their presence but not in the same place? Not able to read their body language?

I’m not suggesting ignoring the regulations, because that would be chaos. What I do suggest is that whoever is responsible for dreaming them up gives it some serious thought, because making us less than human is as destructive of life as any illness. Simply surviving is just not good enough.