We need to talk about masks

The thing that epitomises the age of covid more than any other is the face covering. While there are big issues with lock down, the restrictions, the interference in personal lives, the terrible cost, the collateral damage, the serious problems with the vaccine, nothing quite sums up the whole wretched business like the mask and I can never get used to it. It is the flag of allegiance the icon of conformity. The fact that they come in all different sizes and creative designs only conceals the fact they are potent ideological symbols. Wearing one, makes it clear you are on the right side. Even if you have absolutely no conviction that it does any good, wearing one demonstrates that you are in solidarity with the vulnerable and you care. It signals your virtue. It’s the “workers of the world unite” poster you put up in your grocer’s shop.

When I complain about the mandate, friends keep telling me “och, its no big deal….what’s the problem? people in Asia have been wearing them for years… just be patient, nobody likes them, but, hey, we have been through this for over a year we can manage another month or two surely?…there are people really worried about the virus and it helps them if you toe the line…See it as an act of kindness…we all need to do our bit” etc etc. The overwhelming majority of those in my circle take that line and think that I am being really obtuse and deliberately awkward if not downright misanthropic in doubting the perceived wisdom. They come over as being pretty wearied of my cantankerous obstinacy and unwillingness to shut up. As it happens, most of the time I do. But there comes the time when we need to talk.

I can only speak for myself, but my hatred of mask wearing is visceral. It is not the face covering that I use to stop plaster dust getting into my lungs when ripping out the lath, it is not the mask our friend in Nepal would wear when she ventured into the heavily polluted air of Kathmandu, it is not the masks that the surgeons wear in medical procedures. There is sense in logic in all of those. But there is no logic or sense in the mandating of face coverings in certain public spaces, as is the law in Scotland today. A law that seems unlikely ever to be repealed.  

But my revulsion goes deeper. Masked balls in period dramas always gave me the creeps and I would never watch the phantom of the opera for the same reason.  Faces covered with a mask of an animal or a bird a bear or a goat, often associated with some pagan caper, always unsettles me and even a photomask of a person’s face with slits for eyes does the same. I remember a surprise engagement party that was arranged for a friend of ours while her boyfriend was in a different country. When I brought her to the party, all the friends had facemasks made from a photo of his face. It was so creepy. She did manage to carry it off with astonishing grace but it would have traumatised me. Now, seeing people I know and love and care about obscured behind pieces of cloth is extremely disconcerting. I will never get used to that and I refuse to.

Everyone, I assume, now knows that the science is not only pitifully weak on the efficacy but weighted against any value that face coverings have in halting transmission of the virus. I am not a scientist, but common sense tells me so and there is a simple experiment that pretty well proves it. The decision for the mandate is almost certainly a political one, not a scientific one and it divides people. 

For my own part I simply try and avoid any place where I am required to wear one or, at most, keep it to an absolute minimum. I used to love public transport but now take any other option than board a bus or a train. I walk or cycle or just don’t go. I chose cafes who are more relaxed and who apologise for what they have to do. I make visit to shops, in an out, as speedily as possible. I avoid eye contact with people wearing masks in the street, while exchanging smiles with faces I see. It was not what I wished for, but I guess I can cope with all of that.

Still I have a problem, a serious one that is still unresolved and it is to do with the wearing of masks in Church. It is doubly complicated, as I have a leadership role and there is constant internal argument, that rages in my mind and ties nasty knots in my gut. We are of course following the official line being “Subject to the Governing Authorities” who are there for our good. We are also discouraged from discussing the issue. It could be divisive. “This is not the time” we are told, “to air personal opinions. These should be put aside as we work for the common good”.  We are to be sensitive and considerate of our “weaker brother” who might be fearful of a mask-less community. We should show love. All of this pulls incessantly on my emotions and throws doubts into my resolve.

At the same time the logical reasoned side of my brain tells me this is all wrong. Somehow the experience, the vital experience, of coming together with the people, to worship God should not be hindered or shackled by the diktats of the state. The Free Church of Scotland, would surely be the last church on earth to acquiesce with the government but that is what we have done. Goodness me, this is the denomination that was born out of a rebellion against the unlawful interference of the state in the life of the church.  So this is deeply troubling.

The counter, of course, is that this is simply a health issue. We should comply and we are not compromising. I would like to think that is true but I suspect that something deeper and more sinister is going on and it is to do with the covering of the face. It is to do with the stoking of fear. It is to do with the emasculation of communication. It is to do with bearing allegiance to another god.  When we sing our songs of worship, we sing them through a cloth mandated by the state. When we listen, the preacher cannot second guess where we are, behind our forced facades. When we share, all subtleties and nuances are filtered out.   One, possibly the, most blessed and enriching experience in all of life, for me, is at once neutered and reduced to a bland innocuous and soulless happening. I can’t, I won’t get used to it.

For my sanity’s sake, at least, we need to talk about it.

Three Steps in the Great Leap Forward

Two weeks ago, the Scottish Government announced its intention to use the health crisis to purloin more power for itself. The blatant bare faced arrogance of it was breathtakingly yet so ineffective and compliant is the fourth estate that this shameless seizure of power barely registered in the main stream media.

The follow up, earlier this week was the announcement of an alliance with a minority party, the Scottish Greens. The clear aim was to consolidate power and to use the threat of a climate crisis to slip further into soft totalitarianism. The leader of the party, Patrick Harvie, is a regional list MSP. He is not a constituency MSP. That means that, in the hybrid voting system we have in Scotland, he has been elected because of his position in the party. No one, in effect, voted for him. His allegiance is to the party and not the constituency. Now he and his colleague have seats in the government of our nation. You just have to watch a few minutes of the parliament video (https://youtu.be/Wqj4IibnyjQ) to see him lick his lips and be aware that he is the one who is now in charge. 

On Wednesday, it was the announcement on vaccine passports. This means that the government will have power over what you can and cannot do, dependent on the disclosure of personal information relating to your personal health. This was the sort of information that was previously private and confidential and jealously guarded. No one had the right to know or ask about what medical interventions you might have had. It was private. It was your body. Now the government will have that right to know, provided, of course you decide not to play the game and are not interested in going to a night club, a football match, a concert, a rally, get on a train of a bus or go to a supermarket. In other words, just about anything.   

Yes I know, it has to be ratified by parliament “signed off” as the media amusingly puts it. But It’s a done deal. We know that. Any opposition to it is likely to be muted and those who are willing to speak out will be quickly shouted down. The movers and shakers have learned a lot from their successes in the past while, the introduction of same sex marriage being a case in point. (https://wordpress.com/post/crawfordmackenzie.net/95) They know that to come out with an outrageous directive like this would be seen for what it is, a violation of personal freedom, unjustifiable discriminatory and a naked form of apartheid. So, they introduce it by a drip drip process, bit by bit, leak by leak, giving the impression that it is just about night clubs…and we can do without them. That way the population are softened up and anyone who raised concerns can be dealt with in the usual way, by ad-hominin name calling.

So that is it,  three moves, all in quick succession and together a great leap forward in the progress towards the new normal. 

The Game is Over

There is something about the events of the past week that seems to confirm that the game is now well and truly over. It wasn’t a re-run of Saigon, or Teheran or the Bay of Pigs, though it looked very much like it. It was far worse with a hint of finality about it. I had a hunch that when the great celebrations erupted with the defeat of Donald Trump, the devil we didn’t know was going to be much worse that the one we did and so it turned out to be.

They say that we get the leaders we deserve. Well now we know.  Where is the Churchill, the De Gaulle the Mandela the Havel? There were those who said, that as far as the west was concerned, Donald Trump was our only hope. Its hard to believe, but there surely was some truth in that. Biden has simply replaced a loud mouth with a feeble one. Our own bungling buffoon styled himself on Churchill, but it was all bluff. There would be no fighting on the beeches or the landing grounds instead he chose to run, first from the illiberal mob on their diet of identity politics, then from the virus and now from the Taliban. Ahmad Massoud the only glimmer of light in the resistance is now isolated with his fighters in the Panjshir valley. The people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Crimea, Ukraine and the Baltic states now know they are on their own. The Uighurs, Armenians and Kurds are not likely to get any help soon. We have pulled up the drawbridge and retired to our lager. But this time we are unlikely to defend even that.  Our belief in our selves has gradually collapsed after decades of self-induced self-doubt, self-loathing and crippling guilt and we are ready to throw in the towel.

If western civilisation does implode, as it could well do, and all that remains are the architectural ruins of our cathedrals and cities, the lost symphonies, plays and novels the half-remembered philosophies, sciences and poetry and the faint recollection of a now forgotten way of life, what will the world look like then?   It could be, as Churchill suggested, “the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science” This time that science in the control of politicians, would include the horrific might of nuclear and biological weapons and with an all-seeing all-knowing all-powerful technology. It could be a world fuelled by big pharma, big tech, big data, big-business and big-government whether as a centrally controlled totalitarian state or a worldwide Caliphate. Or it could be the demise of overgrown empires and a world scattered into small nations of little people. It’s impossible to know or second guess, but the times they are a changing, that’s for sure.

It was an act of mercy that God brought confusion on the people building their tower on Shinar plain, and he may do that again. It is certainly true that throughout history all empires, though they looked unmovable and unbeatable at the time, eventually, did fall and sometimes spectacularly so. In the Genesis account it was interesting that he didn’t destroy the tower. He confused their language so they couldn’t communicate easily.  The parallel with the comprehensive and immediate communication available through the internet is striking and if this giant suffered a complete breakdown the world would be quite different altogether. That’s a strong possibility and not all that fanciful either.

Crawford Mackenzie

DARK FORCES

Somehow, we suspected that there were dark forces at work. Somehow, we anticipated that, under the cover of a health emergency, the Scottish Government would move with stealth and skill to seize new powers and advance their progressive ideology. We were warned about this and we guessed that the claims of measure being purely temporary was disingenuous and deceitful at best.

What, however, takes us by surprise, as it always does, is the blatant duplicity of it all. It is quite breath-taking.

Today the Deputy first minster in Scotland John Swinney, announced the publication of a consultation paper, which details the government’s proposal to “give the Scottish ministers the same powers to protect the people of Scotland from any incidence or spread of infection or contamination which presents, or could present, significant harm to human health in Scotland, not just Covid. In addition to being able to impose future lockdowns and restrict gatherings, ministers would also be able to order school closures “during the remainder of the pandemic” or for any future outbreak of an infectious disease, so long as they believe it is “necessary and proportionate”, and the chief medical officer has been consulted. Among the plans for the justice system are calls for continued powers to permit the early release of prisoners and allowing people to avoid attending court in person by taking part remotely.”

The chilling bit is that minister will have these powers, no longer temporary but permanently enshrined in law “as long as they believe it is ‘necessary and proportionate’. So it’s a matter of belief about “necessity” and “proportionality”. Irrespective of any objective threat or reality, what matters is what the minsters believe and they will be the arbiters and the ones who will define what is necessary and proportionate. It’s about faith and feeling and fits perfectly with the progressive ideology.

It’s a “consultation” of course and everyone is encouraged to make their feelings known. But we all know about “consultations”. One a few years back revealed that the majority were opposed to the government’s proposal but they went ahead anyway and claimed that the consultation was not binding.  

So that’s it, they want permanent powers to lock people in their homes, shut the schools and open the prisons.  What’s not to like about that?

For those of us who are quite relaxed about government powers, who believe that those who govern are essentially good, altruistic, have access to the best advice and have our interests at heart, who are happy to sacrifice our personal autonomy and responsibility for the sake of the “common good” and who are untroubled by all of this, as long as we are kept safe, for us, it is no big deal and there is nothing to see.

For others it is a chance to say “NO” and you can do it at https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-recovery-consultation-public-services-justice-system-reforms/. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Crawford Mackenzie

Desert Island Books 2: The letters of John Newton

Not long ago I was invited to join a local reading group. It was specific and specialised. The titles were limited to classic and contemporary Christian books grappling with fundamental theological issues and ranging from Augustine, Knox, Calvin, through Edwards, Flavell, Baxter, Chesterton and Bonhoeffer to Keller and Ferguson. I was only able to share in the monthly gathering for a short while but it kick-started me into reading in a new way and I was surprised by the thrill that I found in discovering, for the first time, writers whose names I knew, but whose words I had seldom ever read. 

Among the gems that was uncovered for me was “The letters of John Newton” edited and compiled by Josiah Bull. Maybe it was the bight sized nature of the letters that appealed to my short attention span. But I was astonished at how accessible they were, how easy they were to read, what wisdom they communicated, what insight and what it said about the preacher’s pastoral heart. Written so long ago they are surprisingly contemporary and despite the odd word and archaic expression they are clear and uncluttered in a way that most present-day Christian literature is not.

Life in early 18th century England was harsh and brutal, especially for the poor. Cities lacked sanitation and drinking water was so nasty that beer was safer to drink. The availability of cheap gin was destroying lives and striking at the moral fabric of the country. Among the citizens, cock baiting and dog fighting were common place and tickets were sold for public executions. There was a yawning gap between the rich and the poor and crime was endemic in the cities where the desperate poor resorted to stealing, simply to keep body and soul together. Punishments were severe even for minor thefts of items of clothing or tableware and could include the death penalty. These were often commuted to imprisonment or banishment to the colonies. The prisons themselves were desperate places. Many prisoners were held in hulks off shore without water or proper sanitation. For the prisoners, men and women, sometimes with their babies, the journey to the other side of the world was a wretched one. David Hill in “Convict Colony” details the misery visited upon these poor souls and many died before they reached Botany Bay. All this time, the iniquitous Atlantic slave trade was burgeoning

It was into this dark world that the evangelical revival movements began, firstly with Whitfield and Wesley, who brought the light of the gospel in all its fullness to the common people. It could well be one of the reasons why England did not follow France in a bloody revolution. The revival led to changes in society, anti-slavery movements, prison reform, relief for the poor and the expansion of schools and hospitals throughout the land.  Two years into Parliament, Shaftesbury commenced his efforts to alleviate the injustices caused by the Industrial Revolution, which included acts that prohibited employment of women and children in coal mines, provided care for the insane, established a ten-hour day for factory workers, and outlawed the employment of young boys as chimney sweeps.

It was in the later part of the 18th century, in what is described as the second wave of the revival, that John Newton, the converted slave trader and writer of what is possibly the most famous English hymn “Amazing grace” began as a preacher in the town of Olney.  Because of his special gifts in explaining the gospel to ordinary folk his fame spread and people came from miles to hear him preach. “They found in him one who was a worse sinner than themselves and who could enter into their experiences with tenderness and sympathy”.  Many who could not travel communicated with Newton by letter and it is these gems that remain as a testimony to his work.

In these letters there is humour and insight, there is constant pointing to and referencing of scripture. So soaked must he have been in the words of the bible and so well acquainted with its whole, that barely a sentence goes by without some reference direct or indirect or some allusion to the Word. In this, he was fulfilling God’s charge to Joshua not to let “This Book of the Law depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.”

Many of his letters were to other preachers, where his keen understanding of the treasures and the trials of the ministry were sympathetically spent

To Rev W B Cadogan:

“I have seen enough to remind me of the difference of setting out, and holding out to the end, and to warn me that we can have no security from gifts, labour’s, services, or suffering, from clear viewers, or past experiences from first to last only safety is in the power, compassion, and faithfulness of our great Redeemer“

 To a Mrs Coffin he writes:

“religion does not consist in doing great things, for which few of us have frequent opportunities, but doing the little necessary things of daily occurrence with a cheerful spirit, as to the Lord.

Writing to a recently bereaved women (a Mrs Talbot)  he shows remarkable tenderness and understanding, yet points to the only place where she can find real comfort:

“My heart is full, yet I must restrain it. Many thoughts which crowd on my mind and would have vent, were I to write to another person, would to you be unreasonable. I write not to remind you of what you have lost, but of what you have which you cannot lose…….

All the comfort you have ever received in your dear friend was from the lord, who is abundantly able to comfort you still; and he is gone but a little before you.

Some of his most touching letters are to his brother in law John Catlett, who was not a believer but who he tries to persuade in the most gracious way, making a specific appeal to reason.

“It is not reasoning but neglecting to reason and to extend conclusions to their just consequences, that I condemn as the vice of the age…Faith is the gift of God, but then he is always ready to bestow it. When I was first brought to consider the evil of my life, and to endeavour at amendment, the same difficulty lay in my way. I could not pretend to say in my prayers that I believed the gospel. Alas! I did not at that time believe a word of it! I was confounded but not convinced. However, it pleased God (as I am firmly persuaded) to lead me to the following resolution: Though I am not assured of the truth of the New Testament, yet I cannot be certain that it is false, I will endeavour, therefore, If I mistake, that it shall be on the safe side. I will take its truth for granted. I will study the promises and comply with the commands I find there, and if it did indeed proceed from God, He who revealed it, and sees my sincerity in trying to quit my prejudices may, nay, if that is his word indeed, he undoubtedly will, assist, me and enable me to understand it, by degrees, till at length I believe it with the bottom of my heart.”

On my desert island, as the radio game goes, you are given the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. In my isolation, I would want to have John Newton and his letters as my  companion and pastor.

Crawford Mackenzie

Fear: the second wave

Right on cue, now that the doomsayer’s terror tactics over the virus has all but been exhausted, every ounce of fear mongering has been expended, the horror stories, the frightened eyes, the stats and graphs disappear from our screens, the media and governments, with their allies in big tech, big pharma, big data and big business now turn to the second card they hold in their hand – the climate crisis.  

It’s “Code red for humanity”.  It is “unprecedented”. (now where did I hear that word before?) it is “irreversible” and it is all our fault. Not the fault of the 20 thousand delegates who will be coming to Glasgow in their solar power yachts sailing up the Clyde, from red amber and yellow countries all quarantine at their own expense in guarded hotels for 10 days all double vaccinated and socially distanced with covered faces.  No, not them. It’s the fault of the poor who need to feed themselves, who need to find shelter, warm their homes and support their families. These are the ones who are already subsidising the green revolution and who will have to make the sacrifices to “Save the planet”.

So be prepared for the next wave of doomsday divinations and the flooding of our screens with the climate meta narrative. Be aware that every clip of an iceberg melting, a wild fire, a flood, a superstorm or a drought will be milked dry until humanity is finally cowed and comes to heel.    

There is, of course, a serious point here, but that will have to wait.

Crawford Mackenzie

The Conversation

THE CONVERSATION

This is a transcript of the conversation:

CompliantWhere’s your mask?
DissenterSorry?
CompliantWhere’s your mask?
DissenterI don’t have one
CompliantYou can get one …there’s a pile over there
DissenterNo, I don’t wear one
CompliantWhat do you mean?
DissenterI don’t wear one
CompliantOh, are you exempt or something? a disability? Do you have a card a lanyard?
DissenterNo, I am not exempt
CompliantBut if you’re not exempt you have to wear one… what’s your excuse?
DissenterI don’t have one .. I don’t have to wear one…I don’t need an excuse…I’m just not wearing one
CompliantWhy not? You have to…
DissenterNo, I don’t have to… you know as well as I do that they don’t do any good and a lot of harm. There is no reason why we should wear masks. A mask is a symbol of subjugation, a badge to humiliate. I am just not wearing one
CompliantAch, don’t give us this subjugation humiliation crap. Don’t be silly. Anyway  It’s mandatory, it’s the law and you could be passing the virus on to someone else who could get ill and die – you could  cause someone to die… its your civic duty to wear one
DissenterBut I don’t have the virus
CompliantYou could have
DissenterI could, but I don’t
CompliantBut how do you know that you don’t.
DissenterI don’t have any of the symptoms that they tell you about, the cough, the fever,   loss of….
CompliantBut you could be a carrier of it without knowing it.
DissenterI could be, but I am not
CompliantBut that’s crazy and stupid and reckless too! How do you know? Eh? Have you had the vaccine? Have you been double jabbed?
DissenterNo I haven’t and I’m not getting it…and anyway it’s my decision
CompliantBut that’s selfish!!
DissenterEh?  Its selfish not to take something to supposedly protect myself?
CompliantIts not about you!!!  its your civic duty to get vaccinated  
DissenterOh so its all about civic duty? Well, that’s where you are wrong… It doesn’t prevent infection or transmission, we know that, the evidence is in. We had a perfectly controlled experiment on the Royal Navy flotilla. There were 100 cases of coronavirus among the crew on the Queen Elizabeth all of whom were double vaccinated and they stated that they were operating all the social distancing measures masks and hand sanitising etc. So, there you have it. With the vaccine I can still get infected and I can still pass it on so on that score it doesn’t work. Vaccination can only be purely for personal protection, and a personal choice to do with personal risk. There is absolutely no social obligation to get vaccinated to protect others, and the idea of vaccinating children is not just crazy and senseless its terribly terribly dangerous and irresponsible…
CompliantOh so you’re an anti-vaxer now too.. you’ll be a covid denier as well I suppose…
DissenterOh, don’t give me these names, No!!!  I am not anti-vaccination, I just don’t want this one. I am not sure if it safe…
CompliantOf course it is… its been approved by all the important bodies and…
DissenterBut it’s not licenced, it’s still experimental we have no idea what bad effects may come from it. I have no idea what effect it may have on my grandaughter’s baby if she gets pregnant. We have just no idea what effects it may have on child bearing women or on fertility. You see I remember Thalidomide the wonder drug that was developed by…and it’s hard to believe this … by a German company based on the work of a former Nazi who worked for Mengele.. it was a wonder drug that would sort out morning sickness and it was only when the babies were born that they discovered the horrors of what it did. This vaccine has been tested over something like 4 months and from what I remember it takes 9 months for a baby. So we can’t know if it’s safe…
CompliantYes we do. They wouldn’t say it was safe unless it was. The pharmaceutical companies would not risk any mishap. They would be sued out of existence if there was a problem…
DissenterFunny you should say that, because the drug companies were given special dispensation that they would not be sued if there was a disaster. They only took on the work on that basis. Anyway, I’ve read the literature that they give you about the jab and they more or less say that they don’t know if It’s safe…
CompliantWhat! I don’t believe it… you’re havering there …
DissenterWell look I’ve got one here NHS Scotland IMPORTANT INFORMATION please read this leaflet before your get the vaccine under “fertility” it says “There is no evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 vaccine will affect fertility in men or women”
CompliantSo it is safe – there is no evidence that it affects fertility…
DissenterYou don’t get it do you?  It’s a sleight of hand. What they say in the leaflet is absolutely true but it is written in such a way to make you think that there are no effects on fertility, when what it is actually saying is  we don’t know if there are any. There is no evidence that there are. But there’s no evidence that there is not.
CompliantAch, it’s a waste of time talking to you… All these scientist and researchers all over the world can’t all be wrong… or do you think you are right and they are all wrong?
DissenterThey could all be wrong and , of course there are a whole lot of others who say different and you probably won’t here about them because they are basically gagged or black listed or cancelled.
CompliantWho?
DissenterWell… for a start… Sunetra Gupta, Mike Yeadon, Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, Robert Malone, Russel Blaylock, Peter MacCulloch, Karol Sikora, Peter Bregin,David Livermore, Carl Heneghan, John Lee… lots more…
CompliantOh I’m not sure why I bother… but look at it, the vaccine has broken the link between getting the virus and being sick. We know that for sure, So it works..
DissenterNo, we can’t be sure about that
CompliantWhat! Oh come-on! for goodness sake!  you are just being cantankerous. You are sold on conspiracy theories… You should get out more and stop listening to the lizards and phone mask conspiracy seeking creeps..
DissenterI don’t and I’m not…. but back to the point…because one thing follows another doesn’t mean the first caused the second. It is a classic false philosophical argument – there is a name for it but I’ve forgotten what it is – something about correlation and causation – like, every time Grannie comes to tea it rains, so granny caused the rain. There might be a connection between the two but there is no proof that there is. It’s the same with Lock-downs. They say the restrictions work because once these are in place cases drop but they might have been dropping anyway…It can’t be proved one way or the other
CompliantI was right, it’s a waste of time talking to you. You don’t really care do you? You want the virus to rip and if people die, too bad, as long as you can get to the pub and get on with your life. You are putting other people’s lives in danger. I can’t believe you would be so mean and so selfish. You are probably a grannie killer…
DissenterOh!!!  a grannie killer now!  -You know that’s pretty rich. It’s the government who have been killing Grannies!  you know that.. loading them off to care homes to get infected and die lonely and horrible deaths shut off from their loved ones. It is one the cruellest things about this whole debacle and there will be a reckoning. I am sure there will. When people find out what actually happened it could get very ugly… Someone must have known what they were doing. They weren’t interested in people’s lives they wanted to save the NHS and it’s all political. If you don’t see that, you must have blindly swallowed the whole thing. The NHS had to be protected at all costs to save the Tory party. If it collapsed under a Tory government, it would be a disaster for the party and the red walls would rise again. Care homes didn’t matter they were not the NHS. And all this nauseating clapping, sainthood, special services in St Paul’s Cathedral, oh dear,….  and now the George cross…
CompliantI was right, it’s a waste of time talking to you…  …. just keep away from me… …please…
DissenterNo worries.

FEAR IS THE KEY

Laura Dodsworth has published a devasting and explosive book cataloguing her forensic ferreting into the dark art of behavioural science and its employment by the authorities in the past 18 months. “A state of fear” clinically exposes the government and the cartel of advisors, medics, scientists, public health experts, statisticians and modellers in their cynical weaponizing of fear to get the population to do what they want, without them knowing it.

While a lot of this has had some airing before, hardly any of it has reaches the main stream media or has been taken up by journalist or political opposition, the people who you would expect would notice.  So, it is up to Laura a photographer, artist and author, not really known for journalism to step in to the breach, to scratch around, to push hard at the doors, to follow the evidence and get to the truth, while the rest of journalist, with some notable exceptions, have gone limp and supine. Even the rock and roll anti-establishment suspects, who are always quick to pounce on any titbit to throw at the establishment, have been strangely silent. It’s as if their mouths have been stuffed with gold or injected with drugs to stay quiet. Shout about anything they seem to be told, but don’t go there. There, however, is where Laura goes and when she has her teeth into the something she doesn’t let go. Funny, this is what I thought true journalism was all about. But it’s heartening, at least, to find someone who actually does it.

What is notable about the book is that it is sane and balanced. It isn’t fired by rage or anger. It isn’t an anti-vaxxers rant or the bleatings of a covid denier. It is simply the inquisitiveness of a curious mind and a nose that can smell a rat.  She manages to interview significant figures close to the government, some anonymous but others willing to give their names, including notable people involved in the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) who report to SAGE. What she finds is that fear was deliberately and specifically used to direct the behaviour of the population. Many of the advisors had deep misgivings about the morality and the ethics of the programmes, but never enough, it seems, to blow the whistle.

What is disturbing, to her, is the way the pattern mirrors that of a strict parent child relationship. 

During the Covid epidemic, the UK government threated us with longer lock-downs or tougher restrictions if we misbehaved, and rewards such as the rule of six or garden meetings were dangled in front of us if all went well. The relationship between government and citizen is reminiscent of a strict parent and child relationship, with alternating use of the naughty step and then offering sweets for good behaviour. Citizens were not treated like adults. We were told frightening ‘Bedtime stories’ everyday via the news and Downing Street briefings to ensure compliance with a set of everchanging and sometimes bizarre rules. 

“The weaponization of fear is a particularly destabilising tactic in the behavioural psychology toolbox

because it clouds our judgement, which in turn increases reliance on government, which then creates more fear, which paralysis us further, creating a self-perpetuating doom-loop.”

Naomi Wolfe goes further and puts it more graphically, in a recent interview, when she described it as an abusive domestic relationship where the partner, invested with the power, teases, controls, humiliates and infantilises the victim caught in a horrendous trap of dependency.

One of the SPI-B advisors explained this, as it related to mask wearing: “There is a behavioural science ‘reason’ for wearing masks, to increase a sense of collectivism. This is the feeling favoured by the psychologists that is entirely unrelated to the scientific evidence regarding transmission. Essentially, they want us to feel like we are ‘in it together’” So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Another from the same group explained “People are passive and biddable. A lot of people don’t question. Their thinking is shaped by other people, especially the media and social media and that is a dangerous thing. As a society we are set up to encourage a passive and biddable population.”

Throughout the book she slots in short interviews with ordinary people she meets on the way. They don’t make the story but illustrate it and they are exactly the stories I hear from individuals caught up in it all, bewildered, frustrated, frightened.

The bleak prospect in the end is the death of freedom “We seem to have forgotten that no one is safe. You have never been safe and you never will be. Nor will I. In the blind global panic of an epidemic we have forgotten how to analyse risk. If you don’t accept that you will die one day, that you can never be safe, then you are a sitting duck for authoritarian policies which purports to be for your safety. If too many individuals immolate their liberty for safety, we risk a bonfire of freedoms.”

Frank Furedi set the ground work for this analysis in his significant piece “How fear works, culture of fear in the twenty first century” and he explains how, from an early age, people are encouraged  “to become preoccupied with their safety and to regard being fearful as a sensible and responsible orientation towards the world”  While in another time, it would be assumed that our response to threats would be in accordance with virtues such as wisdom, courage, moderation, justice and duty, now it is considered virtuous to adopt the technique of “risk assessment” and “powerlessness, fragility and vulnerability are the characteristics that resonate with the current representation of personhood.”  

But an authority which deliberately and calculatingly creates a climate of fear amongst the population are playing with fire. Once the heather is lit it is not so easy to put out, no matter how many jackets are ruined in the process. A frightened population may act in quite unpredictable ways. There may be compliance for a time but things can suddenly turn and fear can quickly morph into rage. Who knows how an otherwise biddable populace will react when they discover that they were deceived and the devastating and prolonged restrictions were quite unnecessary and achieved nothing. Their belief may will be resilient while so much is invested in it, but with a crisis of faith, things could get ugly.

A government’s intentional employment of fear also betrays the fact that they themselves are fearful: fearful of losing their popularity, fear of failure, fear of not doing or acting quickly enough, fear of losing power and ultimately, fear that the people may rise up and destroy their masters. Those who live by fear die by it. History shows that dictators and despots never know when to give up. They never leave when there is a window for a peaceful exit. Instead, they cling on to the bitter end, to face the rope and get the bullet.

Critically,  the weaponization of fear breaks down trust, trust that may have taken centuries to build, and when trust is destroyed it is hard to know where, as a society, we can go.

Crawford Mackenzie

A Baby Boomer Resolves

A good friend of mine has a philosophy, quite a common one I think, that if you can’t do anything about a problem you should not spend any time worrying about. “It’s silly”, he would say, “to get all stressed out, tied up in knots and agitated about what governments and politicians do when you can’t really change a thing. Making your own stand would be little more than a pointless gesture and your sacrifice would change nothing.” It makes a lot of sense of course. But then, the trouble is, as I responded to him, if you carry any sense of responsibility, especially for the future generations, you just can’t just brush it off. It spirals out from your responsibility to the folk you love, your family, the community and the world. If you have just a hint, a half-formed vision, some feeling for where we are likely to be heading and you know it’s not good, you have a duty to speak out. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent and I think this is the time to speak.

My sense is that in 2020 we have crossed the Rubicon and while it may be interesting to dig over how and why we got to where we are, none of what we find will change the past. What we have is the present and this is where we live and this where we do and say things which may in a small way have some influence for good. The future belongs to others. It is not a concept it is a reality but we are seldom ever given a vision of what it will be. There are of course prophets but there are false prophets too and sometimes it will only take time to discover which is which.

What I grapple with is the strong conviction that we are coming into a time of trouble which we have never seen for more than half a century. I have the uneasy feeling that we are not prepared for it and we have not prepared the next generation for it either. So, in what little time we have left, I feel a heavy burden to do what we can to prepare those who follow for a different world than the one we have known.

I don’t think it is a matter of imparting a strategy, setting out an approach, adopting a policy, or even offering advice. There could be lots of advice we could offer though. One thing would be to learn not to be dependant on what is given, another to think for yourself, (gosh I am beginning to sound like Jordan Peterson) to question perceived wisdom, to be as wise and serpents and as harmless a doves, to hold on to and guard what we know is true, to see that things are not what they seem, to find out and discover what the ancients said and to seek wisdom because it is more precious than any other thing. But I was never much into dishing out unsolicited advice and don’t intend to start now.

I was struck, however, on hearing about the Jesuit priest Tomislav Kolakovič who taught in Bratislava towards the end of the second world war. He recognised that Stalin’s red army would soon be victorious in the east and while others would be soon rejoicing at the demise of Hitler and the end of fascism, he recognised that Stalin’s soviet empire would present an even darker spectre and inevitably lead to the persecution of Christians. He also knew that the established church would not be able to withstand communism but would acquiesce with the authorities and be controlled be their new masters, which was, in fact, what happened. So he went about teaching young Slovak believers and establishing cells of faithful Catholics, entreating them to give themselves totally to Christ and to resist evil, so that when the time came they would be prepared to stand. These cells and groups were not only gatherings for prayer, study and fellowship but became the centres for underground dissidents active in the eventual overthrow of communism in the velvet revolution. 

There may well be a parallel in the situation we face today. The similarities may be stronger than we care to believe. The march of soft totalitarianism is hard to ignore and maybe the best we can offer is to prepare for the dissident life.  That’s not an easy thing to do, especially as all that we, as baby boomers, have known is a culture of comfort and ease, a general trusting in truth, a time when wisdom, integrity, justice and compassion were the virtues we valued and aspired to and a baseless belief that things will work out ok in the end. Learning to live in a different way will be challenging. Learning to live within the law without aligning yourselves to the spirit of it will require a sea change inattitude. It will compel what Solzhenitsyn called “Personal non-participation in lies.”  “Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, we will be obstinate in this smallest of matters:  Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me.”

Am I being over excited? Is it all seriously over the top? Am I simply away on my own wee tuppeny thing? I don’t think so. If anything, the past year has shown us that we seem perfectly relaxed at trading in our personal freedom and responsibility for our health and security. For a peaceful life we have sacrificed our soul.   Solzhenitsyn puts it bluntly in his devastating 1974 essay “Live not by lies”

“And he who is not sufficiently courageous to defend his soul – don’t let him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a distinguished figure or a general. Let him say to himself: I am a part of the herd and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and kept warm.”

Crawford Mackenzie

Indignity in Death

I didn’t need to see the picture. I saw it in my mind the solitary figure, decked in black, sitting in the ancient chapel, masked and distanced and silenced as she watched the physical remains of her husband of seven decades, being lowered into a hole in the ground beneath the stone floor. Somehow it was a picture like no other, which epitomises the dreadful end of an era.

My concerns were not for her. Even in this enforced humiliation she retained her dignity. I have no doubt that her spirit would rise above all that. Nor were my concerns for the thousands of others who have had to face the same indignity in the loss of those they loved, over the past year, including some who are close friends. My concerns were for the ones who devised the plan and wilfully manipulated a compliant population in adopting, almost without question, the foolishness of the charade.

I would not like to have been Boris Johnstone or his advisors or the other leaders falling in his train, watching on their screens, following the spectacle, aware of their role in forcing the sovereign, who had seen out thirteen prime ministers, to endure this pitiful spectacle. I wonder if the cruelty of it even crossed their minds or if they ever felt any shame. I suspect not, but it was a shameful thing that they had done.

The triple lock, enforced mask wearing, distancing and the banning of singing at services of all kinds strangles the very life from such occasions and in the face of death makes it especially bitter. It could only be the coldness and cruellest of hearts not to see what this means for a grieving relative. That moment in time, that would never be recovered or retrieved: when they most needed their close family to be close, when they needed that comforting arm around them, when they needed to see that reassuring sympathetic and familiar face, when they so needed to be reminded of the truth that death is not the end and be able to sing, with the congregation, the songs of faith.  That moment senselessly and cruelly taken from them.

The government should have gone the whole hog, banned all funerals, instructed local authorities to dispose of the dead as they saw fit and put out a nice thing on zoom.

Maybe they don’t feel any shame, but I do.