Dave – the editor
I’m writing this on the first anniversary of what we naively thought would be a three week lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’ before we could return to some kind of normality. Well, it’s a year later and I’m beginning to forget what ‘normal’ was like as I still struggle to adjust to a constrained ‘new (ab)normal’. This is a personal struggle and a political one – both painful in their respective ways. For the purposes of this piece, I want to concentrate on the political struggle although there is an overlap into the personal as comrades I thought were open minded have turned out to be anything back. Apart from the small crew I work with out here in the south of Essex who have the maturity to agree to disagree, the ties I had with many comrades have been weakened and in a fair few cases, completely severed. It has reached the weird point where my most steadfast allies and comrades are people I’ve met online during the past year!
Initially, I brought into the narrative that we were being served up with at the start of the Covid crisis back in March of 2020. However, even before the first lockdown, I remember pointing out to a number of people that a frightened populace is one that’s easy to manipulate and control. At the time, I did have it in the back of my mind that this could be hyperbole and that we could be overwhelmed by deadly pandemic. As it happens, while an NHS that had been under resourced for years did experience serious issues, it turned out that the modelling from Neil Ferguson that informed the government’s initial response was seriously flawed: Six questions that Neil Ferguson should be asked – Steerpike | The Spectator | April 16, 2020. By April and certainly by May last year, I had started to see through the flawed modelling and the narrative that we were being fed. That’s when I started to write and post pieces questioning what was being done to us. As soon as those pieces started going up, that’s when the falling out with a number of my comrades started to happen.
These comrades claimed that all they were doing was following ‘the science’. The problem about using a phrase such as ‘the science’ is that it implies there’s only one true version and that all other conclusions are questionable or even false and should be discarded. I may be a mere pleb whose education never progressed beyond a vocational course at my local technical college but even I can grasp that science is an ever expanding frontier. If previous observations about the world we live in had never been questioned and challenged, it could be argued that we would still believe that the earth is at the centre of the solar system! Science has always been about questioning observations and the consequent assumptions in a bid to establish the truth. The more refined your techniques become, the more you learn from your observations. What you learn may well cause you to question previous assumptions. It has been said that the more science finds out, the less it knows because more questions are raised. Science is a dynamic process, it’s not something that can be written in stone.
Yet we’ve been in a situation for the last year where we’re expected to treat ‘the science’ as espoused by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies as gospel that should never be questioned, let alone challenged. That has been backed up by a government propaganda operation designed to instil a level of fear that would facilitate the support of their coronavirus regulations and compliance with lockdown. A propaganda operation that is based on pushing the view that when it comes to dealing with Covid, there is only one true version of the science to be followed. A propaganda operation that has deployed a considerable amount of psychological manipulation to get people to fall in line. A propaganda operation that the government probably can’t themselves believe how successful it’s been in ensuring compliance: On The Psychology Of The Conspiracy Denier – Tim Foyle | Off Guardian | March 12, 2021
Why is it that otherwise perfectly intelligent, thoughtful and rationally minded people baulk at the suggestion that sociopaths are conspiring to manipulate and deceive them? And why will they defend this ill-founded position with such vehemence? History catalogues the machinations of liars, thieves, bullies and narcissists and their devastating effects. In modern times too, evidence of corruption and extraordinary deceptions abound. We know, without question, that politicians lie and hide their connections and that corporations routinely display utter contempt for moral norms – that corruption surrounds us.
A new political divide
Sure, there are dissenting voices and I’m one of them. No propaganda campaign in history has ever achieved one hundred percent compliance and hopefully that will remain the case. What does happen is that while a significant number of people may have their doubts about the narrative they’re being fed, for the sake of a quiet life, they keep their heads down in the hope that the situation will ease off at some point. My gut feeling is that this is currently the case. What we have found over the last year is that the government has played a blinder with divide and rule. This is not just in society at large but also with radical and anarchist movements where those of us who raise questions about what’s being done to us are dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’. A consequence of this for me and other dissidents from the anarchist movement and the left is the fact that over the last year, we’ve found ourselves with some pretty strange bedfellows from what was the political right!
It was during the course of last year when I found myself agreeing with pieces written about the impact of lockdown by people who define themselves as conservatives that I started to think a new political divide is starting to emerge. The traditional left vs right division started to lose any real meaning as we endured a succession of lockdowns and tiered restrictions. There were those on the left who considered what we were subjected to as nowhere near adequate to deal with what they perceived the situation to be and who were calling for something considerably more draconian. This was despite the evidence of the damage lockdowns were doing to people’s mental health and well being. Then there were those on the right who were calling for an easing of lockdown restrictions. Yes, some of this was because they wanted the economy to open up as soon as possible. However a fair bit of this was the basic, decent humanity of recognising that lockdowns and the social isolation they caused were profoundly damaging to mental health and to the fabric of society.
The divide that appears to be emerging is one between those who trust the state to look after their welfare on the one hand and on the other, those who trust people acting as individuals or collectively to decide what’s best for them. Those who trust the state to look after their welfare seem to be happy to accept whatever restrictions are placed upon them if they’re perceived to make them feel safer. If you’ve believed the version of ‘the science’ we’ve been getting offered over the last year, then accepting the restrictions would seem like the right thing to do. However, if you’ve always had a mistrust of the state and their motives and rationale, then questioning what they do to us in the name of ‘safety’ is a rational thing to do. It’s also about trusting friends, neighbours and the collective wisdom of your community more than your local authority, let alone the government. These ways of viewing the situation tend to cut across the traditional left vs right divide.
The left has always had a bit of an authoritarian streak. They’re about taking control of the mechanisms of the state to bring about their vision of what the world should be. If that ends up not being acceptable to a section of the populace, make no mistake, they would have no hesitation in using the forces of the state to keep that section under control by whatever means deemed necessary. This is why we’ve had the likes of Paul Mason, George Monbiot and Nick Cohen all in their own ways calling for tougher lockdown restrictions. If anyone was looking to the left to stand up for liberty against the imposition of the restrictions we’ve been subjected to, we would hope that the experience of the last year has disabused them of that somewhat naïve hope.
There are sections of the anarchist movement who while they may instinctively distrust top down, state imposed solutions, have voluntarily embraced wearing masks and social distancing. While they are running mutual aid and solidarity projects that obviously necessitate a physical presence, activities such as meetings and bookfairs have all been moved online. The sections of the anarchist movement who have accepted ‘the science’ and gone along with this are in line with those other sections of society who believe that all of this is simply about controlling the Covid virus. The divisions are between those anarchists who have gone along with this and those of us who see this crisis as being leveraged to bring in drastic changes involving a massive increase in wealth for the elite while the majority of us are subjected to a life of ever increasing restrictions, control and surveillance: Cui Bono? The COVID-19 ‘Conspiracy’ – Simon Elmer | Architects for Social Housing | February 19, 2021
We are approaching the first anniversary of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, and more and more people — on the Twitter account of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in the Facebook pages set up to share censored interviews with scientists, in the online platforms not yet shut down for discussing the evidence against lockdown, in the illegal meetings of friends in the homes of the people that host them, in the thousands of discussions and exchanges that happen at every act of resistance, every demonstration, every march — know that this crisis has been manufactured.
I’m still not sure how the divide and rule game has been played and by who but suffice to say, for daring to think this is about a ‘great reset’ of society, it’s been implied by a fair few now former comrades that I’m some kind of conspiracy theorist. All I’ve been guilty of is having an open mind and not taking the narrative we’ve been fed, including ‘the science’, at face value. When the concept of a reset is the theme of books by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum and features on the front cover of Time magazine, it’s hardly a conspiracy theory. Granted, some of what comes under the heading of the ‘great reset’ is simply the acceleration of trends that were already taking place. This would be changing patterns of retail that were already posing the question of what town and city centres were for through to the push towards a cashless society. The number of professionals working from home has also prompted questions as to what exactly is the purpose of the office? Obviously for us mere plebs who do manual graft in warehouses, on construction sites and the like, these questions have little relevance to us. Unless you’re a Thurrock Council bin worker slogging it out on the streets while your managers work from the comfort of their own homes, then it really is relevant, particularly when your pay and terms and conditions of employment are being attacked.
What we face
Coming in on top of this is the increasing level of surveillance and tracking from test and trace through to what at the moment feels like an ever increasing likelihood of vaccine passports. All of which depends on an ever increasing reach of technology into every aspect of our lives whether we want it or not. Technology that with a cashless society and the possibility of some kind of Universal Basic Income (UBI) means that all it would take is a flick of the metaphorical switch from the authorities who deem your conduct to be ‘unacceptable’ and you are well and truly stuffed. In China with their social credit system, this kind of future is already here, as detailed in this piece from Wired: The complicated truth about China’s social credit system – Nicole Kobie | Wired | June 7, 2019
China’s social credit system has been compared to Black Mirror, Big Brother and every other dystopian future sci-fi writers can think up. The reality is more complicated — and in some ways, worse. The idea for social credit came about back in 2007, with projects announced by the government as an opt-in system in 2014. But there’s a difference between the official government system and private, corporate versions, though the latter’s scoring system that includes shopping habits and friendships is often conflated with the former.
Is what’s being done to us planned in any way? According to some, how you answer this question defines whether or not you’re a ‘conspiracy theorist’. When you’re in the middle of a rapidly changing situation, trying to take a step back and work out exactly what’s being done to you, why it’s being done to you and who the key players are in this is a difficult task. The gamut of opinion stretches from certain players opportunistically taking advantage of the crisis to enhance their wealth and power all the way through to this being a meticulously planned operation designed to completely re-shape society as we know it. My personal view has shifted from what’s happening to us simply being the consequences of the actions of some well placed opportunists to thinking that there is a degree of planning involved. How all of this is planned and who are the players and who are the puppets is something that’s very hard to ascertain and to be honest, we may never get really close to the truth. Obviously, it’s essential to get as close to the truth as we can. However, what has to be avoided is going down the rabbit hole of thinking that your analysis of the situation is the only correct one and that all others are wrong. What is vital is that we don’t let these divisions over our respective attempts to work out what’s being done to us end up dividing us. There are already enough state and corporate actors trying to disrupt resistance to the new (ab)normal and the great reset without us going at each others throats because we can’t agree whether Boris Johnson is a player or a puppet.
Resistance is essential
In this piece, I’ve briefly tried to draw attention to the dystopian, technocratic hellscape we face if what’s being done to us isn’t resisted. Resistance to this is coming and will come in many forms. At the level of the everyday, it comes with what appears to be growing numbers of people not taking up the offer of what to all intents and purposes is an experimental vaccine that carries a higher level of risk of injury and even death than conventional, more established vaccines. If the number of refusals reaches a critical point, that will go a fair way to wrecking any idea of imposing a vaccine passport on us. It comes in people trying as best they can to carry on as normal when it comes to socialising and mixing with friends and family. It comes with people refusing to comply with masking protocol. With the warmer weather coming, it may just be people flocking to the parks, riversides and beaches to gather and socialise in whatever numbers and group configurations they want. At a deeper but still very small scale level, it comes from people seeing the technocratic hellscape we’re heading towards and doing what they can to move their lives off grid as far as is possible. This is something is happening at both an individual and collective level.
There have been and at the time of writing, are a number of legal challenges to lockdown restrictions. Petitions have been doing the rounds against the imposition of vaccine ‘passports’. There are other, conventional routes of attempting to apply pressure to the government that are being explored. I’d like to say fair play to those taking the conventional lobbying route but given what’s at stake for those who will greatly benefit from the reset, trying to appeal to the good offices of a government and state machine that’s deeply implicated in this is a diversion. There have been and are a continuing number of street protests. Given the latest powers to restrict the right of protest, going out on the streets is an increasingly fraught pursuit. This is particularly the case when to date, the street protests that have taken place have not had the kind of legal observer and arrestee support infrastructure that we’ve been used to. However, when push comes to shove, risks have to be taken in order to get out on the streets and make yourself heard.
The key point is that resistance is and has to be diverse, multi-faceted and operate at a number of levels. While we may still not fully understand what we’re up against, we have to recognise that we’re facing a formidable enemy. We’ve seen from the number of dissenting voices being pushed off social media that the bastards do see us as a threat and are doing what they can to shut us down. Which is why we have to be flexible, adaptable and nimble in our approach. We also have to learn who we can and can’t trust. With the old definitions of left and right losing their meaning and a new political divide between those who trust authority and those who don’t emerging, we’re in a massive learning curve when it comes to working out who to trust.
To bring things to some kind of conclusion, this is one fight we can’t walk away from. We are living through historic times. We will be judged by history for what we do now and over the coming months. Remember, history is written by the winners. If we want history to judge us favourably, we have to make sure we’re the ones who win. If we want a future that’s worth living in, where we can live freely, we have to see this one out, regardless of the sacrifices we may be called upon to make.