So, what happens next?

Dave – the editor

The problem about writing these pieces on lockdowns and tiered restrictions is they’re inevitably snapshots in time that will date as events move on and as, yet again, the government and their advisors shift the goalposts. There’s also the fact there are so many issues involved ranging from the effectiveness (or not) of the covid vaccines and the potential safety issues of something that’s still in the trial phase all the way through to digital vaccine passports and the accelerated move towards a cashless society, it’s difficult to stay on top of everything. In addition, those who have brought into the lockdown and great reset agenda invariably pick out one small aspect of what us lockdown sceptics have to say and make that a major point of their argument. This makes debating with them from a holistic point of view incredibly frustrating.

So why the heck am I writing yet another piece about where I think all of this is going? I’m just one of many people doing this, each for their own reasons – some personal, some aiming to understand what to all intents and purposes is a seismic shifting of the political ground. Given this seismic shift, there’s a historical value to getting our thoughts written out for posterity. That’s providing they have been securely backed up, hosted or printed out and held in trusted hands. Bear in mind that history is written by the winners and as things stand at the moment, it’s difficult to predict if we will win this one. Snapshots in time when laid out and linked together, can be useful in building a broader narrative about what’s happened and why it’s happened.

So, where are we as I write this particular snapshot in time? At the time of writing, anti-lockdown protests have been taking place in London, Manchester and many other locations across the country and across the globe. Both the London and Manchester protests paid a visit to their respective BBC locations to see if turning up on their doorstep might actually make them feel obliged to cover them fairly and impartially. Suffice to say, at the time of writing, the BBC have yet to utter a single word about these protests. This is despite the fact that all their journalists had to do was look out of the fecking window! On the subject of protests, all things being equal, I’m aiming to be on the London one on Saturday 29 May, hopefully armed with a special, printed demo edition of Estuary Stirrings to hand out.

Anti-lockdown protesters outside the BBC offices in Upper Regent Street, London

The next stage of lockdown ‘easing’ is due on Monday May 17 when a struggling hospitality sector can welcome guests indoors to drink and eat rather than sitting outside, freezing and dodging the rain in what has been a cool and damp spring. Presumably, this will come with restrictions on numbers, mixing and doubtless having to sign up to some kind of track and trace protocol. However…whether we can proceed to the ‘full exit’ from lockdown that has been dangled in front of our faces for the last month or so is now subject to some considerable doubt. This is because of an ‘Indian variant’ making an appearance in a number of locations across the country: Indian Covid-19 variant could be 50% more transmissible and lead to surge in hospitalisations, Sage warns. Note the use of the word ‘could’ and that the source is SAGE whose ultra, ultra cautious approach has led to the sledgehammer to crack a nut strategy we’ve been subjected to since March 2020 – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions…

What is noticeable is the divide between those of us who can’t wait for lockdown to be well and truly over so we can interact with each other in a properly human way on the one hand and on the other, those who for a variety of reasons really cannot let go. The reasons for not letting go range from a real fear of the coronavirus which is now not justified once you look at the data through to many people having found some weird kind of comfort during lockdown. Over a year of so called ‘journalism’ which has ranged from sensationalist to being very selective with the facts has led to a situation where many people seem to have some kind of Stockholm syndrome in relation to what we’re being subjected to.

On the issue of masking, this insidious piece from the Guardian illustrates how people’s brains have been kind of re-wired: The people who want to keep masking: ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’. I’ve used the word insidious to describe this piece because when you read it, what becomes apparent is the normalisation of wearing masks beyond any threat from any virus that may (or may not) be around. Psy-ops may be seen by some people to be a strong word to use but that depends how you see them being applied. They’re applied at a range of levels from the pretty crude to quite subtle. The Guardian piece on masking could be seen to be at the subtle end of the spectrum. Subtle or not, it’s deeply worrying because it’s an attempt at normalising a pattern of behaviour that we were led to believe would just be a temporary, emergency measure.

This divide shows no sign of going away – if anything, it feels like it’s intensifying and contributing to a growing level of rancour and mistrust. As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve lost allies and friends over this. While there are some people who are happy to agree to disagree, there are those who once they find out I’m a lockdown sceptic, will just cut me right out. So be it – I’d rather be on the right side of history than be popular but not true to myself. The problem is that this is getting in the way of the dialogue between the anti-lockdown/great reset movement and the #KillTheBill movement – one I called for back in March: A dialogue is needed. I wasn’t for one moment expecting the Left to respond in a positive way to this. I was however, hoping for some positive response from the anarchist movement but sadly, remain disappointed. Sure, there are a few anarchist comrades that do understand what’s going on and what’s coming down the line, but sadly, it appears that we’re in the minority. It would be all too easy to dwell on this and get bitter but life’s too short. Time and energy are best expended on looking at what’s coming at us and forming the alliances needed to defeat that if we want a future that’s worth living in.

The focus of the London anti-lockdown protest on Saturday 29 May is intended to be on defeating any attempt to implement so called vaccine passports. A digital vaccine passport is being seen by many as the gateway to a digital form of identification. If either or both of these are implemented, would you trust any government to use the data that could be harvested from this and the power that comes with that responsibly? I certainly wouldn’t! A few political associates have been enthusiastically endorsing the idea of a Universal Basic Income. An idea than on the surface sounds fairly positive but as soon as you start scratching away at the surface, becomes deeply concerning. Namely because it will the the state that implements this. It’s all starting to add up into something a lot bigger, isn’t it?

Another worrying development is the trend towards a cashless society which was accelerated by the coronavirus crisis because of fears of transmission by handling physical cash. At my local railway station, as part of the long drawn out process of it supposedly being re-built, the old ticket machines that accepted cash have been ripped out and new ones installed. It will come as no surprise to you that the new ones don’t have a cash option – you have to pay by card. What’s worse is that the train operating company, c2c, have since the start of the crisis been pushing people towards using either a tappable card to pass through the barriers or a phone app – all in the name of ‘stopping the spread’. There’s no let up in their push to get people to abandon paper tickets completely and go for a card or phone app to enable travel, paid for by…a card or a phone app!

Going back a few years when I wasn’t out on the margins of the anarchist movement and did attend more protests that carried a risk of arrest, there was some pretty sound advice passed on to anyone taking part. Namely, use paper tickets bought with cash on the day instead of an Oyster card. Leave the bank card at home and make sure you have enough cash on you to deal with any emergencies such as having to get a cab home after being released from detention hours before the first trains would be running. Advice which as train companies embrace the swift transition towards cashless transactions and digital ticketing is increasingly difficult to adhere to. It won’t be long before anyone attending a protest will have to pay by card or phone app (trackable) for a card or phone app (again trackable) that will enable them to travel. This is why I keep banging on about the dangers of being pushed towards a cashless society because everything we do will be potentially trackable. If in a few years time we have gone cashless and the forces of law and order have got their act together, there’s nothing to stop your travel card or phone app being denied as you try to get through the barrier. That could either be on the way to the protest or worse, when you’re trying to get home and find yourself stranded and easy pickings for the cops.

Then there’s the social credit system which in China is already a reality 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.

To some casual observers, each of these things taken in isolation might not seem to be a big deal and may well be something they might even support. Although I would hope they’d draw the line at a social credit system, however, given what too many people have accepted over the last fifteen months, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was support for it. It’s when you start to join the dots and see how all of these developments could start to merge together to the point where we are under a comprehensive system of surveillance and control, then things get bloody alarming. It’s the reluctance of people who I hoped would know better to join these dots that I find worrying. Because the failure to do so will us propelled towards a society where we will have limited or no freedom and will be subjected to an intrusive level of surveillance.

Say five to ten years down the line, we failed to stand up to this and we exist in what to all intents and purposes is a surveillance state with a cashless economy and some form of social credits to keep you in line. You’ve somehow made your displeasure with the government known and the forces of law and order that prop them up are aware of this. They decide that you need to be punished so at the press of a button, all of your cards are cancelled and you can’t buy the food you need. They don’t tell you though – you only find out when you get to pay and you’re declined. Or it could be the case that if the technology has developed enough, you don’t even get into the store. Welcome to your future…

Once a government grants itself emergency powers, all too often, they’re reluctant to relinquish them. This is because those powers can be used for a whole range of reasons beyond the emergency they were initially and supposedly targeted at. That could be for anything they deem necessary. Ask yourselves again, do you trust the UK government, any of the devolved administrations or indeed, any government anywhere with these kind of powers? Powers that are backed up by all pervasive and all invasive digital technology. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – governments and their corporate backers are not in the habit of letting a crisis go to waste. The covid crisis has been blatantly leveraged to accelerate the process of the great reset – something written about quite frequently here and also by many other people such as Winter Oak and Architects for Social Housing to name just two. If you don’t want to end up just merely existing in a techno-fascist dystopia, there’s still just about time to stand up to what’s being done to us.

This is what I (and many others) have been trying to warn people about for the best part of a year now. I’ll be honest and admit that all too often, I’ve felt like I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall. I’ll carry on doing this because I, like many, many others, want a future that’s worth living in rather than one we merely exist or survive in. As far as my tenuous relationship with the anarchist movement is concerned, I’ve probably gone too far down the road of lockdown scepticism for their tastes and that’s why I’m out on the margins. So be it – given what’s at stake, the consequences of that are something I’m prepared to live with. Anyway, as ever, constructive criticism and comradely debate are always welcome. Snarky one line comments, over the top virtue signalling and abuse aren’t going to be tolerated – life’s too short to have to deal with that…

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