Just when you think it can't get any crazier - it does! I went for a walk on Tuesday and called to the graveyard to visit my grandfather's grave. There was a sign on the gate saying that, due to new regulations, you were not allowed in unless it was for a funeral. And I thought police using drones to track walkers and 'shame' them was the low point. There was girl in the graveyard and she said ‘you are allowed to come in as long as you close the gate behind you’. I asked if this was to stop the coronavirus from coming in but I don't think she realised I was being sarcastic.
I pulled the sign down and went in. Apparently, some 'snowflake' had called the council to report that people weren't practising proper 'social distancing' in the graveyard on Sunday. It wasn't even that graveyard; it was one on the other side of the town. Of course, the local priest folded to the whines of the snowflakes, much like the government. So much for his ‘faith’ in God but then priests by their nature are unquestioning minions as we know only too well! By the way, the only thing that will ever stop me visiting my grandfather's grave will be a bullet!
When I was at school, there was one teacher who, when the class got noisy, would always say, 'Empty vessels make most noise', a phrase that keeps coming to mind when I listen to the ongoing media hysteria and not just on this issue.
However, on the good news front, the voices of dissent are starting to make themselves heard above the clamour. I was delighted to hear Peter Hitchens and Lord Sumption challenge the media in regard to the hysteria and fear they have whipped up, and criticise the actions of the government and some police forces over their handling of the ‘crisis’. I was beginning to think I was part of a very small minority but, thankfully, there are numerous online communities voicing their dissent too.
On Saturday morning, I walked down the town which is something I usually do and between the big girls’ blouses with their masks and scarves tied around their mouths,(and I am never going to apologise for using that phrase) and the snowflakes with their gloves and hand sanitiser, I had to get away from the 'noise'. So, along with number 2 son and number 1 grand-daughter, we headed to the beach. I know I wasn't allowed to do that either, so shoot me!! On the way to the beach, we stopped for petrol and in the shop they were selling small bottles of hand sanitiser at 10 euros a pop. There’s always someone with an enterprising spirit or someone ready to rip people off - well, it all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?
Anyway, it's a quiet beach; I won't say where it is as I want it to remain that way. Not many people know about it but, even those that do don't bother going to it as it is off the beaten track and requires a bit of effort to get to. Even at the height of summer you would hardly get more than 20 people on it. There is a more accessible beach a few miles away which draws the crowds. That suits me fine, I was never one to follow the crowd. I had a paddle in the water while I was there which was absolutely freezing.
Now everyone in Ireland has paddled or swam in the sea at one time or another and most people in Britain probably have too. As a matter of fact, anyone who lives anywhere near a coastline has, in all probability. Well, here’s a fact about seawater and viruses, there are one billion viruses in a litre of seawater and I bet no one ever died after a paddle or a swim. When the snowflakes find out about that, they will never venture on a beach again!
And talking about viruses, here’s a little bit of information on them. There is some debate among scientists as to whether viruses are alive or not as they do not have an organised cell structure or any form of energy. They have one or two strands of RNA or DNA and they cannot replicate or evolve outside of a living host. Viruses are not bacteria, fungi, plants, animals or protists (single cell organisms). Yellow Fever was the first human virus discovered in 1901 by Walter Reed and the first flu virus was isolated in 1933. Viruses work by injecting their genetic material into a cell which they then take over and multiply.
The bad news is that there is little doctors can do to treat viruses and your best defence is to be healthy and have a strong immune system, and the way to do that is to eat well and take care of your health. Viruses outnumber all other life forms here on planet earth and wherever there is life, there are viruses so there is no getting away from them and it takes years to produce vaccines against them so I’d be very reticent about any ‘cure’ they find in the near future.
When we sit down and watch films like Schindler’s List or Carve Her Name With Pride, (if you’re not familiar with that one it is the story of Violette Szabo who was a spy for Britain during World War 2, if you get the chance, check it out, there is a beautiful poem in it) we imagine that if we were in those situations, we would be like Oscar or Violette. We imagine that if tyranny ever rose again that we would be the hero, we would be the one to stand up for freedom or the little guy and speak out.
Unfortunately, the events of the last few weeks have shown that when fear is used as a weapon, the majority turn tail and run or hide. It has been highly disappointing but not surprising to see the behaviour of many around me who have conducted themselves with something less than honour, not that it was my first experience of that. More disappointing has been the wilful ignorance on display from those who refuse to consider that there could be another agenda at play, or that the media would lie or distort the truth. (If you believe the BBC would not lie, then you should probably go back to believing in Santa Claus)
That is not to say that I have always acted with honour in my life. I have lived in fear and terror and experienced first-hand the worst of humanity. I have no illusions about myself or what I have done or might be capable of doing in the future but one thing I will say is that I never scapegoated anyone else to save my skin. However, there are only so many times fear can be used as a weapon (at least against me) but you will find that the more you face up to it, the more you build up your courage and the less scary it becomes.
When this is over and life returns to whatever it will be, how will you feel about your behaviour at this time? Did you go along and do what you were told or weren’t told without question or objection? (I know some who self-isolated before the Government ordered them to, even when self-isolation only applied to those who were ill or in high risk groups) Did you panic buy, did you investigate for comparison or try and educate yourself a little about viruses? Did you join in the chorus of disapproval, and how many times did you think (or hope) that those outside should be punished for not ‘social-distancing’ correctly, or did you go a step further and report someone?
Events like this reveal facets of our character that, under normal circumstances, we would deny exist. It isn’t easy to admit that we have a darker side or to confront the reality of our weakness and/or cowardice in the face of fear, or to consider that, if we had been in Nazi Germany, would we have put the uniform on and obediently followed orders? Hitler and others like him could never have succeeded without the compliance of the people, whether as soldiers or civilians and that should give us all something to think about.
This is not a condemnation of the German people, I understand how Nazi Germany happened. I know that the German people were suffering from the economic ruin that was visited on the country after the First World War and Hitler promised them a better life and future.
The actions of some, while questionable, does not lie entirely with them and the media most definitely deserve a large share of the blame for the part they have played in fomenting the panic and hysteria. It has sickened me to see the pleasure they have taken in ramping it up, every time they say ‘global pandemic’.
I do understand people’s fear, especially those with young children. For many, this is probably the first time they have been confronted with the reality of death, or faced the possibility of their own mortality and that is scary, if it is something you have never had to face before. But facing up to it, can led to a more conscious and, hopefully, better human being.
When this is over and the dust has settled, take some time to arm yourself against the next ‘project fear’ because there will most certainly be another one, and the greatest weapon you can have against fear is knowledge. Take a deep breath and don’t immediately believe everything they tell you. Take some good advice from Carl Sagan and ‘sceptically interrogate’ the information you are being given or, as it happens these days, being rammed down your throat. Make the effort to educate yourself around whatever the issue is, then when the media goes into overdrive, you will be sure of yourself and have confidence in your knowledge which should then inform your actions. However, I do have to warn you that no-one may listen but remember that it isn’t about them, it is about you and your integrity, and people will remember that later on when the fear subsides and the panic is over.
The results of this event have been a lesson to us all and revealed things about us or those around us that we may not want to confront but in order to become a better person, we need to be honest and ask ourselves, just how far would we go to save ourselves, and what would we have done in the war?
The coronavirus does not frighten me but what did frighten me was watching how those around me reacted and how easily they surrendered their freedom. I know many people have been genuinely terrified by this, the media has certainly gone all out on this one, but there were others who should and do know better. Maybe they like the drama of it all, there are certainly no shortage of drama queens around these days, and no shortage of doom and gloom merchants either. But when you look back and remember how you behaved, if it was less than ‘honourable’, then don’t beat yourself up about it, especially if you are in the young adult category, instead aim to hold yourself to a higher standard in the future, and try and do better next time.
A virus, like Co2, is the perfect weapon in the arsenal of terror; you cannot see it, feel it or smell it. There are dark forces at work in this world who would use any weapon to further their own agendas and some of those agendas are deeply unsettling. So, going forward, before you join in the anti-Chinese chorus, which has already started, make some effort to educate yourself and look a little deeper at what has been going on around the world and who these dark forces might be.
And, unfortunately, here is a little bit of more bad news - you are going to die, some day, maybe even today or tomorrow. Around the world every day babies, children and young people die, and old people die too. Some of us will die in accidents, others from illness, some may even be murdered and a disturbing number of you will take your own life, at least, in this country. But, it is an absolute guarantee that we are all going to die, there is no escaping it, eventually the grim reaper is going to get you no matter what you try to do to make yourself ‘safe’ and the jumbo pack of toilet roll isn’t going to be of much help when the time comes.
It is the natural course of life; we are born, we grow up (most physically but not necessarily, mentally) and if you are lucky, you will get to grow old and see your grand-children before you shuffle off this mortal coil. But there is no escaping it, it is the great leveller.
I hope that when my time comes, it isn’t too painful or drawn out but I’m ready to meet my maker whenever that may be because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you die, what matters more is how you lived.