By Raminder Mulla

I’ve started feeling a gnawing, visceral sensation whenever people I talk to give support to harsh, coercive lockdown measures and the emerging biosecurity state. I call this feeling ‘the Knot’ and at first I could not understand why this was.

After all, political disagreements between people come and go. I was a Remainer, many of my friends were Brexiteers. I have a different view of gender politics from many of my friends. In many animated discussions about such issues, I never felt as I do towards those who beg for the house arrest of themselves and others.

I decided to try getting to the root of why I felt the Knot. Perhaps this is what having illusions shattered feels like?

I had the quaint idea that those around me placed some degree of value on living a vibrant life, irrespective of what might happen; that there are worse things than dying. I thought that they placed a premium on real-world interaction, the nurturing of community and an appreciation that what is best for one person may not be for another. That our actions have consequences, both seen and unseen, and that the unseen can be just as profound as those that are seen.

Was the Knot there because I had realised that the most joyful of those I knew could be transformed into anxious, neurotic informants, provided they were exposed to the right stimuli via the TV? Was it from hearing some of the most agile critical thinkers I know regurgitating the same sloganised narrative, over and over and over?

Perhaps it was being confronted with the incredible levels of stupefaction? The knowledge that many of these people would be the first to analyse and risk-assess anything and everything in their lives, but were content to obey the edicts of our leaders without question? How they suddenly stopped caring about the quality of life for themselves and those they were seeking to protect, i.e. the elderly and newly isolated? Had I misunderstood why they were so free-spirited before? Was it simply because they were allowed to be?

Was it that with each affirmation of the lockdown measures by someone close to me my image of them was broken? Was it that I have experienced a form of bereavement a thousand times?

Maybe they always were secretly terrified of the uncertain. Perhaps this is why many who were apparently sceptical of authority now salivate at the prospect of the controlled, coerced, sanitised world we may inherit.

I’ve seen just how keen people are on immiseration, praising countries that ‘did it properly, with a HARD lockdown’, taking perverse pleasure in totalitarianism and oppression. They have suddenly jettisoned their principles like out-of-date food. They are all too happy to speak empty words about the importance of ‘rights and freedoms’ but never bother to appreciate that they still apply in a crisis. It all speaks of a total lack of desire to manage oneself. For the unspoken desire for an all-guiding hand. One could call it a God-shaped hole.

Indeed, inconsistency and a revealed love of oppression have much to do with the Knot. But it doesn’t end there. There is also the constant reminder that we are living in an absurd world in which a couple of things have been made clear. First is that ‘normal’ is no longer the property of the commons. It is from the state, to be given and taken away at its behest. Before March 2020, the only real way to reorganise a society so quickly was to bomb it to rubble.

The second is that the reach of the state is so deep that it sees fit to regulate physical contact between consenting persons. That has led to many people avoiding handshakes and hugs, showcasing an obedience to authority so total that It’s terrifying to think what they would do if they were told to do it. People have relinquished control over themselves and they are proud to have done so.

I still live with the Knot. I don’t think it will leave me. It is there even with people I’ve never met before. When they talk about a ‘new normal’. When they talk about ‘working together’.

On reflection, I think the Knot is there because my view of people has fundamentally changed in a way I have no control over. Our shared world has gone from one where we regard each other with a baseline trust to a baseline suspicion. So many interactions these days are a reminder of a loss of the old world.

Nevertheless, one must keep up hope, even in the face of great, unpredictable change. Scarcity brings value, and those who do stand up for themselves and others in thought and deed are jewels shining amidst the faceless sea of grey that may be our future. Like anything of value, what they’re worth is whatever one is willing to give for them. I am now willing to give a lot more than I once did.

2 Replies to “Why this lockdown fervour ties me in knots”

  1. Being a leftish libertarian, I’ve always felt isolated. I’m what you would call an armchair anarchist and I am very seldom in contact with people sharing my unusual views. I live a regular bourgeois life with my girlfriend and have a few supposedly leftists friends… who doesn’t seem to value freedom and autonomy as much as I would had hoped for.

    I used to regard a handful of authors in high esteem, almost all of which have deeply disappointed me during the last year. For the first time in many years I’ve decided to go out to the streets and protest… only to find out that the worse enemies were coming from what I used to regard as my own side: ecologists, feminists, libertarian communists… Now it feels I’m holding a minority view within an already minority movement.

    If this covid thing hadn’t happen we would still live in the same unfair crazy world full of authoritarian hypocrites… but with the difference that many thousands of fake people would still be playing the role of seekers of freedom, truth and justice and we would still believe them. This has presented a challenge that many (many!) have failed. It is not because they lack the intelligence or the access to information. They have willingly decided to give up their freedom and autonomy, to live this way.

    What shocks me the most is that we live in society ​where (supposedly) adult people have become unable to accept death, which is something that we all should do as individuals if we ever want to start living in a free world. Until then, anyone who claims he has a magic solution to provide us with life eternal will dominate the world. It used to be the Church, now its Science. Believe it or not, most people think (even if they don’t admit it to themselves) that, if they do not die of this one particular ailment or the other, they will go on living forever, that is, that the more abstract but certain death will never catch them. Otherwise all the people who behave hysterically because they have a 0,something chance of dying of covid would go instantly insane the moment they realize of what awaits them someday in the future… with a 100 percent probability.

    As the article says, even meeting new people is becoming unbearable. It feels like belonging to the defeated faction in a civil a war and not being able to flee to another country after the armistice. (Where would anyone escape to anyway in our crazy covid world?). I’m afraid in the future we will be forced either to get in contact with the few other people like us out there or to live in an inner exile for the rest of our lives. So let’s together people!

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