This was first published on The Stirrer

Yet again, this is another attempt to try and assess where we are in these weird, disconcerting and increasingly dystopian times. Also, yet again, as events are moving at a swift pace, this piece may well end up as a snapshot in time. So why do I keep on expending a fair bit of mental and emotional energy on writing these pieces? The best answer I can come up with is that this process helps to shape my understanding of where we are. Basically, it’s me thinking out loud… If you struggle to even understand where you are, it makes coming up with the strategy and tactics needed to deal with the situation a difficult, if not impossible task. I hope there’s enough generic analysis in this piece to ensure that at least some it it will have a decently useful life. As ever, the aim is to try and encourage some nuanced debate and discussion in what feels like an increasingly and worryingly polarised situation.

The drive to get ‘jabbed’

The drive to get everyone vaccinated feels pretty relentless. That’s not just the government putting on the pressure but also the steadily growing number of the big chains who want to see some evidence of vaccination, preferably double vaccination, before they’ll accept you as a customer. In the various anti-lockdown / anti-new normal currents I follow, there’s a fair bit of speculation as to what’s behind this drive with a range of views stretching from the credible through to some that are quite frankly, ludicrous.

A lot of people are saying it’s a profit driven pharmaceutical industry that’s behind the push. There’s obviously a lot of truth behind this – you only have to look at the share prices of the big pharmaceutical corporations to see this. Effectively, what they’re doing is creating customers for life. However, with AstraZeneca distributing their vaccine at cost, a degree of nuance is possibly needed when criticising big pharma – Europe’s shameful campaign against AstraZeneca. Although it could be argued that with the goal of customers for life as an objective, AstraZeneca are simply treating this initial phase as a loss leader.

On the surface, it would appear that the drive is about the jab in and of itself. However, there’s the view that the drive to get as many people jabbed as possible is tied into the push for vaccine passports. The greater the number of jabbed, the more feasible it becomes to introduce vaccine passports. While there’s the option for a paper version (with the inevitable QR code of course), the pressure is on for these to be ultimately digital. This is how a number of commentators think the trajectory is set to play out over the medium and long term:

Jabs > Vaccine passports > Digital ID > A cashless economy > Some form of state controlled Universal Basic Income > Some form of social credit = Total control of the populace.

Before you dismissively say ‘conspiracy theory’, please have a read of this: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

If vaccine passports go ahead, then we’re on the slippery slope to something a lot worse. The one saving grace is that anecdotally, I know a number of people who have complied with masking, social distancing and taking both jabs but who see vaccine passports as a step too far and something they strongly oppose. This may be the line in the sand that will see opposition grow…

It’s not a case of either/or when it comes to understanding the dynamics of the drive to get pretty much everyone jabbed. To be honest, it’s a complex mix of both of the above and a fair number of other factors as well.

As for the ludicrous explanations, the depopulation myth is one that’s doing a lot of damage to the credibility of anti- lockdown / anti-new normal currents. Seriously why would the powers that be want a surviving population of recalcitrant, very stroppy unvaccinated people to deal with? That’s not to downplay the very real and legitimate concerns about the safety of vaccines which are still effectively in the trial phase. The problem is, the wilder flights of fancy about depopulation make it harder for people who have suffered vaccine injuries or know those who’ve suffered to fight for the justice and help they deserve.

Divide and rule

What is noticeable is the alarming level of division that’s being stoked up between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. There are elements on both sides of this divide who are active in stoking and fostering these divisions and tensions. Obviously, their motives differ but the end result is sadly and tragically, the same. I’m fairly certain there are also covert state assets at work inflaming these divisions – after all, a divided populace is a lot easier to control than one united against you.

Before I proceed, some nuance is in order. Just because there are intense divisions between some vaccinated and unvaccinated people, it’s wrong to generalise about either of them in any way. The last thing we need at the moment is more crude stereotyping. That only serves to exacerbate the tensions that various elements, including state assets, are trying to inflame.

I know a fair number of unvaccinated people and there’s no one single reason why they’ve chosen to, so far, not get jabbed. Among their number are a few who were pretty strict on masking and social distancing but for a range of reasons, don’t want to take a chance with a vaccine that’s still effectively in the trial phase. I also know a fair number of fully vaccinated people – some want to see vaccine passports, others say that these will be a step too far and they won’t be co-operating with them. We need to judge people not on their vaccination status, but on their attitude towards vaccine passports and the inevitable slide towards digital identity and what follows on from that. It is necessary however, to see how some elements on both sides of the vaccinated / unvaccinated divide are helping to stoke up divisions to alarming levels, albeit for very different motives.

It has to be acknowledged that over the last eighteen months, we’ve been subjected to a barrage of fear by the government and the media that has made it very difficult to get to the real truth of the situation. This is something that has been documented in considerable detail in this excellent book: A State of Fear: how the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic – Laura Dodsworth. That has led a fair number of people to live in a permanent state of paranoid fear that goes way beyond any real risk that they may face. This is now being taken to the point where a worrying number of vaccinated people are actively taking measures to exclude unvaccinated people from their lives. This goes as far as not inviting close but unvaccinated family members to weddings, baptisms and other family events. It goes as far as demanding to see proof of vaccination before inviting friends to social events. When this is pushed, they find those friends swiftly becoming former friends. As you can imagine, as well as exacerbating divisions, this is causing a considerable amount of distress and heartbreak. Away from family and friends, it’s now going as far as calling for increasingly draconian measures to be taken against the unvaccinated that include refusal of medical treatment, incarceration and forcible vaccination.

There’s a lot of virtue signalling coming from a fair few of the vaccinated. There’s also a lot of virtue signalling coming from a fair few of the unvaccinated. All this is doing is fanning the flames of division – it’s not doing anyone any favours at all. As mentioned earlier, this cuts both ways. The behaviour of a number of unvaccinated people in the various anti-lockdown / anti-new normal currents leaves a lot to be desired. Those unvaccinated people saying that the vaccinated have effectively signed their own death warrants by taking the jabs aren’t exactly a help in winning over the hearts and minds we need to win over. All they’re doing is spreading fear while creating a bunker mentality.

Before vaccination, masking was and in many ways, continues to be one of the major fault lines… Look, I’ve had pretty strong reservations about masking for a variety of reasons since last year. I’ve no problem at all with memes, stickers and posters pointing out the numerous issues with masking – I’ve produced and circulated a few myself (see below). However, there are limits… One of them is ripping a mask off someone’s face – that’s as bad as the authorities forcing a mask onto someone’s face! Another is insulting people wearing masks, particularly passers by as an anti-lockdown / anti-new normal march is going past. Again, we’re supposed to be winning hearts and minds and trust me, this is not the way to do it…

Can the various anti-lockdown / anti-new normal / anti-great reset / anti-vaccination currents ever become a cohesive movement?

Regarding winning over hearts and minds, a critical look is needed at some of the anti-lockdown / anti-new normal currents…

I’ve been following coverage of the anti-lockdown protests since the middle of last year. This coverage has come from a range of angles from broadly sympathetic to smearing them as little more than gatherings of alt right conspiracy theorists. There’s only so much you can glean from other people’s thoughts on what these protests actually meant and who was participating in them. I concluded that the only way to get a more accurate picture of what these events were like was to actually attend a number of them and talk to people. An effective way of getting people to talk to me was to hand out a paper, so for the two marches and the one rally that I attended, I produced a special protest edition of The Estuary Stirrer – one sheet of A4 printed both sides and in full colour. This tactic did yield a fair few interesting conversations…

What did I find

  • A fair mix of people of all ages, a number of BAME and more working class people than I’ve seen on most of the left organised protests I’ve been on to hand out papers.
  • A lot of people who prior to the early part of 2020, had never been on a protest before.
  • A few veterans of protests in the 80s and 90s such as Reclaim The Streets.
  • A number of politically homeless people who used to identify as left wing or anarchist but who now see themselves as anti-authoritarian.
  • A few religious cranks.
  • A number of genuine conspiracy theorists
  • A number of dodgy characters from the alt right sniffing around for an opportunity.
  • On the two marches, minimal and quite frankly, piss poor stewarding and marshalling.
  • No legal observer and arrestee support infrastructure.
  • As for the Worldwide Freedom Rally in London on Saturday July 24, a range of speakers whose utterances have seriously damaged the fight against any more lockdowns, vaccination passports, digital ID and the great reset – there’s more on this in the next section.

This is a new a unique phenomena we’re witnessing, not just here but around the globe. The only comparison I could make is with the Gilets Jaunes in France but not as cohesive. It’s messy, raw and there are evident contradictions which in my view, rules out the emergence of anything like a united movement.

Is there actually a movement?

Note I used the word ‘currents’ rather than ‘movement’. I’ve used the word ‘movement’ on many previous occasions when writing about the ongoing situation but the more I think about it, the more I realise that these currents of opposition do not constitute a movement in the sense that we’d understand it. What follows are my observations on those attending the marches and rallies, and the varying and sometimes contradictory and conflicting agendas they have.

They attract a wide variety of people from across the political and social spectrum. The one thing that unites them is a deep concern about the very real damage that lockdowns have inflicted upon us. Other than that, the concerns, fears, views and theories that those attending these events have, range from legitimate through to some way out there theories. Obviously, depending on your view of the crisis, there will be a shifting ground in between those two poles as to what’s seen as legitimate and what’s seen as out there.

The legitimate concerns (IMHO) – briefly

  • Coronavirus regulations that for a long while, messed up human interaction such as attending funerals, not being able to be with a loved one as they passed away in hospital.
  • The impact of long periods of remote learning on the progress of schoolkids and students.
  • The long term impact on mental health of being isolated from family and friends – this applies to all generations.
  • The vaccine passports being morphed into digital ID – something that the developers of the software for the passports have said can be easily done.
  • Fears that digital ID combined with a cashless society / economy will make pretty much everything we do trackable and if we step out of line, subject to being switched off.
  • The view that the crisis is being leveraged to bring about the ‘great reset’ / fourth industrial revolution – not conspiracy theories because they’re the subject of books by the likes of Klaus Schwab and features in Time magazine.
  • Vaccine hesitancy over a novel medication many feel, that unlike a lot of other vaccines, has not been properly trialled (not to be confused with a hardcore anti vaccination position)

The bonkers views – briefly

  • Anti-semitism.
  • The vaccine is a de-population measure – why would our ruling elites just want the difficult, unvaccinated people left alive?!
  • The elites are ‘lizards’…seriously?!

What I’ve seen on the two marches and the one rally I’ve attended can best be described as a variety of people with a spectrum of views on the situation we’re in and a range of solutions to deal with it, who happen to gather en masse around once a month on the streets. There are too many differing views on the situation and any possible solutions for these currents to ever merge into a cohesive movement. My view is that at some point, there will be a divergence with a number of separate currents emerging, each with a more cohesive analysis and also a route to a solution.

Splits and divergences

The Worldwide Freedom Rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday July 24 was an utter shitshow with a range of egotistical speakers that can best be described as an act of self sabotage. Not wanting to be called a ‘conspiracy theorist’ but, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the rally was set up / manipulated as a black op to totally discredit the opposition to the new normal! I follow a fair number of UK based anti-lockdown / anti-vaccine passport / anti-great reset people on Twitter. In the days after Saturday 24 July, a decent sized majority of them felt that the rally was an utter disaster and would only serve to alienate people.

A lot of them have said that the freedom ‘carnival’ scheduled for Saturday August 28 in London is an event they’ll be turning their backs on. That’s partly in response to the rally which they felt was an outpouring of whacky theories, bigotry and a display of grandstanding egos. It’s also because they feel that more focused and targeted actions are needed that acknowledge the seriousness of the situation we face, particularly with the vaccine passport proposals suffering from mission bloat. It’s also because a ‘carnival’ does not reflect the level of anger they feel about what’s being done to us.

There’s talk of an action outside Parliament on Wednesday September 8 when MPs are scheduled to debate the introduction of vaccine passports. It will be interesting to see who turns up on that and how focused it will be.

How the splits and divergences will play out, I’ve no idea. Suffice to say, they need to happen because while I’m dead set against what’s being done to us, there are elements in some of the currents described above I’ve no wish to be associated with in any way shape or form. Also, a credible but militant opposition is vital if we’re not going to end up in a technocratic, techno-fascist dystopia.

What happens next?

The drive towards vaccine passports appears to be happening in lockstep in a lot of countries across the globe. Even if you’re not a so called ‘conspiracy theorist’, this is something that should be getting you worried. Some countries have gone a lot further down the road than others with this. France under the increasingly autocratic rule of Macron really does appear to be pushing vaccine passports as hard as it can. Given the reputation of the French people for taking to the street in the face of unpopular, autocratic measures from the government, as an outside observer, you could be forgiven for thinking that Macron is really pushing his luck with this, particularly as the presidential elections are taking place next year. A fair few people I follow on social media are placing a lot of their hopes on the French people successfully resisting Macron’s increasingly autocratic tendencies. With a series of indefinite strikes due to happen, the stakes have really been raised and I can see why people are pinning a lot of their hopes on this. In some ways this is understandable but it’s also dangerous. Should Macron prevail, then the blow to morale could be pretty damaging…

The French taking to the streets in protest

A number of states in Australia are under very strict lockdown with the cops rigorously enforcing a range of draconian regulations aimed at keeping people confined to their homes except for ‘essential’ reasons. That may be just about bearable if you live in a house / bungalow out in the suburbs with a garden – if you’re stuck in an apartment block, it’s a nightmare. It should be noted that Australian troops have been called upon to provide assistance to the cops in enforcing the lockdowns. At the time of writing, it would appear that a growing number of Aussies are not taking this lying down and have taken to the streets in protest.

This is just two countries. There are many more where there is a pushback against attempts to impose vaccination passports and the digital identity that will inevitably follow on from this.

At the end of the day, street protests, whether they’re marches or rallies are little more than theatre. Everyone talks about the Poll Tax Riot that took place on Saturday March 31 1990 as a pivotal event. What actually ended the Poll Tax was the campaign of mass non-payment. What has to be born in mind is that the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is going to make street protest a lot riskier. When you look at the sentences being handed out to protesters on the Kill The Bill protests that took place in Bristol earlier this year, it’s clear they’re being set in a bid to scare people away from taking to the streets: A statement by Bristol Anarchist Black Cross and Bristol Defendant Solidarity. Given that a lot of the people I’ve seen on the anti-lockdown protests in London are new to street protesting, when they hear about these sentences, it may well deter them from taking to the streets again.

What could well end the notion of vaccine passports and the inevitable digital ID that could follow is a campaign of mass non-compliance. Strike action is also needed. Should the wave of strikes in France actually succeed, then hopefully that will give others the strength and inspiration to follow suit. Needless to say, all of this requires a different level of organisation and co-ordination than putting on a range of street protests…

One Reply to “Dealing with the new (ab)normal – a situation report”

  1. Part of the problem lies in the fact these rallies and “movements” are anti this and that. It’s negative. Resistance energy requires too much energy. We need to unify around creating something new and positive.

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