“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
George Orwell – “1984”
Here it is, as promised a few days ago.
I am embarrassed to admit that I lived for many years, and )read many dystopian novels, without realising the word existed. However, I’m not so embarrassed that I won’t use the fact to start a blog post. That sort of blind-spot, I’m afraid, is the mark of a self-educated man. Looking on the bright side, though I lack a degree, I also lack the debt that goes with it in the modern world. Given the choice of being debt free or knowing the word ‘dystopian’ I’ll settle for ignorance.
However, after learning about it a few years ago I find it’s a useful word for our current circumstances.
During the recent lockdown we mainly behaved like sheep and obeyed the instructions of the government. It was quite disturbing, but far preferable to the prospect of the NHS being overwhelmed.
Once the panic buying had subsided, I felt quite relaxed. The roads, when I had to use them, were empty, and the air quality improved.
Some police forces were, to be fair, a little too keen to use the extra powers that Government gave them, and supermarkets have seemed a little too keen on issuing instructions, particularly as their staff are some of the worst offenders when it comes to ignoring social distancing. Other police forces, such as Durham and Leicestershire, seemed unwilling to use their powers (see remarks on Dominic Cummings and Sir Petrer Soulsby below).
Shops have also used the virus as an excuse for refusing cash. They have wanted to go to a cashless society for a long time now, as cash handling incurs costs and security problems. The Government also wants to move away from cash as it wants to know all about your money so that only rich people with accountants are able to avoid paying tax. The “cash job” of the working man will no longer be an option.
Of course, when restrictions were relaxed, people reacted by flocking to the beach, holding raves and street parties, and even by rioting, in an exhibition of selfishness of staggering proportions.
Even before that, a number of high profile figures had been caught breaching regulations, and though several did the decent thing and resigned, some didn’t. It was a shame to see a number of scientists resigning for giving way to human weakness, particularly at a time when we needed scientific guidance. It was also a shame to see that a number of politicians, when caught out, didn’t resign. I include Dominic Cummings in this, despite him not being elected, and Sir Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester.
As far as my mental journey goes, I have lost the ability to mix with people. Strangers are no longer just friends I haven’t met, they are potential sources of infection. Even friends I have met are a potential source of infection.
The world has been spoilt and I may never feel the same about it again.
Whilst reading for this post (not that you would guess any scholarship actually goes into it), I enjoyed this article immensely. Especially Number 5.
Around me, I’ve noticed a certain bending of the rules all the way through lockdown. One or two of those I thought slightly remiss but on the whole, for example, it seems sensible for two households to class themselves as one and have company than three months later go completely bananas from frustration and drive a hundred miles to a heavily populated beach and also leave it strewn with detritus.
In the current dystopian situation, there is no easy answer. Whatever DC did, it wouldn’t make it right for me to have driven to my parents’ and camped on their lawn, just in case I got too ill to look after my daughter. I don’t want to risk my parents’ lives.
On the other hand, I have just booked a short break in Northumberland. We will be near a beach and will be visiting at least one tourist attraction (ticketed, so it’s not going to be overwhelmed). In order to make sure we can have our much-needed holiday, I am going to continue minimising contact with other people. It’s not so much because I expect to catch COVID-19 but rather I don’t want to be contacted to say I have to self-isolate.
I read yesterday that the shops are going to be taking contact details of all their customers, so that they can be traced more easily. I don’t want them to have mine, so I’ll make do with what we have from such outlets for as long as possible.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the world is like tomorrow after a day of open pubs. I have heard some pubs saying they are definitely not opening, while others feel they can control their customers 😮
Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens. I think that on the whole the country behaved well most of the time.
We are seeing people by appointment (no more than two at a time) but hadn’t thought of taking details like that. It seems intrusive.
If we do fall victim to track and trace we won’t do well with an extra two week lockdown.
One of our customers told us today that someone at his workplace committed suicide over lockdown, so mental is definitely important. I’m sure Northumberland and a pre-booked attraction are sensible choices – don’t recall it being crowded when we’ve been there in the past. 🙂
I might have got it wrong about shops having to take contact details. A friend told me this afternoon that she thought it was just bars (and restaurants).
Anyway, I was a little shocked when driving through Leeds city centre this evening. As we passed the end of one of the pedestrianised streets with seating for a pub, there was no social distancing. Just per-lockdown seating arrangements. Let’s hope they are all non-contagious!
And hopefully, your shop will have no setbacks.
It might be right – some have taken my postcode details before as a “survey”.
Sorry to hear about Leeds – Number One son is there and I’m hoping he stays safe.
I’m sure he will be. The seating wasn’t any worse than before lockdown and as far as I can see Leeds hasn’t been badly affected. My neighbour says she knows people who know people who have had or might have had it in our area but she’s the only person I know who gets that close. No one else I know in a Leeds postcode knows anyone (who knows anyone).
We were talking to the school caretaker when Julia went to the gardens – he had it and claims he sweated so much he bought a new bed afterwards – a mental picture that will stay with me for years. But you are right, cases seem rare when you talk to people.
The mental picture will stay with me as well 😊
I did wonder if I should share it. 🙂
Well, maybe good for readers to know 😊
I gather that dystopian books and movies are going down a storm at the moment, so your post is well timed.
I don’t know whether it is worse to be a sheep or someone who is staggeringly selfish. I thought that I was trying to be sensible but perhaps that was just a case of baa humbug.
Just looked up dystopia. 🙂 Your post is quite a good definition.
Thank you Derrick.
I would not have thought Charlotte’s Web would have been a banned book, but I guess one never knows.
The world is indeed different than it was, and given the human population of roughly 7.8 billion and rising, it is bound to change radically. So far cash has not been refused anywhere over here, and the ancient system of bartering also remains strong as ever. Many people in our area hunt to feed their families. Deer and elk seem to be doing well except for the ones with wasting disease, a prion disease of the brain much like mad cow disease. During pandemics, rural areas seem like they may fare much better. Rick and I are lucky to have our farm.
Given all of that, it was a beautiful day here today. 🙂
You have more of a pioneering spirit than we do. Our pioneers all emigrated and left people like me at home.
Nothing seems as bad on a nice day, particularly a nice day in Oregon…
As for banning books – you never know what goes on inside the head of a censor.
Yes, I think rural areas do fare better. Certainly, where I am in what is known as the urban-rural interface, between city and open countryside, I can still pay with cash and can go foraging.
Urban-rural interface? 🙂 Sounds a bit dystopian to me…
😀 Not sure who coined the phrase. Semi-rural I think already existed as a word 🤔
Semi-rural sounds quite laid back, whereas urban-rural interface sounds like the edge of civilisation. 🙂