Issue 288: 2021 07 15: Happiness and Freedom

15 July 2021

Happiness and Freedom

Apparently take courage.

By Lynda Goetz

I am confused!  Not,, although some of my confusion undoubtedly arises from insurance issues, but simply puzzled, confused.  I am sure I am not alone.  The world this week is worrying enough as it is.  Does our government really need to add to the chaos?

Granted, we are not facing a takeover by the Taliban, as appears to be the case in large swathes of Afghanistan.  Admittedly, we are not facing riots as they are in South Africa and Cuba, nor, as in Haiti, an uncertain future following the assassination of the President.  We have not had to retreat to the hills as have those opposed to the military government which seized power in Myanmar some months ago; nor find ways to leave the country, faced with the overwhelming might of China, which is the fate of liberal thinkers in Hong Kong.  We have, in short, a lot to be very thankful for.

However, there is a lot to be both confused and concerned about right here on this ‘small island’[i]* of ours.  Firstly, and of most immediate relevance, what the hell is really happening, if anything new, from next Monday, July 19th?  Secondly, are we really a nation that is ‘systemically’ racist, as claimed by the Runnymede Trust, or are most of us not racist and doing our best to overcome any residual racist prejudices we may possibly have grown up with, as the Government Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, led by Tony Sewell (himself black and heading up a committee of largely ethnic minority members) reported in March?  Thirdly, are we not only racist, but anti-Semitic (many anti-racists do not include whites in their definition of victims of racism) and if not, what is the Church doing apologising for its anti-Semitism some 800 years ago (when incidentally, the Reformation had not happened and the Church of England had not even been created?)  Fourthly, ‘what on earth is the Government’s plan for climate change legislation and does it make sense?’  I could go on, but these are topics for another time.  Dealing with the first is probably more than enough for now.

Of one thing I am certain; I will not be able to attend a ‘foam  party’ even after ‘Freedom Day’.  Underneath a fascinating picture, rather improbably on the front of the Daily Telegraph Business Section, the caption informed that Rekon UK, Britain’s largest nightclub owner, said these would not be on the agenda.  (I am not sure most government ministers were aware such things existed, so it is probably unsurprising that they have not, thus far at least, come up with any legislation or even offered any advice on them).  For those of you who are not up to speed, these appear to be occasions where beautiful young people in a state of near-nakedness cavort (on a dance floor?) in a sea of foam under multi-coloured lights.  I guess it is sort of obvious that this is unlikely to be ‘Covid-safe’ at any time of the day or night.  (It is equally obvious that had I tried to attend when they were permitted, there might have been a few eyebrows raised, or more likely eyeballs rolled, at my presence.  I don’t think they existed when I was the right age to attend).

Apart from these certainties, I have few others.  There is apparently to be no freedom from the dreaded masks when I go up to London and use public or even private (as in taxis) transport to visit friends or go to the theatre.  Should I even be visiting friends in London? They are definitely not people with whom I normally live.  I bet they haven’t sanitised all the items in their guest bedrooms, even if they have given the bathroom a good clean.  If I go to the theatre will I have to wear a mask throughout the performance; is it a personal choice (if I can cope with the filthy looks if I don’t) or will the wearing of one be a condition of taking up my paid-for seat?  If I had an office to go to, should I be doing so, or not?  Will the company make the decision for me and if so what will be the conditions of my attendance?

Actually, I do have another certainty; I will not currently be able to go to most European countries with my other half, even if I comply with all UK regulations and even though we have both been fully-vaccinated, because, it turns out, he was given the Indian-made AstraZeneca jab.  This has so far, in spite of WHO approval, not been approved under EU regulations and travellers are being turned away before embarkation.  Actually, it turns out that even that is not a certainty, as Greece has apparently decided to ignore the EU on that one.

All this uncertainty could be very stressful.  It makes doing almost anything outside the domestic environment seem like a mammoth challenge.  In my case it may perhaps be easiest to do nothing and continue catching up on my reading and improving the garden (well, when it stops raining anyway).  This is clearly not an option for the majority who have jobs to deal with and schools or universities to attend.  Will exams taken be worth the paper the certificates are written on?  Will it be worth incurring mammoth debt for a university course mainly done online?  Will your company put in place policies whereby even those who are wearing breathing apparatus and masks and are metres away from anyone else because of the nature of the job e.g. welders, still have to don Covid face masks and if so why?  Will you be able to sue your company if they force you to go back into work and you catch Covid?  Well, it seems the insurance companies are taking no risks and are ensuring that all the precautions possible are taken if companies wish to be covered.  (In the case of festivals, they simply refused to insure.)  Is this a return to ‘normality’, really?  Confused or what?

Rather bizarrely, my computer came up this morning with a peculiarly apposite aphorism (it’s the screen saver my son set up; there’s a different stunning picture from somewhere around the world and a new ‘inspirational’ quote every day for my delectation and consideration).  ‘The secret to happiness is freedom.  The secret to freedom is courage’, it read, quoting Thucydides.  Well, as courage seems so lacking and risk-aversion and caution is the order of the day, it looks as if both happiness and freedom may be some way off.  I’ll just try and let those in Myanmar, Hong Kong and Cuba know too.  I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to know it’s that easy.  Perhaps in Thucydides day it was.


[i] *’Notes from a Small Island’ title of a book by American author Bill Bryson.


Cover page photo by Francesca Nimmo.


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