Friday 1 May 2020

Don't Let Social Unrest Become Rioting In The Streets

If you read my last post you'll know that I have been highly critical of the Government over their "Stay home" message.

We all know by now that the Beijing Boak is very contagious. It spreads from human to human with incredible ease, especially when people are in close proximity to each other. The risk of infection increases exponentially when people gather together. The more people gather, the greater the risk.

Pretty obvious that one.

So that's why I believe the Government message should have been "Don't gather" rather than "Stay home".

My reasoning is simple.

"Don't gather" would have stopped people from mixing together and being in contact with each other everywhere and anywhere, at work, at home, in the park, in the supermarket, everywhere. Period.

It would have achieved exactly the same goal as "Stay home" in stopping the spread of the disease from human to human, but it would've achieved it without forcing the public to be confined inside their homes, feeling like they're under some sort of house arrest in some kind of police-state.

My feeling has always been that you should be able to go out if you need to go out whether that be alone or with whoever you live with. Just don't gather with other people. Stay away from others, and if for any reason you need to be in close proximity to other people - like in a shop or walking along the street - then make sure you social-distance yourself by staying at least 6 feet away from them. Simple.

The Government could've easily achieved all the social-distancing necessary to fight the spread of this virus without putting their citizens under house arrest. It was a stupid move.

But it's not only the Government that I've been very critical of.

I've been particularly critical of the police and their behaviour throughout all of this too. They really haven't helped the situation.

Within minutes of police being handed their new "Stay home" powers from their political masters, they began to abuse those powers by sneakily taking the words "Stay home" to mean literally just that. They fined, charged, and arrested citizens for such heinous crimes as sitting on a park bench alone or walking their dog in an empty field miles away from anywhere and anyone.

Many good, decent members of the public - properly practicing responsible and safe social-distancing - went out for a walk, or to the park, or to the supermarket, only to find themselves approached and collared by over-zealous coppers just itching to get their flagging crime figures back up.

Which brings us to where we are today.

As we fast approach our 6th week of being confined to our homes, the Government are about to make another important decision next week about whether to continue with the "Stay home" lockdown or begin to ease it.

This should be a simple enough decision. If the threat of infection is still high, then the lockdown should continue. But if the threat has reduced and the virus is subsiding then they should begin to relax the lockdown.

But unfortunately it's not as simple as that.

You see, my fear is that before they make this decision next week, the police and our politicians may fail to reflect on, seriously mis-read, or maybe just won't care how we, the public, have come to perceive the lockdown they've imposed on us thus far.

Because my research shows that many members of the public are extremely unhappy with the heavy-handed way both the Government and especially our police have been handling the lockdown up till now.

Many members of the public feel that had the police not been so heavy-handed and abused their powers so shamelessly over the "Stay home" order, the public would actually have been quite sympathetic to a further period of lockdown.

If the politicians hadn't been so arrogant in ordering the public to go under what many feel is nothing short of house arrest while using the police as their political enforcers - the very definition of a police state if ever there was one - the public would probably be much more receptive to the idea of a further period of lockdown.

I worry that all these things may have lead to a perception among increasing numbers of members of the public that maybe, just maybe, there has been an ulterior motive to the lockdown. If increasing numbers of citizens begin to think that the Government - helped by their police enforcers - may be using public fear over the Beijing Boak to strip away their civil liberties via the back door, we have a problem. A big problem.

Reports of makeshift hospitals around the country being built inside places like conference centres but then left relatively unused while police go around fining parents for letting their children play out in the front garden haven't helped the public's increasing distrust of the official narrative.

And that's why I'm worried. I'm worried that Government overreach and police mishandling of the lockdown thus far may have just sown enough seeds of mistrust and discontent in the eyes of an otherwise law-abiding public that it could boil over and become a serious threat to the stability of our society.

Please don't think I'm overreacting.

It's already happening in the United States right now.

In the State of Michigan, a group of citizens - many of them armed - are protesting against lockdown and they have actually entered inside the Capitol building (see HERE). They believe that the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has abused her powers and is eroding their constitutional and civil rights.

During lockdown the Governor said, for example, it's ok for you to get an abortion and buy alcohol, but you can't buy paint or grass seed from your local DIY store (*note- abortion is a very emotive and massive political issue in the US).

The protesters feel that buying a tin of paint from your local DIY Store while properly socially-distancing - which is currently NOT allowed - is no different to buying alcohol from your local Liquor Store - which currently IS allowed - and that these things don't really have anything to do with the virus. They have a point.

The problem the Governor faces now is, if she sends the police in to disperse or arrest the protesters, then she opens up a whole can of worms as to who the police actually work for and who they have a duty to represent and protect. Is it the citizens of the State of Michigan, or is it the Governor, Ms Whitmer, a 'here today, gone tomorrow' politician who has put Michigan citizens under house arrest and ordered them to comply with things which suit her own political ideals?

To the protesters, it sure looks like she's using the virus as an excuse to get the police to crack down on anyone who disagrees with her political positions. She argues she's just trying to save lives. Who knows. What a mess!

Here in the UK, I believe that if our Government and police had been reasonable with the public throughout the lockdown thus far, then the public would have, without question, reacted positively to any further extension of the lockdown.

But the way things are right now, I worry that our police and Government may have already stupidly caused the public's focus to shift away from the virus and many members of the public are now questioning whether it's really all about the virus or just an excuse to introduce a police state and steal our civil liberties.

For the avoidance of doubt, I don't believe in any of the wild and dangerous conspiracy theories about the virus that are out there. I personally believe that the threat is very real and I am delighted that my fellow members of the public have responded, as I have, so responsibly and seriously to the threat this disease presents. It has made me proud to watch so many of my fellow members of the public practicing social distancing so conscientiously.

But after nearly 6 weeks of lockdown it's perfectly understandable that a few folks may be getting a bit irritable, disheartened, and even skeptical, and that's ok. Most people love their family dearly, but the frustration of being under virtual house arrest and living under the same roof with them 24 hours a day will surely have taken its toll on many otherwise good, decent, and tolerant people.

Add to that the worry and uncertainty of losing their job, wondering how they'll feed their family, maybe even losing their home with still no end in sight to the lockdown yet, and you can see that this has put a huge amount of pressure on a large portion of our population.

So it's not difficult to see that these worries and frustrations could very easily boil over.

Don't get me wrong, social unrest can be a good thing. The right to peaceful protest is essential in a democracy. It allows the public to vent their anger and frustrations, peacefully of course, at those in power and, consequently, alerts the 'powers that be' that their actions are not hitting the spot. It warns the 'powers that be' that the public are looking to them to change course and that they need to act for the good of the public or there will be consequences.

All of this is ok.

But when social unrest and peaceful protest boils over and turns in to violence, looting, and rioting in the streets, things get ugly very quickly.

Let me be blunt. Over-zealous jobsworths in the police - empowered and egged on by stupid arrogant politicians - have failed us during this pandemic.

They could so easily of had the public on their side, but they blew it with their egotistical and heavy-handed treatment of the public. The public were more than willing to trust them and help them, in the beginning at least, in our common fight against this virus.

If the police had just treated the public correctly, the only dissent they would've heard would've been from a few fed up people moaning and groaning about having to endure another couple of weeks of lockdown after they've already had to put up with 6 weeks of it. But even those moaners and groaners would've at least had some trust in the police and the Government that everything is being done for the right reasons.

But the Government, and especially the police, have NOT treated the public well during this lockdown.

They have eroded so much public confidence in the last couple of months, I fear that any little bits of social unrest and the odd protest here and there could easily spill over to full scale violence, looting, and rioting in the streets if we're not careful.

And if it does, the police and politicians will only have themselves to blame.