The virus of politics is more dangerous than Covid

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This is my third post in a row related to Covid. I never thought I’d be sucked into giving the damn virus even more airtime. But I suppose in strange times, you see the best parts of people as well as the worst. And yes, I’ve just used the term “strange times”. Urgh. 

For me, this virus has shown more of the bad than the good. Which is unfortunate. It’s reaffirmed some things I already knew, and made them even more visible and more true. 

One thing in particular disappointed me – this growing tendency we have as a society to politicise everything. Humans have always been guilty in large part of standing on the sidelines and criticising. We’re good at that. Combine that with an over-politicised world and you reach a potentially dangerous point. 

“We live in a political world” were famous lines Bob Dylan wrote in 1989. But I doubt even Uncle Bob could have foreseen just how premature that statement was. Speaking of viruses, it’s like this great virus of the mind has seeped into the world and caused every single issue to be ramped up and seen through the lens of politics. In this crazed up angry world, people only see what they want to see. 

The virus started gathering steam back in March, and things were becoming more hysterical. At the time I made the assertion on Twitter that Covid would become politicised, and that no matter what, people would use it as a stick against the politicians they didn’t like, while ignoring the politicians they did like. The sad part of it was that this wasn’t a prediction. I just knew this would happen. 

For example, if you hated Donald Trump, you’d no doubt lap up what you could to criticise him. On the flipside, if you liked Trump, you’d find ways to blame others. Always this need to blame. This politicised world has made us do this. In Downing Street, would a Jeremy Corbyn led government have done a better job that Johnson’s at handling this? We obviously don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t have. Everyone was caught equally unaware by the mess. Yet us, as humans needed to find something to blame. We needed to wave a stick at our boogeyman. It was curious for me to watch people, some of whom I know, react almost with glee when seeing some countries’ Covid deaths rise, purely because they didn’t like the particular country’s leader. What happened to us? 

The media of course were complicit in all this, and possibly the cause of it. Instead of looking for positives, instead of bringing people together, the media did what it does, it drove its agenda and spent most of the lockdown looking for scapegoats. 

Some afternoons during lockdown I’d walk to the local supermarket after work hours, mostly just to get out. While I walked I’d often think “Why are we like this?” I eventually tuned it all out. I didn’t want to hear about Covid. I’d had enough of the reporting, the scaremongering, the arguing, the politics. The politics of it even started infiltrating family in-law group chats which had stayed blessedly unpolitical . . . at which point I left the chat. It’s a lonely world sometimes, when you choose not to be controlled by the news and political narratives, but a much more fulfilling one. 

It’s disheartening that at a major time of need, during the biggest public health crisis of this generation (even if it was overblown), humanity failed. Instead of putting politics aside, politics was ramped up. Instead of rationally thinking of solutions that could save the economy and people, it became an ugly game of shaming those that wanted to work, and wanted jobs and economies to be saved. 

Of course, opposition politicians do this – they need to be seen criticising the people in charge. It is sort of their jobs, ugly as it is. The media does it because outrage sells newspapers and gets clicks. And us? What’s our excuse? Are we not just blind sheep following what politicians and the media are telling us to feel?

It makes me think again how this is just a symptom of a larger problem that’s infected the world. 

Politics has become like the barrier between two sides of a highway. Impossible to cross, and if you do, you’re destroyed without reason or a fair chance. It’s dividing the world on a dangerous scale. 

Why can’t we maturely reason with each other, using facts and logic? Why are we so ready and willing to retreat to our tribes, slinging mud at those who think differently in the process?

The philosopher Socrates once described the nature of his wisdom by saying “I know that I know nothing.” Maybe we all need a bit more of this outlook. Like Socrates, maybe we need to use questions more, but directed at ourselves. Why do I think this? What are the alternative opinions, and why? Could I be wrong? Could I be part of the problem? 

 

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