Musical Jeers

Another day, another piece of interference from Europe. Usually, we have to endure the hollow soundbites of ‘Renew the Union’ or some such tosh syntax fabricated to lay fresh rails for the chemin de fer du gravy.

This time, however, it was different. The missive came from Angela Merkel who, while not everybody’s Tasse Tee, is renowned for her fact-based analysis. She is after all a scientist. So, up she pops and delivers a pithy, facts-based explainer on coronavirus infection. Not only are the Germans testing and contact tracing, but they’re utilising data to better understand R0 (down to specific impacts of incremental rises of 0.1) and in turn to extrapolate this to forecast the burden on the German health service over the next few months.

Facts, rationale, logic.

And in one fell swoop, our German playmates have a clear line of sight with regard to social restrictions and the prospective timeline for the exit from them. Meanwhile, we’re parading smart-arse dexterity regarding definitions of ‘death’, fixating on possible but not probable plateaux, and musing on the necessity of face masks.

We’re rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, and our fickleness is starting to seep through the narrow portholes.

A number of the fast-food outlets who had been quick to jump on the closure bandwagon ‘to protect our staff, customers and the NHS’ – on the basis of next to no scientific rationale – have responded to the 3-week lockdown extension with an announcement that they’re re-opening for takeaway. And yes, again on the basis of no scientific evidence.

It’s a barmy game of musical chairs, and at each stage, collective actions jeer at the pathetic and craven loss of independent thought.

The clincher on this one was the slow gravitational pull on the dropping penny that they’re not making any profit now, and with disposable incomes surely to slide during a recession (or as is more likely, a depression), they need to get back to scooping in some cash while they can. So, they’ve swiftly logged out of saviour mode and it’s back to horny on main. Watch more of these so-called principled brands start to retreat into their lucre-hungry cocoons when they wake up to the impending Kool-Aid toasts in economic Jonestown.

I personally don’t blame them – the shutdown has been risible from the off. But what a limp, tragic, and cynical marketing belly-flop. At a stroke, they’re no longer ‘protecting their staff, customers and the NHS’. Well, not in consistency with their initial claims. The truth is, the policy steps were only ever about cleaning up (and not in the microbiological sense of the term). The initial move to close outlets was about big bunce through strategic brand-building. The most recent one is about greenbacks through tactical sales.

But they don’t have the monopoly on cynicism. Everybody’s at it. The ‘stay inside to protect our NHS’ is another front to support a wholly alternative agenda. What they really mean is to ‘protect the government’ who’ve been caught with their baggy grey joggers down for inordinately underfunding public health and their egregious incident mismanagement. They’re using the blanket emotion-laden panacea of ‘the NHS’ to distract us from any examination of the facts. Like when ‘but it’s for charity’ will excuse all manner of imbecilic, voluntary humiliation.

So, is resistance now futile or even on the cards at all? Well, the Labour Party has at long last entered the fray and have initiated a bump-and-grind on the awkward theme of the ‘exit strategy’ from lockdown. Yet, a theme that is surely more pertinent is that of the central strategy itself? After all, when the hospital is amputating healthy limbs, why would you be focusing on arranging your taxi home?

But, a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step, so let’s say no Mao. Nonetheless, if we limit our attention to exit strategies, the one for the lockdown isn’t the most critical.

It’s how to exit from the weekly clap.

At what point will we decide that the NHS no longer merits a weekly round of applause? Were there a meritorious principle behind the prolongation of mass happy clapping, the answer would have been self-evident. Everyone would have clapped once on a prescribed day and shown their appreciation for a deserving cause. Now that it has continued, with a degree of devout observance, it will be only when people feel that they need to stop that they’ll realise their folly. Talk about stop the ride, I want to get off.

It will sink in that there was no reason for its continuance other than a meek and impressionable submission to populism. And there’s no amount of hand gel that will wash away that feeling of pusillanimity and lost agency.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

Of course, some tosspot social influencer will probably take it upon themselves to announce a final hurrah so that the masses can return to normality, and Thursday evenings can once again become a safe haven for cats and sleeping babies. That will all feel a lot more comfortable because most social influencing works only after consumers have long since surrendered their moral and intellectual compasses at the door of social media.

The problem, however, with the return to normality is that it was always our normality that was the problem in the first place.

unsplash-logoАлександр Суслов

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