So that’s it. This miserable year will now be concluded with the inevitable headline “Christmas is cancelled”.
Some will gamely say “Christmas can’t be cancelled” because we feel it innately and make it ourselves. I know what they mean. But even in the best of years, the festive season serves as the reward for making it through our busy times. Some downtime in our busy, stressful lives. And a special, dedicated time – essential for catching up with friends and family whom we may not have seen for months.
That’s in the best of years. In this worst of years, many have lifted tearful, weary eyes to look for the beacon of Christmas approaching. As Charles Dickens beautifully said in A Christmas Carol,
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Now even Christmas has been snatched away. For many, there are feelings of profound sadness. For some who have suffered badly already, this may prove a fatal blow. Depression, addiction, hopelessness were already unwelcome guests in the dark corners of troubled minds. Some will not survive much more of this.
Millions are facing bankruptcy, death by other illnesses, loss of hard-established businesses, mental health breakdowns. They can see no way to avoid losing their homes, their savings and a permanent shackling to debt they will never escape.
There is also anger. Anger at the incompetence. Anger at the inconsistency. Anger at the insincerity, hypocrisy and self-preservation practiced by those who purport to represent out best interests. Crocodile tears, mock-shock and fake angst whilst the cameras are rolling, retreat into cushioned, care-free lives once they are offline.
I’ve had some sympathy for officials during this year, as this unprecedented (yes that word again) set of events unfolded.
But that evaporated when I heard this same government is suppressing the details of Exercise Cygnus (a 2016 exercise for pandemic planning), It was shelved as too expensive, too complicated and too scary to contemplate. The British Medical Journal has more details if you’re interested.
I’m saddened that this is also the latest right/wrong polarised national (and international) debate. You with me or against me. I’m right and you’re stupid. It follows the pattern of the Brexit and Black Lives Matter debates. It seems we can no longer accept others have a different view.
If you support the measures being taken, you are labelled as a blind, unquestioning, submissive ‘sheep’. If you question the measures you are labelled ‘anti-vax, conspiracy theorist loony’
Which fits the game plan of those in charge and those making money of course. Divide and profit. Divert attention by getting the masses to fight among themselves. And let them watch football and Strictly to keep them entertained.
I am among those questioning. There are growing numbers of us who – whilst acknowledging the hideous nature of this virus and its impact – are equally concerned about the enshrinement in law of curtailment of freedoms that easily become ‘the norm’.
It is our duty as decent human beings to protect the vulnerable. Do everything we can to prevent transmission of illness and keep our loved ones safe.
It is also our duty as subjects of a democracy to defend the freedoms that were won over centuries of struggle. One of the most striking sights of the summer and autumn was the contrasting protest events, And the appalling politicisation of the police.
The Black Lives Matter and anti-Globalisation protests were policed in the most softly-softly, don’t-upset-anyone containment manner. In the face of public disgust at violence, desecration of landmarks and statues, the police retained a light touch. Which I have little problem with, it’s often the most appropriate way to avoid escalating fiery situations.
But compare that to the crackdown on anti-lockdown protests. Where ‘kettling’ returned, with strong-arm tactics and multiple arrests. And of course, the media doing their best to avoid coverage if they could – applying condescending language when they couldn’t.
For the pandemic – and the shutdown of our society – it’s now the vaccines rather than Christmas we’re being told to look forward to. We’re all being told to pin our hopes on this to ‘return to normality’. That’s all very well, but I have to ask – what happens when Covid-21/22 comes along?
Nobody is going to live for ever. By curtailing everything that brings us joy, fulfilment and happiness in our lives for the sake of apparently containing this virus – we can avoiding dying for now. But in doing so, we have stopped living.
In this unhappiest of years, I hope you can find some seasonal cheer. It is still the most wonderful time of the year and I encourage everyone to find some way to put a little gladness into your hearts. There is still much goodness and decency in our world.
And we must do all we can to nurture this in ourselves and others. We have such a short time on this planet. Let us take heart and find the courage to make the most of it, and help others to do the same.