There’s been a hell of a lot of outrage in the UK these past few weeks, and it all revolves around two words.
The Government advisor, one of those responsible for the formation of the rules and regulations around the lockdown, broke the lockdown.
I probably don’t need to go into details here – I’m sure the news will have spread far and wide and, if it hasn’t, I’m not about to insult your intelligence by insinuating you’re not able to hit Google and find out all the gory details for yourselves.
The long and short of it was that while we were all told to stay indoors and self isolate – particularly important if displaying symptoms of Covid-19, Dominic’s wife started to show signs of infection and, rather than sticking to his own rules, Dom bundled his wife and child into the car and drove 260 miles to his family’s estate, so they’d be close to relatives just in case he and his missus became too ill to parent.
Of course, since all this came out, all kinds of other grim claims have surfaced, not least that he broke lockdown on more than one occasion, but that he and his family took another 30 mile trip to a beauty spot to check if his eyes were okay for the drive home.
It beggars belief.
Start looking at some of the theories around dodgy dealings, supposed family business contracts that tie in with the trip, and a birthday excursion, and I can understand why tempers were flaring.
It’s not just that Cummings broke the law (and latest reports even cite police as confirming that he did), it’s that he used a loophole apparently created for escape in the case of domestic violence to justify the trip, he point blank refused to apologise and, after a press conference held in the grounds of Number 10 (which was another rub – this guy’s a Government employee, not an elected member of parliament), the cameras caught him walking away and smirking.
Wow! Way to rub salt in the wounds, Dom!
In adhering to the lockdown, people have been unable to sit with family members in their final moments of life. People have been unable to hold the hands of desperately ill loved ones. People have been denied the opportunity of a proper goodbye or a funeral. People have been left sick and dying alone, families have been separated, businesses have crashed.
Meanwhile, Dom’s actions have flown in the face of the spirit of lockdown and, presumably, he’s not really having to worry about his income that much – it seems he’s more in demand from BoJo than ever, so he’ll still be on a decent enough wage to allow him to zip between his different houses while everyone else follows the rules he set to save lives.
It’s the hypocrisy, above all else, that’s exacerbating the rot – and it’s giving people a giant, glowing hook on which to hang their anger, grief, anxiety, frustrations, stress and anything else twisting their guts.
Once again, the nation has become divided – polarisation and tribalism at its most obvious.
We’re also seeing sports team like support of political parties, with excuses made for poor behaviour and blind faith regardless of actions.
Whilst some are outraged that Boris has pulled a Tammy Wynette to stand by his man, others are applauding his loyalty.
And, while thousands are up in arms about Dastardly Dom’s Dirty Drive, others are arguing that they might have done the same – even those Boris supporters who have seen their own families suffering terrible hardships under the lockdown rules.
We’ve seen people blaming the media for lies (in fact, many of those ‘lies’ turned out to be truths TPTB didn’t want airing), and calling hypocrisy by comparing Dom’s road trip to journalists breaking social distancing rules in gathering on his doorstep to get the story.
Quick note here – there’s a world of difference between good, properly trained and motivated journalists looking to expose the truth, and a pack of paparazzi of the Diana-chasing variety. Let’s not confuse apples with oranges, people. Those journos we’re all so quick to slate are, by and large, doing their jobs, and we’d be a darned sight dumber without their questioning and holding people to account!
We’ve seen people applauding a father’s actions to keep his child safe and others asking why, if it was all to keep his lad away from Covid-19, did he trap him in a small, glass and metal box, with someone exhibiting symptoms, for four hours.
And let’s not even go there when it comes to driving your wife and child around in a car to check if you’re safe to drive.
As the Facebook meme of the man being pulled over by police went:
“Excuse me, Sir, have you been drinking?”
“Yesh. I wanted to check if I was too pished to drive.”
Satire. It’s the good, old British method of expressing emotion in a safe-ish way. You might say the same about sarcasm.
Be all that as it may, the thing I want us all to be thinking about is what we’re doing with our frustrations.
I want us to take a good, hard look at the energies we’re carrying and be really honest about what we’re doing with them.
I’m sure you wonderful people in the US will have similar divisions when it comes to Trump. There will be those who can step away from Republican v Democrat and those who would blindly, and wilfully, support their ‘team’, no matter what they were up to.
There will be those who support their chosen party simply because their mommy and daddy voted that way, and their grandparents before them, and so on.
There will be those who support either ‘side’ on a single issue, be that the wall, the infamous locker room recordings, healthcare provision or transgender people in the military.
And there will be those who are able to step away from party politics entirely, look at the manifestos, ethos, policies and personalities of those up for votes, and make an informed decision accordingly, regardless of red or blue.
It’s just the same here – and that’s part of the problem we’re facing.
We seem unable to carry balanced, grown-up discussions without tipping into an argument.
Some of that might be from sheer passion and people never having been taught to properly handle their emotions.
Much of the time, it’s due to ill-informed people wanting to support their ‘team player’ at all costs, even if that’s actually detrimental to them, and to their loved ones. It’s difficult to have a sensible conversation when only one half of the discussion party has any fact-based, properly thought-out opinions to go on.
As a former journalist, I like to hear both sides of an argument before forming an opinion – and I like to listen to those without judgement or trying to make them ‘fit’ any bias I might be carrying.
I like to hear both sides from the horses’ mouths, AND what’s being asked / cited by those most in the know.
I won’t engage in a discussion if I’m not well informed. Because, well, that would be plain stupid!
If we’re holding firm to an opinion, we need to understand WHY, beyond a mindless shrug and “I just like Boris/Trump/The New York Jets”.
We also need to be mindful of the difference between a discussion and an argument.
I’ve been able to have many deep discussions with people who hold totally polarised opinions to my own on a variety of key issues. In every case, we’ve been able to hear each other’s arguments without trying to convert the other party. In doing so, we’ve learned more and grown as people, and walked away from those discussions as friends.
I wish more of us could do that.
Only a few nights ago, I ended up having a heated discussion with my own mum about the Cummings fiasco. When it comes to politics, she and I have wholly opposing views. When it comes to the background arguments, I like to learn from a variety of sources and get as close as I can to the likely truth, while she likes to listen to the PM’s announcements and pretty much take them at face value.
What escalated our discussion? She couldn’t understand why the media were being so horrid when she knew I was much lovelier than that when I was a journalist. I wouldn’t be treating poor Boris and Dom like this, would I? They’re like a dog with a bone.
Errm, sorry to burst your bubble, mum, but I’d be clinging onto that bone for dear life. I don’t believe Dom and BoJo are telling the truth. Not even close. I believe they’re being entirely disingenuous, and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up. And I believe that Boris Wynette is desperately letting down his electorate by giving his advisor so much rope and trying to brush the whole sorry mess under the carpet.
Particularly when there’s already been a healthy precedent set in Scotland, when someone high up broke lockdown. You can Google that too.
Sometimes, it can be even more difficult having these discussions with family members. I love my mum to the moon and back and that level of affection means that, even when we disagree, I’ll still keep coming back and we’ll find a way to carry on regardless.
That’s not so easy to achieve when we’re debating with people we don’t know. And that’s why it’s so important to keep ourselves in check and to recognise that line between passion and anger.
We can be deeply passionate about a cause – that’s a positive fire that fills us up and calls us to action.
But when passion spills into anger, that’s when we’ve lost control. It’s when we say things that are hard to take back. It’s when we cause pain needlessly, when we break ourselves and others. It’s when we do damage that cannot be undone.
That’s not to say that anger is bad – it’s a natural emotion, and it doesn’t serve us to keep it in.
It’s up to us all to recognise our anger and deal with it in an appropriate way.
We can exercise – go for a walk, lift some weights, even dance it out.
We can journal.
We can meditate.
We can turn up the volume on the stereo and sing it out loud.
There’s so much we can do to shift the hard edges of anger and come back into a place of balance, where those emotions become more aligned to passion.
When it comes to holding emotions, passion rocks and anger rots.
So please, particularly with so many people feeling at the ends of their tethers, watch your emotions. Take responsibility for them. Use them accordingly.
Think before you speak.
Get informed before you enter a discussion.
Climb down from your ivory tower and remember you’re part of team human. We all are.
And that’s what we need to remember. Humanity before hate.
Until next time,