I walked through the squeaking snow in my stiffly frozen gumboots. Then I rubbed my eyes as I gazed at the snowy mountaintops. Good job, man. Learning a trade, building something tangible, being challenged in nature, working with great colleagues, flying around in a chopper, experiencing something unique and earning a decent buck. The real icing on the cake was still living in the so-called ‘old normal.’ All over the world, people found themselves jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Lockdowns, curfews, heated debates, ethical dilemmas, mass layoffs, large-scale closures and lurking tensions. Not in Tasmania though. All sorts of dystopian states of emergency were something far-off.
Until my supervisor harshly disrupted our party.
”You are coughing and sniffling. You’re having symptoms.”
”Err… Seriously? We’ve been out of civilization for over a week. And this island is literally covid-free.”
”So it’s just a cold. How can I possibly…”
”Fact is that you’re having symptoms. So you have to isolate and test yourself. Everyone has to follow the rules. You, your colleagues, everyone. No discussions. Alright? You have no choice. Don’t be selfish and…”
I explicitly looked towards every corner of this stiffly frozen and godforsaken wilderness as I listened. With great effort, I pulled a poker face, bit my tongue and listened.
”…have to be strict. Otherwise you won’t be able to work here anymore. Alright?
”Okay. So… now we’ll go back to Hobart?”
”Nah, no worries. The shift ends tomorrow anyway. But you’ll do the right thing from now on. Okay?”
I chuckled as he walked away. Even life-threatening viruses need a casual day off.
I coughed and sniveled with my colleagues as we had lunch. Except for our dirty business, the silence of a brittle truce prevailed. My safe haven had been washed away, and that pissed me off. I felt like millions of other unheard and blackmailed folks. Sure, the music will stop sometime. Fair enough. But that sobering prospect was already quite a depression. We saw on the web what remains of a Western/Westernized society with bread but no games: not much. All the rabid bouncers, bored youngsters, pushy busybodies, unbearable dissidents, narcissistic “influencers,” know-it-all Karens and everything in between were continually taking each other down – as crabs in a crowded barrel do. Moaning, bitching and finger-pointing as folk sports of the circus. Survive this bizarre act at any cost. Living and dying are forbidden. Be inside and alone together. Put all the wackos and covidiots in their place. Deprive them of voting rights, sterilize them, evict them from their homes and kick them off all social media. If only they act(ed) normally ay. Show no mercy and cancel everything that ain’t right.
After a productive work day, we digested our food in the mountain hut. My supervisor replayed his covid monologue as usual. I had enough after half an hour and voiced my contrary opinion.
”The news bombards us with the same images, numbers, war terms and dramatic stories over and over again,” I sighed. ”They unnecessarily add fuel to the fire.”
”Statistics are facts and every death is one too many. Public health should be prioritized over economics.”
”Agreed. Yet it’s so much more than hospitalizations, case numbers and deaths. What about the global explosion of poverty, loneliness and depression? How many people have died due to delayed healthcare, suicides, or domestic violence? How many people are in deep shit because of a long-term lack of exercise and personal contact? This one-sided coverage ignores such side effects. As if nothing else matters anymore, or as if data is holy or objective.”
”These are just temporary inconveniences. There’s simply no other choice.”
”Well… all vulnerable people are now vaccinated. So much knowledge and practical experience has been gained by now. At this point, I wonder if such rigid policies do more harm than good. I don’t think that’s…”
”We don’t leave them behind in Australia! So you want to let it all happen then?”
”Of course not. But honestly, what more can one do than what has already been done globally? It will stop at some point.”
”You’re young. Easy talking for you mate.”
”My elderly greataunt from Queensland thinks the same.”
”Yeah sure!” my supervisor snapped.
We briefly looked at each other sternly. Any decent conversation ends as things get personal. Be sensible and leave it.
”I’m just trying to look at the bigger picture. Anyway, let’s agree to disagree.”
He silently stared at me with an almost hatred-filled gaze. Goddamnit. I can’t bear more bullshit at this special place. After all, I had enough headaches from my hospitalized mum in the Netherlands. I walked off to my tent to lick my wounds and be grumpy.
So, collective madness even seeps into this no-mans-land of a closed-off island state. If only I were immune to this toxic atmosphere. Immune to this supposedly free and civilized world where dissidents are condemned outcasts. Thoughtful criticism, nuance, in-depth questioning, even adopting a state of not-knowing: it’s all high treason. Unwilling ways of thinking are war crimes. Blindly follow the masses, be a bigoted fearmonger and keep your head down. The struggle for life and death must be settled. Mandate (in)direct vaccinations since few “choose” to pay higher bills, undergo outright exclusion or undergo inconvenient hassles. Check-in everywhere, regardless of how up-to-date QR databases are or aren’t. Always wear a worn-out facemask, even if you’re alone in the car. Order drinks at the bar with a chin diaper, then take it off to chat with anyone and everyone all evening. For sure, a pandemic can happen. But the sheer ease of how absurd hysteria replaces logic and common sense is unreal. All the followers who passively and thoughtlessly go along with such frenzy create more danger and a precedent. Truth is the first casualty of an information war. Or, as Benjamin Franklin puts it:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both
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