Were you at or cheering on the Unite For Freedom rally yesterday in London? Ten thousand turned up, it is reported. Pointedly not wearing masks, as symbols of oppression.

Living in a machine that naturally recycles fear at the best of times, it is an impossible mental feat to balance clear-headed concerns in times of crisis. Times of crisis – if they are that – demand reactions out of a normal sense of balance.

I want to share a little basic research that Mrs Peach sourced this morning that I too have been wanting to firm up in my mind a little more – one of the most central claims of the protests against COVID19 social restrictions: It’s less deadly than ‘the flu’.

Being a deep cynic about our current government and conservative trends in politics generally, never mind the more extremes of it driving global conversations at the moment, I felt for months that official Covid figures in the UK couldn’t be trusted. Liked GPs mentally adding a third to patients’ weekly alcohol unit claims. Perhaps you have been mentally doing the reverse, like those of uswho’ve said, with a tempting swoop of a cloak: “But do you actually KNOW anyone who’s had it though?”

All our understandable gossips aside, on the far side of the first summer with this disease I’m here comparing some key reported figures we’ve found. Different sources, admittedly, but fair ones in context, I think. Also, for both Covid19 and ‘normal’ influenza, England is by far the lion’s share of the cases across the UK nations, so I’m going to quote those figures, to keep it a degree simpler for essential illustration of the main point.

Links to the official spreadsheet and report are in the comments below for your reference. The Office of National Statistics reports deaths registered officially between Gov.uk and NHS England as 49,460. Of over 300,000 reported cases. across the whole UK.

Gov.uk’s official flu report for 2018/19 (which we’ve picked to steer clear of any Covid reports muddling more recent data) says, at the bottom of p51, the worst year for cases of flu recently was 2014/15 at 28,330. Less than a thousand of those deaths were of people under the age of 65. The report year itself recorded a bizarrely low figure of less than two thousand but an average number of deaths from flu in England in the last five years must be a little less than 20,000PA.

Remember too, the Covid19 figures of people who have died from the disease are for a lot less than a year of recording yet – essentially half that time. And these figures I believe don’t include indirect deaths. Note also, this has happened in distinctly not flu season. When our immune systems are stronger.

I would honestly add to this comparison also that the demographic for Covid deaths is widely reported as significantly different to that of normal flu – while kids seem very unlikely to get it, fatalities are markedly more spread across the ages than flu. And, anecdotally, while some who’ve had the disease have reported little trouble from it, many have conversely reported not just how unpleasant it is but how weirdly long lasting, still feeling knocked for six by it months later. Medical folk, please wade in with testimony and evidence here. But I’m concerned we are in danger of concocting simplistic narratives to suit our fears about SARS CoV2 and the disease the virus triggers.

It’s not the flu, as we’re used to dealing with it. It seems a lot more serious. I’d say, as ever, spend time talking to NHS workers who’ve been dealing with the disease whether they think the phenomenon is a hoax.

I’ll confess I’ve not gotten around to watching the London Real exposé on all this, with David Icke’s perspective fairly central to the thesis. I would say his words at the rally on Saturday: “Anyone with half a braincell on active duty can see it (the virus) is a nonsense, because they (the government) are making it up” seem to not fit the human loss represented in the recording of it above, or indeed around the world. Yes, I have homework still set me by friends to hear what the thesis is about where the disease did or didn’t come from, whether it is or isn’t real or natural. I do know that Brian from London Real Academy has sent me half a dozen promotional emails a day since I had to
subscribe to his channel in order to watch the exposé YouTube and Facebook took down.

My instinct here, as it has been all through our Brexit debates, is to ask: What is the fruit of the idea? Whose company does an idea keep or encourage; who seems emboldened by it and who is diminished. As with any political momentum, I think we should be asking: Who has the power here?

Who will benefit, what will we the people gain, and what might we lose?

I won’t call this a march of loonies and cranks and I’ll just about manage to stifle, by stuffing a kitchen cloth into my mouth, saying the march looked like a collection of right wing groups gathering. That’s the reactionary liberal in me. It was, I think, only one bloke who unfurled the Union of British Fascists flag and it could be mistaken for a 30s superhero logo and maybe that’s why it
seemed to go unchallenged by the crowd.

I do think this is more evidence of things we are all wrestling with as a society in this era. Massive corporate influence over world markets, assets and governments? Duh – obviously. Threats to civil liberties in a digital era? You tell me, Alexa. Shite-ton-a questions over vaccines produced in an unsafe timeframe by big pharma? What are we even fighting about? People waving placards saying: “Love and freedom to all”? I’ve always said you libertarians just want an unconditional hug. I’m in. And a corrupt decadent elite, cultivating the abuse cultures while the world burns? It’s not exactly a big imaginative ask, is it? And the strain to local businesses and everyone’s mental health
from suspending business as usual? Huge, but complex.

We’re in a global economic system I would describe as sickening and seizing-up . I’ve come to see it fundamentally. We are out of balance with the natural systems that made everything we have, and it’s a problem so fundamental and so big that few of us can take it in, let alone feel the impact of it emotionally. It’s different details of injustice that tend to hit home, I think.

If there is any fundamental waking up to do, I wonder if we’re more of us beginning to but to different aspects of the world machine’s problems, at different times. Different imperatives get us questioning our priorities.

And I take some comfort in how compassionate values are mixed up with more extreme rhetoric unconsciously. Vegan libertarians speak up. But also, keep following and joining the dots. Who is really around you, and who is missing?

My worry about narratives like those of Saturday’s rally in London is the over-simplification of medical and scientific issues, in a conflation of widely-shared fears and very specific more conspiratorial details. What rights our governments may attempt to lever into place during the
pandemic should concern us – as surely as the unelected technocrats trying to run them, like Dominic Cummings. We should be as angry at the undemocracy of that as of the cavalier treatment of British citizens. The narrative arc of Mr Icke’s story reads like a Dan Brown novel, like a season structure from a drama writers’ room looking for the right balance of centres of gravity and character to make it work.

Its effect too is an eroding of trust in the methodology of science, because for all the intellect wrestling with these issues in QAnon-type spaces, our own placards reduce the story to “antivaxing” “anti masks” “anti-5G” “anti-Bill Gates” “anti-global health organisations” “antigovernement”. Really, the networked “demon-haunted world” as Carl Sagan described it, is too easily dangerously
anti-complexity. Pro-gaslighting. Whether it’s populist politicians or consumer product placement. A demanding of you that something is what it isn’t.

In my bones, it didn’t feel like my home I saw articulated and represented yesterday, and it didn’t feel like freedom for me they were championing. But that’s how we all feel about someone’s protests, in their right to do so. Why should I feel so differently about this march compared with others I have attended myself – most noteably just a couple of blog posts back? From the story I currently think I’m in, I’d say the Unite For Freedom rally was a lot more pro-status quo than many folk on the march would like to hear themselves saying. I also believe it is part of sharing the working out of massive, new foundational times for all of us, and I mainly know that I don’t know very much, really. And also truths will out in time.

I think we’ve all grown up in an unreality in the West. But I think we’re being offered alternative unrealities as lifeboats. When we’re many more of us marching not because “MASKS ARE MUZZLES” but for values that would help someone else with their oxygen supply before attending to our own, then I’ll feel we’re going to get revolution from this current insane world.

David Icke called the “real” virus among us fascism. I’m at a personal stage that whenever I see it, I will call it out and stand with those who energise me about a truly healthy, hopeful, accountable human tomorrow.

 

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash.

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