Usages and customs of Lockdownia (I)
So here’s another little series that, like all others, will consist of an undeterminate number of posts published with undeterminate frequency. My post on Karol Sikora can be regarded as an unnumbered part of this series; in it, I referred to the “lockdown matrix” (the examining and disentangling of which is the primary purpose of this account) as “the system of thought that is at the foundation of the decision to make lockdowns the policy of choice for basically everything”. On second thought, I have decided to replace “lockdown matrix” by “Lockdownia”. Snappier, I think, and I also quite like the mental image that those who fanatically favour lockdowns inhabit another country, one very different and remote from my own. The series will thus be an attempt to chronicle, examine and understand how the inhabitants of Lockdownia think and act.
It will be perhaps self-evident to say that the natural state of human beings in Lockdownia is lockdown. This we have been enduring for almost a year: perhaps less, because my sense is that in March and in early April too lockdowns were still seen by a significant majority as this extremely abnormal, extremely exceptional response that would be lifted as soon as an alternative was found. Flatten the curve, buying time and all that. Then, things changed: easing was painfully slow, some things never got eased at all, and when cases started to go up again in the autumn, then the nature of it all finally became obvious. Back in the summer, even the most timid easing of restrictions required reassurance upon reassurance that no, cases weren’t going to go out of control, people wouldn’t be dying on the streets. In the autumn, though, we saw that the re-imposing those same restrictions (or new idiotic ones, such as curfews) wasn’t subjected to the same burden of proof. Sometimes politicians and scientists admitted this themselves.
And so we discovered that, slowly, we had drifted into a world (or a country: Lockdownia) where the natural state of human beings is to be locked down. That’s the default. All easing of restrictions must be regarded as temporary, subjected to high burdens of proof and ultimately arbitrary.
In this respect, such easings can be compared to a form of Carnival. Carnival, in Catholic countries, is a festival that celebrates the “world upside down”: the natural order of things (i.e. lockdown) is reversed, people get drunk and have a few days of fun laughing at the establishment and at themselves. They might even reflect at some point about the absurdity and arbitrariness of many of their social norms.
Ultimately, though, what Carnival achieves by providing people with a (temporary and highly controlled) outlet to let off steam is to strengthen such social norms. And with Ash Wednesday (and autumn in this case), we go back to the daily grind.