The freedom accorded to the author of any written work is governed primarily by the desire to gratify a need for self-expression and secondly, by one or several external but integral influences. Put simply, the idea I had mapped out for this week’s post has taken me into a maze of conflicting thoughts and distractions. Here it is time to be posting again but this time with no clear opinion. This is not a situation with which I am familiar!
There are many issues on which I have no opinion at all. An absence of interest in what I have designated as trivia allows the freedom to relish the blissful ignorance about who or what are the Kardashians and know nothing about Star Wars. On certain things there’s my movement from fixed on one side of the debate followed by the jump to the other side when information and deeper understanding provide the push. There will be plenty more than me who recognize that sometimes a change of mind is the only way to go, but what about the thinking about not knowing what to think? Am I the only one finding it tough to decide where I stand?
The further easing of restrictions and the greater freedom that it allows is tricky. Clearly there has been a lot of thought and debate on the how and when each step towards freedom from lockdown is taken. While there is no problem with the freedom for everyone to think what they will about that, I wonder whether there are many, like me, who are finding it hard to reconcile our usual arguments in favour of freedom against an increasingly convincing rational for mandatory observance of rules.
True to my usual form, a list – well not a physical pencil and paper list, but in an attempt to instill some order to the process, my thinking took the pro side first. The undeniable benefits to restarting the economy, people going back out to work, people relaxing with people etc, made it seem like a good idea. Then the distraction from the positives to considering the cons started to dominate. I end up unable to be wholly convinced either way.
My Granny is not the only one who would express caution against the freedom we feel we have to take a mile once an inch is allowed. She did allow us the freedom to benefit from the childhood environment which nurtured independent decision on how far we ventured. I was never the oldest of the group so knew if there was trouble, I wouldn’t be getting the “Ye’re big enough tae ken. Ye should hae kent better.” reprimand. Not the one with the responsibility of looking after the rest, but old enough to weigh up the risk to my comfort zone against the discomfort of the “you’re jist a coordie custard” taunts and decide if it was worth it.
There were many occasions when the excitement of the moment quashed consideration of the consequences. I remember ending up on the risky side of the wall, pinching pea pods and strawberries in the Manse garden because of failure to work out my way out. Jumping in off the high dyke had been easy, but the wrath of the housekeeper and her threat to get the local Bobby, well known to us as we were known to him, to tell my Granny. Of course she didn’t, but the threat remained as a lesson in the need for careful reasoning.
Our frontline workers have set aside their freedom of choice to take the easy way, and because of that we have reached the position we are in now. Many people have no choice in the situations they face and must use public transport or take risks from which those of us in more fortunate circumstances are sheltered. We have the freedom to choose whether we revisit shopping malls, the high street or the hairdresser. What we don’t have, while rules remain in the realms of left to good sense, is the guarantee that the person in front or behind has the ability or desire to consider the consequences of their actions. We will make our choices based on whatever parameters we set ourselves regarding comfort zone and cowardy custard. This virus shows no respect to any rules or encouragement to use good sense. It has the total freedom of the movement we allow it.
Now in comes the distracting thought of the freedom of movement of people, and the restrictions which will result from whatever the Brexit deal or No Deal will impose. We have been distracted from what is going on relentlessly towards the total disregard of thousands who have contributed to the workings of the NHS during this crisis, but may be given their marching orders because the system designates them as Pre Settled.
At least freedom of speech allows me the right to express my vehement disagreement with that and the equal right of anyone else to agree or put their counter argument. Oh dear! Distracting thought about the current media discussions around perceived fear of censorship versus the need to prohibit hate speech or the desire of some to inhibit response to it.
The beer gardens, pubs and restaurants have been allowed to re-open provided they follow all the procedures and rules, but there are examples reported today of no effort to take contact details or observe hygiene protocols. The customers in the pubs may well have set out to stick to the distance rules but in the echo of my Granny, I say “When the drink’s in, the wit’s oot.” All good intentions and Covid 19 might linger in the air for a while before drifting away on the smell of booze. But, if those same beer gardens, pubs and restaurants are going to be there next year, as viable businesses, they must be allowed to trade.
The personal freedoms some of us enjoy today have come about because of the times we have been able to make reasoned choices and taken responsibility for the consequences. If I might proffer a tentative opinion based on my belief in the positives in human nature. I think those of us who are lucky enough to have learned to reason should display a bit of compassion while we aim to teach the rule breakers a big bit of taking responsibility for what could be the consequence of ill considered actions, and give them a nudge to remind them that they are big enough and should know better. How do we do that? I have been unable to think it all the way through. That is the reason it was offered tentatively.
We will develop our own ways of weighing up and dealing with the level of risk which comes with the newfound redefined freedoms to venture back into the world. I have made my appointment with the hairdresser but have no plan to take the bus into town. I have been wearing a mask in the supermarket since day one, so don’t consider that mandatory rule to be an infringement of my freedom.
I am not the first to say that the trouble with freedom is the trouble it brings. I think I am probably the first to have been addressed daily with a mix of the respectful title accorded anyone who held a clinical position and the mischief of someone who had spent time immersed in the complexities of Scottish culture. In the Emirates I worked with a delightful young doctor who returned home following his lengthy training in Edinburgh. Braveheart was definitely his favourite film. He would raise his arm, clench his fist and call out whenever we met “Here comes Doctura Freedom!”
I don’t remember much about it, or actually having ever seen that film, so in my firm opinion it would be a good idea to watch it now. I have reasoned that my decision is based on good sense. As a consequence of this action I will be distracted from fretting about the distractions which get in the way of considering the possible consequences of ill considered actions and absence of good sense.