While downsizing and packing I have been pondering how to try and help get us out of this lockdown mess and think I may have at least a partial answer. One which, short of going to the most obviously ridiculous extremes, there will be no defending against by those who think they are in authority.
Now I’m not a “Let’s burn it all down” raving radical revolutionary. I like to think of myself as a decent, fiscally conservative, socially liberal sort who believes in organic change that liberates rather than closes down. And if treated with courtesy by anyone, automatically return it. Which isn’t that hard. To be honest it’s one of the easiest things in the world. Yes, yes, I know the tagline of this blog is that of ‘A Sarcastic gentleman abroad’ and I may be an extremely sarky sod if provoked, but I’m also a gentleman, with all that entails and understand that there are ways of being assertive without resorting to force or even raising your voice.
Unfortunately there are a lot of ‘Kevins’ and ‘Karens’ (The archetypes, not any real people who bear those names) out there who never got the memo and have a complete fit of the vapours if someone says or does something they don’t like. They are powerless, perpetually frustrated people brim full of hysteria which too often boils over into fits of public anger because they’re all so wound up that they can’t think straight. It would be so easy to stir them up to the point of meltdown, but that’s half the problem.
However, I think there is a way out of this insanity. A diplomatic way. A civil way. A peaceful route which will reduce the blood pressure of everyone who wants to get back to normal. Not the farcical ‘new normal’ either. What I’m talking about is a form of guerrilla civility. Also known as a kind of social Ju-Jitsu. What I will outline can even be fun, and nobody really gets hurt. Apart from those who give themselves a hernia trying to get under everyone’s feet.
‘Guerrilla civility’ Bill? What tosh you write. No. hear me out. This will make perfect sense. Well it does to me. ‘Guerrilla civility’ was what I used to use a lot during my time ‘walking the streets’. It’s very simple, so simple that even I can do it. Basically all that is required is that you wind your stupid neck in and stop looking for things to offend or go looking for trouble or confrontation. Yes I know it’s fun to wind the terminally offended up, but far too often that sort of thing comes back to bite you. The trick is not to get angry, and to instruct the terminally officious to go to hell without actually saying it. They’ll take themselves anyway without any help from you.
There are those who would remark thus; “Yeah, but I don’t want people to think I’m a doormat.” to which I would respond that you don’t have to get angry or raise your voice to be assertive. A little lateral thinking, good eye contact, a smile and firm but friendly words can grease your path around obstacles far better than all the finger pointing, blame making and shouting of the socially inept. As will a purposeful casual saunter with eyes fixed upon your goal. Add a small puzzled smile and some affected mild bafflement at anyone who officiously gets in your way and you’ve more or less cracked it.
This is the basis of my kind of very civil disobedience, the art of; “Oh really, is it? I had no idea.” or “I didn’t know that. Would you mind helping me out please?” delivered in a friendly but faintly bemused manner. Both of which are designed to flip a curved ball right back at your protagonist whilst not alienating a potential ally. A careful “No.” or slightly mocking “Who on Earth told you that?” delivered at the right time and place can also often have devastating consequences.
The perpetually officious might think you’re taking the mickey, but you should never let them suspect until they’re just on the cusp of earshot, when a private guffaw is allowed at your opponents predicament. If they come storming back, a well timed “What do you want now?” followed by a firm denial that your mockery was ever directed at them will do. This may be repeated as often as you deem necessary to induce an apology from them. Or they blow a blood vessel. Either is good.
But this is only half the story. The other half is looking for allies. Seeking out like minded folk to ease your path. Those who may not have your back, but will encourage and at least make it feel like you’re not alone. A shared smile here, a thumbs up there. It all builds up. Because deep down, we all know this pandemic went into total fantasy mode in May, no matter what the politicians and mass media say.
We need to learn to peacefully fight back against the draconian control measures in ways making it very hard for the powers that be to police. Learning to shake hands again while the coppers aren’t around. Reconnecting socially. Who knows, a simple friendly handclasp and a shared smile may prove the ultimate revolutionary act.
We might even change a few minds, although I won’t be holding my breath on that one. But I can always live in hope.