Perhaps one reason why the national outbreak of weekly clapping caught on was that it helped generate a sense of community – however superficial – at a moment when many suddenly felt extremely isolated and detached from wider society. However, it’s arguable that in many cases the lockdown merely lifted a lid on pre-existing isolation and detachment rather than manufacturing them from scratch. Along with the pre-Cummings ‘were all in this together’ mantra (which a majority desperately wanted to believe, if only to give credence to the sacrifices being made), there was a hope that the polarisation exacerbated by Brexit might just be put into perspective. If we were all in this together, we could stop hurling poison darts at each other from either side of the tribal barricades; we could cease hostilities and, even if we couldn’t shake hands due to social distancing guidelines, we could at least stop screaming at one another.
There was a very brief moment early on when it looked as if all the fatuous issues that had dominated discourse on social media for the past couple of years had mercifully been put to bed; there was a new, far more dramatic issue to capture the imagination. The extreme decision to bring everything to a grinding halt should, in theory, have united the warring factions; this was far more serious than gender pronouns or whatever else had provoked such inexplicable anger online and, unlike trivial first-world obsessions, it affected everybody. But it was naively optimistic to expect those who have an investment in division to abruptly abandon it. It feels now like the polarisation runs so deep that not even an event as life-changing (or threatening) as a global pandemic can overcome enmities that seem set in stone.
It wasn’t long before the familiar racial and gender factors began to surface in the coronavirus narrative, almost as if it wasn’t enough that we were all in it together; some of us had to be in it more than others as the Oppression Olympics proceeded regardless and the scramble to grab the gold medal of victimhood reasserted itself. Those who see everything through such distorted prisms simply couldn’t help themselves from applying their usual worldview to the picture once the momentarily unifying shock of the lockdown subsided. Even when faced with the greatest leveller of all, there has to be an Identity Politics angle to hone in on; it appears to have become the default setting, whatever the circumstances.
And then it took the Dominic Cummings revelation, hot on the heels of Neil Ferguson’s exposure, to bring the full polarising fury that characterised the Brexit saga back onto the front pages. Remoaners never forget, and the prospect of hanging out to dry the detested Svengali regarded as an architect of the peasants’ revolt of 2016 was too good an opportunity to resist. The staggeringly disproportionate coverage by, and behaviour of, the mainstream media over this issue has demonstrated that what divides us will continue to do so even when attention should really be focused elsewhere. It was the final nail in the coffin of a promising pause that had suggested a major event like lockdown would lead to a temporary ceasefire that, in time, would become permanent as people gradually grew-up and moved on. No such luck, alas. Twitter today is just as packed with vicious, vociferous fanatics on both sides as it was before Covid-19 winged its merry way from east to west.
Following representatives of the two extremes on Twitter, I observe this toxic tennis match between left and right with increasing despair; it’s a grand-slam final that seems set to play on with little prospect of ever reaching match-point; both opponents are refusing to concede an inch. The loss of a middle ground not only in politics, but in society as a whole, has helped generate a scenario in which one has to take an extreme position on every burning issue. If one attempts to be balanced and see the good and bad in everyone, that’s not acceptable; the enemy must be utterly condemned. If one says anything remotely positive about a policy decision made by Boris or Trump – not easy, I admit, but not impossible – one is immediately shot down and branded a ‘Nazi sympathiser’ or whatever chosen insult is trending this week. It’s like a kid in the playground who intervenes when another kid is being picked on, and then those doing the picking instantly accuse the kid who intervened of harbouring unrequited love for the kid being picked on. It’s that infantile.
Mind you, it doesn’t help when Mr President so often exhibits the same childish combative approach to any crisis. He could have phrased his intention to curb the rioting in Minneapolis better, of course, but few expect dignified gravitas from a man who lacks the eloquence of tact. It’s a given that the National Guard are going to be called in when civil disturbance grows so serious that the situation necessitates their intervention; but there are ways and means of calming chaos. What provoked the anger that inspired the rioting in the first place was undoubtedly horrible if sadly unsurprising where the attitude of some US police forces are concerned; the sadistic idiot responsible for the death of George Floyd is one more contaminated product of America’s ongoing problem with race, a problem that stretches from inbred racial prejudice on one side to the assumption that every non-white has to vote Democrat as part of their duty as oppressed minorities on the other.
And as so often happens in the aftermath of such a gruesome incident as the killing of George Floyd, professional agitators move in to exploit and enflame the anger. The likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter give every impression of being partners in anarchy whose ultimate aims may differ, but whose means of achieving those aims are similar; if they share anything beyond capitalising on discontent, it is to enhance and widen even further the divisions that would only render their respective organisations null and void if – God forbid – they should ever be healed. The former seek to destabilise the system whenever they sniff a powder-keg bubbling and sod the consequences for those caught in the crossfire; the latter have an investment in the continuation of racial tensions that justify their own existence. Neither group is concerned with the genuine grievances that they hitch a ride on; like a nihilistic travelling circus, they arrive in town, stoke unrest and then depart when the town is in ruins.
The message is drilled into the masses via generous MSM coverage which preaches the narrative that skin colour or sexual preference utterly define an individual above all else and will naturally divide us because we’re not all the same. Mankind will never progress beyond the barrier of colour if it is constantly being reinforced by those who require its perpetual presence in order to survive and prosper. Social media is currently awash with race-baiting propaganda appealing to the guilty consciences of the self-flagellating white Woke folk who carry the crimes of their forefathers on their backs. You are a racist and 2+2=5. To dispute this logic is to place you in sympathy with the cop who killed George Floyd; and Donald Trump; and Boris Johnson; and Nigel Farage; and Vote Leave; and so on and so on. What timing, mind – a frustrated people driven half-crazed by lockdown measures were primed for parasites preying on their grievances, and the plan is working. We are divided and we are falling. At least it’s not that long a way down, though.
© The Editor