The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th January 2020

As I was clearing up after breakfast I was thinking that this year I really should sell first the boat then the car. The car at least seems to be on the same page, though determined to cause me unplanned expense first. As for the boat, I have a feeling that however great my resolve is ona cold wet day in January, one lovely weekend in May will soften it.

I had booked a slot at the local recycling place to leave my defunct towel rail and some other bits and pieces including a ex-toaster of Celia’s. Off I went. All well until I was half a mile from home and there was a sudden bumpy feeling, a funny noise and I recognised the sign of a severely flat tyre. A puncture as it turned out. I don’t have home start as the garage is just across the road, but I should have read the small print, as home start means within a mile from home. It’s a long and tedious story, but it looks more than likely I shall need a new wheel. Ho hum.

I have been following the live updates re Trump’s impeachment fairly obsessively. On the news tonight several Republican senators answered the reporter’s polite enquiries with almost identical words along the lines of this is a stunt by the Democrats at a time when we need unity. My guess is it was a format of words they were advised to say, but some were clearly angry. It sounds reasonable until you think about what it means, which is that somehow by drawing a veil over those people who attacked the capitol, encouraged, urged by Trump, and over the President‘s words too will heal wounds. No it won’t. It would send a message to all those other people who have demonstrated peacefully that Trump and his supporters are given leeway and not held to account. As indeed they are. Remember Black Lives Matter? That’s all about how black people do not enjoy the same freedoms, the same respect, the same treatment by the police and the law as white people.

Uncomfortable truths have to be faced. Not just in the US, everywhere. We have our own deniers here. People who cannot see that white privilege exists. People who say we shouldn’t worry about who got rich due to the slave trade and whose descendants still grow fat on the exploitation of human beings. It’s long ago, they say, as though that had anything to do with it when the effects are still felt today. Try saying that to a Scot who hates you for being English because of Culloden, never mind that your family hadn’t even arrived here when that battle happened. It’s an inherited guilt.

During the first lockdown, and I think I may have written about this, Celia and I were surprised when a woman we met on one of walks said she was tired of being stopped by the police and asked what the purpose of her journey was. She had been stopped when driving, stopped when on foot. Celia and I were never stopped, yet this woman lives round the corner from us, and we had the conversation as earlier in the day she and I had been next to each other (by next I mean two metres apart) in a queue to go into a supermarket. But Celia and I have Home Counties accents, we wear clothing which identifies us as members of the middle classes. Muriel Spark in The Ballad of Peckham Rye, wrote that there are classes within classes in Peckham, a statement even truer today than when she lived in Myatts Fields, and there are equally privileges within privileges in white privilege. I live in a block of flats on the edge a Victorian Square – estate agents like to call it Georgian – and time and again some of my house dwelling neighbours who I see day in and out fail to see me. For them I am in the flats, where we are not individuals and not people of the type they expect to know. So they simply don’t notice me. They can be quite surprised when they do get to know me to learn I have lived here so long. And can hold a knife and fork. (I made that last bit up.)

But back to Trump. There’s been a lot of talk about freedom of speech, mainly from people who would shut their opponents down in a second, (CF Trump refusing to talk to reporters from news outlets who didn’t fawn over him) but freedom of speech comes with responsibilities as do all rights, so freedom of speech is not about inciting a nob to riot, it is not about inciting hatred, it is not spreading lies and conspiracy theories. I don’t know the laws in the US about freedom of speech, but this is how it is here in the UK (article 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998):

1 Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2 The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Stay safe. Keep well. Remember rights are always balanced by responsibilities.

3 thoughts on “The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th January 2020

  1. In our constitution free speech is protected but there are caveats-if there are outright lies or talk that’s going to cause violence, that is NOT protected.
    White privilege, I’ll give you an example. My 18 year old daughter works at a plant nursery and her boss went to the Capitol, posted pics on Facebook, was so proud of himself. Idk if he was part of the rioting or not, but now he’s getting hate mail and threats. There will be an investigation, but his son commented, “Nothing will happen.” And it’s true. They have money and he’s a white male.

    • I think a lot of people miss the bit about the right to freedom f speech being within civilised limits. They believe you can say whatever you want to whoever you want, however offensive or incendiary.
      White privilege is another thing a lot of people don’t understand. One day.

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