Yesterday I bought petrol. I filled the car, it had used half a tank, and loaded a 25 litre jerrycan for the mowers. Yes, they will need that much, cutting it all means filling the mower tank at least eight times and that’s before I get the ride on mower going. The garden looks like harvest time.
This would not normally be worth mentioning but the last time I bought petrol was in early March. I could not go very far in this lockdown, and the car was out of action for over six weeks because of a broken transmission cable. It’s a dealer-only part and the dealers were all closed, so I got one on eBay from a dealer in United Arab Emirates. It arrived before the dealers reopened and, even with import duties and postage, worked out about £100 cheaper.
Anyway, during that time I could not go anywhere so could not get petrol for the mowers. This meant the grass grew unhindered in the North Scottish spring and summer with 20+ hours of daily light and incessant rain. A lot of it is now waist high. The parts I managed to cut (scythe, then rake, then mowed with the last of the petrol I had) are already growing back although the mower on high setting will bring them under control. The big lawn, however, is likely to take a couple of days of scythe work to get it into mower-ready shape. It has to be dry weather or the cut grass (now officially hay) will be hard to lift.
In some countries in Europe I would now be facing heavy penalties for failing to keep the grass trimmed even though I had no way to do it. Conformity is already a big thing and has been for a long time.
When I went to the local petrol station, the owner was wearing a mask. Around his neck. Technically he was ‘wearing a mask’, so was following the letter of the rules. Likewise, Local Shop has all the plastic barriers at the tills but nobody wears masks and they don’t have the ‘one way’ shit in the few aisles they have. Out here, nobody is giving a crap. Social distancing? We’ve been doing that all along.
Compliance is optional way out here in the countryside, but the cities are not like that. The cities are full of terrified drones who will enforce compliance and conformity, soon by pointing and screaming like Bodysnatchers. Actually it seems that is already happening. It’s even cleverer than the smoking ban, in which it’s the owner of the premises who gets fined, not the smoker. So the owners are unpaid enforcers of the law because if they don’t they will be punished.
The masks started out as ‘for your safety’ but that doesn’t work, so they turned it around. Now it’s ‘my mask protects you so it’s your duty to wear one to protect me’. This is bollocks of course, since the masks do nothing to stop any virus. Yet you now have an army of Witchfinders who will gladly snitch on, harass and hound anyone who does not comply. You don’t need to pay them, you don’t even need to threaten them with fines. This new Stasi are delighted to have gained this petty power over others, and the fear instilled in them reinforces their righteousness. If you don’t wear a mask you are selfish, a spreader of disease, and must be shunned.
Did you ever see a film called ‘The Mask’? Very funny film, very enjoyable. Put on the old wooden mask and you are transformed into the character the mask represents. It’s not entirely based on fiction – the old witchdoctors and other old religions believed that when you wore a mask, you became the mask’s character. So the witchdoctor believed he had magical powers when he wore a mask depicting a magical being. Wear any mask long enough and it becomes part of your character. You become the mask.
The character of Bane in Batman also wore a mask. As he said, ‘No one paid any attention to me until I put on the mask’. I might not have the quote exactly right but that was the gist of it. The modern mask does not protect you from anything at all. It changes you, it makes you part of the collective, it turns you against those who do not conform. Eventually, the mask is you and then you cannot take it off.
Couple of points though. I think the perspex barriers are a good idea. Never mind the current virus, there are all kinds of respiratory infections that could pass between a customer and a shop worker. Local shop has few employees. As far as I can tell, Local Petrol Station has two. They don’t see anywhere near as many customers as a town-centre Tesco, of course, but it would only take one infected customer to bring down the entire staff. Then the shop or garage is closed while they recover. They are not big businesses but if they closed, well, everyone around here faces a 30-mile round trip if they run out of milk or cheese or fuel. So protecting them is good for everyone.
The perspex barriers also mean it’s much harder, if not impossible, for a shop raider to reach over to the till. Not a big deal out here, of course, they are likely to get a shotgun or at least a hay fork poking them in the arse if they try. Those barriers are going to be a lot more useful in towns and cities and I think they should stay.
Then there’s the mask thing. So far it’s up to the shops. I carry a mask in my pocket but do not wear it, especially when driving. The restriction on breathing is uncomfortable, I can wear it in a shop for a short time but really dislike it. So, if a shop I need to enter insists on masks, I’ll wear it even though I know it is useless.
Now, you can argue that it is your right to not wear a mask. Fine, you’re correct. It is also any private business’s right to refuse entry to anyone for any reason. You’re not the only one with rights. Private businesses have had dress codes forever. I remember a nightclub in my student days where anyone wearing trainers was turned away. I routinely wore highly polished steel toecapped work boots so I was always allowed in. Until I was banned in absentia. Yeah, that’s another story for another day.
So I will wear a mask if the business I need to enter requires it. They have the right to demand it, I have the right to go somewhere else if I don’t like it.
You might have heard ‘the customer is always right’. It is bollocks. Most customers are idiots. Especially the ones who quote this. They think it is a law. It is not. It is the business model of Marks and Spencer and nobody else. Not a law, not even a suggestion. The business model of one company.
The customer is a customer only if they want to buy from you and only if they agree to your terms. You, as the business owner, are free to make those terms as free or as onerous as you choose. If you have a ‘no hoodies’ rule you can chuck out Warren Buffett if he turns up in one.
If you have a ‘must wear a mask’ rule you are entitled to turn away anyone not wearing one. Even though masks are demonstrably silly and in most cases, harmful. If that is your rule on your business premises you have the right to demand it.
I have the right to refuse to wear a mask, but you have the right to refuse me entry to your business without one. Too many people think rights work for them but not for others. I would call them idiots but really they are not. They have just been taught that way.
So far there are many types of mask out there, none of them effective at anything more than restricting your breathing. This will change. There will be ‘studies’ showing that one mask is better than another and then those with the wrong mask will be villified. Eventually the One True Mask will emerge and then we will have total compliance and absolute conformity.
‘Comfortable compliant conformity’ is one of the slogans in ‘Panoptica’. Watching current events have really helped with that story. I found it hard to get into the mindset of the character I was writing. He wasn’t a Winston Smith or a Montag. He was a fully compliant drone and happy in that life. He went to work, he went home, next day he did it again. No socialising, no family, no holidays, nothing. There are so very many people like that and watching their fury at the slightest deviation from how they think people should act has been most informative.
I didn’t think it would come true so fast. I thought, at times, I was going too far into the unbelievable. The brain chip, with wires deep into the brain, seemed a step too far but then it seems it wasn’t after all. Likewise the machine-gun-carrying flying drones. Those are now real too. The slogan from a story a couple of years back, ‘Be better’, is now spouted by the Righteous all the time.
Comfortable compliant conformity is coming. We’re going to have to get very good at pretending to fit in, or we’re going to have to get out of the cities and hide.
My father’s death in February broke my run at completing that book but it’s time to snap out of the doldrums and get back to it. I have to write the next page of the horrors to come.
Before they happen.