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Friday 11th September 2020
Desmond Swayne, the MP for New Forrest, has made me angry. As I poured my morning coffee, his voice poured out of the Alexa and into my kitchen. He was ‘outraged’ by the ‘absolutely grotesque’ rule of six – the limit on mixing with more than six people, due to come into effect on Monday – and had tried to challenge it.
I wasn’t interested in hearing his argument. My mind was made up. Desmond Swayne will not be remembered as a heroic freedom fighter. He will be referred to in future studies as a rogue presence, fighting against something that history will regard as the right thing to do, on the misguided assumption that it infringed on his rights. He will be the guy who refused to turn his lights off during the black outs of the wars. He will be a punchline.
And here I am, I realised over breakfast, stuck in a merry-go-round of frustration and anger and division. And I am not alone. A UK-wide study, released today, shows that mask-wearing and lockdown rules are causing deeper social fractures than Brexit.
But you didn’t need me to tell you that. You can see it, and feel it, can’t you? The way that ‘the Brexit effect’ has infiltrated our lives is well documented. We have considered it on my radio show, and here in this newsletter. And while the similarities are stark, more interesting, I think, are what makes it different.
While Brexit felt personal, much of it was abstract. You can unpick many of the main themes and conclude that they have much less of a baring on our everyday lives as we were sold. From immigration to the economy to threats to human rights legislation to issues of freedom and sovereignty – all of these thing are very real, but they were whipped up by both sides and it quickly turned into a battle for hearts over heads. The divisions over coronavirus have a similar flavour, but it’s much harder to strip back the personal. It landed on every single doorstep. It changed all of our lives. And it remains a threat to our health and prosperity – in one way or another. There is no escape. We can see it and feel it. It is not the abstract.
So, how can we reach such different conclusions about something we are all experiencing in sync? Clearly, it does affect people differently – along lines of age, wealth and ethnicity. As Charlie Brooker said in his brilliant Antiviral Wipe – we may all be in this together, but some are certainly in it more than others. But the arguments we are having tell us much more about who we already were, rather than what we have become. It seems you will see the mask debate through the prism of where you already are in your thinking. For some, they are representative of safety and community and compassion, for others, they are an attack on your freedom. It all depends on where you started.
I won’t shirk the responsibly I may face, too. In March, when the virus began, I and others committed to giving air time to experts and experiences. You could come on and talk about the numbers and the science if you were qualified to do so. Otherwise, stick to your experience. Tell me how it feels to be living through this moment of history. It created a healthy and productive balance, where people were heard on the merits of what they knew. It didn’t last. And now we have descended into daytime TV hosts arguing the toss with epidemiologists. That’s my industry. That’s how we work. The conflict of being engaging and entertaining and catching people’s attention often bumps up against the need to be pragmatic and responsible. It’s a conversation we need to have with ourselves, and we probably need to find a way to do both.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll speak to a behavioural psychologist to drill into how we got here and how we get out. Although, perhaps ‘will’ we get out is a better question.
A conversation we’re going to have on Sunday’s show may drive us to some answers, too. After dance group Diversity received over 10,000 complaints for referencing Black Lives Matter and George Floyd during a performance on Britain’s Got Talent – we’ll ask if there is a line that politics shouldn’t cross.
Clearly, some believe there is – and there are a few issues with this. Firstly, how can the life experiences of a group of black lads from Essex, articulated through an expressive art form on a national television show they have worked hard to get on, be seen as anything other than personal? It is laced with politics, sure, but only in the way everything is. Ever. Also, it is an art. Strip politics, social issues or personal experience from music, dance and performance, and you can kiss goodbye to the whole genre of Saturday night light entertainment. We have to remember that our experiences – often intrinsically linked to politics, policy or political movements – shape us. They define us in a way that means leaving them at the studio door is not only impossible, it’s undesirable. Why would you want to remove the passion and personal experience from somebodies art?
We’ll talk that one through.
We’ll continue on our Road to the White House. Ed Hardy and Greg Swenson will take a look through the week in American politics – with startling revelations from a new book taking up much of the oxygen. Journalist Bob Woodward recorded 18 interviews with President Trump since December last year, including the headline grabbing admission that he did intend to play down the virus. Game, set and match to Biden, surely, who has framed his campaign around the virus showing Trump is incompetent and untrustworthy. Not so fast. This man is as teflon as they come and remains the king of hitting back and changing the narrative. Let’s see where it goes.
And as we head into a winter of uncertainty, with increasing numbers of Coronavirus cases and more tweaks to the way we live our lives, life coach Holly Matthews will give us a helping hand in processing the new normal – and how to thrive in – and not just survive – the age of COVID.
Weekend Early Breakfast with Darryl Morris – Saturday and Sunday – 5am-7amSeptember 15, 2020 | No Comments