The derogatory use of the word ‘sheep’ – both singular and collective – was herded into vogue over the last couple of years, as Covid-19 debates made easy use of the ovine insult.
Whether it was conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination crusaders looking to belittle anyone in a mask and seeking a jab, or the bunkered and hazmat be-suited legions dismissing anyone insinuating the coronavirus wasn’t a threat worthy of ending Western civilization, there was a rush on to wrap the opposition in wool.
Regardless of your socio-political and philosophical bent, there’s an assumption in the 21st century zeitgeist that there’s less fighting spirit or rebellious nature in modern culture. In short, people act more like dull-witted, herded livestock than determined, ambitious and intelligent humans with individual souls.
Some blame the declining sense of spine on the fog of ever-present and easily accessed entertainment. Others drop responsibility upon the slow, easy and well-battered target of incessant social media. The more paranoid fans of Aldous Huxley credit the flow of prescription or illicit drugs for keeping dulled minds in line.
I assign it to the relentless advance of safe, secure living in the West. Modern civilization makes life profoundly simple compared to even 100 years ago. From food supply to public assistance to sanitation to public safety, our daily lives – while never fully bubble-wrapped – face very infrequent genuine threats. That sort of relative comfort tends to dull the senses and defuse the spirit. It’s easier to languish in relative comfort instead of challenging any current regime or routine.
This all points to the death of rebellion or resistance in the West – a heartbreaking requiem for rogue spirits and free thinkers. The speed with which the citizenry knelt to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions – no matter how draconian or how poorly supported by research – only seemed to attest to the dearth of independent minds in most corners of modern communities.
It’s that timid, unthinking willingness to obey even the most ridiculous protocol that is most treasured by the power-happy health officials and self-appointed media experts looking to build their esteem at the cost of your self-determination.
However, in recent weeks, this lingering coronavirus crisis might just have reversed those indicators, hinting at a glimmer of defiance still surviving in pockets of our culture – in the dark and quiet corners of our minds where authorities can’t yet reach. Keep an eye open, and you’ll see evidence of it, too.
Case study #1: Fly any airline across the US and you’ll witness the now-popular ‘Pop off the mask while the flight attendant isn’t looking’ game. Whether shuffling through an airport or toughing out the now-insufferable flying experience, we’re all expected to wear face coverings at all times. Sure, airports are sanitized to within an inch of their runways, and every airliner now features HEPA-filtered air devoid of even virus-sized particles. No matter. Keep that mask fixed.
Sick to death of sucking air through damp cloth, some wicked passengers keep an eye out for the more fascistic flight attendants and pop off the mask at every opportunity. Count me in the group, as I can nurse a two-ounce cup of Coke Zero for three states if it means I can keep my mask off and torment the plane’s tattling hall monitor.
I received a final warning of possible arrest for enjoying this game too much on my most recent flight. I know my technique will improve with practice.
Case study #2: When you visit London, be sure to travel via the Underground. As with most countries, face coverings are mandatory on public transportation. On my most recent business trip through the great British capital, I discovered that no one is paying any attention to that rule.
Maybe one in four Tube denizens keeps a face covering in place, and none of the tried-and-true employees of the world’s best public transportation system bother to enforce the government’s mandates.
The entire scene is an almost heartwarming picture of working folks from many walks of life coming together to flip off the vague, lingering orders from the elite, who are too timid or too mentally rigid to realize the largest swaths of the public who lived with the virus day-to-day figured out what’s best for themselves. Often armored by vaccinations, they moved on from the stolid, political theater of masks and social distancing.
That’s how individual rebellion and a sense of defiance survives these days – by individuals deciding they know what’s best for their own lives based on what they see and experience around them. When rules and demands linger that violate or ignore those self-beneficial observations, a good and just populace pokes fun at or otherwise ignores those directives. They find unique ways here and there to piss off the oft-decried nanny state.
Often an op-ed simmers, steeped in outrage and waiting to wrap up with a bleak, cynical observation or prediction of pending disaster. I should know. I have written a bunch of essays that fall into that morose genre, believing the gloom to be necessary. Let’s finish this one on an uptick – reaching for a more optimistic conclusion.
There remains fire in the collective belly – a semblance of uncommon common sense – in some of the people you see around you. It might be rarer than it was and harder to spot than we’d like. Still, it’s there. It might not surface in violent, sweeping revolution or fiery protests. It might burn as a tiny fuse, sending sparks out in the form of tiny micro-rebellions. Still, that’ll do for a while to keep the authorities uncomfortable and frustrated.
Truth be told, there’s nothing as sweet as the discomfort and frustration of an unworthy overlord. Just never underestimate the value of extending that middle finger to anyone who insists unquestioned obedience is in your best interest. That little exercise will do you a world of good.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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