Blind loyalty leads to bad and lazy decisions
A THEME is percolating through politics at the moment, and that’s to cool the temperature.
It was an overriding message from Joe Biden’s inauguration, and in a world still in the grips of a pandemic and struggling with coherent responses is one we would all do well to remember.
Clear, considered, concise thinking trumps rash, reactionary, empty judgement and rhetoric every day.
We live in a society where lies spread more rapidly than truths and are even harder to nullify as they bounce from screen to screen.
Guernsey is far from immune, indeed it is showing signs of being even more susceptible with some people far too willing to believe things if it gives them answers.
So a rumour about how the latest Covid outbreak arrived on these shores and spread gains traction because of the desire to have answers.
To know that there is a root cause and someone to blame brings comfort to some – but destroys others in the process.
Having lived in our bubble so long while Covid ravaged all around us, maybe it is understandable.
Maybe it is human nature to find comfort in answers, to not like the unknown.
But with this virus, even the answers we do have are not necessarily definitive.
A favourite refrain from many politicians looking to lead their populace is to trust the science.
Unfortunately that is far too simple an answer because it implies that the science all lines up, that they really are following the advice and that it agrees.
It does not and they are not. They are necessarily going for the least worst option based on what is before them at the time – and the best health advice might be in stark contrast to the best economic, environmental or social.
Advice changes as more is discovered, and the decisions being made are more about juggling risks and the best judgement at the time than they are about being right or wrong.
Take one of the simplest examples – face masks.
Remember back in Lockdown One, the advice was they were not only unnecessary, but people wouldn’t wear them properly if they were, they would give a false sense of security and we needed to protect stocks for the medical professionals anyway.
Now look at Lockdown Two.
People have swung completely in the opposite direction.
Some of this is based on best scientific advice around the risks posed about how the virus can spread in enclosed settings, so people are now largely wearing coverings in shops, but others have taken this to the next level and wear them outdoors.
Science does not agree on that need, as anyone following the debate on exercise will know.
And while there is nothing wrong if that makes someone feel more comfortable, there has to also be room to understand that others take a different view.
What we do not want to do is create a culture of unnecessary fear, heightening anxiety and putting fractures in our community.
No one should rush to judgement.
There may well be more traffic on the roads this time around, for example, but it is still minimal, people understand better what they can and cannot do – it is not a sign of mass disobedience and disorder.
Guernsey is in an incredibly fortunate position in that we have a largely compliant population, the decision to lock down was not resisted, instructions to self-isolate are taken seriously and with good grace and understanding.
Contrast that with what has happened in the UK, where the battle they are fighting is being severely undermined by non-compliance with guidelines, that the conditions were created that made it even easier for the last strain to rip through the population.
While this is an argument for taking one step back, it is not a call for total subservience.
People, politicians and the media should question and challenge the decisions being made, and that should not be seen negatively, but a healthy part of democracy.
There should be room for different opinions because there is not one answer, even if you all have the same evidence before you.
Blind loyalty, not rocking the boat, eventually leads to bad and lazy decisions – and that is far removed from what we and the rest of the world need right now.
Guernsey has lived largely as normal this summer and autumn, that is thanks to the efforts of the community, not individuals.
It means we can face lockdown with confidence that there is a quick path out, because we found it last time, and with the benefit of not having had our lives constricted for as long as others.
The vaccine is being rolled out now and that is a great hope for finally navigating away from this.