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The Criminalization of the Ordinary


As Covid madness, or megalomaniacal plans, according to your world view, took over our lives, various authorities, and authoritarian tendencies in otherwise agreeable people, intruded into our daily activities. Working, shopping, moving around and even trying to mind one’s own business became an exercise in navigating seemingly arbitrary, pointless rules.

It all seemed wrong. It rankled. Injustice deserved to be exposed and defeated. Mistreatment at the hands of remote authority, like government, gave me a sense of united opposition that I now know I just imagined to be present in all of us.

A sense that the measures imposed on us were so evidently doomed to fail gave me, for a few weeks, a cocky assurance that the folly would soon be exposed and it would all go back to a true, not ‘new’ normal. But that assurance soon ebbed away.

Conventional protest in the form of letters to editors, MPs, think tanks and magazines was a pathetic, but necessary, ritual to observe. As expected, responses were dismissive if they came at all, and more often than not there was not even a response. What was wholly unexpected was the level of apathy and acceptance of the situation by those around me.

But worse was to come. As my blustering, muttered, scoffing-at-the-TV protests continued, those who happened to be within earshot started to counter – Stockholm syndrome emerging in those whom I thought would agree, now opposing, even badgering me.

This was a deep shock – and I retreated to the safety of silence, of removing myself from the presence of the TV or radio news, of not even scanning the headlines in the MSM (I had long since stopped paying for, and reading, the articles.)

In the blink of an eye, the fundamental, bedrock principles on which we have based our lives and centred our grasp on reality have fallen away, to become grains of sand blown about by the wind and waves of a censor’s whim. Among them: individual autonomy and agency, respect for human dignity, the presumption of innocence, freedom of movement and freedom of speech, medical ethics, the right to work, the rule of law, biology itself – the list goes on and on. Ordinary humans are assumed to be a vector for deadly disease. Ordinary debate is categorised as treason. Ordinary grief is denied comfort. Ordinary joy is denied expression.

Ordinariness itself has been shown to be vulnerable to criminalisation by power-crazed Premiers – what is more ordinary than to walk on a beach, or push a child on a swing, or breath fresh air? Or to play golf, or to visit your gran, or have a wedding reception? All of these things, and more, were at one time or another during the last three years against the law in Victoria.

Only a Pollyanna would think the insidious march to total tyranny has slowed, let alone stopped. As our ex Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs once said “Sadly, you can say what you like around the kitchen table at home.” Make no mistake: emboldened by the last three years, they’ll soon be coming for the kitchen table. The message is clear: unless authorised by the State, ordinariness is against the law.

And yet, judging by the lack of protest at the abominable actions of those in authority, there are many, perhaps even a majority, for whom the ‘normal’ world evidently has returned, if it ever went away, and all is well. It is completely unfathomable to me that anyone could take this position, but the evidence is all around us that this is indeed the case. 

I now live in two parallel worlds – one where the ‘normality’ carries on, with sports on the TV and the news showing all the usual stories of crime, ravages of war and earthquakes, where we go out to dinner, where we watch movies, where we go to football matches, where we talk about travelling somewhere, and make plans to do this or that. Many seem to be comfortable in this world, or perhaps they are blissfully ignorant of the other world.

The other world is where I daily wonder why the biggest story in the history of the world, ever (well, perhaps there is one bigger story!), is just not on the radar of ordinary folk. Where I gasp inwardly at the banality of the ‘first’ world, the ‘normal’ world – about which I try to fake an interest. The world where I still enjoy the things that used to interest me, but from which the gloss has definitely faded.

The world where I see a bigger picture horror show unfolding, with power grabs by the WHO getting no air-time. Where mortality is rising and governments refuse to investigate. Where fertility is falling. The world where despite ‘normal world’ talk of travel plans, there is a grim expectation that those plans will be stillborn, reinforced by the metastasising “15-minute cities.”

The world where I tend a tiny veggie garden as a probably fruitless (if my lemon tree is anything to go by) venture in anticipation of global or local supply issues, whether caused accidentally or deliberately. The world where Substack is the go-to source for news.

Spanning both worlds is my dog. Thank God for dogs.

How can we go back to living in just one world? Was it all an illusion in the first place? Is it just that the veil has been drawn back, and now we (or I) see the true horror of reality? What took me so long? How I long for a reconciliation of those two worlds, where there is a shared understanding of truth, where we can at least confront problems together, on the same side. Until something changes, I must try to be a citizen of these two mutually exclusive worlds.

In the meantime, my pushback is to be as ordinary as I can. With my dog.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Richard Kelly

    Richard Kelly is a retired business analyst, married with three adult children, one dog, devastated by the way his home city of Melbourne was laid waste. Convinced justice will be served, one day.

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