In life, we accept small sacrifices to help others. This comes in the form of paying taxes, following the law and being respectful. This is the backbone of our society; it depends on the individuals' goodwill, and for hundreds of years, this has worked (most of the time). But the pandemic has changed everything – these small sacrifices have increased in scope to immense sacrifices. Some people are losing their livelihoods, their hope and, in some unfortunate cases - their lives.
At the time of publishing this, it has been 486 days since we heard the simple words "You must stay at home", and the country accepted a previously unthinkable sacrifice to their freedoms for the collective good of the country. We were told these significant restrictions were, of course, needed to protect our NHS and save lives; these restrictions would be temporary – and we would be back to normal soon enough. That was the deal that the Government finally seem to be upkeeping as restrictions eases on July 19th, now commonly referred to as "freedom day".
"If we wish to get out of this mess, we must prove that personal responsibility will triumph over invasive restrictions."
And this brings us to our divide – a divided society is never a good one, a lot of divides come from our ways of thinking, Left vs Right, Liberal vs Conservative, butter vs margarine – the list could go on. But the latest divisive debate is on the rise, mask vs mask-less. As it can be seen, this debate comes with consequences – there is no way to tell from someone's character, ethnicity or clothing whether they are Liberal or Conservative. Still, the mask debate puts the point right in front of your face; this divide is a highly visible one.
In addition to other restrictions being removed from July 19th in England, masks are optional, with some companies/public services making up their minds about what they want to enforce. This new approach that the Government is taking is a very welcome step in the right direction, and the Prime Minister is right to hand this power back to us. If we wish to get out of this mess, we must prove that personal responsibility will triumph over invasive restrictions. After all, there is only so long you can curb the freedoms of a large population.
"...we cannot loathe each other's right to self-determination"
Now the English population have a choice, the next logical step is that they will make decisions and people will make different decisions to each other. Given the debate is around masks, some may deem the decisions made by individuals to be dangerous, which given the current statistics anyone who's been vaccinated has mostly nothing to fear, as vaccines work, and you are protected. A large proportion of the population will/won't wear masks, following their judgment; after all, you can't beat common sense. But there will be those who refuse to wear them and will think poorly of those who will, and you will have those that wear them in almost all settings and loathe those who choose not to.
This is not ideal – we cannot loathe each other's right to self-determination. This divide is starting to take hold; already, I see people on social media shaming people who have decided that masks are not for them in specific settings; how long is it before this discourse spills onto our streets, workplaces and public transport?
There have been some calls for those exempt from mask-wearing to be forced by law to carry/wear some sort of identification. I ask, in what world must we move our most vulnerable to display their medical history? – this is an incredibly personal matter. No person should be forced to wear any form of badge, sleeve or marking to identify themselves as different – this is a very slippery slope.
Some loathe the Government’s decision to let people make up their own minds, arguing that they are abdicating responsibility. Yet, is letting people choose for themselves not the path of common sense? Do you not trust your community to make the right choice? It should be no surprise that these voices predominantly are from the Labour Party; after all, this is the party of state control – many of the Left do not feel comfortable with self-determination; unsurprisingly, they'd carry this mindset into personal health matters.
But over the coming weeks, pressure will be coming from the Left and their associated outfits to regress to the old ways and impose restrictions on us - the Government must stay strong, and trust us to make decisions and risks for ourselves, just like we did before March 2020.
George Holt is a conservative councillor and deputy chairman of Dartford Conservatives. He co-founded the Young Conservative Network and has a career in financial technology. George has a passion for foreign affairs, particularly American politics and enjoys reading and walking his dogs.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.