Mondays in lockdown

I reckon I suffer more from Mondayitus now I’m working from home than I did when I had to get up early and catch a train to work. I think what gets me is that it seems pointless and empty early on a Monday morning. And perhaps, given we’re in lockdown, the knowledge that the cycle is about to repeat again, and to no obvious end. It’s a variation on Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence.

Today, it was less problematic from recent weeks when it’s been tough, but I still had to wonder why? The answer to which is – what else am I going to do? That sums it up pretty neatly.

If anything, my discontent was centred on other things.

We got the COVID plan yesterday and it added up if, like me, you’re more rationally and scientifically inclined. I could understand the logic ad the guidelines, some of which appeared self-evident, and so I would support it. Still, it had a deadening effect knowing that it would be a while yet until we enjoyed customary freedoms.

On top of that, in the afternoon, my footy team put in such a dire effort that I began to feel it. I got angry. Here I am, stuck in lockdown with few pleasures, and I settle down and have to put up with an uncommitted effort. It felt lazy and indulgent and selfish and, I thought, how dare they? That’s a conversation for another time, but I can safely say it was the last thing I needed.

There is one other aspect. I’m really quite combative and resilient by nature. I’m on the front foot generally by inclination. But I’ve found myself ground down over this journey by the negativity of others, the bitching, the moaning, the criticism and complaints. I’ve taken to muting people in my Facebook feed and do my best to ignore provocation elsewhere. But you can’t escape it when, within minutes yesterday, the state opposition leader begins his usual whine, and then the federal government put out their standard, politically charged and graceless response. Then there’re people carping about the most irrelevant of details, and others complaining it’s not clear enough for them, and you just want to scream.

I say all this knowing that almost all this noise comes external to the state, or from a rowdy one or two per cent within. As I said yesterday, most of us are supportive, but it’s oh so frustrating – and draining! – to have to listen to what is generally self-indulgent twaddle. This is hard enough as is. We’re doing our best to hang in there and stay strong and it feels like our efforts are being undermined. Don’t they understand our greatest strength is our unity? Most of us do.

I find that increasingly hard to deal with. I despise our federal ministers – Hunt and Frydenburg and Morrison – more than ever, and I’m happy for the imbecile libertarians to be locked up. Normally I’m all for independence and individual human rights, but now is the time when the rights of the many are more important.

All this chips away at you. That’s how it feels. I can be strong for a long time, but not when I’ve got someone at my back seeking to unbalance me at every step.

The next stage

I’ve just spent the last hour plus watching the daily Victorian government COVID-19 briefing. I think most of Melbourne did the same thing. This was the big press conference announcing the plan out of Stage 4 restrictions and every one of us was hanging out for it.

Expectations had been dampened over the last few days, and I think the general belief was that the current restrictions might continue a while longer. That was true as it turned out, though with important modifications. Stage 4 restrictions were extended by two weeks, until the end of September, but the curfew has been put back an hour, exercise times doubled and, most relevant to me, a bubble was announced allowing for people living alone to have a nominated visitor to their home.

The plan after that is for a gradual easing, dependent on how the infection numbers go, but it’s pretty comprehensive.

I felt a bit emotional watching it. I’m fully supportive of the science that goes into making these decisions, and though we’re not out of it, it felt like a prisoner being told he would be paroled in a couple of months. Just have to see it through until then.

That’s much easier said than done, but I think the great majority of Victorians understand the decision-making and will abide by the conditions of it. The ratbags and the odd politician make a lot of noise, but it’s amazing how many of us are willing to knuckle down and do the right thing by each other. Throughout this period, where Victoria has been the outlier, and sometime pariah, that the isolation has bonded us closer together. There’s recognition that we really are in this together, and for us to get out of it means that we all must do our bit. It makes me proud in a small way – we can be better, and here’s the proof of it.

While restrictions will continue, it will get easier from here if infections continue to fall. It will be easier a week from today than it is now, even if only in a small way. A fortnight after that it will get easier again, and so on, through the stages towards what they call a COVID-normal stage – late November.

I want to make mention of something many thousands have commented on: how impressive Dan Andrews is. As you will know, I tend to be cynical of modern politics and politicians. In general, I think they’re a rum lot. And, as a character, I’m not much given to unvarnished admiration. Among other things, my ego rarely allows for it.

I’m all in for Dan Andrews, though. His press conferences are a master class. Despite every provocation, he remains calm and measured. His command of detail is flawless. He never flounders, never backtracks, and never buys into the politics. He is a communicator par excellence, and his unflustered authority acts as a balm – it’s no wonder he has such support. I don’t think I’ve come across as Australian politician so impressive since Paul Keating. He cops a lot of flak from the edges, and of course, from the Murdoch press, but he is the leader we need at such a time – and far in advance of any other in Australia, and certainly Morrison, who epitomises mediocrity.

There’s a push for him to go federal at some stage. I have a gut feeling that won’t happen, but I think it’s a sign of how nervous he makes the federal government in how hard they attack him. Morrison has released his lieutenants to go hard at him, and the government is actively briefing journalists against him. I think it might backfire.

In Victoria, we don’t have much time for party politicking right now. We’re living it, we know what has to be done, and much of the rhetoric against Andrews comes off as trivial and irresponsible. It makes his attackers look bad. I think there’s a lot of admiration for Andrews across the country, and some of the attacks by Federal on State governments lately will steel resolve.

All that’s for the future, if at all, what’s important now is getting through this. I reckon 95% of Victorians would agree.

What we have

I don’t know about others, but I like the sound of the whistling wind. It’s been windy most of the last week. Yesterday, the wind was moderate at ground level, but in the treetops it was crazy, bending and shaking, the leaves rustling and the wind sounded like the ocean. Then, morning and night, I listen to the wind whistle outside and wonder what it is that makes it whistle. It’s one of those things that if you stop to think about for a moment seems strange in a good way. You sometimes forget how much in the world is marvellous.

I was out before walking Rigby, the breeze whipping at me. The weather is warmer, and I was in short sleeves – a t-shirt overlaid with a fleecy vest. We walked up to the main road, a bandana around my nose and mouth and a beanie tight on my head. We encountered mothers with their sons zooming by happily on scooters and other dogs, always curious and wary of each other.

It’s been a better day. Yesterday was diffuse; today focussed. It felt much more productive today and organised. In between working, I took short breaks. I snatched minutes here and there watching the playoffs. I broke up some hard rubbish and took it outside. I gave the barbecue hotplates – which I used on the weekend – a thorough scouring. And I continued the quest to clean and rid myself of unnecessary stuff – why do I need two or three of the same thing? Over the last few months, I’ve disposed of many things and consolidated others. My study has never looked so sparse.

It seems this is a common activity through these days of lockdown. I think it’s as much psychological as it is practical. We’re in isolation, and it feels virtuous to unburden ourselves of earthly possessions. By necessity, we live an austere existence these days, and while on the one hand, we seek to soften that with our online shopping and Netflix binges, we let go with the other hand what we have come to understand is unnecessary to our happiness.

For everything that’s happened, I feel lighter now. I also feel a lot of things shifting in and out, good and bad, but there’s a process of consolidation which is liberating.

In a minute it’ll be cocktail hour – probably a G&T. I’ll look towards dinner. Tonight I’ll be reheating leftovers of a French chicken casserole. I’ll have an audiobook playing through my Sonos as I get organised – at the moment I’m listening to The Martian. The rest is predictable. All of it is really, but it’s what we have.

The WFH challenge

Working from home, I sometimes wonder if the people I’m dealing with are off sometimes doing something else. I’m sure that’s a great temptation, and pretty easy, too. I reckon most people I deal with are diligent, and some probably working harder than they were back in the office. There are a few who are harder to track down often, and you wonder if they’re sitting on their couch watching the NBA playoffs. No judgment from me if they are.

It’s not anything that occurs to me. I’m sometimes reluctant to drag myself to my desk, but I never think of not doing it. You could call it a good work ethic, but really, it’s an ingrained habit, more in my body than it is in my mind. This is what I do, so I do it.

I’ve been reconsidering that in the last week. I wondered if it might not be better for me if I took it a bit easier, even if I just broke it up a bit. The sheer repetition of sitting at the same desk every day and attending the same meetings becomes numbing. There’s an instinct to break free of it, to shake off the routine and assert some agency in your life. When there’s nothing else, no getting out and about, no socialising, no variety or unpredictability, then it starts to feel a bit close.

This morning I stayed in bed 10 minutes later than I normally would. It felt strange, but then I had to get up for a meeting. I’ve thought about taking 10 minutes every hour to go off and do something for myself – or at least get away from my desk. When the weather improves, I’m considering taking my laptop and working on the patio, just occasionally. And today I actually took some time – twice – to catch-up with the aforementioned NBA playoffs. It was good, sitting on the couch, cheering on the Celtics when they got over the line, then watching the Jazz narrowly lose to the Nuggets. (No skin in that game, but I’d have preferred the Jazz to win because of Joe.)

The point is, I got way from the narrow perspective of my desk and the computer screen in front of me. I shifted my mind away from work stuff and allowed for some spontaneous entertainment. Man, if I can’t do that from home just a little bit, then I’m wasting the opportunity. And, truly, I think I need it.

We’ve been told that we’ve earned some time in lieu because of the good and hard work we’ve been doing from home. There’ve been some good business results, and my stuff accounts for a fair proportion of that. It’s nice that gets recognised.

It’s harder working from home not from a motivation point of view, but because the things that are simple in the office become manual trials working from home. I can’t just wander over to someone’s desk to ask a question or see something. I can’t work with someone cooperatively as I would before. It’s either more challenging or not even worth bothering with. You cut more corners working from home, but you also do more because it’s left to you.

I’m considering changing my routine altogether – starting later and finishing later too and mixing up my day between work and the things that take me away from work.

The same groove

In a few days, it’ll be Spring. We’ll have survived Winter. It’s a lovely sunny day today, as it was yesterday – though, in between, we had rain and gale-force winds that lead to power failures across town and trees crashing to the ground. You wouldn’t know it now.

Then it’s the weekend. It’s Friday afternoon, and though the distinction means less than before, I’m still glad to have a couple of days off. There’s no pub tonight. No wine at the wine bar on the way home, no dinner out. In about an hour I’ll pack up and walk into the next room and that’ll be it.

I’m tired. As I’ve said before, I think it’s mental. You need colour and distraction to keep the mind active. When you slot into the same groove day after day, you grow stale, and so does your mind.

Right now I’m dreaming of holidays away. I sent a message to a mate before suggesting maybe we should plan a trip to somewhere exciting or cool next year. I presume that’ll be possible again one day. I need something like that to look forward too.

Everyone says that lockdown has been tougher the second time around and I’m starting to feel it too. I can understand how, for some, it’s debilitating. It’s boring, and it feels pointless.

One day we’ll look back on this time with wonder. We’ll see it as a turning point because even if we get through it healthy, there’ll be a lot of things changed forever. I suspect we might look back at it in much the same way I look back at being homeless. We’ll wonder how we managed and will shudder at the prospect of ever enduring it again. It may seem worse in retrospect than it did at the time, but I’m not sure that’s not just a trick of the light.

Tonight I’ll cook my dinner. It’s the lockdown special I think, spag bol. If I don’t watch the footy afterwards, I’ll watch a movie. Tomorrow is said to be another bright day, and so I’ll be early out to walk Rigby by the beach with Cheeseboy and his Bailey. The afternoon will be a bit of this, a bit of that: a bit of housework, maybe some cooking, the footy perhaps, and hopefully some writing. Then dinner and another movie.

Sunday…I cook breakfast, that’s the main difference. I’ll write. I’ll walk Rigby. I’ll catch some of the footy. I’ll watch a movie or a show.

Sheesh. Maybe I’ll open a bottle too.

What’s on the box?

I’ve had three nights out since March, and when I say ‘night’s out’ it’s very loosely defined. Two of those were early evening visits to pubs in Richmond where I would have a beer and a counter-meal in the two hours designated to me. On both occasions, I was home by 8pm. Cray, eh? The other night was a visit to the Cheeses in that brief period of relative freedom. We had dinner, a bottle or two of wine, and watched a movie. I walked home afterwards.

That’s the size of it. I used to complain about my social life. In my heyday, I’d be out 3-4 nights a week. Those days are long gone, and I don’t think I’d want to return to that. As a general rule, though, I reckon you need at least one night a week out being social. Though I complained, mostly I managed that over the last year. Until lockdown.

Being in lockdown means you have to find other ways to keep yourself entertained. In the absence of the give and take with friends, and the general distraction of other places – a pub or bar, a restaurant, a footy game or the home of a friend, and so on – the senses need something to distract from what isn’t there. There are few options.

For me, at least I read, but it’s possible to read too much. It’s like most things, you need a variety of tempo to keep things interesting, as well as different senses engaged along the way.

So I have books, lucky me, and I’ll listen to music too, and wending through my days are audiobooks I play when I’m preparing dinner or doing housework. There’s sport on TV these days, though much of it is uninspiring – the physical constraints of our times make for a poorer standard in general.

That leaves TV more generally, and streaming services more specifically. I reckon everyone has gone crazy watching Netflix and the other streaming services throughout this period. Listening in on social media, it seems that many have experienced the same as I have – we’re running out of shows to watch.

This is the uninspiring reality of our times. It exposes the shallowness of lifestyle but given there are few other alternatives, this shred of clothing is preferable to seeing the emperor in all his naked glory.

The other week I signed up to a month’s trial of Amazon Prime to find something new to watch. I found a few things, but there was one show particularly that was great.

Tales From the Loop is a funny sort of show. It seems as if set in a parallel universe to ours, very similar, but different in unique ways. The Loop itself – some groundbreaking technology unlike we have, is at the centre of the show. There are robots wandering the countryside and tractors that hover over the ground and everyday little things that seem quirky to our eyes. It’s very approachable though, almost modest, the technology accepted as if it is nothing special – which is what I guess what we do with the marvels we have come to take for granted.

The aesthetic is familiar to anyone who grew up through the seventies and eighties. There’s a cosy glow to it that made me feel nostalgic at times. At the centre of it are families, a small core group of them and their circle which the stories revolve around. It has a very relatable intimacy to it that is at times quite heart-rending.

As someone who writes, it’s the sort of authenticity you strive for. They’re the things you absorb more through your skin than you do your mind. You know them suddenly, you recognise the truth of something that perhaps you’ve never considered until that point. They’re like submerged memories coming to the surface. It’s a very human experience, and it’s our humanity these tales tough upon.

Some of these stories haunted me afterwards. They had a poignancy that comes from being real. You’re left afterwards thinking about them, and reflecting upon yourself. The music, by Phillip Glass, has a subtle melancholy that gets under your sin. It’s great music, and it is the perfect accompaniment to the story – non-intrusive, but it deepens the viewing experience.

I’ve watched the full series now and hope there will be another. It’s a hidden gem I probably not have encountered if not for the strange times we live in. I’d recommend to anyone, though I think the sensitive will get most out of it.

But, what’s next now? I’m watching The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and enjoying it well enough. Others are hit and miss. We’re going to be in this for a while yet, so I’ll need more recommendations.

Necessary evils

It’s funny, this life. I’m sitting here utterly exhausted, but I suspect it’s mostly mental. Like most days, if not every single day for most of the last six weeks, I’ve been out twice today. Once, in the morning, up to the shops to get some groceries, then in the middle of the afternoon to walk Rigby. For the rest of the day, I’m at my desk and half of that time in meetings. That too is pretty standard.

It’s not really taxing, except by repetition. It’s my strong impression that online meetings drain you over time. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s faced with a bright screen all the time, or being tied to it by headphones, or perhaps even the often inane, pointless nature of some meetings. Or is it the sheer routine of them? Half of my meetings are at the same time every day, and just the prospect of them becomes dreary.

I’ve tried to change things up a bit, not that there’s a lot you can do. I attended a meeting yesterday just listening in while I did some ironing. Another meeting today I connected to by phone – camera off – lying on my bed, just for the variety of it. There are severe limits in how much you can do in general when you’re basically confined to your home for 22 hours plus out of every 24.

I would guess that my experience is pretty common. The fatigue – for that’s what I feel – is mostly psychological. With nothing to freshen up your outlook, without anything to look forward to and the absence of anything spontaneous, it’s all pretty drab and very predictable.

I’m not complaining, just observing. It’s funny, I’m at home, but I feel like a holiday. The kind of holiday I need though is exactly the kind of holiday denied to me – and will be for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, it’s had no impact on my performance and negligible on my state of mind. I’ve accepted all this as a necessary evil and set myself to endure it for as long as it takes. It could be much worse. I’m healthy, and I’m actually managing to save money through this pandemic. Others are having a much worse time of this than me.

Now, as routine dictates, it’s just about time to log off, which means it’s time to mix myself a drink and think about dinner. I’ll sit in front of the telly later, then to bed to read for about an hour, then sleep, to wake again to another day of this. So be it.

Down the other side?

It’s a lovely, sunny morning, much as most days have been lately. We’re due rain later apparently, and the rest of the week, but it feels as if we’re coming down the other side of winter.

It feels a bit that way with lockdown, too. I don’t want to jinx anything, and I know better than to presume anything, but finally, at least, the infection numbers are coming down. From a peak of over 800 daily cases about two weeks ago, this morning the latest figure is 222. That’s the lowest for more than a month, and the trend is clear.

At this stage, we still face another month of stage four restrictions and mask-wearing. I had a welfare check-in yesterday from the office as part of their routine. I explained it was not much fun in this situation, but what can you do? It’s no fun for anyone, but the majority of us have accepted it as a necessary evil. Endure a bit longer, and we’ll get to the other side. No promises then, no guarantees, but at least we can then reset. We’re learning more all the time, and the experience of New Zealand is a reminder of how dangerous this thing is.

I reckon this will be a time we look back upon with curiosity – a surreal and testing time we yet endured. I look back occasionally upon the time I was homeless and it feels terribly bleak. I wonder how I kept going and why I didn’t wallow in misery – not that I was terribly happy. I wouldn’t want to go through it again and don’t know if I could. Enduring lockdown is child’s play in comparison, but I think we’ll come to look back and reflect upon all that we went without.

I got a message this morning from Mrs Cheeseboy asking if I was okay. I really appreciate the gesture. I live by myself with a dog, and I think it’s single people who probably have it toughest in these times of isolation. Speaking to a colleague yesterday who lives by himself, he was pretty frank in admitting how much he’d struggled. It hasn’t been so bad for me – not good, but not so bad either.

It could be the experience of being homeless was good preparation for this. In ways, it’s not dissimilar. The risk of a deadly virus isn’t there, and there’s no restriction on movement, but the social isolation is very real. For all my imagination, I’m also a very practical person – a rationalist, almost. These are the sums we’ve been given, this is what they add up to, and this is what it means. You try and take the personal out of it.

I was glad to get the message, though. Mrs Cheeseboy is a sensitive type and conscious that it isn’t easy for people by themselves. She’s thoughtful and, if nothing else, it’s nice to know that you haven’t been forgotten. It counts for more than you know.

Like everyone else, we’re eager to break free of these constraints and live life again once the lockdown is over. For her, it’s a brekky out. For me, a glass of wine and conversation. For a lot of us, the urge to kick up our heels and celebrate will be strong. Still need to be wary, but a little fun will go a long way.

Not there yet, though. The prospect of freedom is alluring, but we can’t afford to ease up now, or we might never get there. Them’s the sums.

I’ll stand by Dan

I’m generally of the view that there’s no point in arguing with idiots. That eliminates a lot of social interaction for me, though I note that many diverge from that policy. Each to their own. One of the defining features of our times is that every moron has a platform now and – in my observation – the more moronic the intelligence, the more likely they are to shout it from the rooftops. Very democratic and not in the least enlightening. Like I said, I try and give them a wide berth.

Not everyone’s an idiot. There’s a lot of smart people around, and even online. They have views worth listening to, even when you disagree – that’s another area where I diverge from the rank and file. I like differing perspectives because they make me think and question. I may adjust my own opinion as a result, or respond with a considered and polite rebuttal. I’m happy to engage with them because it’s an exercise in free speech and I may learn something. I realise I’m very old school in this regard when for so many these days disagreement signifies stupidity and very often evil. There’s no grey area.

I’ve been engaging in civilised debate for the last month or so with someone I know and think is a smart fella. Moreover, he debates because he has a genuine concern about the subject at hand. In the past, we’ve found each other in accord on most things, and it’s only recently that we’ve come to opposing views about Dan Andrews and the virus gripping Melbourne.

This has become a very contentious talking point these days. He’s blamed by many for the emergence of the second wave. That anger is stoked by the news corp press, who take every opportunity to beat up anything negative of Labor and suppress anything negative of the LNP. Equally, there are many passionate Victorians, and even those outside the state, who are supportive of Andrews.

Now, he recognises that the media is bias, but has become very hostile towards Andrews. I take a different perspective, but, in any case, I ask him what does he want to happen? And who is there to step in? I urge calm, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it’ll all come out of the wash, right now let’s concentrate on getting things right now. It’s a civil debate, and we admitted what a pity it was we couldn’t do it over a bottle of red.

But then, someone else joins in, one of those dickheads not worth responding to, who called Andrews an arsewipe and anyone – such as me – who supports him. That killed the debate there and then.

I think my friend has become a little fixated, possibly because he can’t understand why so many people are in favour of Andrews. I think he’s misread the situation and is missing the subtleties, which can happen when you get so het up. I started to tell him why so many people were supportive – but then I thought, why bother? But here it is, for posterity.

Why does Andrews maintain such support?

  1. For many Victorians, and even Australians – he has vocal support Australia-wide – he embodies many of the qualities we want in a leader but have been deprived of for so long. He’s a smart, demonstratively decent human being to start with. He’s a great communicator, calm and very patient. As premier of the state, he’s driven a bold and successful agenda, and become known as someone who gets things done. He’s of a progressive bent, and of strong character. And not even his most bitter enemies could decry his work ethic. Through the bushfire crisis and this he’s seemingly turned up every day to do his bit. He’s the leader we want to believe in, and that earns him a lot of Brownie points.
  2. While the media has been responsible for inflaming tensions and demonising him, the more discerning members of the community recognise it for what it is: a political hatchet job driven by Murdoch and his minions. On top of that, in Victoria, the Liberal opposition is pretty feral. Whereas in the rest of the country the opposition parties have been generally supportive in a time of crisis, the Libs here have sought to disrupt, and have been very destructive of the status quo. For a lot of us, we’re over all that. There may come a reckoning one day, but today’s not the day – there are more important things to get done. I think that’s a general feeling the community (the Libs have shot themselves in the foot). Andrews gets some sympathy in the face of that.
  3. Many of the same people wonder why treatment isn’t partial. When the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney and let off dozens of infected passengers then anti-government rhetoric was subdued because it was a Liberal government responsible – depending who you talk to, either Dutton or the NSW government. Sad as it is, the media drives much of the narrative and it infects the community – no news that. Up there they buried it; down here they amplified it. This is about fairness.
  4. I think there’s general admiration for his stoic refusal to keep going. I think many believe he has a genuine concern for their welfare – he’s on their side. That’s a rare feeling these days. While some hate him, he engenders trust in many others. And the question becomes pertinent: if not him leading us, then who? There is no-one.
  5. Most of the drama is related to returned travellers and mishandled quarantine, for which they blame Andrews. A lot of the reports are sensationalist, and I don’t there’s a clear idea of what happened except, it seems, the security guards misbehaved. There’s a lot of complexity about this, and there’s an inquiry in progress to get to the bottom of it. Many say that Andrews should’ve resigned over this – my response is per point 3 &4, and to suggest that we wait until the inquiry is concluded before we rush to judgement.
  6. Much of the criticism Andrews draws about this is why he engaged security firms rather than the ADF. This is a nonsense complaint that only makes any sense after the fact. Victoria was not the only state to use security guards, but the only state that suffered from it. Surely, the security firms were engaged in good faith to perform duties that they’re specialist at and which they’re being paid to do? Only later does it become evident that the firms had marginal competence and breached the terms of their contract. That was not something any reasonable person would anticipate – bearing in mind that the Federal government uses private security firms to manage refugees – so there’s a strong precedent.
  7. I think everyone accepts that there will be missteps and misjudgements in an emerging calamity such as this. They’re inclined to forgive to a degree, though we’re now looking at 100+ deaths and climbing out of the second wave. That may be re-evaluated in the fullness of time.

Much of that aligns with my thinking. The only caveat I have is that if the inquiry finds that government ministers were culpable (most likely because they failed to react appropriately or oversee the operation effectively), then heads should roll.

I don’t think it is the time to be changing much and in fact, I think much of the commentary has been destructive to public confidence and unity. It’s led to confusion and empowered malcontents to do as they please. I think there are a lot of others who should be in the sights. However, down the track, when the facts are known, justice – whatever it is – must be seen to be done.

Soldiering on

I’ve held off on commenting on more recent developments with the virus in Melbourne because, well, I was over it – as most people are. But now, as of last night, we’re in stage 4 lockdown, and it’s clear things have gone in the wrong direction.

Setting aside the personal inconvenience, I’m pretty philosophical about the whole thing. I still believe that we’ll get by this setback – I remain optimistic – but I understand equally that if that’s to happen, then draconian steps are required. And that’s where we’re at.

Things might not have been so draconian but for the sort of people who complain about draconian measures. One of the significant issues and major frustrations over the last month has been the numbers of people flouting the rules. Some of the call-outs have been staggering. Infectees are now visited at their home by the ADF to ensure they remain in isolation, but fully 25% of people have been missing when the army has called. They’re sick and infected people out and about infecting more people.

A fair amount of them is the utter ratbags we see on the news and posting libertarian and conspiracy nonsense to social media. They either refuse to believe that COVID is a real thing, or they refuse to comply with lockdown and mask-wearing because it impinges their civil rights – which they’ll read to you chapter and verse (and manage to miss the legal basis of it nonetheless). Victorians are heartily sick of these people. They’re selfish and entitled, and the fact they can so gleefully celebrate their dissent demonstrates how little they care for anyone else.

As we were told at that start of this, we’re all in this together. None of us enjoys it. Many are climbing the walls. We do it because we must: because we recognise it’s for the good of all. And because, if we don’t, then it’ll only get worse.

That’s unfortunately relevant to the other group who aren’t complying. These are the low-paid and casual workers, most of whom live in the less well off suburbs of Melbourne where the virus is most rampant. I have some sympathy for these people because they’re faced with the tough decision between isolating without income or going to work sick so they can get a wage. These are people with minimal resources and who need an income to put food on the table, pay the rent, and provide for their family.

This is the huge flaw in the government’s relief policy that was made clear to them on day one when they exempt casual workers from any support packages. Had they been provided with paid pandemic leave and able to isolate at home then I reckon 80% of the cases we now see would have been avoided. The state government has since stepped in to provide some support, but – incredibly – the federal government is still dragging its feet. This situation was wholly avoidable and for relatively little expense. It’s an example of things not being thought through clearly, which is excusable when you do it in a rush, but less so when they’ve had months to rectify it and had every economist in the land tell them they ought to.

Those suffering most from the second wave are in aged care facilities. Most of the deaths have come from residents tended by casual workers spreading the infection, and ultimately left to fend for themselves. I don’t know if it’s much of a surprise to anyone really as the deplorable state of our aged care system has been an open secret for years. This has exposed it to the hot media spotlight, and the government can no longer sweep it under the carpet. It really needs a post of its own. Suffice to say that so much of this is because of the mania for privatisation and flexible work conditions. Standards slip, and the authorities have little control. And people suffer.

I shouldn’t be complacent, but I live in an area where there’ve been few cases and far from the hotspots. I’m tempted to think that most of the neighbourhood here are good citizens and well aware of their responsibilities – but I also note that there’s no meat or veggies left in the supermarket when I visited this morning.

Like everyone – well, almost everyone – I’ve been wearing a mask for the last couple of weeks. Can’t say I enjoy it much. I never realised how much it would impede my breathing. And, naturally, it fogs up my glasses. Initially, I found it a strange experience. I felt enclosed and separate to the environment around me. My environment was in my mask, as if I was contained in a bubble. I’ve got used to it since and made other adjustments to manage it better. It’s like most things, eventually, you adapt – though I’m looking forward to a time when I can take the mask off, go out for a beer and travel beyond the border.

For now, we’re stuck. There’s a 5km travel limit and a curfew at 8pm. These are strange times, and you only have to look around you to see that with everyone in a mask. Who’d have ever imagined this? This is a surreal moment in history we won’t soon forget. I’m fascinated to see the art that comes out of it.