The long awaited date of Monday 19th July 2021 came and went with very mixed reactions across England. Widely known as `Freedom Day`, it heralded the end of almost all legal restrictions on social contact. Instead, the emphasise now focuses on individual responsibility and common sense to keep people safe. But how will this freshly acquired liberty affect us after so many months of lockdown?
For a few, Freedom Day was purely academic as they never really adhered to the rules anyway as seen in news clips of hectic house parties, disorderly demonstrations, boisterous barbeques and riotous behaviour during political or sporting events. However, for the majority of the responsible populace it was a day when they could take back the freedoms that we have enjoyed and taken for granted since the end of WW2.
But how willing are we to completely abandon the safeguards and protective measures that were in place for so long? Most of us will be familiar with the Stockholm Syndrome, where a hostage forms a psychological bond with their captors. In the original situation that gave the syndrome it’s name back in 1973, hostages held during a bank raid defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify against them. So, it’s possible that some of us will be reluctant to cast off the bonds that bound us during lockdown and continue in the ways that we have now come accustomed too.
Not inclined to wait any longer, were the clubbers who queued outside their favourite nightspots in anticipation of the clocks to turn midnight and for Freedom Day to begin. Film clips showed revellers packed tightly into venues across England with no sign of masks or social distancing. On leaving in the early hours some young customers described the occasion as the best experience of their lives.
Locally, we are still seeing the likes of coffee shops and retailers asking their staff to continue to wear masks. On shop floors we still see the footprints guiding us around the one way systems that most of us have tried to follow and of course the plastic screens that divide us and compound problems for those with hearing loss. Outside on the pavements, the sprayed on instructions to keep two metres apart now look worn and tired but still remind us of the sense of Disturbia that many of us felt on the street.
During a recent visit after July 19 to Seaton, East Devon, I witnessed family groups and couples wonderfully spaced out on the beach as if the wide gaps between them had been carefully measured. Queues for ice cream and fish and chips were socially distanced and good humoured and people were giving each other space on the pavements. So is it possible that the shift from the rule of law and regulation to one of individual responsibility and common sense actually might work or was I viewing mankind on a good day?
So, the question of whether people have the confidence to return to some kind of normal life still remains largely unanswered. If we are hesitant, I feel it’s not surprising in view of the devastation the pandemic has brought to thousands of families across the country. However, our road to complete freedom is not a straight one as it’s full of twists and turns in the form of misinformation, conspiracy theories, myths and superstition which hamper our journey. We have been urged to go with the science, which seems good advice on the surface except that science may be found to be the cause of this mess in the first place – we will see.
Why `Merdeka`? As many will know, Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning `free` or `independent` and is derived from the Sanskrit `maharddik`. It sounds good to me.
© David Trott TAP Council Member