We need an outbreak of cop-on
YOU could feel Michael McGrath’s pain. His monotonous, calming Cork lilt nearly cracked a few times as he fielded questions on Prime Time about the ban that is not a ban on home visits. And then he came out with it. “We are asking people to exercise common sense.”
And with that plaintive plea, he summed up so much. He summed up how it should all be so simple. But also how lost we all are. At any other time a plea for common sense might seem like a reasonable one. But all we could do was shake our heads, and mourn the past. Because we all know, deep in our hearts, that at this stage common sense has long bolted.
If everybody exercised common sense, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But common sense, like so many other aspects of our old lives, is gone for now. For some at least. The problem is, that small group could be enough to have us all locked down.
The circle of lack of common sense works like this: first people run around screaming that the sky is falling in and we are all going to die, endlessly consuming bad news, some people taking in the same bad news half-a-dozen times a day. But then, when the Government suggests we do something about it, they freak out. ‘It’s all too confusing’ is a popular line. ‘How come the children can go to school but I can’t go for coffee with two friends? How come I’m allowed go to the shop but I can’t have a party?’
Any new measures are immediately picked apart. People text into radio stations cleverly picking out anomalies in the rules. If we put the same effort into cutting down our social contacts as we do into picking holes in the rules, we’d have no Covid. We all know in our hearts what the spirit of the rules is, but something in our psyche wants to prove them wrong.
That would be all very well, if we weren’t demanding more rules. Apparently two-thirds of us want tighter restrictions. But then, when the Government tries to bring them in, we attack them. ‘ How can they be so irresponsible as to ignore Dr Tony. Let’s go to Level 5!’ segues easily into: ‘How can you stop home visits? The loneliness will kill people! What do you mean we can’t go trick or treating? They’ll cancel Christmas next. My kids need a playdate. It’s for their mental health! If only there were some way we could get these numbers down!’
Paschal Donohoe called it out on TV on Thursday when he was being harangued about the mental-health effects of the home-visit ban, and he pointed out, slightly crankily, that just two minutes earlier the interviewer had been asking him why we weren’t going to Level 5.
Maybe it’s time we all grew up. This is not a game. Yes, the restrictions are hard, and they’re harder on some. But the less we keep to the restrictions, the more restrictions we’ll need. A bit of common sense here could save Christmas, could save our health service, our economy, and our society. We are not children. As Dr Tony says, the Government can’t wash your hands for you.