You laugh with your friends about the evils of capitalism and get drunk off your face discussing progressive ideals. You miss a day of sixth form to attend a climate change rally and of course you post a black box on Instagram. You’re such a good person that you would even sign a petition about the importance of signing petitions and never forget to put the link to that petition of signing petitions into your Instagram bio. But how much of your self-proclaimed, self-endorsed twenty-first century branded liberalism is really a window into your social consciousness?
Would you really stay inside for a week for the sake of your university in order to reduce the spread of a deadly virus if you thought there was no chance you had it? Would you really stop going to pubs and clubs in order to protect that old couple that always walks past college? Would you really, when it counts, actually give up your social life for the sake of the local community for a whole ten days, and not think to complain? The answer for many reading this is almost definitely and undeniably: no.
The pandemic has forced our instantly gratified generation to give up a host of privileges simply for the sake of others…
When I tested positive for Covid-19, I was met with a Fresher’s worst nightmare: the Track and Trace form. It is the deadliest, snakiest and most friendship compromising concept. I was suffering from overwhelming fatigue, nausea and the loss of smelling capability yet the most challenging aspect of this disease was the politics of the Track and Trace form. Knowing that I would be putting my new friends into isolation for a week planted a feeling of gnawing guilt in my stomach. Who to put down? Which person for which day? I received Snapchats asking when I was putting them down. Should I put their mental health before the greater public health? Moral dilemmas swirled around my dizzy mind as my health was diminishing. Then, it dawned on me that for so many weeks, for so many days here, we had allowed our selfish pursuits of having a great “Freshers” experience take priority over the morals we had always sworn we lived by.
Never before our first year at university have many of us truly had to give up a privilege in order to fight for what’s right. Yes, we may dye our hair for Pride marches, but we can only march in the trails blazed by the activists in the 1980s who died for this cause. Yes, we encourage people to vote, but women* can only vote because of our ancestors who threw themselves in front of horses to reach that ballot box. Yes, we miss school to go to climate marches, but we can always catch-up on the work we missed – and that was always a bit of a social anyway. For the first time, the pandemic has forced our instantly gratified generation to give up a host of privileges simply for the sake of others and people are not reacting in the way their performative social media posts would suggest.
…how much of your self-proclaimed, self-endorsed twenty first century branded liberalism is really a window into your social consciousness?
People are whining, fighting and biting each other’s heads off for having to isolate just because a stranger in your household is infected. Luckily, I have been blessed with the most understandable household, but for others, in the midst of our British, individualised culture we are suddenly forced into taking social responsibility for people we don’t even know. The framework of our society encourages egocentrism in all fields of life and so when we are told we have to stay inside for – not even our friends – but our household acquaintances, many respond in anger: ”I swear I’ve never spoken to her in my life” screamed outside my friend’s door and “this makes no sense”. Additionally, whilst people are posting in support for the NHS, they are contributing to the shaming culture surrounding tests because a household member getting a positive result might impede on their shagging. I once even overheard “why is everything against me in this world?” Mmm… you are a white cis straight man, who was privately educated and are now studying at Oxford University: you’re right, God must really hate you.
We had allowed our selfish pursuits of having a great “Freshers” experience take priority over the morals we had always sworn we lived by.
So, the next time you think about clapping for the NHS, think about whether you have really played your part in protecting the community. The next time you post in support of intersectional feminism, think about whether you have really been protecting the “vulnerable” sections of society. The next time you think about pressuring someone not to get a test even though they have Covid symptoms, try thinking about others before yourself. Freshers hasn’t been easy and it’s never magnified your new friends’ morals in the same way, but try to stick to your brand of being progressive and caring about the world. Although I may not be able to smell anymore, I can still overwhelmingly taste how sour your Champagne activism is.