The State of Disaster might have finally been lifted but we are still not free

The State of Disaster finally lifted this week – 750 days after it was imposed. To mangle the late great Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s immortal phrase, “we are free, free at last”.

But are we? 

We are free from are the ‘family meetings’, which we might end up hankering for as we trudge steadily into the new normal. We are free now from having cartoon villains in the cabinet to blame for nonsensical regulations that irritate us. Now we only have ourselves to blame. 

We’re not free of the nonsense; of the conspiracy theories and pettiness. We’re not free of the inequalities that really came to the fore very quickly when we went into lockdown. The growing masses of people who can’t find a job won’t feel they are any freer than they were last week.

Perhaps the bigger question is what have we learnt?

No sooner had Ramaphosa announced that the mask wearing indoors would continue for the next 30 days as an interim measure, the bedwetters of the twitterverse; adults who’ve never outgrown being cheeky to their teachers in the leafy suburban classrooms, were planning their own little acts of defiance. It’s the same WhatsApp group as the anti-vaxxers and the self-taught virologists quaffing delousing elixirs. 

The whole point of the mask was not so much as to protect ourselves as it was to protect everyone. Two years ago; the apt analogy was of two men standing next to one another, naked. If the one peed on the other, the other got wet. If the one being peed on was dressed, he’d still get wet but perhaps not as much. If the person peeing was dressed, the other person stayed dry.

It was the same with vaccinations. If we all got vaccinated, the virus would eventually stop mutating and become far less virulent. It would still be easily transmissible but the effects would be that much less severe. If we don’t get vaccinated, the virus will mutate and take longer to die out. More people will be hospitalised. More will die, needlessly.

Getting vaccinated wasn’t about us, it was about all of us – which is obviously why so few people ended up actually getting jab despite moaning beforehand about the government’s lack of a vaccine plan.

My friend Gasant Abarder pointed out in a column earlier this week that there is a rare confluence of the major faiths’ festivals this month. This should be a time to reflect and to channel the incredible generosity we witnessed especially in the first year of lockdown.

Soup kitchens and blanket donations for the homeless as Autumn starts to bite would be great, but the most meaningful is the simplest: wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. 

And, let’s stop deluding ourselves, if people don’t want to wear masks and want to be free – why aren’t they heading back to the rugby in droves now that the mega stadiums can take in excess of 20 000 people?

Or was that, like rotisserie chicken and open toed sandals, only ever just another excuse to bitch?

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 9 April 2022.