Life right now needs no introduction, we’ve heard it all. It’s strange, weird, and uncertain times and yes, admittedly it’s also scary times. We’ve all experienced fears and anxieties in our lives but I can say with certainty that none of us will have experienced anything remotely similar to this before. While many of us will not be in the same boat, we are on the same journey – so none of us know what the “right” way to react is; we’re all a little bit lost and confused.
“If knowledge is power, then I guess we’re powerless.”
While we’re pushing through each day trying to survive and make it out the other end unscathed, the one thing we rely on more than anything is support, information, and above all, clarity. But, it seems that is the one thing we are not getting. If knowledge is power, then I guess we’re powerless.
When things are falling apart we look to higher powers to guide us through, whether it be your parents, religion, the leaders governing your country, or all three. But life is inherently unpredictable, now more than ever, so to expect full-proof plans and predications during such uncertainty would be unrealistic. But to expect honesty, facts and trust should not be so far-fetched. So why aren’t we given it, and instead fed only half-truths? Is it possible we’re viewed as just too stupid to comprehend all the real facts and are instead provided with information deemed stable enough for us to grasp?
Daily we seek to find clarity from our government, we tune into the news, read the papers and scroll through Twitter desperately looking for honest answers and some insight into what we can all do to protect our future. We want to help and we want to do everything that is right for our situation, yet more often than not we find more confusion, instability, and dodged questions. It is almost as though it is believed that the public cannot be trusted nor educated enough to grasp the decisions that we must make. No, instead we are given vague, ambiguous “speeches”, dripping in faux inspiration encouraging us to go out and beat coronavirus on determination and war-like spirit alone.
But we don’t need inspirational pep talks building up the hype of indestructible British strength, we need truthful and honest leadership, giving it to us straight. We can handle it. Can we not be trusted with the details and truth that will affect our own lives? More than ever we are losing faith in our leaders, and as they choose to treat us like idiots they cannot help but mirror that effect back onto themselves.
And trust is falling rapidly. YouGov has carried out surveys that show decreased satisfaction with the government. Between the 23rd and 25th of May, 42% of people disapproved of the actions of the UK government.
A lot of this is to do with the actions taken by the government over the last few days which speak volumes to the government’s interpretation of the British opinion. A large majority of the country are expressing their anger, their annoyance, and the devastation of their own personal sacrifices they made in order to follow the given advice. Yet rather than acknowledging and consider the pain of the nation, they have instead chosen to deem our upset as a “distraction”, as the Prime Minister indicated on Wednesday night that we should just “move on”. Seemingly the issue has taken up enough of his time and public outrage on this issue no longer matters. Pete Wishart challenged the Prime Minister on Wednesday night saying he has managed to “unite a nation in condemnation and indignation.” And he’s not wrong.
This morning Health Secretary Matt Hancock was seen on live television hysterically laughing when the suggestion arose that there may have been some dishonesty and covering up to protect Dominic Cummings. An opportunity to be truthful and honest with the public yet he chose to sit there in arrogance, laughing and shaking his head at the mere thought he was not correct. We’re the idiots, not him. Even remaining with a smirk stretched across his face as Kay Burley implored him to explain, stressing “I don’t think my viewers know, I think they are as confused as I am!” No kidding. The Prime Minister’s speech this evening wasn’t much clearer as restrictions in England have now been loosened further despite the R number still sitting between 0.7 and 0.9. Weren’t we told the R number was kind of a big deal? That to loosen restrictions would require the number to drop further? Yet it hasn’t, and here we are.
Boris Johnson’s first exit strategy message to the nation, took the form of a pre-recorded message, alluding to some changes but all we got was ten minutes. Eight minutes of relaying information that we’ve heard before, and two indicating what changes would occur. No opportunity for questioning, no time for clarification, and ample room for misinterpretation. Even members of the cabinet were uncertain as they faced the media the following morning all giving their own interpretations. Not to forget the change of slogan and it’s colours; from red and yellow to green and yellow. Presumably with the intent to subliminally trick us all to believe everything is getting better, the warning period is over and to ignore all the data that suggests otherwise?
But why not just give the whole truth? Be upfront. Own up to mistakes. Because dancing around the issue and trying to hide wrongdoing from the public is not working.
Because not being upfront with the public can have disastrous results. Speaking to USA Today Dr. Michael Osterholm warns leaders, “Don’t sugar-coat things. Just tell the truth […] Just tell the truth. What we do know, what we don’t know… Don’t minimise it.” The dangers of not informing the public fully can leave people not grasping the seriousness, or realising the truth of what is yet to come. By keeping the full truth at bay, Osterholm warns, health is at risk. But the Prime Minister’s Twitter is just full of quasi-hopeful messages ensuring that “we are past the peak!” and encouraging us to “keep working together to beat this.” Not to mention his not so skillful tact of dodging every difficult question instead of giving an honest answer.
As someone living in Scotland, the comparison is next to none. While no one can always make the right decisions, regardless of politics or personal opinion, the leadership shown by our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is a comfort to all. Daily the Scottish people are provided with truth, clarity, and an abundance of information. Warnings that we are still at risk, truthful conversations at where we are going, and how long this is likely to last. And trust on both sides of the conversation are evident: another poll by YouGov shows that three-quarters of the country approve of how Scotland is handling Coronavirus and have more confidence in Nicola Sturgeon than Boris Johnson to make right decisions regarding Coronavirus.
Yet for the majority of the country, we do not have that. So we must continually look to journalists who are pushing past the “good question, well done” softeners fighting for the truth, and holding any government to account. And we too can push for truth, educating ourselves and allowing ourselves the power of knowledge.