WHY this is the most AWKWARD time in history and it REQUIRES VERY BIG PANTS

I s this the most socially awkward time we have ever lived through? Crikey things are very tense I am finding, are you feeling the same?

The pandemic has been the biggest shared experience in the planet’s history since that meteor took out the dinosaurs but now we are being whiplashed to the polar opposite. As Covid precautions become a matter of personal choice and judgement the air is rife for division and fear.

On one side people are scared that their freedom is being attacked and on the other people are scared they might die.

So do I go in for a hug at last or will that be a threat to your life?

Hug or death, pretty extreme. How do we meet in the middle when these fundamentals are what is at stake?

The Democracy Perception Index 2021 surveyed 53 countries covering 75% of the World’s population and concluded that 53% have “concern that governments are doing too much to limit freedoms during COVID” , that’s not just a minority bunch of protesters . However another survey shows people believe in some action because 70% of people report that they always or frequently wear a mask when they leave home.

In America 71% of Americans do not believe the pandemic is over which must mean therefore that almost a third of US citizens believe it is over. How do you govern a country where personal freedom is valued so highly with such a pressure cooker of tensions?

Well at Camerados we’ve got some ideas but first let’s recognise that there are very real, on the ground implications to all this if you are planning ANYTHING involving people right now — events, festivals, weddings and our own work.

In our movement we have been planning months of street activism around the UK. “Camerados on the streets” is a chance to come off Zoom and get together to remind ourselves that outside of sensible pandemic precautions isolation is not the answer to tough times and that in fact-finding ways to be more human and connect better is what’s going to get us through, now more than ever. However our tiny team is worried.

Camerados On The Streets

Are people going to be angry that we’re promoting this kind of face to face stuff right now?

When I asked Twitter the response was very positive, people saying that we all really need it right now, face-to-face human connection, but also that they were happy that we were doing it outdoors and taking precautions. Everyone agreed it was a balance but that it was worth the risk.

Well that has been tested already.

I wrote the first version of this blog a week ago and yesterday — Day Two of a holiday with my wife and three kids — I got a phonecall to say that someone who came along to our “Camerados On the Streets” in Wolverhampton had tested positive for Covid and was really ill. The poor camerado is having a rough time but is on the mend — they caught COVID before our event — but now, of course, there are implications for all of us. I’m writing this addendum back at home, in 10-day self-isolation, while my family enjoy the seaside without me. Lots of other people from Friday are doing the same and we’ve had to postpone our next event on the streets because our team members are isolating.

So was it worth it?

Well I really think it was. It is always worth revisiting the precautions we take and of course we will do that — and I’m sure we will dial it up a bit — but we are not going to stop. This is the only way through the awkwardness.

Of course I wish I was holding my 10 year old’s bucket and spade right now but I also know we had many damn fine conversations and connections with strangers on Friday. We shared our troubles, our differing opinions, our bad jokes and our dance moves so to say that isn’t worth it would be to say humanity isn’t worth it. Strangers looking out for each other is everything we believe in, if we don’t connect like this and have conversations then we are NEVER going to break the polarised deadlock that exists right now.

And if we don’t break the deadlock then massive issues like freedom, vaccination, racism, climate change and so on are going to carry on being conducted at high decibels, temples bulging with zero progress. For people to stop hating each other we have to get out there and use the four most useful words in the English language: Put The Kettle On. And when the kettle is boiled and we sit down together let’s consider this:

Is it better to be right or to be kind?

It’s unlikely all of us hold senior positions in government or NHS so maybe our opinions on the pandemic are less important than we think they are. When someone opposite you is paralysed with fear because you don’t want to observe the same precautions wouldn’t it be nicer just to respect their wishes? Maybe they’ve got a sick kid at home and don’t want to give them Covid, would knowing that change your approach?

Or if someone feels deceived and oppressed by the Government maybe don’t mock them as conspiracy nuts or lecture them on infection rates just respect that they feel powerless, which is scary, and they might have all sorts going on in their life. Would knowing that they’ve lost everything in the pandemic change how you talk to them?

Holding strong and definite views is everyone’s right but when it just becomes a bile-ridden game of noughts and crosses — I tweet, you scream back, no victor, no point, just causing harm — then I fail to see the point. So can I ask everyone to consider — just now and again- joining the “Who the Fuck Knows Club” ?

The WFK club — or camerados as we call it — is where we say “I don’t know” and “I’m a bit shit sometimes” and “What’s your favourite biscuit?”.

You don’t just disarm the haters you also give others permission to feel unsure and for that to be OK. What a massive gift you are giving someone by doing that. Sadly NOBODY is doing that.

Shouting Before Listening is the big thing right now. Judging Before Listening was top of the charts in human behaviour during the post Brexit, Trump era and Shooting Before Listening has always been big in US Law enforcement, but Shouting Before Listening is the Dua Lipa of Covid times, a human behaviour chart topper.

A man wearing a yellow knitted hat with a knitted beard poses with his arms on his hips. The t-shirt states “I’m a bit shit sometimes”.
Maff Potts

So this is why we propose wearing large, over-sized underpants in the street.

We think that by having more laughter and less fear we can possibly get through this minefield of confusing social behaviour. So you will continue to see very large underwear swinging in the wind from bunting or hanging from lamp posts as part of our “Camerados On The Streets” activism. We will be wearing frilly knickers and Y-Fronts whilst performing a flash mob outside your shopping centre because one thing we can all agree on is that the pandemic has been pants — for your freedoms or for your health — and the question our underwear sporting camerados are asking is: “When Life is Pants what gets you through?”. The most common answer of course is: Each other.

We can get through this incredibly awkward and troubling time in our history if we sit down together and look out for each other. So put the kettle on — and your very big pants.

Two young men smile wearing a giant pair of pants. A sign next to them states “When Life Is Pants…Be A Camerado”

Click here to find out more about the camerados movement.

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AUTHOR

Maff Potts is founder of the Camerados movement and a Director of Association of Camerados, the small team that supports the movement — www.camerados.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaffPotts

Camerados:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/camerados.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Camerados_org
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/camerados_org/

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