Neil Oliver: Next few months will determine what society Britain really is

'[Vaccine passports] will not exclude me from anywhere I want to be... anywhere demanding such an abomination from any citizen is nowhere I would enjoy being'

Published Last updated

People are talking to me about the months ahead and the winter to come. Many fear a winter of discontent.

They dread the dark and what the dark might hold. The troubles of recent weeks have been hard enough, they say, while the sun has shone and it has been easy to be outside.

How will it be when the days are short and the nights are long? I say the autumn and the winter ahead will be what we choose to make them. It will be a test of who we are as people.

I say that in the most important ways, the winter should be the making of us. We are divided now. It is no longer just about physical divisions. Opinions have hardened to the extent that we cannot talk to each other.

These divisions run through families, between friends and neighbours. Such are the differences of opinion it has become easier to avoid people altogether. I say this has been no accident. Our leaders have done their utmost to drive wedges between us.

Apart from a few weeks at the beginning of it all, I say keeping us apart had nothing to do with health and everything to do with keeping us demoralised, fearful and helpless. When pressed they will say it was for our own good. I say it was a bad thing to do, that has had only bad results. I don’t believe the pubs and restaurants and the rest of the places folk meet to talk were ever a threat to health.

People who come together, might stay together. A stick on its own is easily broken, but a bundle of sticks is unbreakable. When we are physically together we communicate in ways that are impossible through a computer screen. We were stopped from gathering and so the glue holding communities together has flaked away.

Too many have been made strangers to each other, even enemies. Our leaders and their advisors are, I say, devoid of empathy – that ability to feel what others feel. Either that or they do not care what hurt they have caused, which is even worse. It’s time for faith leaders – more of them, at least, to speak up for the lonely and excluded.

Places of worship have a sacred obligation to open their arms. What is a church without a congregation after all – just an empty building. I say it is up to us now to come together – in every way we can – and remind ourselves and each other that there is no need to feel powerless, helpless. Each of us must find at least one other of like mind.

To begin with that one other might be enough. The important thing is to meet and to share, face to face. I will not abide by any more lockdown. I am not talking about militant action. My resistance will be peaceful and quiet.

Of all that has happened since last March, lockdown has hurt us most of all. Most people are in a worse place now than before – either in terms of their physical health, mental health, financial situation, relationships with family and friends, or a combination of all. Of all the ways, the enforced separation – the bar on being together with our fellow human beings has done most harm.

Too many people have been isolated. At home I have a basket filled with letters, more every day, from people who have had no one to talk to, to share thoughts with. I am glad they have written to me but it breaks my heart to know so many have found it best to send a letter to a face on the telly.

Having said that, I feel that every sender of every one of those letters is a friend of mine now, a kindred spirit. But that so much misery and anxiety has been heaped upon so many people, and for so long, is shameful.

The loneliness drips from the pages. I honestly can’t believe it has happened – that anyone, anywhere can look at our situation and think it’s been for the best. When it comes to vaccine passports I am way ahead of them.

By that I mean the introduction of vaccine passports, in my homeland of Scotland, will not exclude me from anywhere I want to be. I say that anywhere demanding such an abomination from any citizen is nowhere I would enjoy being anyway. If it comes to it, I would rather be outside in the open air. Let the wind blow and the rain fall, I don’t care. I would rather be out in the world, with others of like mind, than in any place demanding “Papers, please!”

I would no more seek access to a place demanding my papers than I would attend a dog fight. Those are not my kind of places. Venues and businesses that exclude – willingly or not and on account of government diktat, will fail. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon they will fail.

I have loved pubs, restaurants, theatres and the like – and when the atmosphere is right I will love them again. But this winter if they are closing their doors on those deemed unclean … then I will be elsewhere.

If I am at home, my door will not be barred. It will be open to my friends. Home is, anyway, my best place. Sometimes I will be in the homes of friends. In any event I will share space with those I love. We will share food and drink and bask in the warmth of fires and stoves.

We will talk about what is important. Our society grew out of such simple togetherness in the first place, thousands of years ago, and it will grow again from the same seed bed. I am not afraid – not of winter, not of long, dark nights.

The cure to all of our ills is togetherness, inclusion and not exclusion. I say it is simple and that we must find ways to be together. However scattered and isolated we may have been made to feel, we are many. We are enough.