Neil Oliver: Our leaders have abused their relationship with us

'Every time something bad happened it was our government that felt let down, hurt most. Always it was because we had broken the rules. We could not be trusted to know what was best'

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Abusive relationships are abhorrent and I do not say what I am about to say lightly. I know for many, the captivity of lockdown has greatly increased the suffering and the risk. But in my opinion - I say, we are in a version of an abusive relationship with our leaders. The trust is gone – and when trust goes it never really comes back.

A vase dropped and smashed might be glued together again but you’d never put water and flowers in it. A lot of us feel like we’re going mad.

Lockdown made us isolated and kept us isolated. I say that this was deliberate and crucial to the strategy of them keeping us right where they wanted us. We couldn’t get together with loved ones to talk all of it through. That’s classic abusive behaviour – that made us feel more alone and intensified the feeling of being dependent on our government.

There was, after all, no one else. Our government told us one thing one day – promised it was the absolute truth and we could count on it one hundred percent. And then the next day the story was changed and when any of us queried it we were shouted down for being mad, conspiracy theorists.

Professor Chris Whitty once told us this disease posed a threat almost exclusively to the very old, and the very ill. From what I can make out, that is still the case. Masks were not needed, they said, way back in March 2020, since they "reduced the risk almost not at all."

There would never be vaccine passports, they said, because those were divisive and an affront to every notion of liberty. The young – the very young especially – had more to fear from missing school than from Covid, they said.

Now masks are apparently what all compassionate people wear. Vaccine passports seemingly the only way to go on holiday or get to a gig, or to a place of worship. And double jabs for vulnerable children and babies loom larger and larger.

It has been like trying to put together a jigsaw, but one from which too many pieces are missing and the picture on the box changes every day. When we look confused and want to ask a question now, we get that look, that look that means we should quieten down, right now. Everything bad was our fault.

Every time something bad happened it was our government that felt let down, hurt most. Always it was because we had broken the rules. We could not be trusted to know what was best. That was the government’s job.

We are too stupid, apparently. We should leave it up to them. What do we mean we want to go to work outside the house – earn our own money? Don’t we know how that makes our government feel? Our government is working so hard.

And yet even now there are millions of us who still haven’t got the message. Let’s take this idea of mine, about an abusive relationship a little further: Those like us – born and raised here in the West – have known generations of peace.

We look back at our parents and grandparents, as it were, and see good, strong marriages, between people and state. We have assumed that our relationships would be the same as those. Because we were born to trust. We are what sociologists call a “High Trust Society” – and among the first in the world.

That elevated level of trust might work if you’re in a good relationship with a trustworthy partner. If you’re with someone who betrays all of that trust, then you’re especially vulnerable to the old tricks. We were born to trust – to assume our government would always have our best interests at heart. For me, this past year has been made hardest of all by the steady realisation, day by day and week by week, that our trust has been misplaced, and then abused.

I receive a lot of letters. It’s been going on for many months and I have kept every one. Hundreds and hundreds of letters and cards. The game, for a game it has been to some extent, is to avoid using anything like a formal address. And so, onto the envelopes the senders put doodles of me, or descriptions like “The long-haired guy who walks around the coast,” or, “Him off the telly” or even just, “You know who, Stirling”.

My postman has done the most excellent job of making sure they reach me. It’s been the best of fun and uplifting to the spirits of my family and me. Every day my kids go to the door to check for the latest arrivals.

Inside many of the envelopes, though – behind the fun – are serious words. More than half of all the letters I’ve received have been moving beyond my powers of description. If there’s been a recurrent theme it runs along the lines of: "I thought I was going mad'; "I thought it was just me,"; "I have had nowhere to turn for help and I’ve felt so alone."

Others tell stories of loss – loss of jobs, of friends, of hope itself – people whose lives have been turned upside down and inside out by this past year and more of upheaval. The letters have come from every corner of the British Isles, and also from thousands of miles away. I’ve had them from Australia and New Zealand, from all over Europe, from Asia. Many have come from the USA and Canada.

Flowing through many of the letters, too many of them indeed, is the sound of confusion and awful, awful sadness and loneliness.There’s so much more I could say but it boils down to this.

We are not alone if we look beyond our own walls and see that there are millions more like us – just as confused and, underneath it all, filled with righteous anger. If you tolerate this your children will be next is from the Spanish Civil War. It was on a poster used by the Republicans in the fight against Fascism.

I say - if you want to survive an abusive relationship, the day comes when all you can do is take the children and walk away from the old life.