When I was 15 I, like most of my peers, applied for my learner’s driving licence and took those first few forays into the world of cautious back-street car-park driving lessons. We scraped curbs. We stalled. We dinged letter-boxes. We bunnyhopped. We hit gateposts. There was the brilliant series of TV advertisements, and the slogan “If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot.” We got it, or we thought we did. We started to understand how our behaviour could be dangerous to ourselves, but also to other people. We understood cars could be weapons.
During any of that time did it occur to us that our freedom was being taken away? Did we think that drink driving should be celebrated with parades and fireworks, as evidence of a free and democratic society?
But could that be the problem? Perhaps we just didn’t know what was really going on. Were the advertisements and anti-drink-driving campaigns actually about a loss of democratic rights or freedoms, and we just didn’t see it?
Still, no. I reckon that we knew, and we still know now, that stopping people from drinking and driving keeps everyone – including the drinker – safer. And, by keeping everyone safer like this, everyone has more freedom than they would have otherwise. After all, your rights are not really about you.
And now here we are today, and the weapon of the moment is no longer the cars or the driving. It’s us. You and me. The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the bullet, the COVID-19 illness is the wound, but we are the guns. We are the carriers. We – whether we like it or not, whether we think it hurts our perception of freedom or not, whatever political party we support – we are the weapons. More than that – we are its only weapons. If people die, it’s because we’ve killed them. Our freedoms and our rights: killing hundreds, thousands, and, in a few days, millions. With our choices, with our behaviours. We are the weapons.
Don’t be a bloody idiot.