So there you have it, a doctor, flanked by experts, is undermined by his political master, a lawyer, flanked by – well, if Peanuts Scicluna and the Boy Schembri are anything to go by – buffoons. Just in case cabin fever has got you, I’m talking about Minister Dr Chris Fearne and Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela.
On Thursday evening, Fearne all but ordered a lock-down of people over 65, people with certain vulnerabilities and the people who choose or have to live with them. On Friday evening, Abela rolled this way, way back, positioning himself as the good cop to Fearne’s bad cop, telling all and sundry that, hey, it’s ok to go out after all.
Go forth and let the virus multiply was his perceived message, for all that he tried to tell people that they should, really, stay home.
My day job, to the extent that day or night make a difference when you’re locked down (I am, because I should be and because people smarter than me tell me so) involves trying to keep people informed about certain aspects of the crisis, of its impact on them and answering their questions. Not a heroic endeavour, mark you, but it’s all I’m trained to do, and I try to do it to the best of my meagre capabilities.
Even with my guidance, such as it is, and even taking into account the sheer professionalism of my audience, the picture is wildly confusing. We get mixed signals, contradictory information and patchy communications: I’m not pointing fingers, because we know that many of the professionals within the executive are doing their very best in awful circumstances.
Now remember, this is a professional audience I’m talking about and professional colleagues who help each other to try to pick our way through quite a confusing forest, and we probably get it wrong as often as we get it right.
Fearne’s audience, and Abela’s audience, are not professionals. They are, in the main, consumers of Facebook and Xarabank.
So what are these people supposed to do?
Hunker down and make it work, somehow, taking the hard road that Fearne strongly suggested? Or holler “We’re free!!!” and charge off out onto the sunny uplands, prancing gaily down to the pharmacy and the grocer’s and, well, why not, stopping in the square for a quick natter.
No prizes for guessing which will prevail, thanks to Abela’s populism. A look around the Facebook comments after Fearne’s dour press conference on Thursday made it pretty damn clear that Abela’s constituency weren’t liking this one little bit.
The bean-counters probably bent his ear a little bit, telling him that while “the workers” were going to demand that someone pays them while they make their sacrifice, it was going to cost a fair bit of dosh, so he’d better be careful.
Listen, for all I know, Abela is right and it’s perfectly OK for people to go out and risk getting coronaed, it’s not as if they’re going to be in danger or anything. And frankly, if it was only their own lives they would be risking, again, it wouldn’t be any skin off my nose.
But it’s not: people who gallop off into the fresh air and swallow their nemesis are risking the lives of the people for whom they no doubt clapped and clapped and clapped last whenever it was.
They’re also going to take up valuable resources for those of us tried but failed to keep the bloody thing away.
Stay the fuck home, you bastards and don’t drag me down into the abyss of your ignorance.