By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Many people seem to be suffering feelings of anxiety and distress over the new, stricter lock down measures being imposed across the UK in order to contain the spread of the Covid virus. As a disabled person, I can understand this since it mirrors the feelings many disabled people suffer when they are faced with living a restricted life due to their disability. I’m afraid there is no magic bullet to cure these feelings. All I can say is that every individual must come to terms with it in their own way, but equally, we should all do our best to empathise and also to point out that such things are not the end of the world. Indeed, unless you are living with a permanent disability, a brighter future lies on the horizon in the shape of the several vaccines which should soon become more widely available and thus allow restrictions to be eased if not abolished. Bearing that in mind, celebrating Christmas without your family around you is perhaps a small price to pay.

Having said that, this whole fiasco is, I believe, yet another symptom of an inherent problem in British society. In my opinion, it is British Exceptionalism, which is always tainted by racism, which lies at the heart of the bungling of Boris Johnson’s decisions. It is this particular way of thinking which has caused the unnecessary distress to so many people.

Let me explain.

Some time ago, Boris Johnson got it into his head that Christmas had to be as normal as possible. This was despite followers of minority religions needing to observe their own festivals under strict lock down rules. Christmas was, Johnson decided, different. Whether that decision was reached because of a fundamental Christian outlook or, as I suspect, a feeling that Christmas is a British tradition and therefore must be seen to be treated specially, does not really matter. I suspect the latter because the Tories are great ones for British traditions, so Johnson decided that Christmas had to be saved whatever the scientists said.

I wrote at the time of the initial announcement that I felt the Scottish and Welsh Governments had agreed reluctantly in order not to be cast as the Christmas Grinches when Johnson announced the five day relaxation. Nicola Sturgeon, in particular, made it clear she was not happy even though she was going along with it.

But, as many scientists have kept pointing out, the virus does not respect human wishes. Johnson clung to his decision far too long before giving in to reason. It is this late change of mind which has caused many of the complaints now being expressed. People have made plans, only to have them whisked away at the last moment. Expectations and hopes were raised under false pretences, and now those have been shattered. That is what has caused much of the current misery. It is, as the saying goes, the Hope that kills you.

This could have been largely avoided had Boris Johnson announced weeks ago that Christmas would not be an occasion for relaxation of the rules. That would have been hard for many people, but at least they could have planned for it. Instead, in his desire to be seen as the upholder and protector of British traditional values, he created a situation which was always fraught with problems. This was British Exceptionalism at its worst, thinking that the virus could be suspended by waving red, white and blue flags, wearing paper hats and listening to the Queen’s speech. I hasten to add that I will be doing none of those things on Christmas Day. Well, I may be forced to wear a paper hat, but I’ll ditch it as soon as I can.

Quite apart from the fiasco of covid Christmas, a greater problem for all of us is that Johnson has adopted a very similar outlook in his attitude towards the Brexit negotiations. He has ignored realities and pressed on as if a fundamental belief in the superiority of British ways of acting will overcome any hurdles. He is as wrong about that as he has been about Christmas.

So, Christmas will, for many of us, be different this year. But it is just one day. An important one, especially if you have young children, but it is one we will need to cope with. We’ve come a long way, and there’s still a way to go, but don’t let your dismay cloud your vision. Vaccines offer a much better hope than Boris Johnson’s bumbling words ever can. Stick it as best you can, and do your best to enjoy whatever type of Christmas you face in the knowledge that a few more months should see the roll out of the vaccine.

Let’s all try not to face this season greetin’. Enjoy the day if you can, and help your loved ones do the same, even if your contact is restricted to phone calls or video chats. And remember that, for most people, things could be a lot worse.