Save me from safety (rant)

Words change their meaning as we sail in this ship called life. No word really means the same thing to two different people, as our context and experience is so personal.

“CANCER”

There’s one. We’ve all got an image. Maybe we first think of a person, maybe ourselves, maybe a crab, maybe even a tropic on the side of a globe.

“HERO”

Well, that used to be easier. Spandex or camouflage, doing extraordinary things maybe. Although nowadays it has lost power. “Sober Hero” – “Food waste hero”. It is so overused it means nothing much.

“WICKED”

Well that has mostly gone back to being naughty, but there was a period in the nineties when it was well cool.

Right now though I’m stuck on this one:

“SAFE”

You can put money in one, or drop it on a cartoon cat. But I’m talking about the one we hear every day. The one that is supposed to be a state of being we desire so much that we will sacrifice liberties to get to it. Everybody has a different location for their “safe” though. Some might only feel safe if every eventuality is covered, and even then they worry. Personally, I’m my father’s son. He taught me safety. He taught me how to safely stand on top of a moving car. He taught me how to safely ski faster than anybody else on the mountain. I feel “safe” when I’m within my capacity, even if I’m at the limit of it. But I don’t aspire towards safety. I’m happy to be at risk a little bit. I don’t want to sign away too much for things that might happen. I’ll deal with them if they happen, so long as I’m within my capacity. Or I won’t manage. And so long as I survive, I’ll learn.

Ok, so if you said “I’ll give you £1000 if you can win a speed-sawing competition against this lumberjack!” I would decline as I wouldn’t feel safe racing with a circular saw. I’d be outside the limits of my known capacity and I love having arms. If it was a skiing competition, I’d give it a go even though I’d probably lose, because I’m aware of my limits enough that pushing them would likely not cause me to break my neck, and if I did it would be because of my own split second bad call on the depth of a mogul or the thickness of some ice.

I’m not going to foist my idea of safe on anybody else though. It’s mine. My capacity is mine, my understanding of my limits, mine. Some of you would nail me in in a speed-sawing competition and then I’d destroy you in a memory test. We are all so different and we all have different edges. We shouldn’t impose them on other people.

The police on Clapham Common last night are trying to tell us they overreacted in order to keep us safe. Again as if safety is the APEX of civilisation. NO! We deserve the opportunity to be a bit at risk. To hold a careful vigil during a pandemic and not be subjected to a show of force that is utterly disproportionate. We don’t need outside forces carrying clubs enforcing our safety… Urrgh. Save me from safety. Save us all from it. Let’s be a bit edgy, and just not be idiots.

I drove to Birmingham and back today, dropping off some bits and bobs for work. Lou came with, and we stopped outside her parents house to hand some flowers through the door. They have been vaccinated – both shots. They still don’t see anybody else and maybe it wasn’t safe for her to say hello to her mum on Mother’s Day and pass them presents – just like it isn’t safe for fathers to be present at the birth of their children even though they kissed their wife as she went into the hospital.

We didn’t hug them. We didn’t touch them. We let them guide the interaction and it involved distance despite both shots. For their safety? For ours?

This is not coming from them, it’s coming from some nebulous view of what is safe and what isn’t. We can get angry with unsafe people, perhaps. In this secular world, we can evangelise safety. But it means something different to everybody.

“Stay safe,” I get in email sign-offs, and I know that by the standards of the writer I’ve never been safe in my life. But by mine I have been. I just like the edges. I don’t want to have my voice taken away and replaced with a comforter. Gaahh

I’m not even drunk. This sort of rantfest is more familiar to drunk Al where I write angry shit about somebody I’ve just met and then pass out as soon as I hit publish.

But I just don’t want to be constantly told that the reason for an attack on our remaining liberties is for our safety. The police hit that vigil because they felt weakened by their implication in the case. They had complicated reasons as well, sure, to do with the rule of law and fear of losing control and misogyny and distaste for liberals and fear of being seen to do nothing. Safety was just a word used to justify an overreaction. If we stop thinking of safety as an aspirational state it can’t be used an excuse anymore…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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