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We All Are COVID Cops Now

Amid the ongoing debate about COVID-19 restrictions and when to lift them, an interesting argument has emerged among certain members of the chattering class—one where the entire discussion is already obsolete because the restrictions under discussion don’t actually exist. It is a strange thing to mention the idea of returning back to normal. “We’re already there!”

The glimpse is of a world where COVID can be forgotten unless the news comes on. Imagine a world that takes kids to gymnastics classes and birthday parties. It also includes weekend trips at the zoo or Sunday brunches. Substack contributor Alex Pareene describes the beautiful view that can be seen from this location:

A flight to Bermuda could be booked for $107. Yesterday’s loss to the Knicks was witnessed by a supporter who was seen at the game, listening on mute to The Office. Que Viet Vietnamese Restaurant, Minneapolis’ mainstay, will open a St. Paul branch. It is known for its giant egg roll on sticks and Minnesota State Fair-recorded Minnesota State Fair sales. Scream is currently the most popular movie in America.

This all sounds very natural.

It must—and it all sounds very nice. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that an individual living in the world would write an essay entitled “We’re all trying to locate the guy that polices our behaviour.” This implies that the guy does not exist.

It’s much easier for small businesses or service workers to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. All you have to do is look in the mirror.

Pareene wrote that most restrictions on our behavior, and the behavior of many other Americans have one thing in common. They aren’t being placed on us by powerful authority figures. While it is true in some ways, the statement remains fundamentally disconnected from reality. There are many restrictions, including vaccine passports, mask mandates and vaccination passports. AreWe are imposed by authorities, but these government officials have given enforcement authority to individuals.

This is a clever ruse. It’s a clever ploy to hide the truth. inflicting punishmentOn those who do not follow the rules. However, who is the only person that spits in their anger at being deprived of their basic rights? Your flight attendant, minimum wage cashier, and your restaurant manager are all examples of this.

It isn’t necessarily a good thing for everybody. Some people—the Brooklyn bouncer who reportedly turned away a patron for being vaccinated with an inferior brand, the flight attendant who’s just a little too stoked about banning two-year olds who don’t wear their masks correctly—are all too happy not just to wield this power but to abuse it. For those who have never wanted to be a cop, the constant reminder of how far things can get is a source of stress.

In this group, I also belong. My job is to instruct group exercise classes in a small town that enforces a mask requirement. It’s exhausting, but also frustrating. If people ask me “Who are you policing?”, I want them to shout “It’s ME!” That’s who I am. I hate it!” The Mask Police has been assigned to me by the mayor in my hometown, and I don’t care if it is what I choose.

It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s merely the extension of an existing impulse. Since the start of the lockdown people have been monitoring and spying on their neighbors almost as a hobby. Reporting your neighbours for not complying isn’t just becoming a common practice. It’s also a way people can temporarily feel like they have control over something after feeling helpless and hopeless from the past two years. This enthusiasm is not limited to the blue states or pandemic policy. The Texas new abortion law is an example. This Texas law was not intended to be enforced only by DAs, police or other officers but rather by anyone who has the ability and desire to interfer in others’ lives.

The catch-22 is that you have power even during a pandemic. These mandate imposing authorities are constantly being shouted at. Get involved They need to stop the spread of an extremely contagious virus which they know is impossible to control. But they aren’t looking for the backlash. Something doesn’t work. My town’s case rate will continue rising in spite of the mask mandate. Nobody will ever admit that this policy was flawed. Instead, it will be blamed on both the people who refused to comply with the rules and those small business owners who made them not follow.

When ordinary people do the dirty work of enforcing the rules, the people who made those rules get to maintain the illusion of clean hands—aided by the narrative that nothing about this is abnormal at all, that there’s nothing to see here, that this is how things have always been.