Beware the simplicity of ignorance - especially at a time like this
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Beware the simplicity of ignorance - especially at a time like this

IT has been the strangest of times.

It is not just the world suffering beneath a pandemic, which if nothing else has been a stark reminder of our shared human existence on this shared planet.

Actually, if it was just that, things might be a bit more straightforward.

No, because this is not just the age of Covid, this is the age of Trump and Brexit too.

All three things have reminded all of us that we exist beyond our own place, our own borders, our own countries.

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One thing, too, that all three things have shared is that they have born the mark of ignorance, untruth, and stupidity.

That might sound harsh but, unfortunately, it is also true.

Covid deniers have run rampant with their various distortions of the facts.

In their world Covid is either a hoax or masks kill you or the coming vaccine is an attempt to control us all.

There are a lot of Irish people, waving tricolours, spouting this, as if, in this new world, it is not experts in medicine who know the truth but experts in social media.

Way before Covid, of course, Donald Trump had happily been rampaging through truth, fact and intelligence.

He started how he meant to go on by declaiming, despite all evidence, including photographic, that his inauguration had been the biggest ever.

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The facts didn’t matter, the obvious truth didn’t matter, and bigly, intelligence didn’t matter either.

Alongside him travelled Brexit which even Brexiteers admitted, £350 million a week in savings on leaving the EU, was based on campaigning untruths.

The Prime Minister of the UK is a liar is, indeed, not even a contentious thing to write. It is a fact.

Of course, he throws in a few sub-Churchillian slogans and a few classic phrases from his elite, expensive education and thinks this is a replacement for intelligence.

In the meantime even the DUP, who slavishly and rather fawningly greeted him at their conference, can tell you how much Boris Johnson’s word is worth.

So, to stand out amongst this crowded field takes some doing.

Step forward British Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, last heard of on this island when, in relation to Derry’s Bloody Sunday and the possible trials of soldiers, he talked of  ‘spurious prosecutions’.

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Well, Williamson, as we all sit and wait, hoping this is the beginning of the end of the Covid age, has truly managed to make his mark.

This is what he had to say about a vaccine being made in Belgium by a company from the USA and first approved by the British authorities.

"I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have.

"That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them."

Which is kind of, let’s be honest, Brexit in a sentence.

Deluded, childish, immature expressions of superiority, words that wouldn’t really befit a child, never mind a member of a functioning government in a functioning democracy.

So, even as the first member of the UK public to take the vaccine turns out to be a woman from Fermanagh, taking the jab in Coventry, emphasising again the intrinsic links between these two islands, Williamson’s words echo.

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It is not that patriotism is necessarily the preserve of the foolish but more that the foolish are excessively attracted by its simplicities.

Look at Gavin Williamson proclaiming that a possible vaccine rollout for Covid-19, produced in Belgium by an American company, is a victory for Brexit.

Or ‘because of Brexit’ according to the British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.

The best we can hope is that, much like Covid, this age of dumbed down patriotism and defiance of facts, is a passing phase.

Because the truth is, much like Covid, no matter what country we are in, this stupidity and fondness for ignorance can infect us all.

For the rest of us, as citizens, we have a social duty. To resist it.