Where Is the Public Square in the COVID Era?

 

Lockdowns are coming back and blue-state authoritarians keep granting exemptions to their friends but not their struggling subjects. We all know the impact this has economically and on our dignity. But the hypocrisy of politicians and their buds enjoying lavish entertainment together despite their own restrictions opens a new gap: the social and intellectual stimulation of a public square is available to the few, but not to the masses.

I’m not in a situation to blow my savings at The French Laundry—“Maybe one day,” I sigh to myself. But what’s being withheld by not letting us go to The French Laundry or its more-affordable equivalents goes beyond just entertainment. But we don’t wine-and-dine only for the pleasure of it, and certainly not for survival. We often do so because it’s a manifestation of the public square—a place not in the home where ideas are exchanged, motivations are explained, and alliances are formed.

Restaurants themselves are an example of the exchange of ideas—our greatest chefs are great because they come up with culinary ideas that you would not have realized yourself. But that’s only a minor function of these public places. The great businesspeople of the distant or recent past didn’t invite potential partners they barely knew to their homes, nor to a Zoom call; they invited them out to lunch. The great writers as recently as the year 1 P.C. (Pre-COVID) didn’t just move from the living room to the kitchen when they had writer’s block. They went out to cafés, or bars, or the park, with the company of friends or strangers surrounding them. The public square is critical as a place of exchange, as neutral ground, as an entertainment venue, or as a place to clear your head from the repetition of the home.

So where is the public square in the Corona era? I’m in Chicago and I can’t find it. At the park? It’s 30 degrees out. At the bars and coffee shops? To-go only. At fancy restaurants that can provide tents and outdoor heating? I don’t have the kind of cash to do that every day. At your church’s meeting space? Forget about it. This complaint is being put to writing as I sit on a bakery’s freezing patio, and I don’t foresee that becoming a regular habit, either.

I know that not meeting is kind of the point. But social-distancing extremism is damaging not just our first-order health and prosperity. It chokes the zones where the exchange of ideas occurs, stunting the human innovation that makes us healthier and more prosperous as time goes on. It’s getting really hard to be an active-ish, social-ish person in a blue state, and as social and intellectual ties themselves are being criminalized, the rationale for staying is rapidly disappearing.

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Whatever the merits of the COVID reactions have been, they are clearly, to most people, temporary measures and do not represent an existential threat to our Liberty, constitutional order, the public square, etc.

    They’ve been called temporary measures, but they’ve been going for about 3/4 of an entire year now. When does temporary become permanent?

    They’ve continued (though the strictness varies greatly from place to place, and in some places they’re not very strict and very lightly enforced) because the virus is still going strong. Well over 200,000 new cases and over 2,000 deaths a day. Some days it has gotten very close to 3,000. It was the leading cause of death last week, even surpassing heart disease and will be in the top ranks for the entire year. So…of course some of these lockdown orders haven’t ended yet. And I didn’t even get into the strain on hospitals.

    But nobody likes this crap. Everyone hates the lockdowns. When the reason for them goes away, so will they. Again, that’s not to say they are a good idea, or necessarily effective, but the virus is why we have them. It will end.

    ******************************

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    When it departs or subsides, so will the rationale and public support for the lockdown orders. And those orders will go away.

    In my opinion, the numbers have never justified lockdown orders of any kind – not at the beginning and not now. And yet, the orders are not going away. In some places, they’re getting worse. I’m beginning to think that the only way they’e ever going to go away is if people start ignoring them and simply getting on with their lives. I don’t think some of the officials are ever going to officially rescind them.

    If the vaccine is effective, and so far it seems very promising, or if it naturally gets weaker and weaker, what on earth would make them want to keep them in place?

    Absolute Power, once achieved, is rarely yielded.

     

    • #31
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    If the vaccine is effective, and so far it seems very promising, or if it naturally gets weaker and weaker, what on earth would make them want to keep them in place?

    People like to control people. It’s human nature.

    • #32
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Mike Viola: I’m not in a situation to blow my savings at The French Laundry

    You’d think an expensive restaurant could come up with a better name . . .

    Eliminating the public square is one component of leftism.  The public square is where we peasants gather with our torches and pitchforks before we storm city hall.  Banning puiblic gatherings (other than BLM riots or Biden rallies) keeps us from getting organized – they think.

    • #33
  4. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Whatever the merits of the COVID reactions have been, they are clearly, to most people, temporary measures and do not represent an existential threat to our Liberty, constitutional order, the public square, etc.

    They’ve been called temporary measures, but they’ve been going for about 3/4 of an entire year now. When does temporary become permanent?

    A few weeks? Temporary. A month or two? Temporary-ish. A few years? Not really temporary. Sorry.

    You can say “they’ll go away once the virus goes away,” but realize that, even with a vaccine, the virus won’t disappear from the face of the earth. Just this morning, I read a CNN article in which a WHO official insinuates that the end goal is “zero COVID,” and that restrictions ought to continue until that goal is reached. Keep in mind that polio still exists in parts of the world, more than half a century after Salk’s invention. Perhaps COVID will be eradicated someday . . . in 2092.

    This will only end if we make it end. The arrival of vaccines is exactly the time to do it.

    “They” have said explicitly that “they” don’t intend restrictions to end with a vaccine.   For this virus.  

    • #34
  5. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Stad (View Comment):
    Banning puiblic gatherings (other than BLM riots or Biden rallies) keeps us from getting organized – they think.

    As I was leaving the local gun range yesterday morning, the parking lot was full of people signing petitions to recall the Mayor and city council over their “authoritarian” stance on COVID lockdowns.

    • #35
  6. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos
    @Kephalithos

    D.A. Venters (View Comment): If the vaccine is effective, and so far it seems very promising, or if it naturally gets weaker and weaker, what on earth would make them want to keep them in place?

    Any possibility of any transmission. Half of the language I read in major news outlets treats the elimination of COVID — not a drop in the death rate, not a decrease in the number of cases; the total annihilation of the virus — as the point at which a full reopening should happen. This is a ludicrous goal.

    And don’t get me started on the “let’s lock down for flu season” rhetoric . . .

    • #36
  7. Weeping Inactive
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Whatever the merits of the COVID reactions have been, they are clearly, to most people, temporary measures and do not represent an existential threat to our Liberty, constitutional order, the public square, etc.

    They’ve been called temporary measures, but they’ve been going for about 3/4 of an entire year now. When does temporary become permanent?

    They’ve continued (though the strictness varies greatly from place to place, and in some places they’re not very strict and very lightly enforced) because the virus is still going strong. Well over 200,000 new cases and over 2,000 deaths a day. Some days it has gotten very close to 3,000. It was the leading cause of death last week, even surpassing heart disease and will be in the top ranks for the entire year. So…of course some of these lockdown orders haven’t ended yet. And I didn’t even get into the strain on hospitals.

    But nobody likes this crap. Everyone hates the lockdowns. When the reason for them goes away, so will they. Again, that’s not to say they are a good idea, or necessarily effective, but the virus is why we have them. It will end.

    ******************************

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    When it departs or subsides, so will the rationale and public support for the lockdown orders. And those orders will go away.

    In my opinion, the numbers have never justified lockdown orders of any kind – not at the beginning and not now. And yet, the orders are not going away. In some places, they’re getting worse. I’m beginning to think that the only way they’e ever going to go away is if people start ignoring them and simply getting on with their lives. I don’t think some of the officials are ever going to officially rescind them.

    If the vaccine is effective, and so far it seems very promising, or if it naturally gets weaker and weaker, what on earth would make them want to keep them in place?

    I have no idea. But I also have no idea why they’re still in place when they obviously aren’t doing what they’re intended to do. We’ve reached a stage where people are suffering more and more because of the lockdowns, and yet some of the powers that be are in no hurry to lift them so they obviously don’t care about the suffering they’re causing. Given that, why should I believe won’t be inclined to keep them in place?

     

     

    • #37
  8. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    And don’t get me started on the “let’s lock down for flu season” rhetoric . . .

    But, flu kills more kids than the ‘Rona, so we got to close schools for flu season, because “It’s all about the Children!” 

    • #38
  9. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Whatever the merits of the COVID reactions have been, they are clearly, to most people, temporary measures and do not represent an existential threat to our Liberty, constitutional order, the public square, etc.

    They’ve been called temporary measures, but they’ve been going for about 3/4 of an entire year now. When does temporary become permanent?

    They’ve continued (though the strictness varies greatly from place to place, and in some places they’re not very strict and very lightly enforced) because the virus is still going strong. Well over 200,000 new cases and over 2,000 deaths a day. Some days it has gotten very close to 3,000. It was the leading cause of death last week, even surpassing heart disease and will be in the top ranks for the entire year. So…of course some of these lockdown orders haven’t ended yet. And I didn’t even get into the strain on hospitals.

    But nobody likes this crap. Everyone hates the lockdowns. When the reason for them goes away, so will they. Again, that’s not to say they are a good idea, or necessarily effective, but the virus is why we have them. It will end.

    ******************************

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    When it departs or subsides, so will the rationale and public support for the lockdown orders. And those orders will go away.

    In my opinion, the numbers have never justified lockdown orders of any kind – not at the beginning and not now. And yet, the orders are not going away. In some places, they’re getting worse. I’m beginning to think that the only way they’e ever going to go away is if people start ignoring them and simply getting on with their lives. I don’t think some of the officials are ever going to officially rescind them.

    If the vaccine is effective, and so far it seems very promising, or if it naturally gets weaker and weaker, what on earth would make them want to keep them in place?

    Absolute Power, once achieved, is rarely yielded.

     

    And if the lockdowns do become a thing of the past, the landscape will be completely different. I’m envisioning a Demolition Man future where every restaurant is Taco Bell. 

    And the book This Perfect Day keeps simmering in the back of my beard (read it about 50 years ago). Every thing was purchased through one central “company”. (No money was exchanged – but every purchase was monitored and you were approved or declined). I see Amazon disapproving a purchase: no more TP for you!

    • #39
  10. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    The only thing I’ll add to my above comment – so many of the edicts make no sense. We are safer out doors, for instance, yet are told to stay at home. 

    Schools, parks closed. For no good reason whatsoever 

    I am convinced this stopped being about the virus long time ago. If it was about the virus, those who had it would be given more aggressive treatment. There would be an easier way for them to isolate and not endanger their families. 

    Work environs would be dangerous regardless whether essential or non essential. 

    There’s no excuse for Ca to close outdoor dining. 

    Something else is going on here. And our inability to meet in the public square is desirable 

    • #40
  11. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    This stopped being about a virus 6 months ago.  This is about our “betters” controlling every aspect of our life.  We don’t have to worry our pretty little heads about anything, just do as we’re told.

    • #41
  12. Bill Berg Inactive
    Bill Berg
    @Bill Berg

    In a totalitarian state there is no “Public Square”. Your level of oppression can be determined by how many oppressors show up if you try to create one, and the level of their weapons. A “four tank” rating seems to be getting there. Big Brother would be higher … we need a rating scale to understand how we are “progressing”. 

    George Orwell's 1984, More Relevant Than Even

    • #42
  13. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    David Foster (View Comment):

    “Restaurants as part of the public square”….what has happened over the last 5-10 years is that personal interactions that would previously have been direct, personal interactions…over a meal at a restaurant, a conversation in a private home, a telephone call, even an e-mail….are now being mediated by social media and made pseudo-public or fully public. This is very convenient for surveillance and censorship, it is far easier for a system to scan text on a few centralized systems than to go through all the trouble of putting microphones in restaurants and homes and implementing speech-recognition systems to process what they pick up.

    Hmmm… I have this theory that technology makes totalitarianism easier. I’m find more to bolster that idea that otherwise.

    And plenty of software/computer engineers are sufficiently Luddite for the same reasons.

    • #43
  14. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Mike Viola: So where is the public square in the Corona era?

    Well, you could do what my wife did . . .

    • #44
  15. Mike Viola Inactive
    Mike Viola
    @MikeViola

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Mike Viola: So where is the public square in the Corona era?

    Well, you could do what my wife did . . .

    I haven’t booked THAT fun of a procedure, but I admit I’ve been getting examinations I never thought I needed. You make friends that way.

    • #45
  16. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Mike Viola (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Mike Viola: So where is the public square in the Corona era?

    Well, you could do what my wife did . . .

    I haven’t booked THAT fun of a procedure, but I admit I’ve been getting examinations I never thought I needed. You make friends that way.

    I work for a mortgage broker. We have everything set up so that people no longer need to come into the office.

    I got in touch with a couple last month to let them know I was emailing them some documents that required signature. They asked if they could please please please come in and sign.

    We shared a delightful hour together, along with a cup of coffee.

    • #46
  17. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    It didn’t really help the “public square” and sharing of ideas, but today I bought a tablet computer. The local Best Buy store didn’t have it in stock. Rather than have it shipped to my house, I chose to drive 20 miles to another Best Buy store that did have it, just to have a reason to go somewhere. And I walked into the store to pick it up. 

    • #47
  18. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Mr. Viola,

    Every day when I read the analyses, opinions, and arguments on the edicts of mass isolation, I wonder, why isn’t anyone arguing against this violent destruction of…Of what? What is the word for this essential thing?

    I have never been able to articulate what I think is the central issue. So I don’t enter the debates by making the point that this something essential to human thriving is being destroyed, and no one on either side of the debate has even called attention to it. They are explaining or asking about or arguing about only trivia–vaccines, epidemiology, and decadent politicians violating their own rules–while all around them, human society is being savaged.

    You have beautifully articulated my inarticulable thoughts. This something is the public square, and you have identified its purpose, showing why it is essential.

    Thank you.

    I think the reason you don’t see many arguing against this “violent destruction…” is that so few people see it, or feel it, this way. I don’t.

    Whatever the merits of the COVID reactions have been, they are clearly, to most people, temporary measures and do not represent an existential threat to our Liberty, constitutional order, the public square, etc.

    I don’t want to be misunderstood. These lockdowns may be a bad idea, and there may be certain relatively minor ways that life changes for a long time. Certainly many are suffering from the lockdowns and I can’t blame them for being angry. But the source of the problem is obviously the virus. When it departs or subsides, so will the rationale and public support for the lockdown orders. And those orders will go away.

    It is not going to go away, because it is not about a virus.

    • #48
  19. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Mike Viola: Where Is the Public Square in the COVID Era?

    I don’t know, but I’ll wager on this: when we next have a public square, it’ll feature stocks. Either way.

    • #49
  20. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Mike Viola: Where Is the Public Square in the COVID Era?

    I don’t know, but I’ll wager on this: when we next have a public square, it’ll feature stocks. Either way.

    I hope the bonds of those stocks in the marketplace constrain only those who’ve been convicted of crimes, not those who have criticized or disagreed with those in power.

     

     

    • #50
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