A COVID Quandary
Ain't reality a bitch when it rubs up against your idealised life philosophies?
Most of my adult life, I’ve ascribed to what I would call a social libertarian ethos when navigating the cultural and political waters of modern Western society. People should have the absolute freedom to live their lives as they see fit, however, at the intersection of where their actions impact on others, moral choices around respect and the social contract need to be negotiated. Essentially, do whatever the fuck you want, but don’t be a fuckwit to others while doing it.
This has been easy to do as a coastal dwelling, middle-aged white man in regional NSW with no true barriers to cultural and social integration, and historical governmental policies designed to pander to my every perceived want and whim.
Now, thanks to the imposition of the statewide lockdown of NSW in the face of the COVID Delta strain crisis, I face a genuine test of my lofty ideals.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but my overwhelming and overriding concern when the stay at home orders dropped on Saturday night was: “Can I still get to the beach and surf?” People’s lives and livelihoods crumble before them and I’m selfishly plotting how I can fulfill my aquatic addiction.
Immediately upon the release of the updated public health orders I began scouring the policies and interrogating the wording to look for any loophole or interpretation that would give me the green light to continue to and get wet.
"Stay within your local government area or within 10km of your home (5km from Monday, 16 August 2021)" in terms of exercise?
What the fuck does that mean? Can I go anywhere in my LGA or only 10 km from home? A quick Google earth measure shows I’m 11.2 kilometres from the nearest coast. Not good...
The Swellnet forums came to the rescue with a reader directing me to a post from his local member clarifying that you can go anywhere in your LGA, but only 5 kms into another LGA.
This then opened the gateway to several more questions.
Does surfing qualify as exercise or merely as recreation? A six foot day is certainly exercise, a two foot day sitting shooting the breeze between sets is more recreation? What if I paddle around a lot between the sets, will that qualify it as exercise?
My LGA is huge and includes several little coastal communities with quality waves nestled in each, but just because I can travel to each and surf, should I? Legally I’m fine, but morally? What if I unwittingly become a vector of transmission, a COVID Johnny Appleseed bringing illness wherever he goes?
We’ve all done questionable things to get wet. I’ve lied to my significant other, foisted my kids onto friends and family under false pretenses, pulled many sickies from work, slipped out the backdoor of a mate's daytime wedding for a quick paddle before reappearing at the reception, poured hand sanitiser into my eye to fake an infection to get out of a shift at the local servo. Potential harbinger of death feels like a step up though…
The exercise provision is clearly written as a nod to the acknowledged mental health benefits of being able to be outdoors as a circuit breaker to the isolationism and stress lockdowns impose on we social creatures.
Surely I need to surf to stay sane?
Truth is though, I’ve got enough diverse interests to psychologically survive if the pillar of wave riding is removed for a period of time.
For every logical thrust there was a moral parry between justifying going surfing and feeling like I should just stay put.
If we act for the collective good, we may just get out of this sooner, but at what price for our individual circumstances? Altruistic or Individualism? The dynamic tension at the heart of what it means to be a member of a community overlaid with the devilish addiction to wave sliding.
My conclusion? So far I've stayed home; it seems like the enlightened position to take.
Still next week's forecast looks mighty tempting. Perhaps we can’t truly know where our moral limits lay unless we stray from the path from time to time.
// DAN DOBBIN