Melissa Kite

I stink at virtue signalling

I stink at virtue signalling
[OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images]
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The lodger looked at me blankly and pronounced wearily, as though intoning something he was tired of parroting, that I was putting vulnerable people at risk by not having the vaccine. I stifled a yawn. Can anyone really still think this?

A half-hearted argument of sorts ensued while I was washing up and he was heating his microwave dinner in which neither of us could really be bothered. I tried to politely point out that it was a good job an irresponsible person like me was so foolhardy and fearless about Covid or he would not have found a room in the middle of lockdown, especially since he works at a hospital.

And he put a stop to the discussion by saying: ‘Well, I’m trying to get my head around Ukraine now.’

A friend of mine who has a branch of his business in St Petersburg remarked grimly to me the other day: ‘Putin is going to be awarded the Nobel prize for ending Covid.’

We’ve been in a pile-up of world events since leaving the EU, is how it feels. Brexit crashed into coronavirus, which crashed into the vaccine, which crashed into Putin’s invasion. And while the way these events unfold is one thing, I’m almost more perturbed by the binary way I’ve been told to think about them, and how I’m expected to move on to the next while forgetting the previous.

Anyone deviating from the line has been subject to bullying – by the system, and by their friends. Why? When did it become taboo to question the prevailing narrative, even while parts of it unravel before our eyes?

I can’t quite believe I’m in my kitchen half-arguing with a hospital consultant who lives in my spare room since breaking up with his wife in lockdown about why I haven’t had the vaccine, because I may be putting vulnerable people at risk, while giving him a home.

When I point out that the authorities have admitted that all the scientific evidence confirms the vaccine does not stop you transmitting Covid, his eyes glaze over and he repeats the line, as if he hasn’t heard me: ‘Yes, but you might be putting vulnerable people at risk.’ I feel angry. ‘Everyone’s vulnerable,’ I mutter under my breath.

The lodger coughed as he argued. He’s been coming down with something constantly for the past year. He sniffs and wheezes the entire time he’s around me. I ask most evenings if he’s overworked and he says no, he’s bored. He complains of sitting around all day waiting for operations that don’t happen because they are cancelled or postponed.

And now he’s telling me, between coughs, that I ought to get myself vaccinated. As if I am singlehandedly spreading all the germs that have been or are being or will ever be spread, without showing any signs of having the lurgy, aside from that one time when yes, I admit it, I got the two lines on the test and had to go to bed for two weeks with a horrible flu. And I can’t really smell anything properly still. But the system isn’t interested in telling me why that might be, where this virus came from, or why it attacks your senses. The system is only interested in telling me that it is all my fault, for thinking as I do.

I argue using only facts and proven scientific data. I quote from studies published in the British Medical Journal. I tell him that almost everyone I know who is vaccinated has had Covid, while socialising and travelling around on holidays. But he’s simply not interested.

He doesn’t want to listen to my side of things on the vaccine, because – and now he’s employing the argument-ender supreme – he’s more worried about Ukraine. And I didn’t even go there, because it would be impossible for me to spout the line required without deviating in any way from the narrative that has been deemed absolute in the establishment circles in which he moves.

I would be bound to get some word or phrase slightly wrong in the eyes of those who take the line, enthusiastically. I would fail to sufficiently emote. I would irritate by being too nuanced.

Anything less than flying a blue and yellow flag in your front window has been ruled inadequate. Virtue signalling has taken over, as usual. And I stink at virtue signalling.

I’m on the side of anyone who is suffering in a war. But I don’t want to hang their flag in my window, any more than I want to stand on my doorstep and bang a saucepan with a wooden spoon for the NHS. I’ve done my bit by renting a room to a doctor and letting him tell me off in my own kitchen.