Julien Mercille: Welcome To The Land Of “Personal Responsibility”

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From top: Belvedere College, Dublin; Julien Mercille

Our government is now moving into a new strategic phase to address the Covid pandemic. I concede, on the plus side, it is very simple. The strategy is called “personal responsibility”. It is a significant shift.

Up until now, the government had set public health regulations for the whole country to protect the population against Covid, and NPHET guided the national response. But this will soon be over. And we will then all rely on “personal judgements” and “personal protective behaviours” in order to achieve “protection at a personal level”, quoting the government strategy.

It is all personal, which is another way of saying that the onus is now on you to ensure your protection against a virus that has not gone away, despite the optimistic mood.

Welcome to the land of personal responsibility. A land where the strong and responsible who get up early survive.

First, under the new regime, it will be up to individual children to use their “personal judgement” and conduct a “personal scientific assessment” of Covid levels in a classroom, and then conduct a “personal statistical analysis” about transmission risks. On that basis, 6-year old children can decide whether they should wear a mask or not, and hope that other children will reach the same personal conclusion.

But why, you may ask, wouldn’t the government direct all schools to endorse mask wearing for children, so that they and their families and teachers are all automatically protected? Surely that would be more effective than hoping that hundreds of thousands of children will voluntarily coordinate their mask wearing practices?

The government’s response is simple: Unfortunately, this is no longer possible, because we live in a regime of “personal responsibility”, which must be developed from a young age.

Second, under the new regime, parents will have to individually engage schools to ensure that they have enough HEPA filters and CO2 monitors and adequate ventilation standards. Whatsapp groups will prove useful, and parents can conduct online searches in order to know what are the requirements for ventilation for specific rooms. If they persist, they may get into email contact with ventilation engineers who could assist them in this respect.

But, you may wonder, why wouldn’t the government provide the requisite equipment, set those standards, and deliver on them through its oversight of the education system?

Because we live in a regime of “personal responsibility”.

Third, workers will also need to conduct their “personal assessments” of the risks in their workplace. They will need to discuss (individually) all related matters with their employer. Millions of such conversations will take place and if they are all responsible and well-informed, Covid will be held in check. The same applies to procedures if you are a close contact, a symptomatic or asymptomatic positive case, or if you require a test, or if you are wondering whether rapid testing or PCR testing is most appropriate, or a combination. All this should be determined through “personal conversations” with your employer.

But, you may wonder, why wouldn’t the government set strict industry standards guided by science and in dialogue with employers and unions at the national level?

It’s because we now live in a regime of “personal responsibility”.

Fourth, you will also soon be able to go to restaurants without a Covid certificate. That means that you will need to carefully check the premises before entering, and go around tables to ask all other customers if they have received a vaccine within the last six months, and perhaps ask them for a proof to ensure they’re not lying. Then you can conduct a “personal assessment” of whether the waiting staff is also vaccinated, and make a “personal decision” as to whether you want to eat there or go back home.

But, you may ask, wouldn’t it be possible to have some sort of national vaccine certificate system so you spend more time eating than assessing the premises?

No, because we now live in a regime of “personal responsibility”.

In summary, as you can see, it is all very simple. Government doesn’t have to do anything, and we’re all individually responsible for our well-being.

But, you may ask: is this a clear sign that government is cravenly abdicating its responsibilities, turning a cold blind eye to people’s suffering, and revealing its lack of empathy for the most vulnerable?

Rest assured – absolutely not. We now live in a regime of “personal responsibility”. Therefore, by definition, the government does not have to be responsible—you do. And if you get infected, it is not the government’s fault—it’s yours.

Julien Mercille is associate professor in the School of Geography at University College Dublin and member of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG).

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55 thoughts on “Julien Mercille: Welcome To The Land Of “Personal Responsibility”

  1. Mr.T

    Personal responsibility means its up to you to ensure your own safety – if you are at risk, get vaccinated.
    Once you’ve done that, live life as normal. Curtain twitching about potential 10% of people being not-vaccinated entering the pub is just pathetic.

    The reason the new phase is Personal responsibility, is because covid is now endemic. They recognise its not going away, ergo it makes no sense to have punitive restrictions in place, designed to stop the spread – because covid will spread regardless – ergo, personal responsibility. You minimise your own risk, stop caring about others exposing you, it will happen regardless.

  2. SOQ

    Of course SARS-CoV-2 will never go away- they never do. They settle into an endemic phase and return every number of years as community immunity wanes. And just like the rest, we will have to live with this one.

    The psychological damage masks do to children is yet to be fully accessed but what we do know is that both physically or mentally, it is not good. It is not the responsibility of children to protect adults, quite the opposite.

    If front line shop workers, whom most of the time did not even have masks, were fine to work in such high risk circumstances, then what exactly is so special about school teachers? Their environment is a lot less risky after all and, assuming there is some level of efficacy, they have the now option of a vaccine.

    The restaurant scenario’s is just plain silly because vaccinated can be just as infectious as non- THAT is the science. Vaccine passports just do not work, and are just plain wrong.

    Not a word about the collateral damage all of this nonsense has done of course, the businesses gone under, the defaulting mortgages, the suicides, and the now stage 3 or 4 cancers, or other conditions.

    A question for Julien- how badly was you income stream affected during this pandemic? I could make a good guess as to the answer I expect.

    1. Micko

      “ how badly was you income stream affected during this pandemic? ”

      Heh heh.

      I’d say a 20 second glance at the lads Twitter feed would tell ya where his interests are alright

      Whole lot of tweets and retweets about Covid. As is with other ISAG members – what a surprise.

      Not so much on the aul geography tweets for a Geography professor though….

      :p

      1. SOQ

        An old saying comes to mind- I am not sure where it is from though- People who resist change feel they have something to lose while people who want change, feel the opposite.

        While there are some who have genuine concerns and fears about returning to normality, there is also quite a section who have done quite nicely out lockdowns, and have no wish to return to ‘as was’ so will come up with all sorts of spurious reasons why not to.

        Not one single day was missed in primary or secondary schools in Sweden of course.

    2. johnny

      ..one element of personal responsibility,applies to one’s OWN income stream,i always find people envious and overly noisy about mine,have less than or,don’t you SOQ ?
      -how much yours is a exchequer subsidy?

      1. SOQ

        My question was how badly it was affected, not how much it was. In my experience, those arguing for restrictions to continue have not been affected to any great extent, and in some cases are actually better off.

        1. johnny

          ..how do you get the time to ask so,so many questions day,after day,every day its like you have nothing else to do,who’s paying for all the time to ask all these questions every day- the rest us huh!

  3. Zaccone

    What else would you suggest the government do? Have us live under permanent lockdown, with real life never resuming? Whats the endgame alternative to personal responsibility? What magic bullet is on the horizon, and in what timeline?

    Once everyone vulnerable is fully vaccinated thats all we can realistically do. Anyone still at high risk, or in fear, can make the life choice not to go to a busy restaurant if they so choose. But its not right to preclude that choice from others.

    1. Mr.T

      +1 for correct use of the phrase “magic bullet” – too many people think its silver bullet. That is for werewolves.

      1. Cian

        Um, yeah. A “silver bullet” is, by definition, a magic bullet.

        “silver bullet” can used for anything that instantly solves a long-standing problem

        1. Mr.T

          Magic bullet is the original phrase – repeated incorrect usage of silver (from werewolf stories) superseded it. Like people saying “should of”

          1. Mr.T

            I hole-hardedly agree scottser, but allow me to play doubles advocate here for a moment. For all intensive purposes I think you are wrong. In an age where false morals are a diamond dozen, true virtues are a blessing in the skies. We often put our false morality on a petal stool like a bunch of pre-Madonnas, but you all seem to be taking something very valuable for granite. So I ask of you to mustard up all the strength you can because it is a doggy dog world out there. Although there is some merit to what you are saying it seems like you have a huge ship on your shoulder. In your argument you seem to throw everything in but the kids Nsync, and even though you are having a feel day with this I am here to bring you back into reality. I have a sick sense when it comes to these types of things. It is almost spooky, because I cannot turn a blonde eye to these glaring flaws in your rhetoric. I have zero taller ants when it comes to people spouting out hate in the name of moral righteousness. You just need to remember what comes around is all around, and when supply and command fails you will be the first to go. Make my words, when you get down to brass stacks it doesn’t take rocket appliances to get two birds stoned at once. It’s clear who makes the pants in this relationship, and sometimes you just have to swallow your prize and accept the facts. You might have to come to this conclusion through denial and error but I swear on my mother’s mating name that when you put the petal to the medal you will pass with flying carpets like it’s a peach of cake.

  4. Bobby

    I was in a Geography module of yours, Mr. Mercille, in UCD and missed two lectures because of the birth of a child in a hospital very far from Belfield. Very stressful situation. I approached you after my return lecture, outlined my situation and politely requested that you might break with your policy of not providing slides/notes. You told me it was a good excuse (or possibly reason) but, gave me a brusque “no”.

    Empathy, huh?

    That episode always stuck with me. JT in the same department couldn’t have been more helpful.

    1. johnny

      …..are you still an undergraduate in a third rate college,let it go man,but stay there forever,cause you wont last a day in the real word,did you report him to your Mum,Bobby?

      bet ya feel better now,FFS is it any wonder he treated you like this,in fact he was too kind.

      1. Tarfton Clax

        Johnny, You are the least empathetic poster on Broadsheet. You make Charger seem pleasant and non-contrarian. You are not a good advert for the mellowing power of the herb are you?

        1. johnny

          …always was more partial to some well cut speed or tina,but sadly society frowns upon that sort habit,its tough on the sleep pattern…and friends:)
          i really dont smoke much ‘herb’, but a bunch hippies here from humbolt county / santa rosa (weed capital usa) in cali do,they are all barefoot and smell like Patchouli oil..

          mornings well actually most the day are rolling papers dipped in holy water(pure thc)a gram or two freshly ground sour,some haze if i have ,some hash,tobacco..oh and a few espressos:)

          often-its the dab time… thats like a few mad scientists decided to pimp out hot knifing…

          ..i agree one the reasosn i left dublin,is how warm and cuddly everyone in business is,just ask dennis and Anglo about sitserve or FG,irish ‘nice’ v NY nice..

  5. Bobby

    I was in a Geography module of yours, Mr. Mercille, in UCD and missed two lectures because of the birth of a child in a hospital very far from Belfield. Very stressful situation. I approached you after my return lecture, outlined my situation and politely requested that you might break with your policy of not providing slides/notes. You told me it was a good excuse (or possibly reason) but, gave me a brusque “no”.

    Empathy, huh?

    That episode always stuck with me. JT in the same department couldn’t have been more helpful.

  6. Ray

    Stick to ox bow lakes Julien.

    These 6 year olds have parents. They have done the risk analysis and they are all very happy dragging their childer into the school house every morning.

  7. scottser

    ‘Therefore, by definition, the government does not have to be responsible—you do. And if you get infected, it is not the government’s fault—it’s yours.’

    when was it ever the government’s fault if someone got infected?
    fafuxake, what’s wrong with you?

  8. John Smith

    It would seem that Mr Mercille is afraid of a return to (something like) normality. Sadly, quite a number of people are because they have been so badly frightened. Many people, though, went back to ‘personal responsibility’ a long while ago, in every area that they could – often without regard to what the law says. Because the rules have been so complicated, quite a number of people have lost track of what the law says, anyway, except that you have to put something over your face in a lot of places and show a vaccination certificate in quite a few. The Government is simply recognising what is already happening and increasing the range of activities where normal behaviour is legal.

    Personal responsibilty is allied to informed choice. Informed choice means allowing people to access ALL advice, guidance and information, not just that which coincides with ‘official policy’, and then letting them decide for themselves.

  9. Frank

    Remember before the Covid-19 pandemic?
    We exercised our “personal responsibility” all day every day.
    Now we are going back to that.
    That is a very good thing.
    No ‘new normal’ just normal.

    Julian here is trying to tell us if my kid doesn’t wear a mask to school he’s going to die.
    Cop on Julian and try to be normal.

  10. Nigel

    Broadsheet has become an exemplar of the detrimental limitations of using sarcasm to analyse or discuss or report on serious issues.

    1. Verbatim

      Sarcasm you say Mr. Smart Aleck, I’d say, at a push satire, but even then, I would doubt his real motives.

      1. Nigel

        It’s not that he’s trying and failing to be sarcastic or satiric, which he is, it’s that he’s failing to address his subject effectively or intelligently or interestingly. There is something to be written about how the government’s new policy affects the vulnerable. This is not it.

          1. Nigel

            I’ve only ever argued for more rigour and substance when you are dealing with topics you deem to be of such incredible importance. it’s hard to take seriously your claims of ‘evil’ when the most you’ll commit to is ironic insinuations and implied, but never established, connections. Similarly, this offers no real substance, just at a higher rate of verbiage.

            From your point of view it is a critique of the government’s new opening-up policies from someone who seems to want more enforcement and support for basic and sensible measures – mask-wearing, CO2 detectors, vaccine checks, etc. But the framing as a sarcastic rant against the concept of personal responisublity – a concept which every single person in the country is entitled to think they have been taking seriously since the pandemic began, only to see it disparaged here and now – is so offputting it cannot be really defended on its merits. It puts forward no arguments for why these measures would be sensible and desireable, and offers a distorted straw-man version of what personal responsibility entails, thereby offering plenty of scope for detractors and those opposed to basic and sensible measures to get their teeth into. I’d say as an article it suits your purposes perfectly.

          2. Micko

            Hang on.

            Is Julien not a contributor? Did he not post this himself.

            His name is at the top?

            What’s Bodger got to do with it?

          3. Nigel

            I don’t know if he had anything to do with it, other than some basic role in its publication. But if my approach to exposing the most thoroughly evil project the history of the world has ever known, Holocaust not excepted, was to post screenshots of random tweets speculating wildly on dodgily reported stories, then this certanily would be the sort of pro-pandemic-response article I’d love to see.

        1. Mr.T

          I hole-hardedly agree Nigel, but allow me to play doubles advocate here for a moment. For all intensive purposes I think you are wrong. In an age where false morals are a diamond dozen, true virtues are a blessing in the skies. We often put our false morality on a petal stool like a bunch of pre-Madonnas, but you all seem to be taking something very valuable for granite. So I ask of you to mustard up all the strength you can because it is a doggy dog world out there. Although there is some merit to what you are saying it seems like you have a huge ship on your shoulder. In your argument you seem to throw everything in but the kids Nsync, and even though you are having a feel day with this I am here to bring you back into reality. I have a sick sense when it comes to these types of things. It is almost spooky, because I cannot turn a blonde eye to these glaring flaws in your rhetoric. I have zero taller ants when it comes to people spouting out hate in the name of moral righteousness. You just need to remember what comes around is all around, and when supply and command fails you will be the first to go. Make my words, when you get down to brass stacks it doesn’t take rocket appliances to get two birds stoned at once. It’s clear who makes the pants in this relationship, and sometimes you just have to swallow your prize and accept the facts. You might have to come to this conclusion through denial and error but I swear on my mother’s mating name that when you put the petal to the medal you will pass with flying carpets like it’s a peach of cake.

          1. Nigel

            I’ve always liked Mark Twain’s plan for the improvement of English spelling:

            For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

          2. V aka Frilly Keane

            That man is a genius

            Don’t mind your battle of the aManEgos here on Mondays Broadsheet

            Mooney, EK and now Julieanne going head to head for your comments
            and although that’s great craic on its own, especially if Bodger has to delete some of ye,
            or one of the m’egos get stroppy cause ye didn’t give them 5*s

            Mr T there would wipe the floor with all of them
            Hon the ‘T

            Tis like Frilly Keane and Mani has sprung a sprog

            I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of MaryLouAmIRight and Joe:- here next Monday

  11. Hank

    Go hide under your bed for a couple of years Julien and you’ll be grand. The rest of us will quite happily take personal responsibility for our actions. As should always be the case in a properly functioning society.

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