By: Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

News that the Democratic Alliance lost the bid to have beaches in the Eastern Cape and Garden Route opened should come as no surprise. Despite the irrational decision to close beaches in these areas as a response to the second wave, there was little chance that any court would be courageous enough to go against the government ban. And not because the opening of these beaches would necessarily contribute to the spread of COVID, but rather because disagreement of any kind places the “dissenter” in the COVID denialist camp. Even if it isn’t the case.

I am not a COVID denialist. Quite the opposite in fact. I have spent a good portion of the year involved with COVID education. I have recorded around 40 COVID focused podcasts and have been largely supportive of the government approach. But because I have been vocal about the absurdity in some of the decisions (not all), the reaction is to holiday shame me.

“You do know you’re contributing a whole nothing to efforts to prevent the spread of the #COVID19 second wave, which is mutating btw, all of the sake of having a holiday”

I would be the first to cancel my holiday and would support beach closures. I would be happy to stand guard on outside the ice cream stand and point out the error of their ice cream eating ways. I would even bash down the sandcastles of the white-collar child criminals.

If it would assist in the fight against COVID.

But I cannot be convinced that closing hundreds of kilometers of beaches that are not crowded will do the cause any good. It’s as random as closing Main Road Sea Point and saying that it is being done because of the COVID spread. Worse than that, anyone who disagrees doesn’t care about an uncle who died from the disease.

Back on the Garden Route, fishing has never been this popular. It’s all the rage, if that is a word that we are still allowed to use. This morning, after my walk in Plettenburg Bay I stopped a respectful distance away from the beach to watch the waves. It was there that I spotted a young, beautiful couple in non-matching Granadilla shorts, fishing rods over their shoulders, triumphant looks on their faces, stepping on to the sand. I would have bet my own fishing license (if I had one) that those rods had never hooked anything, let alone tuna. What it does allow is the opportunity to sunbathe. Because according to the new regulations, the only way that anyone is permitted to access a beach along the Garden Route, or the Eastern Cape is to be in possession of the correct currency. And that is a post office stamped fishing license

The approach to COVID has become binary. The message is dangerous and clear. We are either in or out. With or against. There is no room for measure and little space or tolerance for an alternate perspective. So much so that any discussion around the need to balance economic realities, about the damage to psyche will automatically lose to the mention of someone’s uncle who succumbed to the disease. As though walking on the beach prior to 6am (until now forbidden) was a causal link.

Social media has taught us that the best way to win an argument is to shame people. It has proven that to triumph one needs to show the other as being to insensitive, uncaring and callous. The problem with this approach is that although it might win the tweet round, it stifles our ability to debate rationally.

And that ultimately makes fools of us all.