Mandates Won’t Return, as Long as We Set the Record Straight on Why They Ended

Susan Dunham
6 min readSep 2, 2023

COVID has been here to stay, as our medical authorities have warned us. The last year and a half of mandate freedom has made us feel certain that the pandemic is behind us. But with renewed late summer buzz of intensifying variants, could we see a winter return of the same health measures that spun two years of global misery? If we’ve learned anything from the first pandemic, it’s that the answer depends entirely on us.

We know that the usual suspects from last time will resume their practiced roles if mandates return: the fanatics will comply with intensity, and the resistors will defy just as hard. But it will be a third group we saw during the latter days of mandates who will decide how far back we slide under medical control: the appeasers. These were the millions who followed health measures, long after caution evaporated, just to be left alone.

By the end of 2021, a ballooning health authority was pressing down on them from above, and from their flanks, a small wave of vocal zealots began to pester and prod at their lives. They were no longer so afraid of the virus, having learned that a positive test too often meant no illness and that severe symptoms were not the rule. There were more head-scratching things, too, like how hospital protocols in some cases seemed worse than the virus and that doctors worldwide were yelling about therapeutics that authorities wouldn’t recognize.

Indeed there seemed to be a lot more that was driving the pandemic than what the health protocols were capable of addressing. But since masking, isolating, and vaccinating was drummed up and enforced as the end-all, droves of appeasers simply complied — for the most part in resignation. It was easier than fighting, and the tendency was to believe the promise that compliance would get us through the crisis. But the question is: did it really?

Made To Stay

Long before we learned that not even two vaccines would be enough to end the rolling cycle of masking and lockdown, COVID restrictions were called “the new normal” — a marketing slogan, which sounds today like either an accidental prophecy, unaware of its own prescience, or an honest admission that COVID measures were meant to be permanent.

As the pandemic wore on, no amount of compliance seemed able to lessen or decelerate the encroaching demands of medical safety. It was a two-year sprint towards a moving goalpost that had us huffing and puffing into a world where social access was only granted by pharmaceutical companies and in which a centralized system for shouldering out the noncompliant was reaching its final stages of engineering.

What Twilight Zone had befallen us that ineffective, yet repetitious draconian safety measures promised to deliver our freedom but only gave us an authoritarian dream come true? Was it all so strangely coincidental that every avenue to our promised freedom only looked more like slavery? Or was it not so strange at all, that perhaps the whole purpose of these measures was to warm us up to permanent tyranny?

A Sudden End

Some of us got quite cozy to it indeed. The fanatics had settled in to the COVID edicts so deeply that they became dependent upon the state’s new iron fist to feel safe. But the government that had nurtured their fear also suddenly removed all of the measures that had brought them comfort, and they were not prepared for it. In Canada, the mandates began to fall just as supporters were roiling with indignation at the country’s largest mass protest in history.

The Freedom Convoy, which loudly occupied Ottawa for weeks, trailed even bigger anti-mandate movements in Europe and South America, as leaders worldwide doubled down on vaccine passports and isolation centres. In Australia, Victoria premiere Dan Andrews told the unvaccinated they would never wait out the mandate. And in Canada, Quebec premiere François Legault was ready to mobilize taxation plans on resistors, threatening even to revoke their healthcare. And then all of it vanished, like an enemy retreating.

Look at the timing

The true devotees of COVID prevention, who relished having the license to lord over their fellow citizens, did not expect to see the end of their power party. For a short while after mandate by-laws vanished, they tried to keep them alive in the private spaces they controlled. Still deathly afraid of infection and yelling breathlessly about the inexplicable new lack of attention being given to high COVID numbers, the fanatics were left on their own as society moved on.

It should be stated as plainly as possible: the world we knew during COVID didn’t blow over because we masked enough faces, isolated enough people, and jabbed enough arms. It wasn’t because the virus went endemic or protocols expired. All of the timing shows that mandates ended because enough men and women said no. And their fight was made immeasurably more difficult by the millions who gave in to the psychology of mass manipulation.

Moving the Masses

By the third year of the pandemic, millions knew that the measures had gone too far. Yet they continued to mask and show their passport, because their compliance had become complacency. The system had puffed up its chest, and a minority of people had seized the moral authority to rattle and bully the rest of the herd. Wielding the fake confidence of state power, they managed to create a small ripple, which the rest us turned into a tide. It was the movable majority, in disbelief that compliance could change their world, who provided the numbers that made the power of the mandates real.

These are the mechanics that have always turned free societies into captive states. COVID gave us the chance to experience how a reluctant population can be made to do the bidding of a wilful few. But the lesson was barely heard, because as soon as we emerged from the fog of our authoritarian “new normal,” a new game of denial began.

Sleight of Hand

The leaders who vowed never to relent on their efforts to squeeze the people declared the people’s job complete. We had “stepped up,” as we had been called to, and for that we would be gifted back our freedom. Amazingly, the vision of an authoritarian minority was both defeated and credited with victory. The same oily control of the story that had dug us into years of lockdown had also managed to erase all motive. We were truly expected to believe — and for the most part, we did — that the unnecessary dystopia we made of the world was an accidental part of health policy, rather than its obvious intent.

The lucky thing is that we narrowly avoided the point of never returning from the tyranny we built, but the danger is that we did it without learning the power of resistance — and the necessity that a critical mass of people ended up saying no. So if the government conscripts us back into masking and isolating or finds a new drug for us to take — or even if a different cause comes along demanding other obligations — too many of last pandemic’s appeasers might not yet have the foresight to even know whether, or why, to stop it.

So we need to recognize how close we came to permanently ending the world we knew. And from that episode, we need to learn that a crisis doesn’t inevitably enslave the people it affects. When it does, all aspects of it must be considered with skepticism, criticality, and a nose for manipulation. We need to look for patterns over time, engineered social pressures, and lazy compulsions to acquiesce.

If we’ve learned to do this, finally, after failing so many times in history, then no minority of the power-hungry or the fearful will ever succeed in bringing us back under control.

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