Safely ensconced in my quarantine station, I am isolated from the passing of reality.
As I look out of my window a congress ravens battles on the lawn. In their unkindness the corvids squabble for the right to nothing in particular.
The notorious Canberra bubble has taken over the newsfeed. Despite the assurances that these matters are of no public interest, everyhour there is a govermental announcing more of the same.
Mumbling attempts to reassuring a confused public become new gaffes by a government that was blatantly unprepared for the inevitable pandemics. Miscommunications that beget further miscommunications of vital importance.
The initial outrage of journalists has been replaced by their jingoistic admiration for the government’s tardy adoption of the inevitable.
Whilst it is refreshing that the government’s delusions of control have finally been replaced by a recognition that there are known unknowns about the coronavirus, there still seems to be no clear plan. Instead of managing the unknowns they are obscured by a malaise of positivity. Our glasses are only half-full with the virus and with eyes wide shut the news feed concentrates on the crisis as the only game in town.
When newsreaders are not promoting the viral content they have uncritically purloined from social media, journalists drool a shallow veneer of reporting over serious opportunities to improve society.
Flattening the curve is illustrated by misleading graphics where the area under the curve is reduced rather than retained with the reduction of the slopes. There is no illustration of the infections continuing into the unknown ifs. If a vaccine is developed in 18 months, if anti-viral treatments become available to the rich and famous, if the virus mutates, if the infection rates change with the onset of winter . . .
Instead there is an allusion to how this curve may diminish to nothing due to the valiant efforts of a prime minister who is only concerned with the health of business because the peoples’ health is the responsibility of the states.
Even if the virus was by some pentacostal miracle eliminated from this country; it would still be lurking in the rest of the world, awaiting the opportunity to hop back in on the back of a cane toad or fall army worm. The final solution to this crisis would seem to lie beyond this shortsighted vision that ignores the roiling wrestle of competing factors.
Now we are asked to believe that the government is working on a plan for recovery. This is the same government that suspended their responsibility for any economic planning and management of the country’s budget for at least six months, because it was unrealistic in this crisis where they could not understand the contributing factors!
This plan, being concocted with the reassuring elastic title of Snapping Back, will be a transition to the self-contradictory ‘New Normal’. The goal of this plan appears to be a plan to ensure that the new bosses will be the same as the old bosses and the new solutions will be the same as the old solutions.
Once the crisis is over, the emergency measures will wind back. The unemployed will once again be supported by reducing their benefits and be crushed under the jackboot of indifferent contempt. The divine right to ‘have a go’ at the weak and vulnerable will be restored to the shrine of perpetual growth of GDP.
The populace is being prepared for a ‘new normal’ that is the ‘same abnormal’ despite the obvious contradictions with current actions where the sickness of capitalism is being cured by the socialist solutions that they previously decried as unworkable.
Deficit spending disproves the lies of debt reduction. Intervention in the free market directs and subsidises unviable industries. Extra payments are doled out to workers and unemployed. Accommodation is provided to the homeless. The efficiency dividends that restricted health services are reversed . . .
These actions demonstrate a real ‘new normal’ is possible. It points to a society based upon a guaranteed universal income. Indeed, it would appear that if a universal income was in place then many of the extensive emergency business compensations would be unnecessary, because failure in free market competition underwritten by a guarantee to sustain the citizenry.
Simply put, those who chose to pursue their dreams of doing business take a calculated risk where they can resolve the situation by changing, closing or mothballing the business. Those who don’t dream of the dancing dollars will have more time to reinforce a genuine community health. They may choose to pursue research, education, art, assisting neighbours, work for community, crafts, DIY, etc.
Universal income provides a transition from a world where people are crippled to a narrow view of self-worth based upon the prestigious shimmer of dollars that cloak their employment and the quantum of baseless adoration from uninformed strangers. Through implementing this people will have more resilient mental health through expanding their attachment to real communities rather than the current band-aid to the failings of the brand of capitalism that is currently marketed as an excuse for no real vision.
The shift from global business to a more local and community focus improves self sufficiency and resilience in times of disruption. It mitigates the risk of shortages due to excessive globalisation and the unproven benefits of free trade.
We are experiencing world-wide shortages due to disruption of the ultra-efficient multi-national supply chain. This may be rare, but it is not the unprecedented black swan event that the commentators claim. We have no control of the decisions of foreign corporates that govern these events; so the government currently mumbles supporting local community without admitting their failure to plan for the risks of globalisation.
Local supply chains may suffer more frequent disruption, but this has less impact, and these disruptions can be alleviated through support from a new global community.
Globalisation based on charity and sharing of expertise and knowledge, not ‘survival of the biggest’, is a basis for a more classical brand of capitalism. Here competition would be appropriately scaled. A small community cannot produce a passenger jet, but it can produce and sell clothing. The overconcentration of capital has created the risk of ‘too big to fail’ bribery, that has raped taxpayers through subsidies to banks, aviation and cars, to name but a few.
Similarly, essential services must be planned under public control. A government that seeks last-minute assurances from business that essential services will be available during a crisis is presenting an opportunity for further extortion of the taxpayer. This crisis has highlighted that the public interest is not served when the privileged and rich are given priority for essential services like medical treatment.
The extended experience of local community and current restriction of travel will naturally lead to a reconsideration of the necessities of tourism. This reconsideration is not served by the shallow promotion ‘holiday domestically’ promotions. These are an interim solution to address the disabled international and cruise market that is a major contributor to the pandemic.
The forced isolation at home may transform desires to do less and be happier where you are as an alternative to lining the pockets of travel companies for the right to trample the world and take a picture of a meal and post it on Facebook. That is without considering the pleasures of addressing climate change and the sustainability of the environment.
A slower form of tourism, based on less travel and longer stays (perhaps even incorporating contribution to the local community) should be encouraged to evolve. Taking a manic tours of a lifetime every year of 100 countries in 100 days can be done in virtual reality to much better effect.
Just as social engineering for the greater good has been necessary to nudge people into social distancing, something similar may be needed to refine community attitudes. The nudges must be transparent and backed by evidence of benefit.
They have worked well in the past to reduce smoking and protect us from AIDS, but consideration of evidence was notably lacking when the government ignored the recommendations from previous pandemics and sent mixed messages that ignored the warnings of the experts.
The success of the governments obfuscations demonstrates that evidence is only useful to the educated. The fundamental failings of politicians and reporters in interpreting the simplest of statistics is appalling. I am gobsmacked everyday by the bumblings of commentators on the competition between the states on their coronavirus totals. Where the opportunity to educate is quashed by vapid comments about the dire figures of one state compared to another with no consideration of the different populations.
This disproves those who wish to celebrate that there has been a rejuvenation of the much needed scientific evidence-based approach. Instead the evidence is that our leaders previously ignored evidence to develop an effective plan to address the pandemic and provide sufficient capacity in the health-care system. They preferred to promoted a brand of globalisation with an excessive transmission of goods and people to carry any pathogen to every corner of the planet and beyond.
Critical thinking must be promoted as a basic skill that is refined through life. It is the responsibility of all citizens to develop this as the basis of public interaction. All education and communication should reinforce it.
With critical thinking in place, the preparations for the inevitable next pandemic could not be kicked down the road to promised reviews. We will be able to remember the lessons, learn effectively and prevent promises from evaporating into the convenient ignorance. In such a world the implications of other crises like climate change, automation and sustainability may be transparently and rationally addressed.
Armed with critical thinking the populace might reconsider what, when and how they want to communicate. Perhaps they want real news rather than a competition with social media over who has the most followers in a rebroadcast the cutest videos of cats forced into isolation. They can communicate with cats, or just to their acquaintances who are genuinely interested, or not at all. Not millions who they have never met.
Instead I hear that there is a necessary ‘conversation’ about issues related to the above. I don’t seem to be involved, and I can never distinguish the ‘having’ from the ‘need to have’ this conversation. Either way nothing happens more than ‘the conversation’ rapidly transitions to the past as a justification for whatever was not discussed.
Will this pandemic achieve as much?
Outside the ravens continue to rave. Their monotonous calls, floating off into the distance as they search of the next vital squabble that defines their existence.
I must check if that cat video has downloaded;