On the Bright Side….

Following my last post about a month ago, C-19 seems to about on the track I predicted and just been labeled a pandemic by WHO.  Unfortunately not the Dr Who who can fix just about anything in the universe, but bureaucratic doctors who can officiate, record, make authoritative statements, compile statistics, make epidemiological studies, but can do bugger all in the real world.  As I said a month ago, C-19 will join the other scourges of mankind, but probably fade in it’s fatality rate as it evolves and tries and keep it’s hosts alive for further exploitation.

So I sense there is a dilemma amongst epidemiologists about strategies.  Easiest is to let the virus have it’s wicked way and sweep through society knocking off the sick and elderly to quickly produce some herd immunity.  A purge of the unfit and useless economic contributors is surely society’s gain.  Then again, these are the people in power, so that is not going to happen.

Another strategy is to “flatten the curve”.  That is slow down the spread by social isolation and travel bans to avoid overwhelming the health facilities.  This admits defeat about containment, but offers some possibility of palliative care for the worse afflicted.  This is current strategy adopted by Australia and most of the world.  It may not reduce infections or fatalities, but is aimed at preventing the health system being totally overwhelmed.  And if it can postpone the peak long enough, a vaccine could then save a lot of people and give enough confidence to drop the draconian restrictions and kick-start the economy again.

The problem with this is that the ‘cure’ could be worst than the disease.  China has crashed it’s production and economy, but I admire the heroic and effective efforts it has made.  Australia has just trashed it’s tourist industry by banning flights and insisting on 2 weeks of self isolation for anyone entering.  What a thrilling holiday that would be.  France has closed all cafes, restaurants and such, Italy is in lockdown, and countries everywhere grinding to an economic halt.

There will be real and terrible economic consequences.  I’m not talking about stock markets or the top end of town, as somehow they always seem to manage although they complain a lot.  I’m talking about small businesses and gig workers with no work and  performers and actors etc, suddenly deprived of an audience.  Will teachers be paid when schools are closed?  Any sick pay for casual workers?

On the bright side….  I am astonished that China has reported no new cases in the last two days.  Figures from China have long been suspect as having being manipulated for political reasons, but in this case, I can see no political gain having already admitted the problem.  Also, this is a virus, quite unresponsive to political correctness or being censored.  If the communist party were suppressing numbers, I think piles of corpses would soon gain world attention.  So I am inclined to think that the containment measures in China have worked.  The rest of the world is playing catch-up by implementing their methods without giving credit.  And without yet seeing the same success.  Italy has tried lockdown but the exponential curve continues.  Spain is in a similar crisis.  Germany seems to be doing better with containment.

Australia seems to be on the exponential curve with little sign of “flattening”.   How did China, the most populous nation on earth, get a handle on this and other countries lose control?  If I am right in thinking China has actually quashed the virus.  Why aren’t afflicted countries beating a path to China’s door to beg some guidance?  I am thinking that the difference in the effectiveness of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self isolation’  measures depends on the discipline of the population to implement the measures.  It may be that in Italy, Spain, Iran, and Australia there is a certain level of disregard for authority.  A bit of ‘she’ll be right’.

I have a message for the Australian people.  Toilet paper will not guarantee your survival.  Closer to the mark was hoarding rice and pasta, but that deprives other people.  I take note of a saying from west coast American native tribes “best place to store food is in the bellies of your friends”.   I think if this crisis cuts deeper than toilet paper, this will be remembered.  I hope so.

I also hope that many people get the opportunity, or are forced to consider what are the most important things for them.  Many things can be discarded as we get down to the fundamental requirements for a satisfying life.  So many material things are unimportant compared to health and relationships.  Of course food is way up there, but that is not threatened in the present crisis.  Winston Churchill said “never let a good crisis go to waste”.  Let us use it as an opportunity to consider what is really essential to our lives.

 

Reflections

I was born in 1950 in the UK.  In an affluent educated country, just settling down after a catastrophic war.  Rationing was still in place for some things, but babies don’t see far past a warm tit.  I now have nearly 70 years to look back over and compare to what social conditions were like both before I was born and I have plenty of information to guess what social condition are likely to be in the future.

My conclusion is that I have had a most fortunate life, in a most fortunate time in history.  I was raised in a time of the burgeoning wealth of the middle classes, increasing freedom for youth and a general feeling of optimism for the future.  The dark cloud was the cold war and the spectre of nuclear war.  And those clouds gradually dissolved to a shadow on the horizon.  I could travel the world with just a few dollars and a British passport which demanded countries to allow “The bearer to go without let or hindrance”  through their territories.  It’s pompous language a relic of the colonial gunboat era.  I travelled through Afghanistan without let of hindrance and marveled at it’s long confused history which I had no idea about until I went there.  British schools of the 50’s and 60’s didn’t feature much Afghan history, which is a pity because it is a lot more interesting than the Tudor kings of England.  I arrived in New Zealand and Australia at a time I could be a permanent resident just by setting foot on the country.  How good was that!  I could buy a block of land, 156 acres of precious tropical rainforest after landing in Australia with little more than a change of clothes and US$11 just 2 years before.

I now see many threats in the future, and the younger generations do not enjoy the optimism of my carefree youth.  Some are chronically anxious.  They see climate change and it’s disastrous effects actually happening, and those that have been through the fires are at risk of PTSD, and some young people are fearful to have children because of climate change.  This pervasive threat is a reality and psychological burden for young people.  Another threat is much in the news at the moment, recently named as covid-19.  Or the coronavirus.  It will not be contained and will soon join the other scourges of mankind such as flu and colds.  This is creeping into media coverage and public awareness.  It is highly contagious and perhaps 3 or 4 times more than flu.  It is not being contained.  It will be a pandemic which I expect to get even in Possum Valley.  The death rate is around 2% so far in China, but seems to be less in patients overseas who probably receive more intensive palliative and supportive treatment.  I have seen on the internet that in Wuhan, they have built a 1000 bed hospital in 10 days, having run out of stadiums and schools.  Only in China can they cut the paperwork and send in the bulldozers the same day.  An unfortunate lab experiment is being conducted on the cruise liner Diamond Princess anchored off Yokohama.  About 10 days ago 10 cases of covid-19 were detected.  People were already compartmentalised into little cabins, and soon restricted to the cabins in their cruise ship/prison.  I have no doubt that every feasible precaution has been taken, but now 218 are infected.  I think this test tube, and largest cluster of cases outside China, indicates how infectious this virus is.   They will have to rename that ship if they ever expect to use it again other than for transporting sheep to the middle east.

random kitchen photo

I have often heard that everybody is connected by 7 degrees of separation.   Yesterday I was chatting with guests just outside my veranda, and mentioned my concerns that covid-19 is an inevitable pandemic.  They admitted to being tour operators and just a couple of days before having clients from Wuhan.  I took a couple of steps back to some nervous laughter, but it seems that even in an isolated spot in a rainforest, I am only 2 degrees away from the epicenter.

Another threat to the younger generations is the ridiculous income gap between rich and poor.  In Australia, there should not be any poor.  Simple as that.  There is more than enough to go round for us all to be satisfied.  And the price of houses and letting is prohibitive.  The older generations (that is me) are ripping off the younger generations when the historical imperative is to help and provide for your offspring.  The worst offences are building government debts for future generation to pay off, charging kids for their education, and worst of all trashing the environment for short term gains.  Yes, short term is all we greedy baby boomers have left, so maybe when death relinquishes our grip on power and wealth, you can establish a rational world economy based on renewable energy.

Our present government is a thoroughly professional body of people who have looked into the future and are dedicated to ensuring that it never happens.  They are sponsored by miners and deep in the pockets of old money.   A few years in parliament to collect the fabulous pensions and then do the rounds on the boards of corporations to collect the rewards that would have been a little unseemly while they were actually in government.  I believe there are actually rules where they have to wait a few months before they can ‘board’ the gravy train.  What a fig leaf.

So I have lived in very good times and never press-ganged into a war.  I am not so optimistic for the future and have often looked at my grandkids playing and thinking perhaps this is as good as it gets as they splashed naked in a rainforest creek.  It could be that real living standards are already on the way down.  Water undrinkable, air unbreathable, temperature unbearable.

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