Thinking beyond Covid: There's always money for submarines
After a year of Covid-19 which has descended on us all like a cloud, let us look beyond the fog and see what lies over the horizon.
Planet Earth 2021. The Human Freak Show reaches its 987th episode as inter-galactic travellers roll up and tune in just inside the Kuiper Belt for their daily dose of laughter at our expense. Their giggles can be heard all over the Universe.
If it was not so tragic, it might be funny. But it isn't. Many of us, myself included, have lost close family members to Covid-19 and today the number of infections and deaths are even worse than they were last March/April. These days at least doctors and nurses are not wearing plastic bags over their heads but in many countries hospitals are at breaking point with patients dying in ambulances queueing up outside, or else lying on hospital floors because there aren't enough beds. There's plenty of money for submarines, though, of course.
Many are those who refuse to wear masks or who deny that Covid exists or who say the vaccines are in fact a ruse to inject a micro-chip into us so that "they" can kill us all or control us. Not so long ago, the same people were speaking about commercial pilots releasing chemtrails into the atmosphere because "they" wanted to kill everyone. Getting real, turning a blind eye to such a dangerous virus lurking invisibly out of reach may be a safety mechanism (if you cannot see it, it does not exist...go and ask the ostrich) but this is the time for transparency, not denial.
Many are those who decided to spend last Christmas as usual and to have New Year celebrations as always, despite the obvious risks and now look what has happened. With all our technology, we have managed to pull off the impossible and actually go backwards. Doctors and nurses are overworked to saturation point, non-Covid patients are not daring to go anywhere near a hospital and are suffering the consequences, jobs are being shed by the thousands. In some countries, only a handful of people are being vaccinated because the healthcare system cannot deliver the vaccine and Devil take the hindmost. But there is money for submarines to murder people and to entertain submariners while they do what they do down there, whatever that may be, while there is not enough money to save human lives, of course.
This, while over a trillion dollars are spent each and every year on weapons systems to murder people. There's always money for submarines.
Many of those who have found themselves unemployed will not easily find another job any time soon, especially those in the travel, leisure and hospitality industries; the number of families with both husband and wife unemployed has risen dramatically. In a world in which automation, robotization and digitalization are the buzz-words of the day, there will be fewer and fewer jobs, under the current economic system. The consequences of this are dire on the macro- and micro-economic levels. With less money coming into the kitty from taxation and more money going out in social benefits payments, public services and quality of life for society in general are the immediate consequences while marginalization, exclusion and the ensuing social costs involved are not much further downstream.
As someone once said, "It's the economy, stupid!" And the mismanagement of this virus right from the beginning by those who at first criticized the PR China for being "draconian" because States favored the economy over common sense policies to save lives underlines the fact that this economic model currently in vogue simply cannot co-exist with anything outside laboratory conditions. It is like a sprinter who can only race on days without any wind. But hey!There's always money for submarines.
As I said exactly a year ago in this column, after asking the question "Is this the one?", there should have been an immediate travel ban to and from the PR China and any cases springing up should have had a steel ring of isolation placed around them. While those paid fortunes to conduct public health policy were saying that the chances of sustained human-to-human transmission were pie-in-the-sky, I (who know Jack about squat) was claiming that there were indeed such cases and it would spread. All I had to do was trawl through my previous articles on pandemics and copy and paste chunks of what I wrote decades ago. As usual, the WHO said there was no reason to impose any restrictions and people should remain "vigilant".
Right. Keep an eye on something you cannot see, let it spread far and wide and hey wow, we have reached global pandemic phase VI boys and girls, is there anyone in the Pharma Lobby interested in coming up with a drug?
Thinking beyond Covid, there is another candidate called Nipah, a virus whose vector is also the bat, but one that has already infected pigs, and humans and yes, there is human-to-human transmission but as yet no sustainable chains. Yet. The symptoms are not unlike Covid, its incubation period is similar but its mortality rate is between 40 and 75%. It is present in several Asian countries and has already moved outside this continent. Sorry to disturb people but it's time to get real.
So thinking outside Covid, we had better get our act together, collectively. First, let us tidy up the current mess.
The key word here is transparency, which means treating people like adults, admitting the real figures and not hiding them or diluting them or augmenting them so as not to provide fuel for those who continue to claim that Covid does not exist or that the vaccine is dangerous. Secondly, one year on, there is talk about a "lost generation" of schoolchildren, and talk about a strongly negative psychological impact on many children, who have apparently started to lose their social skills. It is hardly surprising, they must be terrified, traumatized and phobic. After all, they look to adults for guidance and what do they see? Wide-eyed mums and dads panicking, the television vomiting forth statistics of infected patients, filming at hospital gates, showing graphic images of hospital floors, people gasping for breath...and death.
The entire school programme should be available online to be picked up at any time of day or night, complete with tests and answer keys and windows for pupils and students to speak to teachers, complete with networking exercises for the pupils/students to complete their tasks in working groups, to maintain networking skills. Certainly, a country is not a mirror image of the middle class in the capital city and there are many without access to the Internet or computers and this is what Governments are for, not to buy submarines and this is why we pay our taxes, not to buy submarines.
The difficult part is what to do with pre-school children and primary school pupils. The former have to be at home with the parents and firms have to create flexible working conditions which take this need into account, rather than control freaks inventing power games because distance working has taken away the one chance they had to be somebody. For the primary school pupils, the program could be reduced to a core to shorten the hours spent in front of a screen but let us remember when it comes to video games, the kids are more than happy, and so...
There is also something called parenting, something which may have to be (re-) learnt by overworked couples who arrive home stressed and exhausted at all hours of the evening, relegating quality-time questions to a nonchalant wave-of- the-hand response: "Go and ask your teacher!" Again, companies have to embrace a policy of flexibility for their employees to have the time to approach the forced changes in their routines and this means a proper job description with tasks clearly laid out and it means putting the emphasis on the end result and not the means of getting there. Meanwhile, home offices can, with a little intelligence, be made comfortable, Zen spaces instead of everyone perched on the kitchen table glowering at each other with tensions building and unacceptable acts of intrusion and insolence such as trawling through a cell phone left on the table and the question "Who's Rachel?"
Another challenge is the economic and social effects of this situation. Nobody provides accommodation for free these days in this socio-economic system and let us remember the dramatic situation of families where one or both jobs have been lost and they cannot pay their mortgage or rent, so what happens after the moratoriums are lifted? How can they pay their payments in arrears along with meeting their current obligations?
How can businesses survive when the bottom line is zero, for months on end?
How can a firm go to a bank with a business plan where the income line is zero for the foreseeable future?These are the questions for the economists to answer; after all, what are they paid for? To come up with ideas.
You cannot just print money but let us remember that money only has a symbolic value and the concept of money began with tokens. Could these not be issued and circulate within a given time frame to attenuate the pressures on businesses and jobs, then be reabsorbed into the financial system, maybe with a long-term interest coupon attached?
There is always money for submarines, and so surely in a world which spends trillions on weapons systems to destroy families, there is a solution to save them. Where there is a will, of course.
Thinking beyond Covid, let us remember that while we are destroying habitat, which is the natural reservoir for viruses, bacteria and funghi, while we are consuming unnatural quantities of meat and producing it through holding animals in deplorable conditions, pumping them full of steroids, hormones and anti-biotics, we are providing the conditions for something like Nipah to make Covid look like a gaggle of grannies on a walk in the park.
Covid is not the first pandemic and will not be the last. In our wonderful, wizzy modern world of advanced technology, with our marvellous systems to destroy cities and obliterate an entire population in seconds, we seem to be at the mercy of something that can be killed with soap suds. Yet we spend billions on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles.
Welcome to the Human Freak Show. Will we learn the Covid lesson? No, we will not. We will go around in circles, believing that RNA technology to take particles of the spike of a virus and use these as inputs for a vaccine will save us. How useful will that be against a highly infectious virus which kills 75% of its hosts? Only after it is too late but hey! There will always be money for submarines!
Photo: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10613529
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the termination of diplomatic relations with NATO at a time when US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ended a meeting in Georgia with his counterpart