The only benefit of the whole Covid drama has been a vindication for those skeptical of human nature and of an effective political response
If there’s been any advantage at all from the last eighteen months, it’s in being witness to a real-time case-study in how societies respond to the release of a (functional) bio-weapon and in the confirmation of the doubts many have harbored regarding what would happen in such a case.
To take first things first, there is no doubt that what we’re dealing with is the escape — whether willful or otherwise — of a scientifically-engineered virus. For confirmation of this, you don’t need any advanced scientific knowledge or special access to data, just an open mind and what Orwell called a willingness to face unpleasant facts.
If this were a naturally-occurring virus — given the Chinese have been eating bats and the like in their markets for millennia, without ever having provoked this level of response — then why the following events? Why were apartment blocks literally welded shut? Why was the WHO blocked by authorities from accessing the likely source of the outbreak? And why — of all places - did the virus emerge from one of the few cities in the world actually capable of manufacturing such a thing? And to make matters worse, itself a city within a regime with such a long-held history of deceit and obfuscation?
Further to that, if this were your run-of-the-mill virus like the swine and bird flu episodes we’ve also recently witnessed, then why the elevated response? Such diseases never necessitated the travel restrictions, mask mandates and vaccination campaigns that we’re currently experiencing.
It’s then clear that what we’re dealing with is the initial leakage and subsequent spread of what is functionally a bio-weapon, without this ever explicitly stated as the case. In this event, what have we learnt?
Unsurprisingly, it’s that people act irrationally when gripped by fear. Once the notion of a ‘killer virus’ had spread through the body politic, all sorts of unhinged events began to occur, usually out of all proportion to the actual facts or common logic.
For one, people ran on the supermarkets. Shelves were stripped bare with shoppers huddled in close proximity all in order to get their 10-kilo bag of rice and their 48 rolls of toilet paper.
And as the fear took hold, people eyed each other with suspicion. With the once-calm residents of prosperous locales quickly resembling the frightened masses of Oran, the North African town of Camus’ eponymous Plague.
The response of the state was hardly better. Whilst not publicly airing — what their modelling surely warned them was an engineered virus — the nature of the disease was general enough to keep people wary, but not so specific as to further inflame tensions.
This also flowed into other aspects of their rhetoric too. With generic ‘outbreaks’ and ‘residents’ being affected, largely without reference to a specific demographic or locale: lest people get the (correct) impression that certain groups weren’t acting in the interests of the common good and were thus exacerbating the effect of the virus.
And whilst the state’s lockdowns have lessened the spread of the disease (by reducing proximity hence transmissibility), thus buying time to administer vaccines, many of their efforts have been utter failures. Aside from their arbitrary and often tyrannical measures, many of the key functions of the state have been poorly handled.
Most importantly, is the management of quarantine. If, as they surely knew, this was an airborne virus, spread by particles, then why were quarantine facilities set up in places so unfit for such a purpose? Why were commercial hotels used? i.e. places located in the middle of densely populated cities; with communal hallways and rooms in close proximity; and a common ventilation duct through which the virus could, and did, spread?
The vaccination program has also been riddled with errors. Conflicting advice on the safety of the vaccines for certain cohorts gave us the tragic example of residents dying from vaccine side-effects such as blood clots. With this largely due to the harried push to vaccinate, come what may, or as a largely inevitable form of ‘collateral damage’.
And to quote Orwell again, the Covid response has shown us once more that: all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Whilst many have been utterly destroyed by the events of the last 18 months (confined to their homes; their incomes lost and potentially their lives too) others have gone on largely unimpeded. Many sports-stars and athletes, for example, have been able to continue on as normal; even able to attend an Olympics.
The rich have also, as ever, been able to buy their way out of much of this. Often avoiding restrictions by literally getting on their yachts and sailing away (see David Geffen, for one). Whilst public servants and politicians in places like Australia have — in direct opposition to the notion of ‘bad optics’ — given themselves a pay-rise whilst their cities flounder and their residents are stuck at home.
Yet, in defense of the political class, much of what we’ve seen has sharply shown the limits of the demos and vindicated the politicians’ rhetoric. Whilst the public may be within their rights to protest (given the seemingly interminable nature of the lockdowns), a large amount of the public response has further confirmed the wisdom of those skeptical of democracy.
Not only has there been violent public protest, but also the unedifying scenes of the ‘anti-vaxers’ — who’d rather (and did) die than be vaccinated — or the ‘deniers’ — who believes no such virus exists. Or the ‘cranks’ and conspiracy theorists who believe variously that the vaccine is actually a microchip implanted by Bill Gates for nefarious purposes, or that the entire event is a conspiracy orchestrated by some shadowy group in order to institute global communism or strip them of their assets.
It’s also pulled the cover off the — sad, yet sadly not incomprehensible —ethnic tensions that lie beneath the multicultural facade. For one, we’ve had the farcical spectacle of residents confusing locally-born doctors with their distant co-ethnies found at the site of the virus. A dumb outcome, to say the least — yet one that’s probably to be expected and is itself a further vindication of the politicians’ rhetoric.
Thus Covid has merely confirmed many of our darker worries about the nature of the human animal and that of the masses at large. Yet if it’s any consolation, you can bet that next time one of these things rolls around, folks will still be irrationally afraid, they’ll hoard superfluous rolls of toilet paper and they’ll blame it all again on a minority.