Two Times Six Weeks of Ideological Failure Are
Responsible for the Coronavirus Tragedy.
Ivan Starrymist, January 2021
Focussing on the six weeks at the beginning of 2020 when the West failed to prevent the virus from infecting millions of people and the six weeks at the beginning of 2021 when the West failed to efficiently roll out the vaccines can reveal the ideological failings that are wholly responsible for this global tragedy. To begin to understand these failings we must ask why a regime that murdered between 30 and 60 million of its people in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and then murderously suppressed a protest of discontent in 1989 was admitted into the WTO in 2001 and then allowed to gain influence over global institutions like the WHO and the UN to such an extent that Western governments have compromised every semblance of democratic principle to kowtow to it to the extent that they failed to close their borders to prevent their own devastation.
For six weeks at the beginning of 2020 Western regimes did nothing; they did not close their borders, they did not plan let alone construct the infrastructure necessary to manage Covid-19, they did not collectively develop a strategy, acquire personal protective clothing (PPE), they did not develop dialogues with their populations for preparing emergency measure that ultimately require nationwide approval. They did nothing.
At the beginning of 2021, the science that has produced the various vaccines can be admired. But for an advanced nation to require more than six weeks to roll out a vaccination programme is the final failure. All other discussion focusses in details between these polls of failure and misses the point to the degree of near irrelevance. Even the important discussion about individual freedoms versus state control and lockdowns needs take place within these parameters if it is to be of significance.
Bill Clinton stated in 2000 that by “joining the WTO, China is not simply agreeing to import more of our products, it is agreeing to import one of democracy’s most cherished values, economic freedom,” Mr. Clinton said. “When individuals have the power not just to dream, but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say”, he may have genuinely believed it. But many at the time forecasted the problems ahead. The decision now can be seen as either a mistake, an expression of irresponsible short-term greed, or both. What is certain is that the effects of this are with us and the spread of Covid-19 descends directly and intrinsically from it.
Had China not been admitted to the WTO, it would not have gained such global influence through its power over institutions like the WHO and the UN, where it has been elected to the highest human rights body. Were its economy relative to the USA and other Western states similar to 1999, the pressure it exerted on the world not to close borders in early 2020 would have been greatly reduced. This is the key to the global spread of Covid-19. This is why the WHO urged countries not to close borders to China in early February and was reluctant to call the pandemic a pandemic until 11th March 2020.
China hasn’t seen its individuals demand a greater say. After the Tiananmen Square massacre that should have been apparent. As the critical mass of the middle class grows this may yet happen in the future, but up to the present time the opposite is the case. Not only that but with corporate control of the internet in the West emulating China’s censorship methods, ‘democracy’s most cherished values’ are being eroded. The reverse of Clinton’s prediction is occurring and has been for several years as the CCP has pressured universities and content overseers to prevent criticism.
Covid-19 has sped up this process with democratic states taking ultra-authoritarian steps to curtail it and supporting censoring social media criticism. While lockdown may be necessary, the abandonment of democratic values is not. In fact, the opposite is the case. In March 2020 the British government was forced by public pressure to abandon its herd immunity policy. Between ninety and ninety-three percent of respondents polled supported a lockdown. Although the government bowed to this public pressure, it failed to recognise the public as the greatest asset in combatting the disease and regulating the lockdown. The public would have cooperated with policing the lockdown and policing the lockdown would have been a far simpler task with a public culture in support. The public would not have left the airports open throughout the lockdown and would have tested incomers. The biggest factor in the level of disease between states is the closure of incoming travel. China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have far fewer cases than European nations because of this.
Public participation in the most authoritarian measures during a crisis is not an anomaly for a democracy, it is a logical and practical essential. During six weeks at the beginning of 2020 the Western democracies failed entirely. Donald Trump’s statement that one day the disease would just go away was the stupidest thing anyone has said about it. Although to be fair, his comment that the cure cannot be worse than the disease was most intelligent. Not to be outdone, Sadiq Khan’s decision to cut tube services, thus causing overcrowding was the single stupidest act and the London Mayor has yet to follow it with anything intelligent. Both Khan and Trump are guilty of manslaughter through ideologically derived negligence, bordering on murder. Both needed to project an image of control. Neither could not open the discussion of what should be done in the crisis to the demos because both feared compromising their position of control. Trump’s ridiculous comment signalled the beginning of his demise. Khan is hanging in there. But both subscribe to an ideology of top-down control, which destroyed the public trust required to control the virus and which was required to succeed in efficiently rolling out the vaccine. It is the lack of trust in the public that has resulted in every state in the world’s failure to roll out the vaccine efficiently.
Even Israel with the world’s fastest vaccine roll out programme is only impressive when compared to the failure elsewhere. The ‘success’ in Israel is down to the necessary public participation in the military, which has been instrumental in adopting an appropriate war footing that other states have not realised the need for. While in France, the public distrust of government reflects Macron’s disrespect for the electorate, for example denying them a referendum on EU membership despite acknowledging that they would probably vote to leave by a larger margin than did the British. This is a symptom of out of touch, distant elitism. And the ideology of elitism, of closed and secretive government, is the cause of the failure.
The phrase, a ‘war footing’, was used by Professor Sir John Bell an immunologist at Oxford University, who claims that that the NHS could vaccinate the UK in five days. A report by the Adam Smith Institute points to speeding the vaccination effort up to six million people per week, roughly eleven weeks for a UK wide completion. The authors use the term ‘war effort’ to accelerate the end of the crisis. But while their twenty-two recommendations for increasing supply and distribution contain excellent ideas like accelerating and expanding the use of the “Jabs Army” and volunteers, to provide sufficient vaccinators and logistics staffing, online delivery of home injection kits for those willing and able, crowdsourcing ideas and proactively planning for and stocking the Novavax vaccine, more could have been done.
In this article it is claimed that the effort could have been completed in six weeks, including the booster injection. Planning should have begun in October when scientists were already very optimistic about the vaccines. If the measures recommended in the Adam Smith report had been allied with a campaign to recruit as much of the public as possible to assist with logistics, to be trained to administer vaccinations, to transport patients and vaccinators to vaccination centres, and if the government’s plan had been in place by early December, a nation working on a war footing could have achieved this in six weeks. While ensuring due process was adhered to for passing the vaccine safe was necessary, as well as stocking the Novavax vaccine, batches of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine could have been approved for quality and distributed to vaccination centres beforehand. This would have been a small gamble given the cost of such a slow roll out and the cheapness of the Oxford vaccine. The plan could have been actioned the exact minute the vaccine was approved and on a 24/7 basis.
The report also rightly points to the missed opportunity of refusing offers from the private sector to assist with logistics, cold storage and the use of premises as vaccination centres. But it is not only refusing to work with willing businesses that has resulted in the failure. The government’s U-turn on 24/7 roll out centres encapsulates the problem and the ideological distrust that distances the government from its best asset, the public. In early January the government claimed that there was no demand for a 24/7 roll out. On January 13th it announced plans to open 24/7 centres, perhaps noticing pressure on social media from where it is clear there is a demand for it.
A successful roll out requires mass mobilisation of the citizenry. It is this that governments have failed to realise. This failure comes from an ideological aversion to the demos. It is not just incompetence, nor is it a conspiracy. It is endemic to the anti-democratic ideologies of the West, in particular the EU. It is no coincidence that the UK is doing better. The UK’s comparative superiority correlates causatively to the increase in democratic pressure upon the government since leaving the EU. Johnson knows this is his last chance to rescue his reputation, if he fails to preside over a successful vaccine roll out, relative to other developed states, he is toast. But the culture of fearing and excluding the public has not yet changed much among the British political class.
The political culture of exclusivity that resulted in an aversion to mobilising the public is, sadly, evident in education as well. There is talk of cancelling exams for a second year. Given the current state of play in the war against Covid-19 with millions set to be vaccinated or otherwise immune by Spring and therefore able to invigilate exams in multiple locations within and outside of schools to ensure children are socially distanced, this will be a failure so colossal that the government will no longer be responsible. The public and professionals will have to take responsibility this time.
Political leaders cannot be expected to be wise on all things, or even on a few things. To blame them is an abdication of responsibility by everyone else in a democracy. The difficult truth for us all to acknowledge at this historical juncture is that good political leaders do not exist. Good political leaders never have existed, at anytime, anywhere, ever. Sir Winston Churchill’s war effort, in collaboration with Clement Attlee and the rest of the war cabinet, succeeded in contributing a degree of courage and facilitation to the public’s war effort. That is the nearest thing in all history to a good political leader. The British public, however, had the wisdom not to elect him once the war was over. There followed a period of magnificent upward social mobility, a growing middle class, freedom and social responsibility.
That period of history is gone, replaced by a shrinking middle class and stagnation of social mobility throughout the West accompanied by an increase in the democratic deficit; a reduction in democracy that empowered political leaders to do precisely and absolutely nothing for six weeks in early 2020 and now empowers them to bypass the single greatest resource required for efficiently rolling out a mass vaccination programme in six weeks in 2021, the public.