The time of plague


T.J. Newton

Probably the greatest peddlers of misinformation have been governments and the mainstream media. In these uncertain times more than ever it requires a lot of reading between the lines to decipher what is really going on and to understand what is real and what is not real, what to do and what not to do. An example here is the foot dragging, utter incompetence and dis-unified actions of the federal government, state governments, and assorted government departments. Does anyone remember the farce of Scott Morrison saying he would be going to “the footy” and urging everyone else to do the same – only to have Football attendance cancelled a few days later? What about the ban on cruise ships, only to have the NSW government allow a ship, the Ruby Princess, to dock flooding in even more cases of Corona Virus. More people will die as a result of this, heads should roll and Gladys Berejiklian should be sacked. However as usual somehow government officials are exempt from accountability, the law and repercussions whereas the average citizen isn’t.

I am very much an advocate of the go early, go hard doctrine that Singapore and South Korea put in practice resulting in early short term pain instead of death by a thousand cuts opted for by governments like Italy and Australia – amongst others. The fact is the borders should have been closed earlier. I removed my kids from school 2 weeks ago. I was not going to wait for the government to take decisive and appropriate action, they rarely can and it’s more-often a case of them being pushed rather than jumping. I also stocked up on a reasonable amount of food supplies and home defense measures. I wouldn’t advocate expecting the government to necessarily be there to help just when you need help the most.

The bigger issue here though is China – the 500-pound gorilla that no-one in government dares bring up and criticise. This pandemic is the bill that has come due for turning a blind eye to their activities, for our addiction to cheap things (much of it cheap toxic rubbish that inevitably goes into landfills), for allowing most of our industries to be moved there, for allowing the Chinese government to infiltrate and literally buy our country. Part of the reason the borders weren’t closed sooner was to not offend the Chinese government and the countless Chinese citizens we now have living and working here. Chinese citizens, many of whose allegiance lies first and foremost with China. I’m sure by now many of you have seen reports of Chinese “entrepreneurs” and firms based here utilising their workforces to go out and buy up literally tons of medical supplies and other items and shipping them out to China. Supplies that our hospitals, chemists and supermarkets are running short of to help our own population at this desperate time of need.

What we do know is that we cannot believe anything China says, about anything but especially about this outbreak. The stories and conspiracy theories are many but what we do know is that:

China definitely knew about the virus outbreak in December – probably November. Yet they not only covered it up but allowed millions of Chinese citizens to leave the country in effect (and in a twist worthy of the film 12 Monkeys) dispersing the virus around the world. They could not have done a better job of it if they had deliberately set out to do so. In Italy the outbreak is believed to have started from 2 Chinese tourists. Yet Western governments chose to do nothing until things reached a critical stage and enough people started dying.

Stories have circulated that the virus may not even have originated from the vile “wet markets” dotted around China and Asia but rather from a lab in China – located by chance in Wuhan and very close to the aforementioned “wet market”. The implication being that this was a virus they were experimenting with in said lab. The other story related to this is that the virus “escaped” either by one of the test animals getting out of the facility or once the experiments were concluded the experiment animals (probably rats or monkeys) were simply sold and then made their way to the “wet markets” where the contagion spread. Others have put a more sinister spin on this and believe this was a deliberate act.

What does add a touch credence to this is that the way the virus works i.e. being able to survive for long periods on surfaces, being highly contagious, not killing mass amounts of people quickly (hence allowing to spread further and wider) but rather debilitating them and in doing so overwhelming our social and economic systems and incapacitating them. Yet our media and politicians have been more worried about being labelled “racists” than dealing with the actual virus or poiting the finger firmly at China. I’m not big on conspiracy theories but having seen a number of unlikely ones actually prove to be true I am open-minded about most possibilities with the addition of evidence. Whatever the case in this instance we may never know the true facts about this and we can be reasonably certain the Chinese government knows more about it than we are being told and probably our own governments know more also.

The main worry at this point as we slowly stumble further into lockdown is that firstly, at any given time due to the exponential rate of spread we are only ever about 60 days from total worldwide infection, so how long governments can contain the virus before a vaccine or cure is found is the big question. Secondly that the virus might mutate, like the Spanish Flu, thus becoming more deadly. This would lead to not 100-200 million deaths (as a current worst-case scenario with the virus in its current state) but 10 times that number or more. The Spanish Flu is estimated to have infected 500 million and killed between 20 million to 100 million people when the world’s population was just under 2 billion. We now have a population of 7.5 billion. Thirdly, even as a best-case scenario if we can curb the virus (despite the gross incompetence of governments worldwide which has already resulted in so many unnecessary deaths) and it is brought under control the social and economic ramifications of this pandemic will be far greater and long-reaching. The psychological damage to people and their lives brought on by this isolation and upheaval alone may be greater than the pandemic. The economic recovery alone may take a few years or it may take a decade or more. It may even drive the world economy into a depression which in part is what lead to World War 2 and it was only that ensuing war which was able to shake the world out of depression.

Whatever happens, the biggest question is what will we do with China? Will we simply resume business as usual with them and wait for an even worse pandemic to originate from there? Will we simply accept their clear belligerent expansionist intentions? Will we simply accept that they produce most of our medicines and antibiotics, not to mention just about everything we use and need. They have made it very clear they would be willing to withhold those vital medicines to punish the West or if their own populations needed them. Does our addiction to cheap things and the fact that so many of our politicians and elites are now in the pockets of China mean that we will simply forget this disaster that has been visited on us by China and go on as if nothing has happened, whistling past the cemetery? There are three things we can be very certain of: unchecked China will continue to consume the world driving more and more rare species (amongst others) to extinction in the race for more voodoo medicine, status and conspicuous consumption. China will continue its aggressive political, social and military expansionism fueled by the very wealth it has gained from the West. Lastly, and we should never forget this, China is not our friend.

T.J. Newton is a social commentator and critic with a background in philosophy and psychoanalysis. Currently residing in Melbourne after having lived and worked overseas in Europe and the United States.