I first saw him slink around the back of the railway buildings while waiting for my train. He was handsome. Black and white, white moustache, chest, paws but the rest of him ink black with a sheen to his fur, like ravens have.
The next time, he was on the platform sitting on one of the slatted seats as though waiting for his girlfriend to get off the 5.35pm to Epping. A woman in a bright red coat was also on the seat not apparently objecting to the company, as she ignored him; just a fellow traveller. Then I saw why she was oblivious to the cat. She had a seeing-eye dog on the other side of her but the dog ignored him too, even when the cat got up and began bunting the woman’s arm, purring his furry pants off. She smiled and reached out to pat him.
“Oh, puss! Come to say hello again have you?”
He droned deeply and loudly so that the other passengers nearby turned and smiled as his basso profundo purring resonated in the waiting area. Then he did something unusual for cats sitting on a station platform next to a blind woman in a red coat. He stretched his front legs up to her ear and tickled her with his whiskers, giving the lobe of her ear a tiny nibble. Startled, she laughed and jerked, raising her hand to push him down and at that he retreated but pushed against her side and tried to nestle into her lap. She sighed and on he got, instantly flopping on her lap as though they’d been best of friends for years, just watching telly together after a decent cup of tea and a piece of carrot cake. She patted and stroked him rhythmically and it seemed suddenly very quiet on the platform till the train pulled in. She got up saying goodbye to the cat and rousing her fat old golden retriever dog to guide her onto the train, I followed and swung in on the seat across from her. A few minutes passed and after the conductor had checked our Myki cards I said to her.
She turned to face me, her eyes cast down and quite crooked in the gaze, flicking and jerking.
“Wasn’t he funny? What colour was he? I imagine he was a marmalade cat as they can be quite bolshy.”
“No, no. He was black and white. Neat moustache. You know like he was wearing a tuxedo, white chest, white mo, white sox.”
“He was lovely anyway. Very friendly. He gave me a fright when he spoke to me though.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Spoke to you?”
“Yes. He had a funny, raspy little voice.”
“He wasn’t purring? Sometimes, cats can sound almost human. When I was growing up we had a Siamese cat we thought was calling my sister. “Moira! Moira!” It was hilarious.”
“No, not like that. Real words.”
“What did he say?”
She put her head down. “I can’t tell you. He asked me not to say.”
I chuckled a bit. “Did he ask you out on a date?”
She began patting the head of her dog and turned her head towards the window. “It was weird.” She whispered and I collected my bag and stood up to get off at the next station.
“Well, see you later, have a good day.”
She turned her head to me and I saw her eyes moist, the lashes thick with tears. I touched her arm softly and moved down the aisle.
The following Friday at the same station where I caught the 7.35 to Flinders St, I saw the woman again in her red coat. She was standing still, her feet on the yellow line which I thought was a bit dangerous for a blind person, as trains whooshed in with lots of grit and wind. I approached feeling a little protective and anxious too as she might think I was being patronising or interfering. The dog wasn’t with her. Neither was the cat. The train came in and as it jerked to a halt she stepped forward towards the automatic doors. She got in perfectly naturally and found a seat by the window stowing her small rucksack in front of her but away from the older woman seated opposite. I couldn’t sit next to her as that seat was taken too but I watched her every gesture as we moved off. Obviously she could see but what was with the dog?
I had to make a decision when she got off the train to follow her or go to work. I sighed. Rent was due.
That very day though, as I got off the train, the 5.35 to Epping, he was there again, the cat, doing his thing with another of the passengers sitting on the same slatted bench seat as the blind woman before. Bunting, purring, caressing he was the Lothario of the line. This passenger wasn’t blind though and became very animated and engaged with the cat stroking and smiling broadly as he sent his purry love out. She was old and had one of those four legged walking sticks to help her balance. She had a built up shoe, so her problem had been long standing, excuse the pun. The cat was busy nuzzling and stretching up to her ear as I came up to them.
“Hi! He loves you that’s for sure!” I remarked.
She laughed and leaned in to reciprocate the cat’s nudge with her head, saying.
“Yes he’s lovely isn’t he? I’ve never seen him here before. I come here all the time but he’s new to the station.”
“I saw him here last week with another girl. You better be careful, he’s clearly got plans for all the ladies!”
“No, no he’s just friendly! I’d say someone owns him round here though. He’s well fed.”
“Yeah. Maybe. Don’t know. Well, take care. Give him a pat for me, though I don’t generally like cats.”
“I will. Thanks
I turned to go but out of the corner of my eye I saw him put his paw up to her ear and lean in, startling her, she pulled back, staring at the cat then gathered him up in her arms, her shoulders and chest heaved a little. The platform was quiet. No cars moved, no-one spoke, there were no announcements or crackling over the Tannoys, not even a bird announced its newest worm meal. I stood for this stretched moment till suddenly the wind whipped up a little eddy of dust as the train on the opposite side pulled in. I squeezed my eyes shut to keep the flying dirt out. When I opened them and looked, the cat was gone and the old woman was getting up to board the incoming train. By the seat was her walking stick, she had dropped the prop and was walking straight as a soldier.
That evening I was alone as usual in my flat at the window which looked over the rear carpark. I saw my neighbour Anton pull in and heard the doof doof doof of the speakers till the ignition went off. He opened the rear car door and took his kid out. I’m no audiologist but I reckon that kid must be deaf by now with his dad’s stereo blasting in his ears every day. He was a nice bloke though and apart from his symphonic entrance was a decent neighbour; not too noisy and took his rubbish out to the bins regularly. Anton was a nurse at the local nursing home a few blocks away. He’d asked me if I wanted a few shifts there but I was pretty ok where I was, better the devil you know and all that. I like old people. I like their funny little ways, how they like stuff done in a certain way, which can be sometimes a bit annoying but hey, they have a right don’t they? Like Mrs Budd always has to have her bangles and beads put on in a certain order and she likes red lipstick on those thin lips on a Friday but not a Monday, that’s for the Coral Biscuit. Mr. Worth is a kleptomaniac and steals the old ladies underwear inserting his collection up his sleeves and in the pockets of his dun coloured overcoat which he wears every day along with his grey green fedora. Old Mrs Levin folds and re-folds her handkerchiefs and tissues, puts them in her handbag, takes them out and again, fossicks inside her bag, puts the hankies on her right knee, then back in the bag. Hours of pleasure and fun doing this.
As Anton came up the stairwell, his kid complaining he couldn’t walk as Lukey had kicked him at recess and his knee was sore, I popped my head out the front door.
“Anton, hey. Coming for a beer later on?”
“Nah mate, sorry. Beck’s got a late and I have to be home.”
“No worries. Later then. See you Saturday.”
“Sure mate, sure. See ya.”
Alone again. It was the twenty seventh night I’d stayed home by myself. I wanted to tell someone about the cat and those two women but when I saw how my mind was running with it I knew I would sound mad. Anton especially would think I was in the beginnings of dementia. It was just one of those things. A weirdness, a coincidence. I turned on the TV then went to bed at 10.05.
The thing was, when I saw the cat approach the next woman at the station a week later, I was so intensely focussed on getting close I must’ve looked incredibly weird, sidling up to them like some bloody freaky stalker. It was the same slatted bench but this time the woman was young and had a kid in a navy blue pusher, with a bag of stuff stowed underneath on the tray. I moved to get a better view and saw the kid had really thick bottle lens glasses and his arms were stiff and crossed in front of his chest. Sad. Cerebral palsy. He was about three, maybe, with fine porcelain skin, and blue veins weaving their way up the temples. The cat was sitting next to the woman who turned to him addressing him directly.
“Hi kitty. Where’ve you been?”
The cat ignored her and was staring intently at the child in the pusher.
“I missed you last time.” She reached over to pat his head which he accepted but made no move towards her, sitting Sphinx like and quietly intense. Then the cat stretched out and hopped directly into the pusher wriggling down beside the child who chortled and laughed, his arms flipping up straight and in the typical movement of spastic hemiplegia.
I drew in my breath waiting to see what he would do, also to see if the mother would tip the cat out. She didn’t. She just smiled placidly and let the cat do his thing with her boy, nuzzling nibbling and licking. The train was approaching and she got up to collect her things and move towards the yellow line saying. “Come on puss. Out you go!”
He didn’t move but had crouched on her boy’s stomach purring gently. She leaned over to pick him up but stopped and looked down at her son who now had one arm quite relaxed around the cat and the other carefully pulling off his glasses. Again the air grew still, sound retreated and time bent. Then in a clear little voice the boy spoke.
“Mum! Can we keep the cat?”
She pulled back and ran her hands through her short dark hair breathing fast and short gasps.
“What? What did you say?”
“I said can we keep the cat?”
At this she burst into tears, sobbing as she knelt in front of her son who had dropped his glasses over the edge of the pusher and was reaching both arms out to her.
We all missed the train and the cat was nowhere to be seen. Normally I would never touch anyone I wasn’t caring for professionally but now as I went over to her and put my hand on her shoulder, I thought my heart would burst. Her eyes were like bright open cornflowers as she looked up at me, tears streaming from her eyes.
“I don’t understand. Did you see that? The cat, he said something to my son…he…he…”
“I know.” I beamed at her. “He’s not the only one. Believe me.”
At the end of the platform and onto the rails beyond I saw him, his tail high and straight like an exclamation mark against the horizon, on the trot.
America has always loomed large as the principal actor on the world stage but like one of its own Hollywood stars it is having quite a tantrum over Covid19 and the stay at home orders during the pandemic. Americans are also rioting and protesting over police violence and the systemic racism that allows it to flourish unchecked. It’s quite an epidemic. Some of it is real, some staged some, like any good crisis, used.
I suspect the rest of the world looks on aghast as the tantrum is played out in Michigan with armed protesters Hilary Clinton called ‘domestic terrorists’. I can’t imagine it happening in any other country without it being called an uprising, a revolution, a coup. The armed protesters would also be met with water cannons, tear gas, bigger guns and tanks. There would be no carnations tolerated by authorities nor young men with headbands and daisies in their hair. At this point I have read nor heard anything from Obama nor Hilary over the Minneapolis riots, oh but they are about black deaths…poverty…racism…the hard stuff. Unimaginable.
Likewise it is unimaginable looting stores in Manchester, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Melbourne or any other city in Europe or even in Asia. Then again the events leading to the epidemic of American police shooting black American people is unimaginable…or is it? In Canada (exemplary in contrast with her neighbour) you are 20 times more likely to be shot by police as a black person than a white person. Is the looting and shooting part of the game of cops and robbers? Is it just what pathetic, incipiently angry people do when they have guns, frustrations and a badge? Or is it part of the great American bang bang narrative?
It is hard to understand Americans grandiose posturing on individual rights, freedoms (and guns) without taking into account their seduction years ago firstly by their own constitution, giving the individual a sense of entitlement and then by the mirage of material happiness, the idea that buying and selling stuff and more stuff will bring economic success and democratic rights and freedoms. This simple dichotomy has at its source the desire for simple narratives that explain away a very complex world unified by banks and commercial interests but splintered by ideologies and culture. Certainly it ignores a society rooted in slavery and systemic racism. Perhaps indeed the myth of the success of multiculturalism and the desire for a single world unified by green policies and a ‘woke’ generation, is part of the narrative spin.
The pandemic has indeed awoken them to a number of unpleasant realities. If the virus is indeed what they say it is, then it prefers black people and Asians, the obese, the old and those with co-morbidities. These are everywhere in the West but most strikingly, in the USA these people show up as mortalities partly because the virus likes them but partly because they don’t have medical insurance or well equipped hospitals to get swift and effective early medical intervention or they simply go to work sick as they can’t miss a days pay.
In the second part of my argument of the epidemic of police violence against black people, the mortalities mount up more slowly but it is still an epidemic. According to Mapping Violence, 1147 people were killed by police in 2017, only 1% of these deaths resulted in charges against the police officers involved, all of whom had killed before. None of the rest were investigated by authorities despite the fact that over 34% of the deaths were with unarmed people, most were people of colour, black and Hispanic making up the majority. Roughly 1000 people every year are killed by police in the US since 2015. Coloured people are the majority, as previously stated. However, concentrating for the moment on Covid19 and that mortality, according to the latest figures, overall COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is 2.4 times as high as the rate for Whites and 2.2 times as high as the rate for Asians and Latinos. Quite the epidemic.
It might be surprising to learn that the process of counting the dead in both cases is not simple. Those who died at the hands of police are hidden behind silence at worst and obfuscation at best.
There are a number of factors that impact gaining an accurate picture of whether people died of or with Covid19 or something else. In the context of this the count is, according to the CDC, based on excess deaths which is deaths from all causes excluding Covid19. So. Firstly there is the determination of the principal cause of death aside from death with underlying causes. Secondly there are guidelines for doctors issuing death certificates in an epidemic. Thirdly there is the time lag between death and this showing up in the stats which can be up to eight weeks, perhaps more. Fourthly death certificates are frequently issued without a cause of death noted and these are updated when the cause of death becomes known. It is this complexity which has afforded the Covid-skeptics the opportunity to politicise the issue in another simplistic narrative. Truthers vs Govt, Truthers vs Fake News, Truthers vs Weasels…
Truthers tend to be somewhat anarchic, somewhat libertarian, somewhat nationalistic, somewhat anti-government and more often than not highly individualistic except when they get together on a new conspiracy theory. They are then themselves victims of groupthink and groupspeak. You will often find them citing the 2nd Amendment or others. But are there many Truthers outraged and speaking out about violence by police against their coloured compatriots or are they just still buying guns, seeds and toilet paper to protect their freedoms?
Just what are those enshrined freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution and ratified in 1788?
There were originally 7 articles in it which dealt with the separation of powers into legislative, judicial, executive (including the president and congress), the role, rights and responsibilities of the state and federal governments and the relationship between states and the federal government and lastly the process of ratification. Then there were 10 amendments which were known as The Bill of Rights, altogether there were 27 amendments but the first 10 are key to the personality of the country as a whole, if that is understandable.
These 10 Amendments deal with civil liberties, the protection of the individual from the ever burgeoning powers of the federal government in terms of individual’s liberties and justice. They also address the limitation of government powers, procedures and processes. The Constitution is upheld and expanded upon by a large body of constitutional law as stated in the U.S. Senate, in order to ‘…affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. For over two centuries the Constitution has remained in force because its framers wisely separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights, of liberty and equality, and of the federal and state governments.’
When I saw Easy Rider at the tender age of 13, and later on Mississippi Burning, or when I read Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn and Catch-22 or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I knew something was deeply wrong in America.
The country that produced Jimi Hendrix and Martin Luther King Jnr also produced Eugene McCarthy and the Klan. This is the country that welcomed all immigrants with the sight of lady Liberty and the poem The New Colossus at her feet-
‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
But America has now become so socially degraded that the ‘golden door’ is firmly shut in the face of its most needy despite it having some of the greatest wealth on the planet. The US has the greatest gap in real terms of wealth between the richest and poorest in the world..
Thus it is that Bezos, Buffet and Gates own more than 50% of Americans. The richest 5% own more than 75% of Americans. In addition this wealth isn’t just in glorious mansions or swanky cars, it is at least half of the total national wealth in shares, stocks and bonds which produce even more wealth for the 5 %, whereas for the bottom half, 90% of their ‘wealth’ is only from their homes. Homes which once again may be lost as employment collapses, as these assets represent almost 75% of American debt.
Inequality.org researchers found that;
‘The median Black family, with just over $3,500, owns just 2 percent of the wealth of the nearly $147,000 the median White family owns, according to our “Racial Wealth Divide” report. The median Latino family, with just over $6,500, owns just 4 percent of the wealth of the median White family. Put differently, the median White family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family.
The Institute for Policy Studies “Racial Wealth Divide” report also shows that families that have zero or even “negative” wealth (meaning the value of their debts exceeds the value of their assets) live on the edge, just one minor economic setback away from tragedy. Black and Latino families are much more likely to be in this precarious situation. The proportion of Black families with zero or negative wealth rose by 8.5 percent to 37 percent between 1983 and 2016. The proportion of Latino families with zero or negative net worth declined by 19 percent over the past 30 years but is still more than twice as high as the rate for Whites.
As with total wealth, our report shows homeownership is heavily skewed towards White families. In 2016, 72 percent of White families owned their home, compared to just 44 percent of Black families. Between 1983 and 2016, Latino homeownership increased by a dramatic nearly 40 percent, but it remains far below the rate for Whites, at just 45 percent.’https://inequality.org/facts/wealth-inequality/
In real terms these are huge numbers of people living in real poverty. Structural inequality is at the root of poverty and oppression in America. It is astounding to think that over 10 million adult Americans don’t have a bank account. According to the 2018 US Census Data, the highest poverty rate by race is found among Native Americans (25.4%), with Blacks (20.8%) having the second highest poverty rate, and Hispanics (of any race) having the third highest poverty rate (17.6%). Whites had a poverty rate of 10.1%, while Asians had a poverty rate at 10.1%. Around 5.3% of the population, 17.3 million people live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds and 29.9% of the population or 93.6 million live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.  Hunger makes people tired and cranky. Cranky enough to loot a store or steal food? Not cranky enough to shoot a white policeman though.
I wondered in a country where medical insurance is tied to employment, when Covid19 hit and closed down businesses and state employment, how would people afford to get anything treated? How would they buy already extraordinarily priced insulin for example? How to continue their cancer treatments? Their medication for depression and anxiety becomes a choice between eating, paying rent or feeling a little better in a shit place where everyone is commercialised? Now that one in four Americans are out of work, perhaps the fires of Minneapolis are just the beginning of a more general conflagration of outrage. Covid19 was the pandemic that revealed the flaws inherent in the US system, but are the fires in Minneapolis the flames that light the way on the road to perdition or salvation? It is time for America to rout the weasels and throw them out of the house but who are they, these stoats, these weasels? Is it the Republicans? The Democrats? Is it Trump vs The World; the diversionary puppet show?
I thought in the beginning that Trump was a conman who got lucky. Maybe he doesn’t feel that lucky anymore now that his term includes some of the most negative major events nationally and globally in modern history. I suspect the next thing will be the Samson Event. A collective ‘fuck this, let’s go for broke’ as the ship is going down anyway. Trump is a drowning man ill-equipped to deal with all of this AND China. The richest have their bunkers and will step aside while their Rome burns then sweep in to sort through what’s left and start again if they are allowed to by the massive changes afoot. Maybe Badger, Ratty, Mole and their allies will rout the weasels and flush them out. Perhaps that thinking also lies in the realms of the simple narrative approach we know so well from Hollywood; there is always a saviour, someone to ride into town and have a shootout with the bad guys at the OK corral. Maybe it is time for Americans to put aside their guns, their massive inequalities and racism, and work collectively towards a just and free society so that those already home in America can put aside the fact that they themselves are the ‘wretched refuse’ huddled but ‘yearning to breathe free’. Peddling the US as the pot of gold at the end of an immigrants rainbow is a dreadful mistake if you are coloured. The narrative of the land of the brave and home of the free is fine for rich white guys but apparently they are only 5% of the population. For the rest? Burn baby burn.
Going back to Adam Smith, the idea of actions causing unforeseen effects has been well known. We have all heard kids cry, “But I didn’t mean to …!” Little actions or domestic actions usually won’t ripple out to the whole of society but they may.
Sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote an article in 1936, titled The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action in which he proposed five ways an action might deliver consequences that could be highly destructive and unlooked for, especially when it came to governments and their decision making. According to Merton there are gaps in the knowledge or expertise of decision makers or ‘experts’ that leads to errors or destructive far reaching effects unintended by the decision makers. Another is that there is so much desire to see a change that the decision maker becomes blind to the consequences of their actions, their ‘self-interest’ prevents them from evaluating the ultimate effects of their action. Another is in consideration of the value system of the decision makers so that they cannot or will not see that others who don’t have their value system, might not react in the predicted way, leading to different often highly undesirable outcomes. Lastly is the self-defeating prophecy. Here, Merton specifically stated that a society might predict a nasty potential threat to society and in trying to avoid it, might change society in some critical or far-reaching way that is again destructive and certainly unintended.
As concerns the pandemic we see all of these playing out in fairly clear ways with many yet still to come.
Since early January I have listened to individual opinions, read expert evidence and many learned commentators. I’ve read hundreds of pieces of information about Covid19 (CV19 hereafter) from the medical and scientific through to the conspiratorial and ‘prophetic’ who seem to be reading us the plot of the dystopian novel we are currently living through. I’ve read and heard enough to see that no good crisis goes to waste for government. Peter Hitchen, who I have never heard nor listened to before, remarked that most Western governments seem to be led by teenagers. They don’t know what they are doing so they cast about for something, anything, in order to Have a Plan, which happens to be just what the next guy did. In this case it was the most repressive regime in the world, China. I don’t think those who were faced with the inexorable tide of infections and deaths knew what the effect was going to be. Their decision making was simplistic, like the positive stimulus measures including quantitative easing after the 2008 GFC which ended up with disastrous economic consequences. Endlessly printing money didn’t create jobs then and it won’t now. Shutting down the economy now won’t cure the diseases that will occur later.
There has been no debate about this, parliaments have in fact shut down, implicating the paucity of debate in favour of consensus. There has only been massive pressure for consensus from scientists, medicos and media to push on with an agenda leading to global ruin. We are locked in our homes, locked out of our businesses, our clinics, our way of life has a yellow and lack tape across it.
It seems like lunacy. But oddly, with CV19 whole populations have been screaming for the government to lock us up in our own homes, hotels and institutions. Why haven’t we got our lockdown? Why do we still have our liberty? It’s not fair. Look at those fools in Sweden. They’ll regret it soon enough, they’ll be on their knees pleading for a lockdown.
Meanwhile it seems governments are rubbing their hands in glee at the powers they are giving themselves and we are permitting through acquiescence. Here in Australia, police are now able to enter our homes without a warrant. In the UK any health official under the Coronavirus Act on suspicion of someone’s infection, can order the arrest, detention and forced medical treatment of anyone with the validation of only one medical practitioner.
The pandemic is a MEDICAL issue not a mental health, policing nor a military issue. It is almost certain none will roll their new totalitarian rules back, they won’t and if they say they will, they are lying. This is the new symptom of yet another pernicious plague, surveillance capitalism. But what are we losing after all? What did we have worth saving?
After having this blog for many years and being able to see the countries people reading my blog come from, I am very surprised to find that for the first time ever, that since the end of April seventeen readers have visited my site from China, this has never happened. I don’t know whether to rejoice I have an audience or be terrified the CCP are onto me. Maybe the ability for everyone to have a voice is like a social infestation, a disease borne from our putative democracy.
Virologists are protesting it was the bats, the bats did it! There is a more complex trail to cover though.
Firstly without going into a vast amount of virology, (of which I have the scantest knowledge possible) the clear trail from gain of function research to create the ‘inserts’ in a specific string of RNA in the CV19 (the polybasic furin cleavage site PRRA) to the hand of the US in assisting the Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, the link with Bill Gates, Pirbright Institute and said lab, plus Australia who sent two scientists to the P4lab in Wuhan and also funded the work via Professor Eddie Holmes of Sydney Uni and then specifically the work done in Wuhan, leads me to a position of disgust at the scientists and their incredible hubris. In addition, the clump of virologists who protest too much, holding up their lily white hands screaming pangolins and horseshoe bats is a bit much. What do they have to hide if their research is so crucial to humanity? Just because they CAN do gain of function, just because they CAN splice, cleave, construct reproduce doesn’t mean they SHOULD. These inserts mean the virus has seen human interference, of that there is no doubt. Unforeseen consequences.
Did the bat really bite the arm of the lab worker? Did they actually scratch workers and shit on the floor of the lab?
The continued protestation is also ridiculous and the argument runs something like this.
It came from a natural source, namely bats. It then jumped to one of the extremely rare species of pangolins then back to bats then to humans in the space of what, a few months? Doesn’t evolution and mutation take a hugely long time?
OR we might think the following.
It came from bats and was then played with in a lab/labs (one of which was known to have poor safety standards) and gained function through the inserts of two additional virus characteristics. It was then ‘accidentally’ released and Bob’s your uncle…pandemic.
It is an Occam’s Razor scenario; the simplest is the most likely and is actually easier to deal with. Tell the truth, fess up, the light comes in and we can see what we are dealing with.
I was married to a biochemist working in academia. I saw how it runs. The games they play, the one-upmanship, the struggle for funding, the internecine wars, the professional jealousies, each vying for publication in the most prestigious journals, creatively twisting the research titles or tweaking projects to get the funding to run them like a golden river. I saw the ruthless pursuit of projects because they brought money and status. Much PhD research in all fields is a joke and waste of taxpayer’s money and to be honest, watch that dry up over the new few years, unless you are researching vaccines, coronavirus or global warming there’ll be no money for you. Politicising science? Never!
No-one has yet over decades, found a vaccine for any coronavirus or even HIV for that matter, the latter which seems to be in the CV19 genetic conglomerate according to some. They most likely won’t find a safe effective vaccine for CV19 any time soon, so all this nonsense about ending the lockdowns once they’ve found a vaccine is obfuscation and they know it. The prospect of periodic incarceration IS the new normal but with far worse consequences than the coronavirus.
There are only vaccines for viruses such as influenza, mumps, measles, chickenpox, rubella, human papilloma virus, yellow fever virus, smallpox, polio, Japanese encephalitis, Hep A & B, rabies, rubella, rotavirus and rabies. The vaccine for pneumonia is for 23 different kinds of bacteria now and looking to 72 later as some continents have different strains than others. Some vaccines have limited or temporary immunity which is why in the case of influenza, a new fluvax comes out every year based, counterintuitively, on the previous year’s viral infection. In the case of rabies I was told it basically didn’t work prophylactically and to have any effect it would have to be administered within 20 mins of the rabid dog bite otherwise it would be useless.
So these experts in their specific field want us to:
trust their research
trust their professionality
trust them to make decisions for billions of us based on a supposed universal consensus about a virus they claim they are perplexed by and have no prior experience of, without the expertise of actual economists, nor having been elected to represent us, nor having a debate of experts in a calm and reasoned way, nor having any clear way out of this mess they’ve put the world into by virtue of computer modelling…sound familiar? Computer modelling…ahhhh yes.
They prophesied disaster with the same reliance on computer modelling that had us believe in catastrophic global warming (the hockey stick), that our kids would never see snow after 2004 and so forth.
The same reliance on computer modelling had us petrified of millions of deaths from CV19. One quarter of the world would get sick. The predictions in Australia of 150-200K deaths from CV19; in fact as of 14/05/2020, we have had 98 deaths. If it was not for the Ruby Princess debacle where sick and infected passengers were allowed to disembark in Australia we would have had over 25% fewer deaths and many more people not infected. 63% of infections were acquired overseas 35% locally acquired or had contact with known travellers or confirmed cases. With the Ro between 2 and 6 as is claimed, the spread is exponential. As it is so far we have had 98 deaths from a total to date of 6,980 cases. 30.5% of these were elderly people over the age of 65+ statistically but it seems most were in the 80s. 44% were between 30 and 60 years old.
The disease has some pathologies which are puzzling but perhaps the consequences of lifestyle choices, epigenetics or genetic inheritance.
At first CV19 was thought to cause death from ARDS/pneumonia but it transpires that death occurs most often in those with co-morbidities such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and the elderly and with singular characteristics. It occurs almost twice as much in men as women and again, 70% of deaths occur in elderly males. Mortality data from 21 hospitals in Wuhan between 21 and 30 January, for example, revealed that 75 per cent of those who died were men. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for example, around 70 per cent of critically ill patients admitted to intensive care have been male, and a higher proportion of men than women have died. A study of more than 4000 covid-19 patients in New York City hospitals found that 62 per cent were male. Also certain ethnicities seem to be affected more than others; black, Asian, and other ethnic minorities who in the UK make up around 14% of the general population but account for 34% of cases. In the USA it is a similar picture of BAME populations who make up 36% of cases in a population group of 23% but a higher percentage exists amongst black or African American populations, 13% of the population but 30% of the cases.
The disease causes widespread dysfunction in the smallest blood vessels of the lungs and other organs leading to clotting which is why the ventilators don’t particularly work as if the blood can’t move, even though it is oxygenated it can’t fulfil its function oxygenating the cells and membranes. I had wondered why those on ventilators resulted in around a 50% mortality rate, now we know a bit better why. It also explains the strokes, embolisms and heart failure in all age groups but particularly the elderly. The lungs are inflamed and fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, or alveoli. This makes it difficult for the lungs to transfer oxygen from the air to the blood. It is a very unpleasant way to go, rather like drowning although anyone intubated isn’t conscious anyway so they wouldn’t know about it.
I saw my sister die like this but from lung cancer and acute pneumonia, it was an awful, upsetting death and mercifully they gave her enough meds to sedate her until she died. Towards the end while she was still conscious and very distressed I helped her to the toilet and she hung on my neck in what was to be our last embrace. I asked her how she was. She said she was panicking, she couldn’t breathe. All I could say to her was to go inside herself, that dying was like giving birth, she had to relax and go inside. She said what I told her helped. I have seen a number of people die and the easiest deaths are like that; giving birth to the spirit released from corporeal form.
Some say the deaths stats are manipulated, that the number of deaths are the normal amount in a day anyway and I have to admit that the constant numbers of 700, 800 even 900 deaths a day keep popping up which seems weird given the huge variation in the numbers of infected. Maybe authorities have a cutoff over which they don’t report or they have delays in recording them or there are spillovers they can’t account for and leave out.
Some like David Icke, Max Igan, Judy Mikovits, Mikki Willis and so on call it a ‘plandemic’; a gigantic scam or false flag incident on a global scale to arrest the world and deliver it into the hands of the globalist cabal. The fact that some hospitals seem empty of patients and in their boredom, staff are playing dancing games, which then leak onto social media is taken as a sign. But there are explanations for this lack of activity and probably if you hadn’t worked in health you wouldn’t understand. There are ebbs and flows, a current of tides and times in hospitals. We know a very large percentage of people are naturally staying away from hospitals and clinics not even attending E.R. due to CV19. Many patients with chronic health problems and treatments are having treatments deferred wherever possible as they are at risk. Telehealth consultations are now taking over in every area of health management in order to keep people apart. Many ‘Nightingale’ pop up CV19 wards were constructed awaiting the surge which in some cases didn’t occur. Crucially, in others it did. People did get sick and they did die, many died with CV19 but many died of it.
In Australia, as in N.Z. the surge didn’t occur and it is intriguing to examine why. I also wonder why Australia is virtually being ignored in the global expert discussions. That is another curious thing among things that are curiouser and curiouser.
Here are the common ideas about why we didn’t get hit so badly.
Australians don’t smoke much. It is extremely expensive around $40AUD (24 euros) a packet, we have also had an effective anti-smoking campaign for decades. Our air is comparatively good compared with Northern Italy, New York, Spain, Germany, the UK, China and India; the latter two consistently topping the charts for dangerous levels of air pollution. So maybe lungs are better here. Yet India which is in the worst case basket for 2.5 particle pollution, hasn’t had the tsunami of cases that was expected. Is that due to a lack of test kits and subsequent diagnosis? Perhaps.
Australia shut down early, closing off international then national then local travel very quickly. Australians are a very conservative obedient people, it comes from our convict heritage, we do what we are told because the consequences are severe otherwise. New Zealanders are similar. Besides that, the abject fear was palpable, it is a great motivator.
We have an excellent national health system, which despite its many faults is well equipped (except for PPE) and staffed. We were ready with drive in testing and widespread testing, 909,025(0.8%), and have produced many of our own accurate test kits.
People were smacked down hard with very large fines if they disobeyed the social distancing laws. Fines of $1600 (954 euros) were issued and widely publicised, shaming some and exonerating others, like the shift worker out at 1 a.m. at a car wash or the girl out with her mother practising driving. People were also very afraid of each other, dancing aside or around to try to keep their distance. There were no scenes of people splayed out in parks or on beaches, here unlike in Spain, Brazil or Portugal no, no. We stayed at home. We are a great obedient flock which works for times like these with firm shepherds and scary wolves.
So how about the U.S.?
A failed system. For all their self-glorification their society has failed them. They fight each other, they fight the state, they fight their president. Their health system is appalling weighted for the richest. They have mastered the ‘just-in-time economy’ which is a disaster when supply chains break. Many of their workers are low paid casuals in the service industry who lost jobs. Their infrastructure is falling apart. The inventors of the grand narrative of Hollywood are always looking for simplistic plots, a protagonist and an antagonist- so who to blame for the Coronavirus? Who is the hero? Who is the arch enemy? Is it Trump who ‘sarcastically’ tells people bleach is effective or Fauci who has links with Gates and the vaccine factories? Who are the heroes? Health workers thrown to the wolves by their own negligent governments and systems whom many voted for?
How about the UK?
Again the same Churchillian narrative. Hero vs Villain. War vs Peace. Boris the hero who survived Covid 19 to stand outside Downing Street and applaud the NHS workers that he and other Tories voted to effectively deliver a wage cut not so long ago.
Firstly it seems that the inexperience of the government leadership showed up most clearly in what Merton lists as one of the laws. They didn’t recognize their ignorance and identify the gaps in their knowledge so that they didn’t seek out nor listen to their own experienced medicos. Dan Poulter, a former Health Minister and Tory said, “An early over-reliance on academic modelling also resulted in a lack of experienced frontline NHS clinicians – in other words, the people who really understand the day-to-day challenges our hospitals and health service face – from feeding into the initial Covid-19 action plan,” he said. “This has manifested itself amongst other things in the slowness of providing adequate PPE for frontline NHS staff and in the lack of virus testing for healthcare staff in the earlier part of the outbreak.”
By February sporadic cases were spreading around the country. Mid-March saw Boris Johnson shaking hands with CV19 patients and earlier attending a packed sports stadium, it also saw the government reverse its policy from containment to delay ignoring the advice or slow to react to warnings from experts. Funding had been slashed over years from the NHS leading to a paucity of PPEs for health workers. People were still flying in and out of the country and the Tories were still worshipping at the throne of the god of economics with Dominic Cummings telling them what burnt offerings they could bring to Moloch.
Now they are looking at a deep and long recession and over 33,000 deaths due to inconsistent decision making, lack of clear and firm decision making taking into account the experience and advice of practitioners and a variety of expert advice.
Merton called this approach the ‘relevance paradox’, where leaders and decision makers believe they see the gaps in their knowledge or expertise and think they have filled that gap with the requisite information but crucially ignore or neglect associated areas as they don’t take relevance into account. In this case, PPEs and ventilators, masks for the public, cancellation of large events, especially sporting events where people yell and talk, cough, sneeze, spit and touch in close proximity and perhaps most crucially, closing borders. The mentality of China is too far away from us to affect us, was a huge mistake.
Just as crucial to the rapid spread of the pandemic and imminent economic collapse is that we have relied on decreasingly able leaders in an increasingly complex world. We have built systems like decks of cards, our just in time economies, our agricultural monocultures and massive industrial farms, our reliance on poorly paid immigrants to harvest and plant our food, the shift away from national self-sufficiency in manufacturing to making a quick buck on volume.
We’ve devalued and marginalized our old people and those who look after them, we’ve clumped and clustered vulnerable indigenous people in perpetual economic and social quarantine. Governments (we) have allowed the concentration of wealth into the hands of the 1% who by nature don’t give a toss whether the 99% live or die so long as they stay away from them and keep working to turn a trick for them. We are relentless consumers, uncaring of our environment until the day when we are denied the opportunity to enjoy its beauty or even its function.
How are we going to get out of this rapidly disintegrating collapse? Do governments think that there is a lever somewhere in the jiggery pokery of economics that they pull and the whole damn thing starts up again with a putter and a sputter like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? All the little Oompa Loompas come out of lockdown, pop down to the factories and the High Streets and everything starts again?
We are living out the Laws of Unintended Consequences, all of them.
I thought to myself today that what would be worse than having a group plotting world domination? That there isn’t one and we are set afloat on the seas of chance captained and led by a ship of fools. So we end as T.S. Eliot foresaw, ‘not with a bang but a whimper.’
The third essay in my series exploring some implications of The Report from Iron Mountain has been suppressed by WordPress.
It sketched a timeline of events in 2011-12, juxtaposing them with cinema films which were in production at this time or related to a particular theme in the Report that I introduced in this passage:-
“There is an intriguing discussion of the sociological function of blood games in the document known as The Report From Iron Mountain (1967), which is either a leaked government think-tank report or a satire written by the publisher Leonard C Lewin in the form of such a report. The document, whatever its provenance – and there doesn’t seem to me to be anything very satirical about it – discusses possible surrogates for the functions of war in human culture as…
So the patient walks in limping badly. There are a number of bloodstains and bruises to be seen and in fact a slow trickle of blood from one ear alerts me to the fact that this patient has at least, a severe head trauma, I make a list of tests, CT, MRI, bloods, we check the temperature in various computer models. The patient’s behaviour is becoming somewhat violent, spacey eyes, erratic, there is thrashing about, a continuous muttering about someone trying to suffocate or freeze or was it boil? So many things spat out in a weird invective, everyone is on edge, prepped for the coming drama. The question being, will the patient survive the week or even the next months? The test results are through.
I step forward cautiously, I don’t want to get lammed.
She’s so thin. Her eyes enormous, dominating, but they’ve lost colour, fading-faded from the blue green they were to the colour of pussy willow buds, silvery green.
Ketamine has made her kooky and she hallucinates that I am a blonde dog, flashing past her in the hospital room on my way out to open the door a crack. I don’t want to put the light on in the room to see some rosary beads she’d put in my hand.
“Ooooh look! Did you see that?” She asks my daughter Lizzie. “A dog, a blonde dog!” Lizzie smiles her sphinxy smile. Sarah asks,”Did I hallucinate that?”
“Yes, you did but it was a lovely one.” Lizzie says softly.
The day before, the hospital moved her into a spectacular room with a view of the sea, a little lounge, kitchenette and balcony. She wants to go out, look over the sea, looking for the ship to come in for her, so we wrap and pad her, she rests snug in her armchair, gazing and vaping. We chat comfortably about this and that, light stuff, the nice things we’d done together, music, people, I praised her daughter, her old dad was a delight. Emphatically she agrees, fuck yes!
Sarah’s chest is a little exposed and I cover the bones erupting like teeth from tightening skin. She thanks me. She always thanks people, so polite. Even dying, Sarah has exquisite manners. Later when I wash her, after she insisted on tottering, assisted, to the bathroom, she thanks me profusely, embarrassingly kind to me. So when I ask if she can manage to wash her own bum she says, “Yes I can, thank you…thank you for being sensitive, woman to a woman who knows.” She can barely manage the actions but I leave it. She doesn’t need the fuss. Does she want her head washed? Oh yes please! I wipe her bald head with a warm soapy cloth, she cries out softly with pleasure at every dab and wipe. She cleans her teeth, spits carefully into the cup and we pop her back into a newly made and padded bed. She gives a great sigh of relief and is comfortable. She wants to sleep and we leave with kisses.
The next day it is not this way. She asks us if she can get up on all fours. “Of course! Do anything you want!” I say. She is trying to relieve the pain in her back and rocks like a woman in labour moaning for deliverance. The bones in her neck are sticking out like some tiny stegosaurus. We’ve rubbed her back many times and I didn’t think that she could get thinner but she has. The depressions between her ribs are rills and runnels I can put a fingertip in.The pelvis that cradled her daughter Jemima some thirty years ago has become a sharp adze that cuts out the hard ground underneath her, preparing the way. Her flesh has gone and skin softly droops down on thighs that harbour four drivers in veins, delivering what becomes a maximum dosage of the many pain killers that seem not to work consistently. The pain is awful to see and worse for her each day. Gnawing stabbing aching throbbing, every bloody animal that spits and claws and bites inside.
The nurses are kind, efficient and have the gentle touch our lovely Sarah needs. They come and go concerned at her continued pain and give her a shot of morphine as a breakthrough pain now bordering on unbearable. She goes out after a bit and we leave promising to come back later and when we do, she is reclining, deeply asleep in bed with her daughter, dad and brother by her side. We stay an awkward few minutes and come back later, no-one is there. She is awake, lucid and chatty.
We talk of death, her funeral and what she wants done with her stuff. She is pragmatic. “Look I wanted an eco-burial but they cost too much and the shroud thing isn’t going to work either. I don’t want to be burned, too much pollution. But in the end, it’s whatever is cheapest and easiest. Go that. I just want to confirm it with you.”
I agree, not caring too much whether I am fried or dried I say. She laughs. “About my stuff, well after the family has taken what they want, open the house and the cupboards up. People can take whatever.” She’s never held tightly onto stuff. Stuff is just that and she cares about people, country. Dogs. Cats. Birds. Plants and trees. Spirit but not in any conventional sense. We both tried that in the past and it was in fact how we met, at church. A divine appointment I guess. She told me we had sung together once at church but I barely remember that, too many notes under the bridge. She cares a lot about the oppressed, the dis-empowered, those to whom life hasn’t been kind; Sarah is a kindred spirit. We both swear a lot about how everything is fucked up, “It’s so fucking FUCKED!” Cancer is fucked too. I know- I had it and now feel vaguely guilty that the dice rolled in my favour not hers.
Lizzie, my beautiful sensitive genius of a daughter, is also Sarah’s friend. They played a lot of music together over the years and she is so sweet now in these last days of Sarah’s inhabitation of this particular body in this particular time space and material manifestation that I am again struck what a miracle she is. Sarah feels like this about Jemima her girl. Blessed. Absolutely blessed.
I worried I was in the way. I worried I wasn’t doing enough. I worried I was doing too much, being too exhausting, being too much for our fast fading friend so we decided to leave her to her family and inner circle of friends and the process. The last night we saw her, I gave her three or four teaspoons of bone broth chicken soup I made, she’d oooh’d and ahh’d with the pleasure of having real food, jiving to the taste and one of her faves playing in the background, an early Bowie. Then all night I worried it would make a problem with the naso gastric tube inserted after a huge bout of faecal vomiting some days before. When we hugged and said goodbye she was very direct. “You probably won’t see me again…my advice. Do what you want to do and don’t waste time.”
Dying is hard work. The body is wound up like some perpetual motion machine and the heart, if it is strong, just wants to keep ticking. Sarah’s heart was huge and strong, dying was hard for her. As an Aged Care nurse and nursing relatives and friends, I have seen a number of people die but not like this. Not at all. It was brutal and unkind in every way.
Some people need permission to stop fighting, to stop caring for others, to stop seeing into the world outside them and go inside. It is a circle. Life begins in a storm of blood and shit and tears. It ends this way too one way or another. This woman had lived a big life in a small place and next weekend in Moruya there will be a memorial to her of all those mad sad bad lovely lovely people she touched with her fierce love and boundless kindness. I will not be there, I don’t need to be. She is still here, she loves us all.
I could get it together by next Monday because I’ve had the weekend to prepare
I could get it together by next Tuesday once I’ve had the meeting with the parents
I could get it together by Wednesday once I’ve had the meetings with my LL my GLL my HoD my Department and the students
I could get it together once I have written up my collaborative proposal on getting it together
But only after I’ve had my meeting on Thursday with all the others once they’ ve had their say
on how we should collectively get it all together
except that was adjourned till Friday even though no-one in their right minds would hold a meeting on Friday.
Especially after school when I am so very very over every single thing that has to do with having to and should and could we and I want to propose and if we consider and is it possible to prevent this from and could I put it on Managefly or Backfire or Crossing the Rubicon Atlas or Googledoc it to everyone shared in real time oh the fucking agony of not knowing what the fuck and should we do it this way or that way Christ we need a meeting to decide and if there was a possibility to be brave and true and good to everyone with integrity and mindfulness all the tick of the clocks then we would be ready indeed to know what do I have to do to prepare for the end of the fucking world when somehow inside me I know and everyone knows that all this this curtain raiser this sham piece of am dram with its slam and family of bees on their knees to please don’t wheeze because I know that you are breathing and if you are breathing too much you are sucking the oxygen from me and we can NOT have death here. We can NOT have misery around us. We can NOT tell the real stuff in tears and all our fears drowned in endless beers in order to be cheery not weary not dreary in order to get our stuff done.
I could get my stuff done if I could get it together
I could get my stuff done if I didn’t have so much stuff to get together
I could get my stuff done if my stuff was something I could understand without a clear rubric or without jargon or in sentences that don’t contain only letters grouped in clusters meaning things I have no idea about like PBL or STEM or DI or GRIT or EARCOS or FART or KIPP.
If only there was a God who in His wisdom would reach into every house and every office every school every like some omnipresent omniscient omnipotent Minister of Everything Holy Wise and Good and unplug our backs from the unearthed wires of anxiety if we don’t get our stuff done, untangle our brains from that web of stuff we’ve spun around each other telling each other how to do our stuff better faster quicker more creatively with ethics with mindfulness with a tsunami of passionate responsive student centred, flipping ourselves arse up with Blended Learning and differentiating ourselves so that holy shit what was that? Was that the bell?