A barrage of conflicting views goes viral
It didn't seem such a big deal at first: an exotic virus spread from animals in a remote Asian marketplace. Even when the bad news wouldn't go away, when reports of escalating deaths and burgeoning distribution reached us, it seemed to be someone else's problem.
We shook our heads and decried the draconian containment measures imposed by the Chinese authorities, the infringement of human rights and civil liberties.
As the illness spread beyond national boundaries, first into other parts of Asia and then beyond, we started to sit up and take notice. We began seeking information and advice.
And there's the rub: what we have confronted - and what we've been confronting since - is a wall of 'informational noise'; a barrage of conflicting views from government, the mass media, and medical sources, compounded by a social media frenzy. Rather than bring clarity to this debate, these sources have confounded the issue: on the one hand, the hysterical ranting of the Hadleys and Bolts has given credence to the more preposterous theories of the Far Right - the manufacture of the "Chinese Virus" in the laboratories of Wuhan - while the Far Left engages in a 'blame game' suggesting some kind of right-wing conspiracy paradigm.
In the midst of it all is Scott Morrison, ostensibly 'taking advice' from medical bureaucrats like Brendan Murphy but in fact participating in a closed informational loop where priorities are determined more by political and economic expediency than a genuine concern for public welfare.
Despite latter-day claims to the contrary, the federal government's response to the health crisis has been tardy, half-hearted and strategically targeted to protect the interests of his constituency and economic backers. Like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, he stands with Trump in the centre of a social vortex over which he has little control and of which he has little understanding, offering conflicting advice and contrary solutions.
The case of school closures is a case in point, and a major one. Common sense and the experience of the majority of other affected countries strongly indicates that any assembly of people in close proximity exacerbates the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The case for this is not just about who contracts the virus, but how it is transmitted. What are schools if not such an environment?
The fallacy that the virus affects only the elderly has served the prime minister well in this regard, but the argument is beginning to look increasingly dubious as the true demographics of infection become more apparent. Likewise, the impact of school closures on the population of health and essential services workers is wildly exaggerated; they scarcely constitute thirty per cent of parents as Morrison claims, and even if they did, there are alternative models, such of those being adopted in Scandinavia and elsewhere, that relieve parents and immediate family of the childcare burden.
The fact is that the federal government's response to the pandemic, like that to the bushfires, has demonstrated a lack of leadership, courage and commitment, and now leaves us with the chilling prospect of exponential infection over a protracted period. We can only hope that the spread of the Covid-19 virus complies to a linear trajectory, and that mutation does not give rise to more resistant and virulent strains before a point of control and elimination is reached.
Rob Simpson, Urunga
Try to catch this instead. Signs and symptoms may include:
A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based upon past experience. An unmistakable ability to enjoy doing nothing. A serious loss of interest in judging others. Not caring about the actions and motives of other people. A total loss of interest in conflict. A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom). Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation. Contented feelings of affection for others and nature. Uncontrollable attacks of smiling. A dangerous tendency to let life take its course instead of trying to make things happen. Susceptibility to love and affection with indiscriminate urges to love all sorts of things. It is dangerous to be near anybody affected, as it is very contagious. It is also likely to attack anybody who stops still long enough. This is very serious and if it gets out of hand, it could be the end of civilization, as we know it.
Russell Atkinson, Bellingen
An indulgent society
It's been for many a testing time, with drought, fires, and floods in some areas. All part of a natural cycle having occurred before. Up here as of March 16 we have recorded rain on 35 days out of 43 and there are still some showers about.
But finally a reprieve, climate change is on the back burner replaced by self interest and concern, the reason of course being the viral pandemic. It's early days but the virus is already spreading to many countries. The potential for huge financial chaos and job loss is of deep concern, mainly in the private sector. Blessed are all those guaranteed public service jobs, cheap fuel and discounted goodies. Having been a good boy, I have been promised from above an outdoor job in the public sector next time around.
Just in my lifetime the fundamental changes in our society have been huge. That saying make hay when the sun shines and stack aside for that rainy day is now for most a distant memory. Long gone is the urge to provide for oneself and reap the benefits of hard work and self sacrifice. No credit cards, dining out a rarity, an overseas holiday unheard of. Today debt is the norm, as well as dining out weekly and takeaways, and millions taking that overseas holiday. We have become an indulgent society, now claimed as having the second highest per capita debt in the world, yet regarded as one of the richest nations on earth.
Living the life of Riley on credit, propped up by flogging all our resources including agricultural produce. Once a proud nation, we have sacrificed our independence, now being at the mercy of China. We once manufactured so much at home, and were proud to see that stamp (Made In Australia). Now even much of our food is now processed overseas. But where have all the jobs gone? Of course it's obvious, they have all moved into the public arena, the larger percentage, administration and regulation, making it just too hard for many to have a go. Hyde Street is a classic example. Many community and social welfare services for the aged, needy, and disabled are for the good but in the main we have moved from a productive society to a non-productive society.
Only a mug today would strive and save to see it taken away to prop up those that don't and opt for the credit card. Kicking off in the Whitlam era we are now a welfare state, a land of entitlement, with far too many rorting the system. I have ceased asking myself the obvious, can we continue for ever, spending more than we earn. Consume,consume, splash the cash. I'm hoping the escalating current event isn't the big one, passes us by, and we learn to understand the price we could pay for our complacency and self interest.
Darcey Browning, Thora
Wrong on many fronts
Darcey Browning is a complex individual, as are we all, with a well-earned reputation as one of the best neighbours one could wish for. He also appears to be a man with an anti-intellectual streak and a collection of views unchanged and unexamined since the 1950s.
We have over the years heard his pronouncements on gender, race, refugees, young people today, how wonderful things used to be and, most regularly, climate change. In every case he is wrong.
He has on occasion claimed he accepts the word of climate scientists that the world is heating and that humans are, at least in part, responsible. Yet in every letter he writes on the subject of climate change he also repeats, ad nauseum, the ridiculous claim that it is all a green/left conspiracy to overthrow capitalism and impose a planet-saving radical city agenda on us simple country folk. Thank heavens for the oil companies, billionaires, media tycoons and conservative politicians who stand selflessly between us and that terrible fate.
He can't have it both ways. His first problem is that scientists not only tell us that the Earth is warming, which he grudgingly accepts, but by how much so far, what is the trend, what are the mechanisms and what we must do about it. They tell us that the Earth is warming because of the human-induced rise in CO2. They tell us that CO2 is rising because of our burning of fossil fuel, and they tell us that the only thing we can do to save the ecosystems we depend on is to stop burning carbon. All the mitigation policies in the world will fail if we don't decarbonise the global economy. No coal, no oil, no natural gas.
His second problem is that his political bête noir, the Australian Greens Party, has on this issue been consistent and vehement for more than a generation. The other parties, and everyone else, are belatedly coming to the realisation that we as a country, and as a planet, have wasted decades in ignoring the science for a minority's economic or political advantage. The economic benefits have flowed to the corporations doing the polluting and the political benefits have accrued to the right-wing parties and their media backers.
The truth is that to be taken seriously Darcey would have to accept that he and the National Party have been completely wrong and the despised Greens completely right. Because he can't take this step he is left in the invidious position of insisting he believes that the scientists are telling the truth but we should still do nothing because saving the planet is a left-wing plot and would cost too much.
He is right in one respect. Action on climate change will require a global economic transformation and cost a truly enormous amount. The problem is that failing to act costs us everything.
Sean Tuohy, Brierfield
Isolated with cancer?
Support is available for people with cancer who need to stay home due to coronavirus risk. Reach out to NSW Cancer Council on 13 11 20 (available 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri).