It’s such an interesting time to be alive and hopefully we won’t catch the disease causing this pandemic and die. I have found the last year quite fascinating in terms of planning, managing and governing. I might eventually get to the point of this communication but I think I want to start with the initial response from the UK government in February and March.
The very nature of disease communication means that once a communicable disease is in your country you are very unlikely to be able to stop the transmission – more so if the disease has a gestation period of a few days and then lasts for a couple of weeks. A deadly disease such as Ebola or Marburg is actually quite difficult to catch, I mean, once you’ve got it you are fucked, but it’s still hard to catch. Something that can travel in little airbourne particles or remain on surfaces is going to be much harder to stop. The current SARS-Cov-2 virus is a little bitch with 1/3 infected people being asymptomatic and many others getting just a mild version. Currently in the UK the death rate is 500 people a day. People are fucking dying and it’s sad.
Back in early March I can remember telling friends, family and colleagues that we needed to close borders even before we had our first case in the UK. In fact it was likely the first case was already in the UK and probably from Italy but you can’t wait for the first case. You have to be pre-emptive and shut the borders. This, is, of course, terrible for the economy, but good for lives. Our government seemed as though they were rabbits stuck staring at the headlights as the truck thundered towards them to kill them. No-one in government had the guts to make the call until it was too late. I suspect that these fuckers were just hoping for a nice quiet five years of “governing” so that they could then collect and use all the power they wanted. It’s what the current brand of inarticulate and intellectually challenged group do.
We missed the chance to shut down and minimise the effects of the pandemic across the country for many reasons, but mostly because our “leaders” are not leaders. The first wave of the pandemic resulted in a complete country shut down with education moving online and a massive hit to the economy which will be paid off over the next few generations. I’d like to tell you that the pandemic and the planning required was a surprise but it wasn’t. The government had commissioned a report into threats to the UK back in 2017 and a pandemic was there. It’s always been just a matter of when in time and not if. The problem is that humans and society are terrible at planning for things with a low probability of happening or if the threat is too distant.
If we have a look at the threat to society from anthropogenic climate change then we can see that life is going to be utterly shit for most humans in around two generations time. Now some people are bothered by this and are trying to get things moving politically so that the human race can cope. But for most people this event is too abstract, too far away, and doesn’t concern them. Any efforts we put in place would mean massive changes to the way our current society works and that is too much for most people to think about and definitely not anything for the short-termism of national politics to act on. So, planning for rare but deadly events isn’t something we are good at. We know it’s something we aren’t good at and so you would hope that people in government would put policies in place to ensure that we are prepared. There are people paid to think about how we cope in these situations.
What I have found socially interesting over this year is the reliance on “The Rules”. Early on the government came out with rules for society to work and maintain the health as best we could for people. We had briefings from senior ministers, all of whom I wouldn’t even leave in charge of cooking and egg if I knew them personally. The current government were voted in on the back of racist ideologies left over from the Brexit bullshit along with a perpetuating fear of “communism” in the guise of a socialist leader of the main opposition party. Having discussed some issues with a friend who votes differently to me it seemed clear that he was soaking up Facebook headlines rather than what was actually Labour policy and when I cleared up the actual truth about “renationalisation of the railways” he didn’t believe me because five minutes later he mentioned the same headline. The current “leaders” of this country are liars, bullies and racists (even the ones with darker skin than traditionally associated with “England”).
[As an aside I’m reading “How To Argue With A Racist” by Adam Rutherford – I highly recommend it for anyone to read. I don’t think the arguments are new to me, but it’s nice to have a source of information where the truth is clearly set out]
Early on the government set out the “rules” for society and also changed the LAW so that these rules could be enforced. The “rules” changed many times over the last nine months but everyone followed the rules as best they could because we Brits are a rule loving society and while some people obviously don’t give a fuck about the rules most people did their best because they were following the rules. I went to work in the weeks of early March because I was following the rules. I personally thought it was fucking bonkers that schools were still open but we were waiting for the government to tell us what to do. The problem is that the government weren’t doing the right thing. I’m not saying that with hindsight, I said it at the time. We should have shut the schools much earlier than we did. But even though everyone I spoke to knew what we should do we followed the rules because that is what we do. Even, it seems, when we know the rules are wrong.
I know that when we moved to online teaching everyone at my school worked their asses off. Every day I would end with headaches after staring at the PC screen for so long. The “administration” of running online lessons was immense. Everyone wanted to do the best for their pupils and we still do. That is why we are teachers. We love our subjects and we want to pass that knowledge on, we want to give young people the skills to be good people in the future. Yes, there are some teachers who seem to hate their job, or worse, be terrible at it, but that is expected. The vast majority are excellent people who want the best for young people.
So, we followed the “rules”. We did as we were told. We had the school open for key-worker children and some of us volunteered to go in and supervise those children. We worked remarkably hard to come up with grades for our examination groups. We know the pupils and we had the evidence so we set up grades. We followed the rules because that is what we do. We opened the schools back in September because that is the rules. We have done everything that has been asked of us, because those are the rules set in place by the “leaders” of this country.
The problem is THE RULES ARE BULLSHIT.
What do you do when you know the rules are a misguided attempt to maintain everything working the way is always has. What do you do when you are threatened to be taken to court when you know that infection rates are high enough that it would make more sense to move all your teaching online for the last week of term. We know what is best and works for our local societies but we have been fucked over by the government bullying schools and local areas into submission because when they went to their private school everyone was there to serve their needs.
The absolute privilege and self-righteousness of those “in-charge” of our country is huge. They believe they were born to lead and run this country. They believe they know what is best for the country. The current crop of senior conservative politicians are the worst possible collection of humans I have seen in power in this country in my short time on this earth. They are hopelessly lost. Had this country not been going through TWO massive problems right now we could have possibly survived five years of these wankers. But, the problems of Brexit along with this current pandemic [500 PEOPLE A DAY ARE DYING] is too much for the feeble twats we voted in charge. So what do we do?
We follow the rules set out by those idiots. We have a strange relationship with the rules. We need rules there so we can work out how to run things in a “moral” way. I thin the rules are there to try to make things seem fair. They don’t make things actually fair because the rules are written by entitled idiots. But the rules at least attempt to make things fair and clear for people to follow so that we can exist together and not kill granny. A lot of rules seem self evident, along the lines of the golden rule of “do no harm” or “be nice”. We don’t all walk around murdering people because we intrinsically know that is wrong, we also know there are rules against it, but I don’t think we need those rules there. We know rape is wrong, we know racism is wrong. If we follow the “do no harm” ideals then it’s reasonably easy to figure out what we should do.
We try to codify the rules so that we all have the correct basis for what we do. If you are powerful enough then you can bend those rules to your advantage but for the most of us we follow the rules. The problem still is that the current rules for running this country are terrible. Who is pressuring you to make sure that you can go visit your grandma and kill her over xmas? Who is it making the current “leaders” relax the rules for some mid-winter celebration. For fuck’s sake, virus transmission is quite easy to understand and yet we are allowing people to have some more “freedom”. Many won’t understand or listen to the rules. Many will travel. There will be a spike in January. It’s fucking obvious. It’s a bit like forcing schools to stay open. Headlines two weeks ago covered that teenagers were the fastest growing group of positive cases. But we are told to keep the schools open and so we do.
What do we do when we have finally had enough of the “rules”. Most other countries would have a revolution. People would rise up and tell those in charge that we want change. Not this pathetic country. We are so controlled to think that our leaders want the best for us that we don’t get onto the streets. Even then, when we do in overwhelming numbers the government do jack shit about it. A million people marched against the illegal Iraq war. But we went and killed over 100,000 people. A million people marched against Brexit but those fuckers still didn’t have the balls to say – “hold on chaps”. It’s almost as if we are conditioned to think that those in charge are benevolent and selfless when the absolute opposite is true. There isn’t a perfect form of government but our current crop of leaders are stupid assholes.
Early on in this pandemic the politicians were attempting to explain that they were “following the science”. This was their excuse for doing the things they did. Let me just clear something up here. Science can give you information. In the early days of new science that information is sketchy and likely to improve over time. Science can give you facts to the best of our knowledge at that time and the more evidence we get the better and more reliable that information can become. Science is a tool for understanding the universe. Scientists as individuals are prone to bias as much as anyone else and so we have systems to try and filter that bias out. All science can do is give the government the best filtered information we have at that moment. Science doesn’t have the answers to “what should we do”. All science can do is inform you what might work. It is politicians who make the decisions based on what they have been told. Science can inform the politicians. The politicians make the decisions. They are the ones who own the rules we have been following. If they are too thick to understand the science or if they just choose to do their own thing then it is the politicians we should blame.
All the information we have been given in this country has come from politicians. They have done a terrible job. Yes, it must be particularly hard to do those jobs at the moment. Yes, anyone would find it hard. But we can blame the current crop for being utterly useless. We can blame them for being unable to comprehend the consequences of their decisions and we can blame them for doing things wrong.
FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE A DAY ARE DYING.