Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Left to our fate. Covid depression is getting to me.

I am getting increasingly pessimistic as the “curve” in the UK tends towards flattening. There is no way out of this situation soon, and it seems to me that a lot of the worst that is happening in the world was not preventable at all, it was fated to happen.

I am looking at the surge in populist leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan and sadly our vary own Bojo the clown, and the way they are psychologically incapable of handling the situation, and instead are propelling us towards the inevitable, the triumph of the grim reaper.  Texts for our times are Camus “La Peste”, Bergman’s “Seventh Seal” and Defoes’s Journal of the plague year.

No Jolly Boccacio’s Decameron to keep me happy, it is isolation amongst the worst traits of my neighbours as we are all driven barmy.

It is an experiment I suppose, some States will come out better than others, and others are doomed by there innate instability and short term gratification urges of the population who elected the fools who navigate the ship.

I might add a text to this I wrote a long time ago about interconnectedness, but right we are all united on the path to oblivion, as no-one can lead us to the sunlit uplands, least of all ourselves and our venial and carnal urges.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The personal impact of Covid19

Time to make a more personal reflection of how these times are affecting me. I count myself amongst the statistically more vulnerable, I am over 60 and my cardio vascular health could be better.

It is my mental health which is suffering most though. I have always been anxious and the uncertainty of these times does not improve that one little bit, "I expect you to die Mr Arnold", the invisible enemy is saying to me like some kind of Goldfinger to my James Bond. There is only so much I can control, but living as I do in a block of flats, there is only so much social distancing you can do. To put out my rubbish, or as was the case the other day to accept a delivery, I have to come out of my door and go down a landing and through landings shared by others, not all of whom have been isolating to the degree which I have. Yesterday a delivery driver would not bring the delivery up my stairs, he left it at the bottom, so I had to come out and bring it all the way up a few carrier bags at a time. Well I was within less than two of those precious meters of two neighbours during that process, hey one of them even helped himself to a bottle of my precious Henry Weston’s from my delivery. I let him have it (the bottle that is) because you have to keep friendly with your neighbours even if sometimes they annoy the pants off you with noise from the neighbouring flats.

I cannot say for certain I don’t have this virus, I have symptoms of a sort but not really fitting the typical, so I just don’t know. Is it allergy, is it mild virus, or maybe both? This is the thing, if there were a test I would be satisfied with either result, positive or negative, because at least I would know.

I have signed up for a research project, in the States as it happens monitoring mental health through this pandemic. I thought it would be a good idea, it could even be therapeutic answering questions about how I feel, that is of course if I endure through to the sunlit uplands that await on the other side.

The other evening, I got drunk, I went live on Facebook, and had a good old shouting rant. I have not looked back to see what all that was about as I will probably embarrass myself if I do. That is Facebook for you, at least I had my clothes on this time.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Late Capitalism, Globalisation, Easter, Covid 19 and all that.

I am running out of things to say about the current situation, but late Capitalism and Globalisation shares part of the blame for both its spread and the failure of Go vernments and Economies to cope.
One of the prime culprits is the just in time paradigm of supplying both components for industry and food to our supermarkets. Information technology and rapid transport of goods around the world has facilitated this, and it seemed like a good economy at the time as space was not required in superfluous warehouses along with the staff to maintain them, through times of shortage. Well it ain’t so any more, and the extra demand of people stocking up for lengthy lockdowns, and the health service increasing the demand for PPE and specialist equipment has shown this up most readily.

The other consequence of this has been exacerbated by Governments failure to plan for such emergencies and to maintain essential supplies of medical equipment. Back during the cold war when nuclear annihilation, chemical and bacteriological warfare seemed real possibilities there were such stock piles in the anticipation of massive  injuries and disease pandemics.  With the false peace benefit of the Gorbachev era, much of this was sold off on the surplus markets, and what remained expired a natural death. Nobody thought it was necessary anymore. No excuses though because the prevalence of national emergencies due to climate change, ie extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes, and the knowledge that sooner or later there would be a pandemic (and now indeed there is) have proved this to be as false an economy as Capitalism resort to the lazy Just in time policy I have described in the paragraph above.
Learn we must or perish we shall. I mean it is not as if the warnings were not engrained in our Western/Middle Eastern cultural history, with the dreams of Joseph and the plagues of Egypt which Jews and Christians both remember at this time, with the hope that the Angel of Death passes over. Well if you want the Angel of Death to pass over, you have to make the right precautions and preparations.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Lies, Trump lies and COVID 19 statistics

We may  (if you are in the same bubble as me) know that Donald Trump is the extreme so far as believing whatever suits his ego, however we do all need to be aware of two things at this time of disinformation, incomplete information and too much information.

First: confirmation bias. As stated psychological research indicates that we tend to be selective in our evidence when it comes to seeking confirmation of our pre existing ideas. At this time people are looking for signs of hope “new shoots” whilst others are seeking to alarm. The evidence itself maybe neutral but what we do with it, is not.

Second: unreliability of statistics, apples and pears in the same basket. It is clear that statistics regarding the pandemic are kept differently in different legislations, in some cases it may be deliberate suppression, in others it may be a lack of apparatus to collect reliable statistics as we have seen with the variable rates of testing around the world. Hospital admissions cannot be relied upon either in a world where there is an uneven distribution of hospitals, they will be higher in those States with a more advanced Health Service.

Even crude mortality statistics are unreliable, as there are a variety of ways to interrogate them. Do they record people who died from the virus or with the virus? Again that is going to be subject to the human element, the opinion of the doctor who signed a certificate.  We have also seen in the UK that there is inaccurate reporting because of delays in reporting a death.

We will never know for sure even when it is long over, as figures and the conclusions drawn from them can only ever be an estimate within certain confidence levels. One thing is for sure, it will take as long as it takes for a vaccine before we have the leisure to sort out the jumble of figures we are getting now.

Friday, March 27, 2020

More lessons from COVID19

You have to be careful what you write not to add more to the mass of disinformation, so this is basically comment and observation on the political aspects of all this.
Our leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has stated to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that much of the emergency action he is taking to mitigate the economy and protect workers is coming out of the last Labour Manifesto, the one which the voters rejected.

At times of crisis Socialism and strong Government intervention is the only way as it has been previously in wartime. The economy has to be directed towards the production of essential goods and the supply of essential foods. In wartime the Government would be paying a huge conscript army, now they are having to pay people to stay at home.

Elements of commerce, such as Richard Branson (Virgin), and Tim Martin (Wetherspoons) and Mike Ashley (Sports direct) don’t like it, but they and many others have been the robber barons of commerce, accumulating smaller companies, and behaving in a generally socially irresponsible manner to there workforce.  They won’t escape, the virus is for everybody, it is a very democratic virus.
What we have seen is Governments take strong and unprecedented action to close down non essential industries, restrict travel abroad and at home because of a very real and present emergency.

I hope that after this has passed, (and it will) they can learn from this, that they can act just as strongly against the biggest danger of all, climate change.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lessons from COVID 2019

I had practically forgotten this blog exists, so rarely have I used it in longer than recent time, however events prompt me to put a few scribblings out, which I think deserve a bit more posterity and presence than Facebook ephemera does.

Whilst the corona virus call it what you will (the name is a product of linguistic hegemony and social construction anyway) has caught Governments and Society off guard, it is an entirely natural phenomenon, and in the scheme of things inevitable given the concentration of populations, and travel patterns led by easy availability of cheap air travel. The encroachment of human society on the animal world has also made this more possible.

What it has done, apart from revealing some of the worst of human herd behaviour, has forced Governments into recognition that they do not control the waves as it were. Eventually they will all be forced into taking similar actions because that is what circumstances demand. The fact that here in the UK and elsewhere popular institutions have acted before Governments as a means of logical self preservation shows that ultimately Government is a reflection of society rather than a model or leader of it.

Anthropologists and Sociologists will be loving this, and although there is already a flurry of self publishing and blogs like this, the long term studies and books will be written when academia settles back into normality, probably with a technological shift which has been quickened by the events, just as wars have led to changes in industrial process and ultimately led to health reform in the form of socialised medicine.

Capitalism has been dealt a blow, make no mistake, look at the stock exchange that outdated and artificial barometer of capital that represents the triumph of notional financial capital over real fixed capital, supply and demand etc.  Panic buying instincts have led to there own market adjustments as wholesale retail recognises that there are physical limits to supply and therefore take rational (reasonable rationing) action.

Maybe this may signal the decline of populist governments as the blustering  demogogues prove to be as powerless as the mythical King Canute’s episode with the waves. (Ironically Canute ruled the waves rather well as the King of a mighty trans European sea power)

As Alec Douglas Home once said in answer to his political critics “events, dear boy, events”