Every death is a loss for someone and the death of a young person is a particularly unbearable tragedy for parents who expect to age and pass before them and for siblings and peers who expect to grow and grow old with them. We have these expectations because dying young is an exception. Dying young as a result of Covid-19 is an exception too, and a rare one. The possibility should not be ignored but the risk must be assessed and our responses as individuals and as communities must be proportionate to the the size of the risk. We can and should discuss proportionality at some point but the point I want to make here is that pointing to and using a particular case to make a general case and a political point seems to me to be bad science and bad argument and maybe even bad taste.
Chad Dorrill apparently died as a result of the particular and rare circumstances with which the Covid-19 infection interacted. To use this to support not opening up educational facilities is, to put it mildly, intellectually and emotionally dishonest.
From the article:
“According to Tonia Maxcy, a family friend, doctors suspect that COVID-19 triggered an undetected case of Guillain-Barré syndrome in Dorrill. Guillain-Barré causes the body’s immune system to attack nerve cells. It was also linked to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil in 2015, where it caused paralysis in those affected by the syndrome. As of June 29, according to the journal Neurological Sciences, there have been approximately 31 reported cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome caused by COVID-19 worldwide.”
I written a few things about the pandemic over the past months, much bemoaning the division into tribes of the covid-compliant and the covid-defiant whereas we should be looking beyond this narrative to the meta-narrative of power that it is a part of. Here is my current position on all this.
First on masks. I believe that masks do provide some protection against the transmission of coronaviruses and the evidence and arguments I’ve seen supports that. The question for me is are they a proportionate response to the risks.
Given that the number of daily reported Covid-19 related deaths has fallen dramatically in the UK since the height of the pandemic (now about 1% of the numbers at the peak) and daily reported infections have fallen less dramatically (now about 20% of the numbers at the peak) it seems that
a) transmission of the infection has become less likely
b) the infection is less harmful to those who currently have it.
Figures for reported deaths are more meaningful that figures for reported infections since the latter will vary with the volume of testing and also the accuracy of testing.
I am not claiming the Covid-19 is not harmful and lethal to many, I am suggesting that since its lethality is arguably much less that it was we should be asking if particular prophylactic responses such as masks and particular elements of lockdown measures remain appropriate and proportionate. We should be asking what levels of Covid-19 morbidity/mortality require the use of what specific measures including masks. We must ask this because:
a) Covid-19 is likely to remain part of the human microbiome (the community of microbes coextensive with human communities) for the forseeable future notwithstanding any assault by vaccines. Should, therefore, masks and social distancing remain part of our social protocols for the forseeable future?
b) Current specific measures have had and continue to have disruptive and damaging consequences that I hardly need to outline.
c) Proposed specific measures such as mandatory or near mandatory vaccines are highly problematic. If people are unclear about why the proposed vaccines and vaccine regimes are problematic then they should ask more questions about safety and efficacy.
While we are considering these points we should also consider all the anomalies in mask protocols. For example it is curious that the government is encouraging people to go out to restaurants where they necessarily have to remove masks and where there is more danger of orally ingesting viruses while requiring people to wear masks in all shops where there is little danger of oral ingestion.
I am neither pro nor anti mask. I am pro critical thinking and I think that there have been serious deficits of critical thinking in our collective response to this virus. The ham handed suppression of voices on mainstream and social media that question the official narratives about Covid-19 suggest that our governments are not keen on critical thinking.
I am not going to expound on any speculations regarding global conspiracies but we should note as facts that.
a) There has been an enormous transfer of wealth from communities and small businesses to the billionaire owned corporations during this crisis.
b) An enhanced security and surveillance apparatus together with greater legislative powers is being set up.
c) There is an apparent and increasing convergence of state and corporate power in operating the new or enhanced security and surveillance structure.
I am not pro or anti government. I am pro democracy, in particular discursive or deliberative democracy. That is not what we have now. What we have now, arguably in the UK and demonstrably in the US, is more akin to oligarchy.
There is a tendency on the part of the political right to support government on actions sold as pertaining to national defense and a tendency on the part of the political left to support government on actions sold as pertaining to national welfare. It is surely pertinent in both cases to ask if the government is pursuing a national interest or the interests of the oligarchs, if it is pursuing the interests of the people or the interests of the established powers.
On some level that will not be appreciated by many it is true that we are caught up in a dance between forces of spiritual light and darkness and that our world will never be the same again. I fully understand that many people will consider me weird for talking in this way but I will do it anyway.
The issue, for me at least, is not about supporting or resisting lockdowns or other measures of control, or changes in our lifestyles .. its about whether our intentions are bent towards principles of justice, freedom, equality and love.
Many of us have had comfortable lives within the present order but it has been at the expense of those of us, globally, who have been excluded and exploited. The intention of the ‘dark forces’ is not a just, free, equal, compassionate world it is a world of oppressive control that is increasingly materialistic/mechanistic, one that is spiritually dead.
The intention of the ‘forces of light’ is that we should transcend our selfishness and separateness from each other, transcend the spiritual isolation of which the current physical isolation is a reflection and a consequence.
We have separated ourselves from the natural world, from our biomes and microbiomes, from Being and from other beings, and from acceptance of the natural cycles of life, growth, change and death. Through self-transcendence or selfishness-transcendence we will bring about a world that is aligned with the Will of God; a Kingdom of Heaven.
What world do you intend? This is important because the world that emerges for you depends on your intention and the world in which your world resides depends on our collective intentions.
Z-scores are used to compare mortality pattern between different populations or between different time periods. The higher the Z- score the greater the difference between the expected number of deaths in a given period and the total number of deaths actually recorded.
The graphic shows that the UK as a whole has a higher number of excess deaths than any other European country and that England has a higher number of excess deaths than other nations in the UK.
How does this square with the relaxation of the lockdown in England?
I’m not saying that the lockdown shouldn’t be lifted – of course it should be lifted but Johnson said that he is going to be ‘led by the science’ and my criticism is that he doesn’t seem to be led by that. A science led response would question the particularities of conditions and responses that have caused England to be more strongly impacted than elsewhere. Decisions should be based on the answers to those questions and they should be implemented in a graduated way consistent with restarting the economy in a rational manner.
Johnson said that all workers who were unable to work from home should go back to work. This is impossible because it is quite obvious that people in sectors of the economy, such as hospitality, that are locked down will not be able to return. Perhaps Johnson meant construction and manufacturing, perhaps he meant other sectors too but what he said was ‘all workers who cannot work at home’. I’ve been listening to people trying to unpack what he meant all day. This is not good enough. The minimum that should be expected from a leader is clarity and that has been wholly absent.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert, Dune
I read this novel Dune long ago, when I a teenager. The Bene Geserit quote came to mind today and I played with another app on my phone to cartoonise myself and my thought. The quotation is very relevant and perhaps Dune is very relevant too.
I felt my intelligence and moral consciousness increase as I listened to this. Chris Hedges is a man of deep experience and of obvious integrity. These are my notes on this important interview.
Roger Hallam asks him how we should understand the CV crisis.
Chris sees the crisis as the first fatal blow against the structures of industrial neoliberalism and says that the US is going to be hit particularly badly because it, particularly, has destroyed the protections of society. The US doesn’t have an have an NHS and can’t contain the virus. Many people will not go for testing.
Already in the US the capitalist class is calling for a quick return to work to save the economy.
The agreed stimulus package is designed to help the capitalist few. It is designed to help the slum landlords not the tenants.
Unfettered capitalism commodifies everything. It is part of a triad, with imperialism and white supremacism, that is inherently racist; using force to appropriate cheap labour and resources. It is an expression of self interest that, unregulated, is destructive.
As the situation deteriorates Trump will incite violence and racism. The US has already been moving towards a corporate totalitarianism with militarised police and secret trials. The coronavirus crisis will accelerate this.
British society may be different but in America the trend is towards fascism; the Christian Right has given fascism a headstart there.
The coronaviris crisis is a precursor to the climate change crisis. The beginning of the end.
The system is not going to respond.
We have to create power outside of the system.
We need to rebel.
We must use our numbers to oppose corporate power. Through our numbers we have power to cripple the profits and the economy of the ruling elites.
This is our only hope, but we have to face the bleakness of no hope and accept that we may not succeed.
But even if we fail we create a community; we nurture life in a culture of death.
The ethic we return to needs to be an ethic that says ‘everyone eats or no one eats’.
We heard drumming outside and came out to look. Our neighbour was banging a saucepan and chanting thanks for the medics and other essential workers. Other doors opened to the street. We clapped together as she continued chanting. For a short while we were not isolated