Covid, the Dress Rehearsal for a Future of Chaos?

 


We were shocked by the first wave.  No vaccines. We were left to a regimen of self-isolation, masks, social distancing, lockdowns and endless bouts of handwashing.

The first wave bled into a second wave and then, as vaccines became widely available, a third wave. Most of us had the common sense to get vaccinated when that became possible. Most, not all. 

A significant minority said no. They wouldn't have it. Like patients in an asylum there were seemingly endless reasons given. It was a plot. The vaccines carried a chip to spy on you, control your mind or something truly dire. No one knows what's in the vaccine. The risk is way too great. 

This same minority flouted the law and pressured governments to lift the restrictions and re-open their economies, something that strikes a powerful chord in today's political caste.

Now as we're halfway through the second year of this pandemic, social cohesion is fracturing. Around the globe this coronavirus is testing 

Rock-throwing crowds angry over government mishandling of a spike in COVID-19 cases triggered the dismissal of Tunisia's parliament this week, in what opponents call a "coup" by the country's president.

Amid clouds of tear gas, demonstrators clashed with police in Paris on Saturday over proposed laws forcing all health-care workers to be inoculated, while thousands of "freedom" protesters filled the streets of Australia over a renewed lockdown.

From South Africa to Cuba, Haiti to Lebanon, we are seeing some of the biggest riots, protests and challenges to governments in decades. And many seem to be sparked by the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus and government attempts to contain it.

Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, calls it a "perfect storm" of grievances ignited by the catastrophe of COVID.

"If you've got unemployment, inequality and a failure of government to make sure that everyone is covered, and then more broadly, a failure of global government to make sure that every country has a vaccine and every citizen has a vaccine, then all those fault lines really portend years of social unrest," said Jha, who has done emergency pandemic work in Sierra Leone and run projects in India.

Year Two has seen a considerable uptick in political violence and a similar increase in state repression by regimes that exploit the chaos as a means to stifle opposition and consolidate authoritarian rule.

Closer to home:

In the United States, the group ACLED tracked increases and decreases in the frequency of protests, including the sweeping Black Lives Matter movement. Remarkably, the numbers "mimicked" spikes and valleys in U.S. infection rates throughout 2020.

By November, the group says 40 per cent of all demonstrations were related to the pandemic.

That includes the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, says Zachariah Mamphilly, co-author of Africa Uprising: Popular Protest and Political Change, who studies protest movements worldwide at City University of New York.

"There was a real strong sense of COVID denialism present in [those] protests, a sense that COVID was a product of nefarious international forces — Bill Gates, George Soros and others," Mamphilly said.

Frank Snowden, professor emeritus, faculty of medicine, Yale:

Snowden, who is also the author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, said that while the COVID-19 pandemic has epidemiological similarities to the Spanish flu, "you didn't really see the kind of social unrest that we're experiencing today." c

He worries that if it continues, "this may be a first wave of the unravelling of societies in parts of the developing world."

Just the beginning, he fears, of something we have not seen before.


Comments

  1. "That's right, it's come to this
    Yes, it's come to this
    And wasn't it a long way down?
    Ah, wasn't it a strange way down?"

    Dress rehearsal rag, L Cohen

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    1. That's a suitably dystopian tune, NPoV. Didn't Judy Collins record it?

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  2. Much of the blame must be laid at the feet of government. The politicians always seemed to be reacting to the crisis (as it unfolded), as opposed to taking preventative measures. If countries had enacted travel bans and strict quarantine measures at the earliest stages, we would have been in a much better position to manage the infection rate. Our governments here in Canada were unable to coherently explain any type of strategy, other than telling people to stay home. All three levels of government seemed to spend more time quarrelling with each other and "playing politics" than in working together on solutions. I remember being told that the goal was to "flatten the curve" in April of 2020, and then things would start to return to normal. Nobody seemed to really know what they were doing, and many decisions seemed to have been made based on political, as opposed to medical, considerations. I would have preferred the Feds to have declared a state of emergency, and enact nation-wide rules, as opposed to each province doing what they felt like. I understand it is easy to be critical, however other than not doing anything, I'm not sure the various levels of government could have done a much worse job. Why were Americans getting vaccinated much more quickly and efficiently (at least those that wanted to). In addition to Covid, I think the younger generation is very frustrated with their employment opportunities in general, and in particular the obscene and unfathomable cost increases in the housing market, at least here in Canada. Additionally, the pandemic was an economic boon to some corporations, while at the same time a devastation to many others, and our governments failed to remedy this situation. I think with respect to the protests, many people have just had enough, don't trust their governments' competency or honesty and are reacting viscerally. I'm hopeful that we will learn we have to live with this disease, as it does not appear to be going away any time soon. I'm also hopeful as Canadians, we will display our usual phlegmatic nature and get ourselves through this crisis in one piece. Our neighbours to the South, well with them I would have concerns.

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    1. I did a post today on Andrew Coyne's column about anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists. In one chilling line he wrote that the "infrastructure of mass delusion is now too well developed" to hope that it will simply go away. This cult will conjure up imaginary objections at every turn, undermining the public consensus essential to action. They've gone from being cranks to a real menace.

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