Climate & Environment Coronavirus Democracy Health Human Rights

Culling the Herd

Ten Years of Austerity… “nudge herd immunity strategy…” the net result will be more deaths of the most vulnerable across these islands, says Sam Hamad.

This mentality is a killer one. Boris Johnson and his nutcase advisers are asking people to buy into the idea that the UK can ride out the virus, basically. “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands.”

His entire message is precisely the same as Tory ideology for all of the social destruction they’ve wrought over the past 10 years – let the people get on with benefit cuts, bedroom tax, NHS cuts, WCA’s etc. The true masochistic aspect is that in England they managed to deflect any potential backlash from this with Brexit and racist agitation.

{Don’t touch your face, you idiot}

The ideology that so cruelly had it that the fiscal chaos caused by the extreme avarice of the rich, compelled by malfeasant politicians, ought to be cleaned up by the poorest, the most vulnerable, the skivers, the mentally ill, the disabled, the old and the young.

Now with COVID-19, the same old ideology is the demon that possesses British policy. A British government policy of organised neglect that will be hugely destructive for certain demographics, while the they can mask the true nature of their policy behind some appeal to scientific pragmatism – ‘we have to let the virus run its natural course, ‘the genie is out of the bottle, we can’t put it back in’ etc. The priority here is to place the welfare of people, of those who are considered socially useless and any innocent bystanders, below the needs of the economy and of business. This is not populism on my part. I’m not running for office. I’m just dazed by the audacity of the British response.

This is not about good science – it’s about good economics, but good economics according to a certain paradigm that sees our society as something that exists solely to ensure the balance of profitability for and the continued functionality of the captains of industry, and which, increasingly, views our existence as mere battery life to keep the wheels of this machine turning. Well, batteries run out. The solution of social democracy posed was to strike an imperfect balance between the contradictions of the expansion of private property and the egalitarian growth of society. This imperfect balance was long ago overthrown by those who care not totally, but almost entirely about the expansion of private property in new ways, no matter the damage done to society and its egalitarian necessities.

So they want you to posture about not being scared of catching COVID-19. They want you to substitute society for individual triumph. Maybe you’re not scared of the disease because you’re not diabetic, you’re not immunosuppressed, you’ve not got HIV, you’re not a cancer patient, you’ve not got a degenerative neurological disorder, you don’t have high blood pressure, you’re not yet old enough to simply have a higher chance of dying of it …

No, you’re a proper British Bulldog, pioneer of the Empire, island race, Spirit of the Blitz – nothing phases you. You’re a striver not a skiver. The greatest trick so-called neoliberalism ever played was convincing have-nots that they’re special in contrast to the un-special (you own your own house, you have a better car, you work hard, in contrast to those who are allegedly antithetical to all that). That they’re half-way up Jacob’s Ladder. Never quite reaching the heights of heaven, but never below with the gutter-dwellers. Nobody has a social existence these days, only an increasingly desperate material one detached entirely from society.

COVID-19 is reduced to the level of something the Tories love very much, namely competition. The social response is reduced to a laissez-faire, Triumph of the Will form of, whether they know it or not, social Darwinism. Instead of communities coming together to find ways to support one another, the message is survive if you can, but if you die, do so quietly. Many will die alone.

Mr Johnson has the audacity to warn that people should expect to lose loved ones in the next few weeks, as if there’s nothing he can do about it. The reality is that the virus can be fought. Don’t take my word for it and don’t believe that the ideological approach of the British government is somehow determined by a form of social pragmatism. Ask yourself why the Scottish Chief Medical Officer came to another conclusion as to how we fight this pandemic, as did the medical experts in Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Japan and on and on and on.

The reality is that the ‘herd immunity’ strategy is about letting people die and hoping that people can get back to work as soon as possible without large-scale, ‘spiked’ absences. That’s why the criteria for testing is absurd (people who have had known exposures to COVID-19 patients are not eligible for testing), while the British government are not in this early phase in the epidemic wiling to close schools or even ban gatherings.

The view of the WHO and almost every other country on earth is not to let words like epidemic and pandemic be one synonymous with giving up and embracing maximum exposure, as is the case with the British, but to simultaneously do whatever we can to continue to fight and minimise the spread of this plague while dealing with the consequences of it. Not some hands-off, machismo of letting the virus run its course, killing and hospitalising who it must – as if that can be structured or controlled.

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