Covid stories part 24: reflections
So it’s very nearly the end of 2020, a horrendous year that will (hopefully) not be repeated in my lifetime. Christmas like no other, with people being asked not to mix. Families were ‘allowed’ to mix (altho not in Tier 4 … look it up) on Christmas Day, but it remains to be seen how many actually complied with these rules. If they even knew them, let alone understood them. In times like this, there is something to be said for simple instructions rather than setting out that everyone would be able to mix inside for 5 days over Christmas, and then being told it would be best if they didn’t (it’s ‘on you’, British public) but not changing the rules (mixed messaging!), to a last minute change of plan. A new variant apparently with high transmissibility. I’m not sure Comms has had a very good Covid.
I look back and think although we’ve been personally ok, it’s been so hard for others, and we literally won’t know what the damage is for years or decades to come. And everyone in the country virtually has a story to tell, or knows people affected in one way or another. Whether that be directly affected by the disease itself or hugely impacted by the economic or health consequences or how we have had to learn to remove ourselves from risk. Whilst everyone understandably has different risk appetites, I worry about the impact of how society becoming more risk-adverse will undoubtedly be marketised in future years, even more than it already has. Will society be able to weigh up ‘risk’ or more likely, those who rule will heighten the ‘perception’ of risk or even the societal stigma of taking risks? In the case of Covid, there seems little doubt that not only are the risks really significant for everyone, but moreover it is not your risk to take. I remember taking irresponsible risks when a teenager — it’s what you do but mostly the adverse impact of that risk-taking would usually be on me (not always ….). And usually the consequences wouldn’t be mine or anyone else’s life. But ignoring the risk of Covid is like being a drink driver … it’s not just you might kill, it’s equivalent in my mind to that massive train crash killing 10 people that happened a few miles away from where we lived back in 2001. Gary Hart called it fate, but fate does tend to intervene more often when you do something irresponsible that can have life and death consequences.
So when I read in the mainstream media various reports that 388 people have died in the UK who are under 60 who have no underlying health conditions, I think such reporting is deeply irresponsible. It is perhaps less surprising that the protagonists of such arguments are the likes of Claire Fox and Toby Young, those who would probably acknowledge that they hold hugely libertarian ideologies. Perhaps more surprising to me is a self-professed GP / medical writer Renee Hoenderkamp (perhaps she is a libertarian too?).
The logic apparently goes that if people with no underlying health conditions who are under 60 are not especially susceptible to the virus (big jump there!, and seems to ignore the relatively unexplored impact of Long Covid), then they can go about their business and the economy won’t be hit and the other side-effects of Covid such as loneliness and mental ill-health will be mitigated. It is the same flawed argument that was used in the Great Barrington Declaration — which no doubt was supported by the same protagonists.
It is a deeply worrying argument that has clear eugenic leanings. Firstly, at the most basic level, it begs the question: how many lives are few enough to be lost to justify such action? 388, 1000, 3880, 38880? And why do they draw their lines at whatever number they choose?
Secondly, there is an implied belief that not all lives are worth the same, whether or not you measure them through life itself or indeed the quality of life. It recalls Judith Butler’s Precarious Life. She was reflecting then on the value of lives after 9/11 and why some lives count more than others, most pertinently the lives of the ‘other’. Those who are not white, not disabled, not aligned to Western ideals or Christian ideology, the list goes on. In the case of the Covid, why should we expect those who have health conditions to ‘take it on the chin’, hide indoors and suffer the deleterious health consequences for themselves so as to provide seemingly for the greater good of the healthy who are in any case having a much better time of it … Covid doesn’t like the ‘other’ any more than the general population does. Look at how it impacts on ethnic minority populations much harder, look at how it impacts on those who are in more deprived communities much harder … which leads one on to the third point
This idea of segregating the health and non-healthy populations is for the birds. Don’t Clare, Toby, Renee or any of these commentators understand how people live? One of the main reasons Covid attacks ethnic populations is because they are generally more deprived. One of the main reasons Covid hits more deprived communities is because they live in urban, multi-generational, more densely populated accommodation. It really is that simple. It’s hardly rocket science.
But if none of those arguments work, let me finish with this. And targeted in the hope that those who preference individual choice and freedom. It is taken from Judith Butler again
“It is not as if an ‘I’ exists independently over here and then simply loses a ‘you’ over there, especially if the attachment to ‘you’ is part of what composes who ‘I’ am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who ‘am’ I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost ‘you’ only to discover that ‘I’ have gone missing as well.”
Who knew it? When you die, a part of me dies too, a part of us dies, society eventually dies …