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You are probably familiar with the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor is tricked by charlatans and shysters who take his money in exchange for making him a magnificent new wardrobe – doublet, hose, royal mantle and train, all of the finest fabric, the best that money can buy, but in fact make him…nothing. His advisors, fearful of offending him, declare it to be the finest finery in the land. Then, the emperor dons the non-existent robes, appears in public before his subjects who all ooh and aah over his beautiful clothes until a little child calls him out, exclaiming, “But the Emperor has nothing on at all!”
I am sure you can relate to the feeling of not daring to comment for fear of sounding stupid or wanting to swim against the tide. Today however, inspired by a presentation I watched by Thomas Woods called The Fact-Free COVID Dystopia I feel I must. Three questions sit foremost in my mind:
If the fatality rate is lower than previous pandemics, why has it grounded our society to a halt?
How do you justify making so many jobless, starving, homeless, depressed because of a pandemic?
Is the cure worse than the disease?
Woods argues that our focus on a single virus and not overall public health is a fundamental error as other factors are being ignored like industries collapsing and the long-term consequences of lockdowns. He is critical of the medical experts who he says have now been given almost high priest status, criticising them for viewing things from one perspective as if all ability to think systemically has vanished. He estimates that “130 million people could starve as a result of lockdowns...are we even having this debate?” He makes mention that in developing countries where people live from hand to mouth asking them to stay at home and not work is akin to asking them to starve. I received a text message from a friend the other day that contemplated our situation here in Botswana...8 months and 20 deaths...the damage done to the economy immeasurable....people in Ngamiland starving, no money no tourists...And what about what lockdowns have done for people’s mental health, separating families and sucking the very joy and pleasure from our lives. No performing arts, no socialising, masks on children. Have we gone overboard? Surely quarantining sick people makes sense but healthy people? This is not how we live or should live. It feels sort of out of whack really and too big a price to pay. Wood argues that if you speak out you are accused of “not listening to the science” and that somehow resisting these measures is akin to somehow not being a team player and being unsympathetic to those that get the disease or die.
He is not alone with his view, but it appears that such thoughts are kept away from the main stream media, I guess because it is viewed as unhelpful. If you question social distancing, mask wearing and what curfews achieve then you are viewed as not being a team player. Similarly, divergent views are labelled as not listening to the science when in fact there seems to be very little. When you question why, you are accused of being a conspiracy believer. What if you simply think that the leaders have this wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time.
Woods says 7 month ago we signed up for what we were told was a flattening of the curve exercise. The idea being that we would buy some time to get prepared – not to extinguish the virus because that won’t happen but so that hospitals wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Instead we have ground our societies to a halt and rid us of all social freedom including our freedom of choice. David Livermore, a microbiologist from the University of East Anglia, said “never in history have we handled a pandemic like this. Not the Russian flu which killed 135,000 from a population of half of today’s...future generations will look back aghast”.
Maybe we have a breather in Africa, for now but, in Europe where countries had successfully flattened the curve, they are experiencing a surge of new cases. According to numbers by Johns Hopkins University, cases are growing rapidly again in Spain, France and UK. The U.S. is currently the country with most known infections as well as deaths and also has a curve of infections which is still pointing upwards. If we are to learn anything from Europe this is not going away so where do, we go from here? By the time, the state of emergency is up we will be heading into another winter and then what? Another lockdown? It’s all quite unsustainable.
I’m no doctor nor priest but from my pulpit there can only be one strategy. Get back to normal. Let people live. Protect the elderly and vulnerable. Generate herd immunity. You may think it’s more complex than that, but I think sometimes it’s easy to hide behind complexity and continue down the same path with the same mistakes.
If we are to learn from the fable, of the emperor’s clothes perhaps it is that we must have the courage to see things for what they are and not simply carry on for the sake of pretence. “Listen to the voice of innocence!” exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another. “But he has nothing at all on!” cried out all the people and when the emperor hears this he is vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although there was no train to hold. That is where the story ends. Not with the exposé ...but with the realization that even if the child’s accusation was correct, the show must go on.
Perhaps for leaders to back pedal now is to admit they we were taken in by pseudo-science and false statistics. Better to keep the people locked up and locked down because that way one thing can’t escape – not the virus but the truth – that they all got it wrong.