Friday, 1 January 2021

Good Bye and Good Riddance

Pic courtesy Jakarta Post

It’s been a remarkable year.

So much that has been bubbling under the surface has been revealed by the pandemic. Trends that were partially hidden by the everyday cut and thrust of national and international politics have been starkly revealed by the virus and its consequences.

One of the first factors to be revealed was trust in government across the globe. The USA has for long been held up as a beacon of true independence and self reliance, a nation where everybody looked after themselves, and were proud of that. The USA has also had traditionally very low trust in government - ask Ronald Reagan.

This lack of trust hasn't worked out well, given the statistics around Covid 19 deaths, and the havoc the pandemic has wrought on the US economy. The US has a death per one million rate of 1066, and Australia has 35. The US economy has tanked, and its recovery has stalled. The Australian economy was also hit, but has recovered more quickly, and the recovery hasn't been arrested by continuing outbreaks.

Soon after the outbreak, and as various governments overseas were dithering about their respective responses, our federal leadership abandoned the traditional decision making processes that had been used for decades, and set in place a centralised national cabinet. Despite the fact that there were occasional disagreements, this structure worked quite effectively, and as a result, Australia has come through, so far, at least, in a much stronger position, both socially and economically, that most other countries.

This cooperation seems to have been acknowledged by the Queensland election results, and Morrison's national popularity polling.

Generally, both Federal and State administrations in this country left the politics of the situation alone, and took their lead from the medical expertise available to them. Even when one state (Victoria) fumbled its response, the structure generally held, and in time, the situation was recovered. 

The UK and the USA completely mishandled their responses, allowing politics to become the major consideration, and the results are available for all to see. The arrogance and pig-headedness of both national leaders was apparent, especially after both became victims of the infection. One was probably lucky to survive, but both led their countries down a deadly path when they attempted to use the virus and their responses to it for political advantage. 

This blatantly partisan approach was never so obvious as in the case of the UK, when Johnson's Scottish counterpart departed company from him on the issue of shutdowns, and so many in the US saw mask wearing as a kind of political symbol of partisan politics.

Finally, the kind of national populism that had emerged post 2016 with Brexit and Trump's election was revealed as a dangerous and divisive phenomenon when it confronted a virus that has no respect for race or national borders. At a time when nations should have been cooperating,in many cases they weren't, and to a large extent, this division has exacerbated the problem.

Hopefully, the lessons of 2020 have been learned by our body politic.

And maybe, pigs will fly in 2021...


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