Wednesday, June 24, 2020
If This is a Dress Rehearsal, We've Got a Lot of Work to Do.
Across the West we're learning how ill-constituted our governments are to handle emergencies. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, they've hummed and hawed, wasted weeks or even months before acting, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths and suffering. Finally they ordered lockdowns but, even then, they were half-hearted about it, eager to lift the restrictions, usually erring on the side of incaution.
Now, after months of lockdown, Covid-19 is returning, with a vengeance, in places where the political caste chose that it should return. "Chose" to bring the coronavirus back? Yes, of course.
We're all deemed to intend the logical and foreseeable consequences of our acts. The medical types and the scientists said rushing to re-open businesses would likely blow up in our faces, advice that was in many jurisdictions ignored.
Which brings to mind Churchill's line about how we deal with emergencies. He said "Sometimes it is not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is required." Emergencies are almost never overcome with half measures and weak resolve. Not every emergency comes with the luxury of second chances, do-overs.
When it came to wrestling the first wave of Covid-19 to the ground, in most cases we did not "do what is required" with predictable results. How this will play out in the period before an effective vaccine arrives, no one, including you, knows. If the best medical and science minds don't know, you don't know either.
But my concern isn't about the persistence of the latest coronavirus, the lives it will claim, the scars it will leave in the hide of the global economy. My concern is what we have seen from our political leadership. I think most of them have shown themselves "unfit for purpose."
What would they do if another plague, far more dangerous than Covid-19 reaches our shores? What would they do if (when) we are challenged by a cascade of overlapping emergencies - a plague, a military threat perhaps over resources, one of several climate-related disasters such as famine, internally displaced populations, migration? What have they done to build up our resilience, the rot in our economies from being locked into a global economy with its brittle extended supply chains and "just in time" mentality?
If Covid-19 is just a dress rehearsal, we are definitely not ready for opening night.