Bristling Brock speaks out...
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As the Corona virus era continues, as everyone is now beginning to notice, the volume of folk around the country prepared to ‘break’ the recommended lockdown guidelines is growing at a rate. We see it in traffic flow and in the numbers of people seemingly oblivious to the guidelines who just suit themselves. What does this tell us ? On the one hand it indicates a measure of rebelliousness in a growing segment of the population over lockdown, frustration amongst those who are suffering income or revenue loss and, perhaps the least surprising of all, it shows how government authority is being openly flouted. So much for ‘we’re all in this together’. As ever, there are always those who will jump on the bandwagon of those who have a legitimate basis for easing off on the guidelines and use that legitimacy in others to justify their own behaviour. It says much about the discipline (or lack of) of the population when, after a mere five weeks of restriction there is a panicky explosion of ‘let me out of here’ syndrome.
Whatever we think of lockdown and all it’s changes to the normal way of life, there was a strategy in place to control the viral spread. That there is some evidence now of a levelling off is something to be temporarily grateful for, but we should be wary of imagining this is the end of it. The virus hasn’t been eradicated and our future lives are likely to now include this threat as something to live with rather than dispose of and carry on as before. Rather like the plagues of medieval times, it is something that will periodically make a comeback to give us all a fresh scare. If a vaccine can be developed, so much the better, but the ‘thing’ will still be out there in its ever changing structure and form.
Let’s turn to something more light-hearted - Trumpy ! The good old President seems to be having a particular resurgence of blurting the absurd, the dangerous and the downright incoherent on the public stage. Bristling Brock can’t remember a time when he has so repeatedly stood up at his lectern and, with that seriously innocent expression he has mastered, utter the most bizarre, ill thought out and misguided proclamations about things he has absolutely no knowledge of and then claim - predictably - how great he is at working big problems out. Remarkably, BB still finds him to be an enigma, arrogantly stupid with an underlying smartness or nothing more than an abrasive but appealing charlatan (remember there are 200 million Americans who were promised the dream but have failed to find it - that’s Trumpy’s electoral base, and a powerful one). Our biggest worry is that Britain is still closely aligned to what happens in the US - indeed, most of the world is in a not dissimilar position - and the unpredictability of the presidential reign makes strategising elsewhere all the more volatile. We may all smile and chuckle when President Trump says almost anything, but we might ponder on the outcome of November’s elections when the 200 million strong, right-wing Republican train is likely to trounce the almost non-existent presence of a meaningful Democrat challenger in Joe Biden. BB suspects the world will have four more years of this entertaining but somewhat dangerous administration.
The EU is in serious economic and political trouble. Whilst that might make us Brits exhale with relief that we’re no longer a member, we should not rejoice too soon. Whatever we think of the EU, it is a significant trading bloc and a source of much research, and cultural interdependence. If it were to collapse - predominantly as a result of corona virus and immigration challenges - then that would be to nobody’s advantage economically, politically or socially. We chose to be out of the political bloc but the erosion of the EU from within its own boundaries would represent a loss of resource and opportunity for many British businesses and create a European set of separate social structures reminiscent of the post WW1 Europe that eventually tore itself to shreds. Britain was right to leave the EU, but we should be careful in how we view it’s current Eurozone and social problems - for they, like Corona, could infect us as well.
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Having listened to umpteen daily briefings of the COVID-19 pandemic (it does help to fill the time during lockdown) one overriding omission strikes me. That of bare faced honesty. There are clearly many things governments cannot reveal to the wider public, that is a given, but in this particular matter, which is described as being a national endeavour, Bristling Brock urges the various spokespeople at these briefings to say it as it is.
We have a coterie of journalists asking almost the same inane questions every single day - to the point where you might wonder whether their objective is supportive or destructive. The reality is that nobody, not even our government (whom we mistakenly believe to be superhuman and imbued with limitless resource), has been faced with such a unique and challenging set of considerations as those posed by COVID-19. The further reality is that it is almost impossible for any government to react to and cater for the needs of every segment of British society. There are going to be winners and losers - although those terms don’t really express the emotional and pragmatic complexities of decision making - and we need our leaders to openly admit that they are undoubtedly doing their best but will not be able to react to every single demand upon them simultaneously - be that logistically, economically or politically. Over time, that may be possible, but no government, and BB means no government, has the resource and capability to universally address every shortage, every questionable choice or decision which may be made in good faith at a point in time. Mistakes will have occurred and will continue to occur - there are human beings making these impossible decisions - and it is therefore incumbent upon out leadership to be open and realistic about this. If we are all in this together, as the strap lines urge us to believe, then let us all be in the know. Most of us are adult enough to handle the reality of such a declaration for we have never voted for automatons to rule us, rather we vote governments in that reflect our national character, our values and our way of life and our future prospects as a nation.
Let governments be open and honest on COVID-19. This is unprecedented territory and we, as thinking adults in the population, should acknowledge the enormity of what our government is faced with. But truth and openness is a more realistic basis for support. Briefings that focus on generalities, repetitive mantra’s and obfuscations are not the right recipe. (All that said, the decision to proceed with Phase One of HS2 is absolute madness - someone needs to rethink that one pronto...)
China continues to be looked upon with suspicion and not a little bad faith, be that related to COVID-19 or its blatantly expansionist foreign policies. There is clearly an agenda being followed by Xi Jinpeng which is hugely different in direction and emphasis to his immediate forbears, but China relies upon Western business to supercharge its economic growth. Without the West sourcing vast amounts of production from Chinese factories that growth will wither, as will the Chinese economy as a whole. It is one thing to have expansionist vision, it is quite another to bring it to fruition without upsetting quite a lot of other nations who directly and indirectly sustain the China miracle that has characterised the last decade or so. Post COVID-19, the world is likely to be a very different place. China should step carefully.
By contrast, Trumpy is leading America into a right old dogs-dinner mess. When you get gun-toting citizens (though BB uses the term ‘citizens’ with some misgivings) moving about the streets to protest their constitutional rights (against lockdown and social distancing in this instance) then you see the beginnings of an anarchic swell of rebellion against the federal and state legislatures. Trumpy knows no shades of grey (not in this context at least) as he sees everything in black and white definitiveness and his gauche and aggressive behaviour in public characterises a man who has lost the mood of the people on a very large scale. Bombast may win the occasional moment - and we must recognise that Americans do like a good measure of boastful bombast - but it is no recipe for pragmatic, we’ll thought through strategies that really don’t nark vast swathes of the population off. As in Britain, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in America also, and their federal and state governments will unquestionably be battling with many things hitherto unknown, so we should perhaps slacken the critique a little. That said, critique of any description is anathema to Trumpy. Their ride will be an interesting one - unfortunately for the rest of the world, their ride is one we have to endure as well.
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Trumpy has declared that the US has the ‘right’ to mine minerals on the moon. This is quite an adventurous declaration and we should possibly wonder whether this does signify a new form of colonial ‘land grab’ by the US ?
On the face of it, it would look like a typically bombastic Trumpy outburst, something to deflect from his enormous misjudgements over COVID-19 infections. Yet behind the declaration there is a grain of reality. Who owns the Universe, who has ‘rights’ over it, yet in the time honoured practice of colonialism - which we Brits must acknowledge some prior experience of - the prizes go to those who either first get to some new piece of real estate or steal it from a lesser power.
Has the moon got minerals humankind wants, we might ask ? The experts say it has, not least lithium and cobalt, the current power minerals that keep our technical gadgets working down here. How would you mine it and transport it is another big question ? What would be the physical consequences of churning up the moon - in much the same way as we have churned up the earth - and, bearing in mind it’s relatively small size when compared to Earth, and would this alter the delicate balance of the planets and their interactions ? Thousands of questions arise, but if the traditional colonial mantra still applies, ‘...we need it, we want it and nobody can stop us’, seems to be the context in which Trumpy’s legislation has been framed.
It’s certainly an adventurous strategy, one that continues humankind’s quest for ever exploring its environment. Whether it’s the right thing to do, the realistic thing to do or the best thing to do at this stage of humanity’s evolution is history yet to be written. It’s exciting and daunting at one and the same time...but that is the history of human evolution, isn’t it ?
Anyone who is nerdy enough - like Bristling Brock - and who keeps an eye on the flight radar tracking system of flights across the world will have noticed how empty Britain’s skies just are. At one point on Good Friday, there wasn’t a single radar track of an aeroplane over the entire land mass of Great Britain (though that does exclude military flight activity). It was quite extraordinary and probably only momentary but nonetheless a unique snapshot at just how much the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted upon the daily normality of our lives. This nerdiness also flagged up that one of the few ‘regular’ arrivals at Heathrow was an Air China flight. Surely we weren’t allowing yet more people from China into the country so freely ? We would suppose not (hopefully) so might assume these were cargo flights bringing goodness knows what in the form of PPE and virus testing kits that our government paid up front for before knowing quite what it was they were buying. Whether all such kit from China is usable or not we’ll probably never know, but yet again it gives us that extraordinary snapshot of a surreal environment that has been thrust upon most of the world. Extraordinary times, extraordinary measures.
On the subject of China, the Huawei controversy has again risen to the surface. Diplomatically, the Huawei chief has awaited Boris Johnson’s discharge from hospital before writing to him to underline the importance of his company’s technological input to the forthcoming 5G network. There is much opposition to the very notion of letting a Chinese company to become intimately involved in the establishment of such a critical piece of our security and communications infrastructure, and likely with some good reason. It’s hard to imagine that any technology company in China doesn’t have some level of connectivity with governmental foreign policy - and the very suspicion of Huawei’s potential connection with Chinese foreign policy strategies ought to be a significant warning to our decision makers about the potential threat this imposes. With the entire 5G programme no doubt pushed out due to viral interruptions, there is still time for our government to make the right choice and deny Huawei that entry portal to our infrastructure.
COVID-19 has invaded all our lives very significantly. All the more reason to be ashamed to see the video clip made by a nurse as she encountered a group of youths lounging about carelessly in a London park and quaffing beer. As she challenged them to be more socially responsible, not least because nurses like herself were putting themselves at risk during their hospital and care duties, she received mouthfuls of vulgar abuse before they reluctantly cleared off - no doubt to resume their selfish indulgences somewhere else. Most of our society is behaving responsibly in this crisis. There will always be some who don’t care, are too stupid to recognise the risk and threat they pose, or too self indulgent to imagine that the rules also apply to them. They may be a minority, but as you look around you realise that it is a noticeable minority, a dangerous minority who can prevent the successful suppression of infection spread. Again, BB might suppose, an illustration of humankind’s sometimes perverse evolution.
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