Bristling Brock speaks out...
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As time passes by, the COVID-19 crisis is shifting its orientation. The time factor is making the crisis susceptible to pressures that would define exactly where the bigger threat lies - is it the protection of the population and the NHS or is it the threat to the economy that poses the more damaging scenario as we move along this bizarre and unprecedented trail ? It’s a significant that we are seeing many businesses downsizing in a variety of ways - British Airways is a good current example - and that they are doing so having taken a strategic, long-term view of their business in any post-corona environment. That view - in broad brushstroke terms - is that many businesses are seeing the need for major restructuring in the face of global markets either disappearing completely or suffering unprecedented reduced demand for products and services - falling to a level that prudence would advise huge capacity reductions.
There’s no question that the scales are delicately balanced between the human effects of corona and the economic damage that the mitigation measures are creating. It’s a dilemma that creates the most agonising governmental decisions. Yet there is mounting evidence that the economic damage is beginning to outweigh the public health concerns - as is widely commented by the media pundits, this is pushing the argument as to exactly which is the bigger of the two potential calamities. Achieving a balance that addresses both the polar extremes is a tall order for any administration and, quite possibly, almost impossible to pull off in a satisfactory manner. There is, in short, a crossroads looming ahead at which the decisive, strategic direction will have to be laid out, but we may as a nation have to accept that living with corona is the risk we must endure (until there is a workable vaccine available) and that a catastrophic collapse of the economy is something that cannot be ignored - something we cannot afford.
Trumpy is amazing, isn’t he ? One day he says, let’s try pumping disinfectant into American bodies to fight corona (which, regrettably, many naive Americans actually have tried) and the next day he casually dismisses he ever intended anyone to take him seriously. He should, by now, have fully recognised that his electoral base is not worldly wise and probably take him at his word. Given his striking inability to verbalise coherently, every utterance is open to question. Unfortunately for a very large number of the US citizenry, his obscure and outrageous utterances are gospel - but, America is America and we are not surprised, are we !
Elsewhere around the world, in places there are some appalling scenarios - sub-Saharan Africa dominant amongst them, with huge, truly huge numbers of displaced and desperate refugees coupled up in foul camps that spread from horizon to horizon and boast almost no facilities that we would recognise as essential. These tragic populations have little in the way of hope for they are the product of war, strife and economic mismanagement on gargantuan scales and tragic as these scenes are there seems little in the way of recovery ever happening. Vast sums of money have been pumped from all directions into these tragedy zones but much of that has failed, deliberately, to reach the camps. Money is not the solution whilst corrupt and venal governments and opposition groups dominate the environment these poor souls inhabit. Removing the corrupt has long been a Western strategy, but as human nature inevitably throws up, the corrupt are always replaced by the equally corrupt. Yet now, the West can not afford to continue pumping money into this bottomless pit, and that is likely to be a long-term condition. So what will happen to these wretched souls, mostly innocent but inevitably, amongst the cultures and social norms of these regions, as desperation, need and resource all fight in an ever declining spiral do ? There is no answer to this, it is a human phenomena that has exceeded the worlds ability to resolve, the moreso amidst the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.
The world will be changed in many ways beyond our current recognition. Bristling Brock imagines that the ‘normal’ we aspire to returning to will not be within our grasp - globally. We will have to create a ‘new normal’ - an opportunity, perhaps...
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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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