Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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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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The news media is full of recrimination and general hostility towards much of the government policy on lockdown.  Listening to the traffic dashing by Bristling Brock’s garden is another reminder that quite a lot of the population are exercising a choice - a choice to disregard the governments pleas to stay at home and prevent the COVID-19 spread.  So here we have two facets of civil response to government attempts to mitigate the expansion of viral contamination’s - responses from so called professional journalists and opinion formers across the spectrum to those who have chosen to jump in their cars and not only move about for necessary purposes but have also chosen to do their own thing (at speed if the traffic passing my garden is anything to go by) and flaunt their civil disobedience.

Some wise souls from the past - when Britain truly was a great nation - used to measure the nature of societal behaviour by its preparedness to obey the rule of law.  Those that accepted the principle of law - whether they entirely agreed with it or not - generally created wealthier and more agreeable environments in which to live and work.  Those that did not live by that principle tended not to flourish so well.  A century or more on from that observation we can see our society divided into two particular camps - those that regard the cohesiveness of society and duty toward it as something worthy of preservation and those that have slackened their grip on common good will and any semblance of respect for the principles of law and societal behaviour.  It is the curse of the 20th and now the 21st centuries that liberalism has been allowed to run rampant and beyond the frameworks of behaviour set by government.  It sounds old fashioned, doesn’t it, to regard government as a guiding force in our lives, even something very unfashionable and anti-liberal, for we have been brought up to recognise our human rights, our equalities, our freedoms to do almost anything we want - the very image of Western Hemisphere life.  Yet without effective government we have nothing.  We would become anarchic, driven by self interest and eventually destroy what little of our social structures remained.  Looked at from a different angle, the constitutional duty of government is to protect its citizens first and foremost, establish an environment in which it can create frameworks and strategies that lay the bedrock of those protections.  It’s far from perfect, almost inevitably, as conflicting demands dilute the effort in any one direction.  But the rule of law should be sacrosanct.  That’s not to say that the citizenry of the state should fear the law - as they possibly might in places like Russia, China and North Korea - but they should respect that it is there for a purpose.  It is the very substance of how societies function, it provides the boundaries, the creed by which we live our lives and the responsibilities and duties that every citizen is born with.  Life is not a free ride, it carries a weight of duties, tasks and obligations upon each and every one of us - the very stuff that makes societies function within certain parameters of acceptability.  Obeying the rule of law is fundamental to each member of our community.

All this is not to blithely accept everything government mandates - parliament is the forum for challenging and disputing the efficacy and wisdom of government decisions - and in normal circumstances that is where the resolution and amendment of grievances toward the rule of law is made.  Nothing is inviolate, even the rule of law, but it’s principle is inviolate if not its content.

So, to all those who have decided to increasingly abandon the notions of staying home whilst this national crisis occurs and disregarded their birth-given obligations to accept the guidance of government, you may get away with your selfish behaviour for a time but the time will come when you also wish to invoke your rights under the law.  What price the rule of law then ?  Will you be yelling from the rooftops that you are being treated unfairly ?  The rule of law is for everyone, it’s what makes nations what they are - and we need to shake ours up pretty robustly.

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