TRANQUILLO! | Blogging a dead horse

Blogging a dead horse

Is a barrel of naked monkeys more fun than a barrel of hairy ones?


After dismissing the virus as nothing to worry about, then deciding that everyone should worry about it, I am now of the opinion that perhaps I was right in the first place, but I could be wrong.

The Plague has been with us since January and China’s Wuhan Lock Down, was heralded by the World Health Organisation as a successful means of stopping its spread. That did not exactly work out. It spread rapidly around the world, particularly through the airports and into international trade and tourist hubs.

As it began to fill the hospitals, the lack of preparedness of the health services for this disease began to impose pressure upon governments to “Do Something!!!” Quite a few others and I were sceptical about the seriousness of this thing. It was alarming but the odds of getting hit by a car still rated higher and the odds of dying from a seasonal flu, comparable. The disease acts like an allergy. Some people just have to be near a peanut and they will die, whereas a lot of us can barely be restrained from dipping our fingers into the peanut butter jar.


As international travel came to a halt, one supposed that that would do the trick. Except it was already too late. This disease spread exponentially and little clusters rapidly became big clusters despite the original source being blocked. What was alarming was that nobody knew what the survival rate would be, or how one could treat the disease or gain any immunity from it. At which point I began to notice that deaths were largely of those in the sixty plus age group, and those with hypertension were especially susceptible, giving me a double whammy.


Now, I have lived through plagues before. I was in Hong Kong for Bird Flu and for SARS and these were all dealt with. The sources were sought out, the means of transmission identified, and those with the disease hospitalised. Measured responses to the diseases were rolled out. Not only that, everyone in Hong Kong knows the drill. Put your masks on. Do not touch anything in the public space and whenever you see one of the many freely available bottles of antiseptic handwash, you give your hands a refreshing spritz. And if you show the slightest inclination to sniff, sneeze or cough, stay at home and call in sick – though that last advice was perhaps more abused than used, but the thought was there. In short, the plague was dealt with without too much damage to people’s livelihoods.

But that was Hong Kong. And I no longer lived there. I am in Malaysia where the concept of government has more to do with grabbing access to large amounts of money to hand out to one’s loyal supporters, than manage a modern economy. I of little faith can now see the benefit of a blanket shut down of everything. A measured rational response is only capable of being rolled out by societies with rational governments. And so, as a man at risk, I appreciated the idea that everyone should panic!


By then there were horrifying stories coming from Italy and Spain. There were mysterious messages being bandied about the Whatsapposphere featuring images of what was really happening in China, i.e. Zombie Apocalypse. There were breathless recordings of ex-pats trapped in Spain where the “real” statistics were being hidden and that this disease was racing through old people’s homes at an alarming rate. The health services everywhere, because of a lack of protective gear, were suffering the deaths of key workers. Even the doctor who raised the alarm in China succumbed to the disease and naturally was held up as a national hero.


Malaysia’s politicians, who are engaged in a serious level of infighting while investigating each other for corruption, sexual perversion and possible murder, decided to give it a rest and let the scientists apply hard logic. One might question the logic of some of the measures, but in an emergency where nobody knows nothing, it is sometimes best to stop doing whatever you are doing and look around to see what is happening. It clears the noise from the signals and allows one to start piecing together that measured response. This they did magnificently, aided by a population used to looking after themselves and not relying upon the government for anything. One hopes that it is a lesson to all.

Back in Hong Kong, the government, with a track record of idiocy of such levels that all the children of the city decided to burn everything down, needless to say responded badly. Where had that talent for governance gone? It seems the current trend of anti-rationalist Governments had thrown up a Hong Kong variety that relished not so much rousing the mob to do its bidding, but rousing it to storm public buildings in protest and spray paint them with FUCK THE POLICE!


But the people of Hong Kong know the rules when plague threatens. The very devices used to organise the protests shifted gear to distribute advice about the virus, about hot spot infectious zones, about food supplies and delivery services, and about shut downs and transportation. Plus, despite there being a government ban on face coverings, people organised the free distribution of masks - or especially because of the Government ban on facemasks. And where the government response seemed over-reactive, petrol bombs strategically hurled soon stopped the building of “quarantine camps” probably out of fear that such camps would turn into prison camps for less than healthy usage at a later date. The result was a miraculous reduction in deaths and new infections. Hong Kong is now open for business, if one can bare the thought of a two-week quarantine on arrival at the airport.

There are other countries with similarly happy outcomes. They are mostly in South East Asia where one would expect the virus to be most active. But one suspects, the habits of the general population make it easier for them to cope.

Europe, the U.K. and America however, are in a state of shock. They fear this Asian Plague. They fear wearing masks. They fear not wearing masks. They fear destroying their health services, and yet shut down their health services in order to concentrate on treating the one disease. They have hospital beds empty and echoing corridors where there is usually busy too and fro of the aged, infirm, sick and diseased. Doctors and Dentists twiddle their thumbs while those in infectious zones work all hours to treat the infectious. The shut down slogan for the UK became, not so much "Stay Home, Save Lives" but more “Stay Home, Save the NHS”!


This is riddled with political overtones that smack less of concern for the health of the patients but more that of covering the asses of bad institutional management. It has to be said that, the NHS were warned a long time ago about how globalisation would bring about pandemics but tight fists and short term thinking by government and its NHS appointees missed the point. Similarly, if one delves into Trumps reduction of Obama’s Pandemic Response Team one might find such motivations. The expectations there had more to do with its original aim to tackle the likes of Ebola rather than something like Covid 19. Possibly in the US and all Europe, the manner of pandemic was characterised far too narrowly and thus all health systems were ill equipped. Which is probably another reason for S.E. Asian systems coping relatively well.

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And regarding the UK, if the Duke of Wellington were alive today he would have been muttering about the idiocy of long supply lines without contingencies for escaping tricky situations. It is hard to characterise a man who conquered India and took England into Europe big time, as a little Englander, but a lack of local industrial base for key equipment such as protective clothing for key workers in times of Plague and War, probably has him spinning in his grave. The particular form of Globalisation that we opted for where the sophisticated west, outsourced its low end manufacturing jobs to supposedly less sophisticated or at least cheaper eastern labour is part of this problem. It increased mobility, and lengthened supply lines.

Far be if for me to go all Trumpish on this, one does begin to sense that The Plague has been turned into a political weapon to oust the likes of Boris and Trump. Their paranoid distaste for the media and the so called “Liberals”, if you are American, “Left”, if you are British, seems to have become justified. Trump’s inarticulate mutterings about imbibing bleach while declaring the death rates in the US as a victory for American health care, has served to spook the planet’s populace rather than calm it down. And now when there are glimmerings of vaccines on the horizon and even signs that maybe that unpronounceable anti-malarial drug might actually have some effect, Trumpery adds fuel to the conspiracy theorists claim that it is all a plan to wipe out the undesirables i.e. black, and useless, i.e. elderly geezers like myself, and make sure the rest pay through their noses for their doses of drugs to keep them alive. It is tough to think that these peculiar people and their less than rational intuition might not be so far off the mark as they try diminish its seriousness, but there you have it, I have had the terrifying thought.

Frankly, I would not touch that drug. At one time when heading to malarial zones it was recommended to take it, and so I did and the result was headaches, nausea and sleeplessness. The certainty of ill side effects countered the uncertainty of getting bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito and I have been fly fodder ever since depending on regular doses of gin and tonic.


Which brings me back to the numbers. I always say that the numbers always win. The statistics were there in the beginning. Nobody really trusted them because they came out of China, which is not a country known for its free distribution and critical assessment of statistical information about anything. In fact you can get a long prison sentence for doing that. But as other countries have had a good look at the facts, those odds are pretty much saying that The Plague is not that bad for most people.

It is still alarming for me personally, especially as it is likely to linger on as one of the many possible means of my demise. But as we now know that washing hands, wiping surfaces with disinfectant, and not spitting at each other, is a pretty good way to ensure we do not get it, then I am thinking that Boris’s vague “Be Alert” slogan is probably correct. And I never thought I would ever say that about a man I consider an amusing writer but basically a bit of a bounder who really should not be the British prime minister. Give me Nicola Sturgeon any day, except of course she’s leader of the Scottish Nationalists, which seems an idiotic position to take when Britain at its greatest, was pretty much run by the Scots!


So as they keep saying in La Casa De Papal, the Netflix series I binged on after The Tiger King, “Tranquillo!” It is time to get back into gear, open up the shops, and get the pubs working their magic. Let me find a decent margarita, and don’t cough on me, or shake my hand. A simple Namaste will do, or that nice Malay greeting of putting your hand on your heart. I never did like that elbow squeeze and macho hand crunch anyway. And huggy huggy, kissy kissy always embarrassed me! My comfort zone is Social Distancing and has been ever since my mother spat on a hanky and wiped my face and my Aunty Bertha tried to kiss me. But, Tranquillo! I want to get back to travelling again. I am happy to have my temperature taken every time I enter a country or enter a shop. And I always thought four people to a lift was enough. And when I am in a cinema, or a restaurant, or on a park bench, I never want any stranger sitting next to me. As for talking and making polite conversation in any social gathering where I do not have a large amount of alcohol to kill the germs, forget it! I would much rather look at my phone. My anti-social tendencies have served me well so far, and now they will serve you as well.

Of course, when the second surge turns up, I will shout PANIC YOU BASTARDS! I pity the poor politician trying to come out on the right side of any of this.