The layman’s interest in Hendrik Streeck’s book on the pandemic might come from the virologist’s conclusions and recommendations. Therefore, while a discussion on his methodology is to be expected in academic journals, it is only his findings and solutions that will be looked at here, before some of the other issues which he touches upon are put into a wider perspective.
Steeck’s views are summed up in a sentence which states that the virus is serious, but we shouldn’t dramatize it. In taking this position strategies, which will facilitate coexisting with the virus, are then recommended. Strategies, which, of course, draw upon some of his main conclusions. Therefore, it might be appropriate by listing those briefly.
Firstly, infection generally takes place indoors and normally privately, or where large crowds gather. It does not normally occur on public transport and in restaurants which have adopted good hygienic procedures. Moreover, the severity of the infection also depends on the extent to which someone has been exposed to the virus, and it also remains true that generally the elderly and other vulnerable groups are particularly at risk of serious illness, or premature death.
However, it is Steeck’s conclusion that the virus is not as deadly as feared, along with his stance against lock downs that has exposed him to the wrath of many of his colleagues, including Christian Dorsten, and Karl Lauterbach. Yet, one cannot help but get the impression that apart from anything else a healthy debate on those two points is both necessary and long overdue and all the more so, if Streeck’s view that high R-value does not necessarily mean that there is going to be a shortage of intensive care beds is given the consideration that it deserves.
Not only can the R-value be due to the number of tests being conducted, but there is also a very different scenario, if that R-value comes from an increasing number of young healthy people testing positive, or from more vulnerable older people and people with preexisting conditions testing positively. However, because of an establishment and a mainstream media that bombards us with doom and gloom scenarios, while taking us from one silly lock down into the next, these are the discussions that are being marginalized and ridiculed, by a political establishment and mainstream media which appears to be obsessed with keeping control. This is nothing short of a high crime at a time when we have to be working on viable solutions on how to achieve a certain normality while respecting the fact that the virus is out there.
Better hygienic concepts for restaurants, protecting vulnerable groups where and when necessary, accepting the fact that this virus is seasonal and planning in advance, and, of course, a comprehensive vaccination programme. Moreover, where masks, lock downs, and other measures are being mandated, it is important to know why exactly this is being done. Unfortunately, the impression the political mediocrities here, there, and everywhere, give is that they really don’t know why. That, of course, makes them quite happy to turn to those in various academic institutions who already appear to shirk academic debate and remain content to supply their political masters with humbug to support their high-handed, indiscriminate, decisions. It is time to have a proper debate and to plan.
Two years on from the last post and Donald has come and, for the time being at least, gone. However, coronavirus is still with us and, with the evidence suggesting that there is as much gobblydegook circulating, as there is coronavirus, it is coronavirus, and the gobblydegook, that merit my attention.
The numbers go up and they meet; Merkel, Söder, Laschet, Kretchmer et al, and, if there are decisions to make, then they cannot really make them and, even if they could, there would be someone in Brussels with something to say. Still, getting your tuppence worth in is what it is about in election year and down in Bavaria, where it is bad enough that we have to listen to Mr Söder, we are exposed to the mediocrities who abound elsewhere.
Armin up in the North West “thinks”, but he doesn’t really, and, while in NRW people might find it difficult to avoid his tuppence worth, should we have to listen to either him, or to the “Heimatliebenden” Herr Kretchmer from Saxony, or indeed, to any of the others? After all, we have or very own “Besserwisser”, “here in Bavaria. Now, I don’t really want to turn the channel to avoid “der Oberschlauer” Markus, just to find myself staring at some other “I like the sound of my own voice” mediocrity.
Decisions are needed; Astrazenaca, yes, Astrazenaca, no, lockdown, no lockdown, lockdown light, hard lockdown, and to be honest, the writer of this post doesn’t really give a shit one way or the other, you can go for the Swedish model, you can have your hard lockdown, but could somebody, please, make a decision? And not a decision like the one that was made in Brussels when they should have been getting the vaccinations into us as quickly, as possible.
And then we have Karl Lauterbach, a politician, but also an epidemiologist, and you might wonder why a man who turns up on various talk shows on a daily basis and gives his opinion to anyone who wishes to hear it, can suddenly appear at a government conference, where he and the Health Minister, Jens Spahn, play tweedledee and tweedledum warning all and sundry of their impending doom.
Could we maybe have a government in Berlin that makes decisions? Or, do we have to listen to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or should I say, “every Markus, Michael, Armin, and Karl”? And let’s not forget Brussels and the decision making process there. Over the channel in Blighty, it is bad government, but here, ……… well, it is a sort of totalitarian anarchy at best.
Not that it is not common knowledge, but , Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, achieves a nice little acknowledgment of the sickness which permeates the US of A.
Reading Gregor Gysi’s autobiography, “Ein Leben ist zu Wenig”, at the moment and there is an interesting bit where he discusses Rudolf Bahro’s speech at the SED “Sonderparteitag” on the 16.12.1989, which the comrades booed, and he, Gysi, saw as an example of the difficult relationship between being pragmatic and being utopian.
In the speech Bahro advocated zero percent growth and a “social-ecological” restructuring of society. As expected the “realist” Gysi seems to agree with the majority of his comrades who rejected Bahro’s ideas as being “Weltfremd” and esoteric. Although, it remains difficult to understand what exactly they were aiming for with their “return” to basic democratic ideas and a “real socialist programme”.
Nevertheless, this is not about debating whether the Federal Republic of Germany today is a fairer society than it was before 1989. When Gysi goes on to praise growth as being something positive when it means an improvement in the quality of our lives, he appears to be missing something fundamental. When Bahro is talking about growth he is talking about economic growth and he is right to condem it.
Why he was right to do so is shown admirably by David Harvey in his book ‘Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism’. However, even an observant pre-teen schoolboy in Glasgow in the 60s realised that on a planet with finite resources, infinite growth is not possible. Unfortunately, the evidence would appear to suggest that the the “pragmatists” continue to hold sway over the planet and that they will continue to do so until their idiocy ushers in armaggedon and it can only be hoped that if nuclear wars and the ecological and environmental “Super-Gau” has any survivors, those survivors might be both pragmatic and utopian.
My writing away from the keyboard is generally limited to taking notes. However, a conscious decision that the drivel in the mainsteam media is just not worth the links led me to formulate this latest post on a piece of paper, which I am now typing into the blog.
‘The Guardian’ tells us of how snow and ice is causing chaos in the United Kingdom. It is a familiar story wrought with pathos and patriotic piffle, a story of sturdy Brits spending the night in their cars, while a compatriot eats snow from the roof of his vehicle, a benificiary of Para, or SAS survival training, no doubt, to fight the dehydration caused through minus 50 c temperatures. Trains and flights are being cancelled, but everywhere a brave blighty is pulling together and showing that Dunkirk spirit all over again.
Then there is the story of the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor where 140 people “including a child with a heart condition” are jammed into bedrooms, or sleeping on makeshift beds in the residents’ lounge and where staff are serving food and drinks all night. A service, no doubt, but is it newsworthy, and is it a charity? After all, it is what happens all over Central Europe every winter. Although, the story of the man “eating snow” is a cracker.
No, it is not newsworthy, and the real news? British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, or British personnel manning Saudi control centres as the pilots head off to bomb children in Yemen. Then there is the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the fact that the West is really interested in Venuzuela’s oil. Of course, the real news is not going to get into the daily drivel and as all and sundry get a bit tired of “Brexshit”, or hearing about Prince William’s toothache, or his grandpa getting behind the wheel at the age of 97 without a driving licence, a day after the silly old bugger had caused an accident, they had to come up with something.
At this time of the year that something just had to be the “mass” of snow they got and which they are not used to and roll on the summer when there will be no need to mention the homeless, who can revel in the hottest weather for a thousand years. Of course, by then it might just be a Brexshit Britain where Uncle Sam has made his first moves on the NHS and the City of London is running riot cleaning the planet’s dirty money. A Britain where the vestiges of manufacturing, apart from the arms industry, has bolted across the channel and where, with food standards plummeting, our plucky stormtroopers have to content themselves with a big plate of additives and colouring for their din-dins.
It is more than a trifle Hegelian, this harking back to the bygone days of yore, and it might be at least expected that Hannah Arendt was not being held hostage by ‘the Phenomenology of the Spirit’. After all, the piece of writing that is about to be referenced was published in 1951, a hundred and forty five years after Georg Wilhelm Friedrich proclaimed, “the end of history.” However, hark back she does.
It is not that Arendt in ‘Die Freiheit, Frei zu sein’, is wrong when she says that since 1789 it is the French Revolution which determines our understanding what a revolution is. Moreover, her observations are generally spot on and, even if it might be viewed as being a trifle banal, it is still worthwhile to again read that the freedom to be free has always been the domain of a privileged few and that human history is to a large extent the history of this privileged few.
Moreover, what followed 1789, 1848, 1917, and, yes, to some extent, the Weimar Republic, supply more than enough premisses to support her plaidoyer for vigilance when promises of a heaven on earth are being made. However, is it really possible to see the United States in 1951, especially in light of what she writes elsewhere in the essay, as the product of a successful revolution almost two hundred years previously? Remember not only was this being said at the height of McCarthyism, but it was also a time when racism was normal, accepted, insidious, and institutionalised.
For Arendt, it is, and it is in Virgil’s ‘Fourth Eclogue’ that she finds support for her reasoning. It is about renewing Rome, rather than building a new Rome. Or, in 1775 it is about being free and building something new. She almost seems to forget what it was that forced “le peuple”into the streets and onto the barricades in 1789, even if she points out elsewhere in her essay that the freedom to be free, means not only to be free from fear, but first and foremost to be free from hunger and poverty.
Rome was an imperium, it was built on slavery, and the United States? In Arendt, we have, at least here, the epitomy of Marx’s being in society. A Jew fleeing Nazi Germany and finding refuge in the United States in 1941, her essay, ‘the Freedom to be Free’ was published in 1951 in a place where she indeed enjoyed the freedom to be free. In other words, she participated in the domain of a privileged few. That is why, not only is the essay, as an exposé on revolutions, hardly a revelation, but it also fails to understand what revolution, even using her own original criteria, i.e. freedom from poverty and opression, actually is.
Indeed, in ‘The Rebel’, published in the same year, Camus makes exactly the same point when he writes that “all modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the state” (ibid: 146). However, by concluding that the colonial revolt that took place from 1765 to 1783 was a successful revolution, and by referencing Virgil to support that thesis, Arendt offers a definition of revolution that is at best, extremely exclusive and it certainly lacks the universality that a real revolution a priori implies.
After almost three months in a Middle England where “hordes of homeless roam the streets”, it is from ‘Mitteleuropa’ that this morning’s post comes and there will be little reference to Theresa May’s “cherry picking”, or to Jeremy Hunt – whoops, and there was almost a freudian slip from Vienna there – telling all twenty seven EU countries that they shouldn’t “mistake British politeness for weakness” . Still, enough is enough and this blog will leave self-obsessed, in need of a bit of psychoanalysis, Brexit Blighty for the time being.
The real night out here was Thursday and a visit to Vienna’s Burg Theater. Ibsen’s ‘Ein Volksfeind’ (‘an enemy of the people‘) provided the entertainment, even if that entertainment was mostly due to a production which facilitated grins and distraction rather than any real cognitive processing of the content. Of course, there are reasons for that and Henrik Ibsen might be excused for writing something which, while still, of course, relevant, smacks of platitudes. After all, he did write the play in 1882.
Nevertheless, the play is indeed still relevant and, with a central thematic concern of it being political corruption, is there any surprise that a few days ago three scheduled performances were cancelled in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu after some members of the audience at a performance of the play in Beijing ” shouted out at the performers and called for freedom of speech”?
Ibsen has been popular in China among educated elites for a long time and his plays, which often highlight social problems, had been popular. However, with Xi’s state capitalism following hard on the heels of Deng’s “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” , there is no room for freedom of thought, not to mention freedom of speech. It is time to talk about China, but everyone does business with China, and if it is only to be hoped that in Europe certain morals prevail, it can be certain that Beijing is already banking on having Brexit Blighty in its pocket.