Steam-rolled by history

History moves pretty fast these days. I reckon that’s been the case for much of the last 150 years, but never as quick as it is now. I don’t know if we yet realise it, but I think maybe we’re living through watershed days. Things may never be the same again.

A month into 2020 and it’s like the news has been on fast-forward. Here in Australia, that’s been very much the case. I’ve said my piece on the bushfire crisis, but beyond that, there’s been systemic corruption revealed, and now the coronavirus. The coronavirus is something the whole world has to deal with, and I suspect it’s worse than being reported. China’s a secretive society and had they been able to keep this on the lowdown then they would have. The scale of the infection meant that they couldn’t, leading to a ripple effect across the world.

I just making a joke the other day how handy it might have been to invest in shares of companies making protective face masks. It’s their golden era right now. Until recently you’d see the odd person in the street wearing a mask, generally Asian, but that was it. I never really thought about them much, but then the smoke from the bushfires began choking the cities and they seemed a good idea. Now, with the coronavirus, they may well become a necessary protective measure. You see a lot more people in masks these days.

In the last few days, the Australian government have announced plans to quarantine the country from the threat of infection. Without all the facts, it’s hard to know what to think of it. I think some of the measures announced are necessary but delivered in the typical hamfisted style. It’s good to evacuate Australians from the epicentre in Wuhan, but then to announce evacuees would be charged for the privilege (since rescinded), and that they would be deposited on Christmas Island is deplorable. Now they’re banning non-citizens and non-residents from flying into Australia from China. Maybe this is necessary, but I don’t know if they’ve thought it through adequately. Seems to be a lot of loopholes, and I’m not sure the thousands of Chinese students due to return for study have been taken into consideration. It’s true, I’m a sceptic when it comes to this government – seems everything they do is rushed in conception and then sloppily executed.

For all that, I’m wary of the coronavirus. It’s my guess that the number of infected (and dead) has been under-reported by the Chinese government, and the rate of infection, and death from infection, quite possibly downplayed. It’s a very 21st-century condition, like SARS and the bird flu, evolved from animals and originating in China. In a country so heavily populated these conditions are more likely to erupt and to spread much quicker. It highlights that we can’t take chances anymore because viruses continue to evolve, and in a country like China where co-mingling of livestock in markets with people is commonplace then this will continue to happen. It seems the Chinese authorities have now woken up to that.

As I write this, Brexit is now official. I was watching the news as thousands of motley types gathered at midnight in London like it was new years eve, waiting for the clock to tick over and to be free of the EU. You have to wonder what they really think will happen now. I’m less optimistic than them. I think it’s a ruinous thing they’ve done to themselves, but that’s democracy. I met a Pom over Christmas who was all in favour of it. He seemed intelligent enough, an engineer who was impatient for the people’s vote to be enacted. I didn’t bother to debate the merits of the case because I didn’t want to get caught up in an argument. It’s his country. This, though, is history being made.

Speaking of history, cross the Atlantic and you have well-warranted impeachment proceedings against Trump go nowhere because democracy has failed. Like it is everywhere, there are few politicians of any ilk who put the interests of the people, and abstractions like justice, before their narrow political interests. To put it bluntly, most are in it for themselves. Trump epitomises that, and that’s why he was impeached – and he survives because the American congress is like that to. It’s stacked with Republicans more concerned with their own political future than they are of what’s right and wrong. America’s gone to the dogs.

American’s have the chance later in the year to put that right in the federal election. It’s interesting to watch how the Democratic primaries will play out after months and months of campaigning and jostling for position. If I was to vote I’d probably cast it for Elizabeth Warren, with Amy Klobuchar second – two women. I certainly wouldn’t back Biden, who I think is a nice bloke, but archaic as well as being old, and not quite having the right stuff. Ditto Buttigieg, who irritates me more than I can explain. He feels a bit plastic to me. He mouths platitudes and voices well-rounded phrases, none of which amount to much. I suspect he’s an opportunist without any firm beliefs unwilling to commit himself until he knows which way the winds blowing. Then there’s Bernie.

According to a lot of the polls, Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner. I like him, but I feel as if I’ve gone off him a bit lately. Maybe it’s his supporters, some of whom are pretty feral and fanatical – a very bad look. And I think he took a bit of the gloss off going after some of the other candidates, especially Warren. I think it undermines his persona of integrity. I believe in a lot of what he believes in, but think he should have been the candidate last time around. I wonder if he’s too old now and if he might not be a little too radical an option.

Needless to say, any of them are better than Trump. History indeed!

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