23 April 2020

Is this an era of changes or a change of era?

Is this an era of changes or a change of era?

In keeping with the general theme of the coronavirus pandemic, this Sunday we are discussing: Is this an era of changes or a change of era? The difference between our topic now and the question we discussed recently “The good things that come from bad situations” is mainly two fold.

Any “good things” that are the result of a bad situation are opportunities that benefit some people but this is not sufficient to imply that everyone will benefit. And secondly any good things might not be beneficial or remain beneficial in the medium or long term.

An era is a period of time usually within a chronology: for example we find geological eras, political eras such as the Roman era or the Victorian era, and of course calendar eras, the 1950s American dream, the The Beatles era the Vietnam War era and so on. Eras encompass everything (within a context) of the period of the era: the good, the bad and the ugly. For example, the Victorian era in the UK spans the calendar period between Jun 20, 1837 – Jan 22, 1901 and although this is a long time the changes that took place affected everyone.

In the context of our topic we are at a disadvantage because the pandemic is still in full swing, and no scientific breakthrough is in sight to develop a vaccine or to understand the virus especially its origin. We don’t even know whether those who recovered from the disease are really immune and if they are to what extent and for how long? But this should not stop us from analysing the consequences of the situation we are in now and argue the moral and ethical issues of the future.

For the purpose of our topic I would argue that we are considering the political era given the ethics involved with the pandemic, especially because of the politicization of the pandemic and that politicians are making most of the decisions.

During the Spanish flu or, better, the 1918 Flu Pandemic the era did not change much maybe because of the war. Incidentally it is called the Spanish Flu because the countries involved in WW1 imposed a complete censorship on reporting and writing about the Flu pandemic. Spain, however, was not involved in WW1 and thus Spanish scientists were the first to report on the flu pandemic. In effect despite the passing of many micro eras in the 20th century, today in the 21st century, a hundred years later we still don’t know the real causes of the coronavirus pandemic: how many people have been really affected or died. Basically, in my opinion we cannot trust any numbers related to the coronavirus pandemic, even if some numbers are more realistic than others.

In effect I am more inclined to think that we are approaching an era of changes than a change of an era. One of my main arguments is that the failings we are experiencing during this pandemic and any changes that need doing should have already been done many years ago even back to 1918.

What voters and politicians don’t want to accept is the reality that the more society becomes based on science and technology the more political ideology and dogma become irrelevant and dangerous. Compare the present situation regarding the pandemic in say Germany or Taiwan and the situation in Britain and the USA. The Prime Minister of the UK and the President of the USA are handling the pandemic on ideological principles with the expected negative consequences. Some countries give their medical experts more freedom to act in the medical interests of the population (maybe Germany) and other countries act on medical advice without delay (maybe Taiwan). In the case of Taiwan they also happen to be more informed about events in China thus they took early measure against the virus.

The question is not who is right and who is wrong, science vs politics, but whose methodology is more robust to fight such serious events as a pandemic. Political decisions based on ideology are neither transparent nor relevant: how can ideology based on beliefs deal with nature and biology? The advantage of science is that the methodology is based on empirical data, the human reasoning involved in science can be verified/falsified, and the more the conclusions are replicated by others the more solid those conclusions would be. The negative side of science is that science is as good as the data, sometimes the government have to do the data collection and finance has to come from the government or from commercial interests. Thus science, and by definition including medicine, might not be an independent neutral discipline.

One of the changes that needs to happen is for institutions like the WHO to be completely independent of politics and political influence. Maybe an organisation very similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency model. Thus countries like Taiwan will be included as a member of the WHO or future equivalent. This does not mean that the IACA or WHO do not make mistakes but as models for international monitoring they are quite robust: as always the problem is that these institutions are easily politicized and they are.

If the world medical institutions need policing like nuclear power installations, it also follows that health care services must also be available to those who need medical care. The bottom line is that medical care also has to be available to everyone independent of cost. After all we don’t have to pay directly to the manager of our local nuclear power station to operate it safely. And we certainly don’t have to take out a bank loan to pay for the missiles fired by our fighter bombers.

This means that high on the wish list for change would be political accountability. What is obvious, and has been obvious for a number of years, is that politicians seem to have lost their sense of duty and loyalty to the electorate. When politicians push for policies that sell off lifelong healthcare institutions that give free healthcare at the point of need to companies based in off shore domains to avoid taxes, one gets a feeling that priorities have been lost.

In reality what needs changing is the use of ideology and dogma to indoctrinate the electorate and consequently misuse their national assets and national stability. Ideologies such as capitalism, socialism, neoliberalism, communism, theocracy, nationalism, and fascism have no place in today’s era of fast moving pandemics and science/technology foundations. And false gods such as Marx, Milton Friedman, Hitler, Mao, Margaret Thatcher, Lenin, and many more have no relevance in the thinking and arguments of 21st Century politics and society. We have to move away from today’s nationalism (racism/fascism) that excludes other people to a form of nationalism that works to include everyone, cooperate with everyone and looks after the well being of everyone.

By definition any changes in the political system will affects changes in other aspects of society. For example, changes on how we conduct business, how to manage the economy, how to manage money, and how the facts and news are reported. In reality applying the myriad of charters of human rights won’t go amiss.

We are still limited by the fact that we are not privy to the future, but planning for the future is something we can do if we know how. What we know for sure is that through the scientific and philosophical methods we can know more about reality and people in authority to have the evidence to hold people to account. What the pandemic has demonstrated is that we cannot stop the movement towards the reliance on science and technology. As I have already said, the issue is not one of who is right or who is wrong or who makes mistakes or who don’t makes mistakes but rather: whose methodology is more robust to model the real world and nature?

Best Lawrence

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