In his book Interesting Times, the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett wrote “When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle. Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.”.
By this metric, the last two years have been utterly miraculous.
Covid-19, or something like it, was predictable. Scientists and historians had been prediction a global pandemic for years. By their reckoning, we were overdue. And a new disease is hard to prepare for; you can’t know exactly what form it will take, how contagious it will be, how treatable. Sadly, miraculously, we got a virus that can only be fought through social responsibility in an era of ‘Every man for himself’ libertarianism.
There’s not much you can do to protect yourself from covid. All the recommended practices are about protecting other people from you. Wearing a mask, not crowding people and places, sanitizing your hands so you don’t pass germs, isolating to stop the spread of the virus. It’s all about protecting others from yourself. If we all do it, we’re all protected.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works these days. We’re not into protecting each other. If your house catches fire, will your neighbours A) help put it out, or B) sue you for smoke damage?
We live in the era of Personal Freedom, where the mantra is ‘I know my Rights.’ At some point in the last 20 years, the word ‘Rights’ became entirely divorced from the word ‘Responsibility.’ Governments either support and promote the doctrine of ‘Personal Freedom’ or stand helpless against it. And they support it because it means they don’t have to take responsibility either.
Boris Johnson is a prime example of a Miraculous leader in the modern era. He rose to prominence on the back of the Brexit Misinformation Campaign. He then undermined Theresa May’s leadership. He became Prime Minister in late 2019, thus achieving the ambition of his life.
And then Covid hit.
At a time when we needed reliable information, we had a PM who was a known liar, so how could we trust what he said? When we needed strong leadership and clear instruction from the top, our libertarian PM wanted people to decide for themselves, and made little effort to enforce the rules he was forced to make. He allowed his cronies to flout the rules, and repeatedly broke them himself. But it’s not his fault: They forced the glass into his hand, they ambushed him with a birthday cake, they didn’t tell him it was against the rules.
There’s a thing in research called Serendipity: describes chance observations by astute observers that lead to new knowledge. Serendipitous findings, sometimes called happy accidents, are considered by some to be the source of researchers’ “Eureka!”
Serendipity has and opposite. It’s Zemblanity: the inexorable discovery of bad things. -Making unhappy, unlucky discoveries occurring by design.
BoJo is the Zemblanity Prime Minister. Everything we learn about him leads to new, bad discoveries. The investigation of BoJo and a few staff having drinks in the garden at No10 has led to the discovery of multiple parties all through lockdown. The coverup of one MP’s second job and inappropriate lobbying has revealed just how many MP’s have their fingers in multiple pies. Looking into how he funded his Flat redecoration has brought to light just how many favours he’s exchanging with his donors; pay for my new sofa and you can have a PPE supply contract. With each revelation, it feels like there’s no bottom; things just keep getting worse.
Except they’re not getting worse, they’ve always been this bad. At least now we know how bad it is. At least we’ve stopped ignoring the corruption and incompetence.
Now we just need to do something about it.
Which may take a miracle.
Hey, Really well done. and so many big words.