For the want of…..?
With each update of news since the Pandemic commenced, I have been reminded of a childhood story told to me about how a king lost a war against an invader. The story went something along the lines of; For want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost; for the want of the shoe a horse was lost, for the want of the horse, the rider was lost, for the want of the rider, the message was lost, and for the want of the message the battle was lost. I also remember reading the story to my young children from a Ladybird book and then explaining its meaning to two four year olds. Later I reminded them of the moral when something occurred which illustrated the point from their immediate experience and not something only relevant to childhood fiction.
Surely this moral is, in one narrative form or another, a universal story based on many chains of cause and effect with costly negative consequences. If it was taught to at least two generations of working class kids in a moderate sized industrial town in Lancashire, surely it cannot have passed by the Eton, Harrow, Oxford, and Cambridge trained elites, many of whom sit atop our governmental, medical and scientific institutions. Are we not informed that they are in receipt of jaw-dropping salaries, perks and pensions precisely because they are the most intelligent and far-sighted individuals we have on this sceptered isle?
Perhaps future children should be taught a more updated narrative based upon events and elite incompetence so far but making the same obvious points of the consequences of a lack of foresight and due diligence. Such as;
For the want of compassion – bush meat was bled.
For the want of diagnosis – a virus was spread.
For the want of restrictions – a pandemic was fed.
For the want of protection – doctors and nurses were dead.
For the want of precautions – the contagion went wide
For the want of hand gel – infection came like a tide
For the want of testing – people were herded inside
For the want of ventilators – weak patients then died.
For the want of hospitals – empty buildings were sought
For the want of health workers – volunteers were taught
For the want of truth and honesty – excuses were thought
For the want of an alternative – a bailout was bought.
For the want of humanity – big-business came first
For the want of a home – some were not nursed
For the want of a carer – many victims felt cursed.
For the want of a conscience – not much was reversed.
If the full costs are not clear yet – they will be before too long. The cost of this want of preparation for a pandemic will be extremely high. This BIG ONE has long been predicted by dozens of scientists dealing with the nature of viruses, their effects and trajectories. Adequate preparations could have been made for a few billions of pounds, dollars, Euros etc., from tax-payers contributions, with only moderate to high levels of social and economic disruption. But under the present ‘elites absent whilst at work‘ system, the costs to endure the pandemic will now be tens of billions in currencies and the social, economic and human costs will be astronomical.
Not only will many more thousands of people lose their lives, but thousands more will lose, their jobs, homes and health. Furthermore, if the system of capitalism survives intact, the past, present and post-pandemic costs will have to be born by the remaining tax-payers who survive. In effect British, European and American countries, now and even more so post-pandemic, will be seriously and obviously bankrupt. The pre-existing sovereign loan debts states already incurred were un-payable, before Covid – 19, now after further loans, they are even more beyond a countries ability to pay.
The sensible outcome would be for countries to parallel what many firms will have to do post-pandemic crisis. Declare bankruptcy, cancel all debts and close down all liability activities. In the case of a whole country – since national self-determination is a right – this could be done. The day after cancelling debts a country could start up economic activity again by printing money (as they keep doing for banks) and immediately employ every adult citizen of working age in one or other of the range of public services (if needed create new ones) and pay them on new averaged out (egalitarian) pay scales.
Such countries could then use the skills and labour of all citizens to put right all the decades of damage done to the built and unbuilt environments, the air and water quality, clean up the seas and re-orientate production for sustainability and need. Thus, at the same time, provide a good example for other countries to follow. What could be a better collective incentive than saving the planet and ensuring everybody has a decent home, enough food, drink, clothing, heating and health care?
Of course, that revolutionary-humanist perspective is not going to happen. Those who are in power and have led us into decades of existential mess, including this one are incapable of learning from mistakes – if their interests in obtaining wealth override the parts of their brains which should contain such insights as; for the want of a sustainable economy; the human species was lost. Instead, they will use their knowledge and ingenuity to block any change which would threaten the current hierarchical system and their parasitic place within it.
Their prefered alternative is to continue to despoil environments whilst still consuming far too much and the poor in their countries too little. Yet revolutionary transformations such as that indicated above will need to be done at some time and will need to be done in spite of elite opposition to it.
Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)
[For details of the ‘dark secret’ of US bailout preferences see the following; http://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/02/the-dark-secrets/ ]