Nightingale Hospitals – rhetoric and reality!

Should we really congratulate the elite in the UK and elsewhere for renting empty warehouses or surplus concert venues and claiming these are new hospitals? These ‘beds in rented places’ are not to be confused with modern health care developed since Florence Nightingale pioneered holistic nursing during the Crimean War. In the UK her name has been used to make temporary ‘infirmaries’ in the UK seem decidedly more than they are. Her name is being used as political spin applied to something decidedly grim – an end of life containment solution.

Faced with a virulent contagious agent and woefully under-funded healthcare systems, the elites in many countries have rented out (or sequestered) temporary containment places. These are intended for an anticipated large number of not quite dead bodies of the victims of mismanagement and the Covid – 19 virus.

If it gets really bad, the severely ill patients will be lined up in long rows of beds, (with ventilators or not), but with very few ‘normal’ hospital services available. They will be monitored by more of the already over-worked, exhausted, under-protected and excessively stressed ‘medical’ – hero’s and heroines – until some recover and the rest die.

These warehouse ‘infirmaries’ (and even ships named ‘Comfort’) will be part of each countries large – scale version of the triage method devised in previous war times when most human and material resources went into devising and delivering ways to kill the other side and not enough resources were left over for better care of the wounded, cannon-fodder soldiers.

So in this alternative ‘war’ casualties and medics will also receive insufficient resources – yet again! The need for quarantining in the ‘Nightingales’ will conveniently obscure the working and dying conditions for nurses and patients within these makeshift venues. Visitors with flowers and fruit will not be part of caring for loved ones in their hour of need. As one doctor implied;

Many seriously ill people will conclude it better to die at home rather than alone in a packed corridor, a make-shift ambulance or a  re-purposed warehouse.

This latest Covid – 19 ‘end of life warehousing solution’ is not simply – or only – the result of callous indifference by the elite for the poor and powerless in capitalist societies. Double standards are the rule. True, as the press say, the elites are also people and get ill, but bear in mind many of them are responsible for the lack of planning and resources and therefore for more deaths than would otherwise be the case. And they won’t be the ones ending their days – alone – in a large – scale, former exhibition hall.

The capitalist system, based upon the mass production of commodities for the profit of the relative few, frequently executes large-scale solutions to the problems it’s elites have brought upon themselves and us. World Wars, weapons of mass destruction, mammoth distribution networks, large-scale land-fill sites, vast forest clearances, large-scale unemployment, etc. So given capitalism’s premise of business first, humanity second, why would warehousing the end of life period of dangerously sick Covid – 19 victims, not be a logical solution to the capitalist elites self-inflicted containment problem? But what an indictment of this system it is!

And after lock-down?

Many people before this pandemic have mistakenly thought that if capitalism was managed better or more humanely then the many problems humanity faces could be avoided. This was tried in Europe and the West after the Second World War, but the logic of the system, harnessed to the power of its elites, steadily reversed one moderating measure after another, until we are, were we are – now!

That is to say that although humanity is a naturally evolved, inter-dependent social species, we now find ourselves having to hide away from our neighbours in fear and trepidation. Instead of communities coming together, the capitalist system has again driven us further apart.

Some will still think a better managed capitalism is the way forward and some will think so after this virus war is over. The elite themselves will put energy and resources into promoting the view that mis-management was the recurring problem and that their neo – liberal iron fist of ‘efficiency’ should have another velvet glove slipped over it. We should expect no alternative from elite-managed systems – of any political persuasion.

To sit on top of society, all elites need a subordinate and compliant citizenship who are willing to be sat on.

However, the post – Covid – 19 World War, will be different than in 1945. No elites, after the Second World War, thought that economic growth, could exhaust the planets climate, create ecological imbalance and cause food chain extinctions.

Indeed, political opinion from Fascist through Social Democratic to Communist all thought economic growth through mass-production techniques were not just the solution to problems of 20th century poverty, but also the logical direction of humanities progress. Progress was viewed politically by left, right and centre, through the elite-polished lens of ‘possessing’ more and more commodities to satisfy the producers desire to promote conspicuous consumption.

Very few then were ready to commit to a radical alternative form of progress such as being a member of a humane economic community – in order to satisfy everybody’s basic social and emotional needs. Yet already experience of Covid – 19 suggests that social participation and community belonging would be infinitely better than isolated consuming.

The lack of face to face human contact after a month has already proved physically and emotionally distressing. Moreover, even with an excess of expensive possessions, the months of self-isolation now needed – could not be endured without other heroic low-paid key workers risking their lives to supply electricity, food, water and sewage processing.

If Covid – 19 causes people to critically reflect upon the ersatz values of the system we currently have and to reflect on who and what is important to society, then a significant element of good could still come out of it.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

This entry was posted in corona virus, Crimea, Critique, Ecological damage. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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