Reflections

Accept, Endure, Overcome

To say these are interesting times is a gross understatement. Bushfires, the Wuhan plague, talk of  catastrophic economic collapse — I turn 54 this year and cannot remember anything quite like these past few months. People are beating each other for rolls of toilet paper as shelf-strippers sweep through supermarkets like locusts. Were Quadrant readers polled and profiled, I suspect self-reliance and the primacy of the individual would figure large in the results, but now, perhaps more than at any moment in our lifetimes we cannot afford to forget our connectedness with one another. United we stand, as the saying goes, divided we fall.

Like many, I have received notifications that shows for which I purchased tickets are cancelled. Missing a night’s entertainment in and of itself is quite trivial compared to the suffering that others are enduring. Our opportunities to socialise and interact are being compromised. No water-cooler conversations because our offices are shuttered. No cheering a favourite team because the grandstands have been emptied by edict. Lectures cancelled, bars and clubs closed for the duration, and we simply don’t know how long that might be. I am not opposed to such measures but these actions have far reaching impacts.

Let’s follow the advice suggested by medical experts, but let’s also remember our humanity and connectedness. Each of us must find new ways to maintain our links with others, as our social/spiritual dimension is just as real and important as the physical/economic dimension. There is plenty that can be done.

Take Todd Boaden for example. Todd, a NSW firefighter, and his sister delivering groceries to their neighbours. To his credit, Todd is doing this while on annual leave. I believe what Todd and others like him are doing will have a powerful and positive ripple effect. Do you know anyone in your neighbourhood who could benefit from a helping hand? If so, offer it.

Perhaps one way to remember our connectedness with each other is to appreciate those working on the frontlines to combat the Wuhan virus and look after those affected by it. You may not be able to work alongside them, but remembering their efforts does enliven the connection we have with them. Think also of the many workers and volunteers who come into contact with hundreds or thousands of people each day, each a potential carrier of the virus that has stopped the world in its tracks. Or how about cleaners, who go about their jobs, if they still have them, risking infection without the acclaim accorded medicos and ER staffers? How about those who have lost their incomes; their ranks are growing daily. However miserable we might consider our own situations, to lose oneself in self-centered pity and frustration is a contagion that can only make things that much harder for all.

It seems to me there are two choices. To endure the inconvenience of self-isolation with a stoic resolve to remain part of the broader community, albeit if only in many cases via the internet. That’s the first option. The second is social media’s open invitation to join a mob bent on carping and criticising, to decry political leaders as villains too nasty or too dumb to do what is in the best interests of the public. It seems that many of the keyboard warriors who were tweeting ‘experts’ on bushfires just a month or two ago have traded their helmets for the lab coats of amateur virologists and epidemiologists. Many are telling Prime Minister Morrison what he should have done and be should be doing. It produces a sad spectacle, this twitter negativism, with its focus on abuse and blame — and precious little of what a society plunged into uncharted waters really needs: understanding and acceptance that, sometimes, politics and opportunistic partisanship help no one.

These reflections are only one man’s thoughts, but sometimes and for some changing our thoughts is enough. The theoretical physicist Max Plank once said that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Instead of seeing others as competitors, can we regard them as neighbours with the same basic needs, fears, and concerns as ourselves? The Wu Flu is not a virus whose clinical symptoms cause people to fight in the supermarket or abuse checkout workers. Anger and selfishness are not medical conditions, but they are most definitely aspects of being human. And here, as fear spawns ill temper, we might note Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell, who observed that ‘we live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces’. Self-preservation is fine, but not when manifested in shallow and unthinking pique, of reacting without thought in ways that hurt or disadvantage others.

Given that some sectors of the public have politicised this virus and are ready to crucify Mr Morrison for his alleged mismanagement of it, should we not be surprised that he is careful in making decisions and does so slowly at times for fear of criticism? My advice to the critics: hold off for a while and allow that we are in unknown territory. True, some decisions may prove in time to have been the wrong ones, but as WHO’s Dr Michael Ryan has put it, it is quick responses that are needed, not perfection. “If you need to be right before you move, you will never win,” he said. “Perfection is the enemy of the good when it comes to emergency management … The problem we have at this moment is that everyone is afraid of making a mistake.”

Surely a better use of social media would see a recognition that it should be about being, well,  social, not antisocial. As columnist Janet Albrechtsen distilled it, “There are a million different ways that social media could be used as a force for good to make up for its toxic, useless past.”

As was seen during this latest bushfire season and so many others before it, Australians are capable of working together, enduring together and overcoming together. We can — we must — do so once more. It’s the Australian way.

11 comments
  • Peter OBrien

    Anthony, one of my mentors, Brigadier Barry Phillips, had a saying that has stuck with me over the years – “make a decision, it may turn out to be the wrong one but over the course of your career the ledger will come down strongly in your favour”. I have always lived by that but concede that there are some individuals who should not be let near a decision.

  • Anthony

    Excellent advice. Thanks Peter, and thanks for connecting.

  • ianl

    Censorship has occurred. Quadrant may not need money as much as it pleads, perhaps.

    The essay linked below is far more interesting than the one here (Rud Istvan has presented some quite informative essays):

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/03/20/wuhan-coronavirus-therapies-scientific-background/

    Quinine and derivatives seem to have some efficacy in treating CoV19, with the added fortune that they are quite readily available and scalable. There are several ongoing, credible trials to that effect now.

  • john.singer

    Great Article Tony and sound advice.
    Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory says that if you want to change Behaviour you must change either the Environment or the People. Well the environment has changed and the “Celebrity Entertainers” could help instead of criticising. You cannot perform in concert hall and stadia but you can perform on the Internet.
    It is a long time since I was 54 but what I remember from World War II was that it was “Morale” that got us through. We cannot huddle together for comfort this time but we can huddle together on the Internet and we must if we are to prevail.

  • Peter OBrien

    “Censorship has occurred”. Que?

  • padraic

    That’s an interesting hotlink, ianl, about chloroquine and how a drug with a well known use for one indication may unknowingly be excellent for another. It reminds me of the discovery in the 1960s of the use of oral metronidazole to treat amoebiasis. Prior to that, emetine and bismuth iodide was given intravenously and it was so toxic that if the patient was in a poor state on admission to the hospital they could die from the treatment, so the discovery by accident of the safer, oral use metronidazole for treating amoebiasis was a great advance. I don’t think chloroquine is currently marketed in Australia but may be available through the Special Access Scheme for individual patients. I tried to get some a few years back when I was travelling to a country which had malaria, (and for where it was recommended) but could not get it, so I had to use something else. I am sure if the current testing of chloroquine in the USA proves successful against the Corona Virus it would be obtain rapid marketing approval here in Australia for widespread prescribing by doctors. Let’s hope so.

  • Peter OBrien

    The medical (or at the research) establishment has known since 2005 that chloroquine is effective against coronaviruses:
    https://principia-scientific.org/chloroquine-known-as-effective-against-coronavirus-since-2005/
    Makes you wonder why production wasn’t in full swing months ago.

  • padraic

    I have read your hotlink, Peter, with interest. It mentions that the efficacy of chloroquine against SARS was known in 2005 and this presents an opportunity to make some money by suing someone – only in litigious America. The study in 2005 appears to be an in-vitro one, which is not adequate to justify its use in humans without further in-vivo human studies. Such studies are claimed to have just been completed in France with promising results. There is mention of the Chinese and South Korean authorities recommending the use of chloroquine, but there is no mention of studies or observed usage in those countries backing up that assertion.

  • Peter OBrien

    Padraic,

    I take your point, but as Donald Trump points out, we know chloroquine won’t kill anybody (or not very many, at least). I, and my whole family, took it for 3 years in Malaysia in the early 60s. Surely it’s long term use justifies fast tracking it.

    Ironically, my wife and I just returned from a cruise to PNG and, just to be on the safe side, we took, at considerable cost, a course of anti-malarials. So I was chuffed to read this news about chloroquine. Alas, malaria in PNG is resistant to chloroquine so our drug was Malarone which has no quinine component. I wonder if my 60’s immunity is still working?

  • padraic

    I agree with you Peter that it should be fast-tracked, given its well established safety profile, to which you correctly allude. It really just needs efficacy studies in infected patients and I think that’s what the Yanks are doing, not the full suite of pre-marketing studies. During the War my father who was in New Guinea with the Army was given “Atebrin” but I am sure that probably doesn’t work any more up there.

  • Bwana Neusi

    Ianl – I don’t understand your point about censorship. Chloroquine is a little on the bitter side. Is it affecting your contributions? That said, your link is illuminating. Hydrchloroquine is largely used now to control immune deficiency, especially those with lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome. The brand name is Plaquenil and has some serious side effects requiring patients to have frequent blood tests.

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