March 19, 2020
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
More on COVID-19…from Peter Hitchens and Pat Buchanan
If you watch any network television (other than movie channels) or tune into the Internet or Facebook or Twitter, then you have been deluged by news of the Coronavirus-19 [COVID-19], with widely diverging stories and reports. In one brief twenty minute period yesterday I heard one “expert” declaim that the United States was headed for the worst crisis, health-wise, since the Spanish flu that killed nearly 700,000 Americans in 1918, while another “expert” averred that we should pass the real crisis point, the expansion point, by mid-April and get better after that.
After a half hour of this madness, I switched to the Sirius classical music channel: better to have the inspiring—and comforting—sounds of Johannes Brahms and Sir Edgar Elgar, than the constant deluge of hysteria, parading as “facts.”
Don’t get me wrong: this COVID-19 epidemic is a real crisis undoubtedly; it has serious ramifications not only in and on this nation’s health and health response, but perhaps even more dramatically, in our economy. And proactive and swift action at every level is dictated and necessary. That much, yes, and all Americans simply must collaborate in this national effort.
But, as in most major crises—recall 9/11, swine flu—oftentimes it is not the appropriate measures and sound advice that are seized upon, but a resulting public panic, the fear, and—shall we call it what it is—a type of madness that is even more worrying.
Fueled by all sorts of radically divergent (but imperious) pronouncements, I can imagine a housewife sitting at home with her three noisy out-of-school underage children viewing these reports and literally being overwhelmed by anxiety and worry: one more furtive trip to Harris Teeter or Food Lion to search the shelves for toilet tissue! And what if hubby gets laid off, if only temporarily; how does the mortgage get paid?
These are, it is true, very legitimate questions, and they severely affect millions of Americans. They must be addressed, and hopefully the president in his various initiatives will do just that. Unfortunately, we have reached the point where events have progressed too far, the fear aggravated too much, and thus, while this public frenzy did not have to happen, could have been avoided, it’s now with us and seems to affect nearly everyone. In other words: the horse is already out of the barn.
If we stand back and take a longer view (which may only happen after this epidemic passes), this public panic—this madness—is a major argument against the effects of the kind of consumerist, media-addicted culture that engulfs us. In our society, prudence and rationality are in short supply, as anyone who has made that last trip to Food Lion already knows. Just like in the worst ravages of influenza, simple proactive measures and responsibility have been needed, not hysteria. But we have now probably gone beyond that point, and the more drastic initiatives talked about by the president seem imminent.
That doesn’t alter our current situation, but, let me ask, when this epidemic subsides and there is some recovery, will we engage in a serious examination—of the nature and resources of our health sector (e.g, why do we depend almost totally on China and other countries for our antibiotics?), of our economy and its dependency on a dangerous globalism, of the absolute need to enforce border and immigration restrictions, and perhaps most elusively, of the—I would say—largely deleterious role of our media in all this?
No easy answers, but these are examinations that demand consideration. Alas, given the nature of our decadent and corrupt democracy, although needed, I have to wonder if we will learn any lessons.
Two short essays today. The first is by conservative English contrarian, Peter Hitchens, who writes for the [London UK] Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday. His acerbic comments may irritate some, but he also raises some provocative points that deserve airing. The second essay is a very recent column by Pat Buchanan, basically stating that the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic, with the resulting actions by various nations may be a real setback for globalism.
PETER HITCHENS: Yes, coronavirus poses a risk - but our response to it is not intelligent or useful. Britain is infected... by a bad case of madness
This is Peter Hitchens’s Mail on Sunday column
We have gone quite mad. I know that many people are thinking this, but dare not say so. I will be accused of all kinds of terrible things for taking this view – but that is another aspect of how crazy things are.
Yes, coronavirus poses a risk. No, our response to it is not intelligent or useful. In fact, I think it is increasingly damaging and will soon become more so.
The key word here is proportion. There is nothing wrong with simple, practical precautions.
I have for many years believed that door handles pose one of the greatest threats to health, and try never to touch them with the naked hand. I was taught from my earliest years to wash my hands before eating.
I am a health faddist. I work at a standing desk. For many years I have walked and bicycled wherever I can. I often take the stairs rather than the lift. I can’t understand how anyone in my generation or younger can smoke, given what we know about it.
I regard sugar as a delicious poison to be avoided as much as possible. I drink little. I get up early and go to bed early. I believe cars are heart-attack machines, noisy, smelly, ugly devices, which depreciate in the gutter while they are not stopping us from exercising and wrecking our lower backs. Yet our country is so badly planned that few families can manage without them nowadays.
For these reasons, I reckon that my risk from coronavirus is quite small. If I catch it, and I quite possibly will, I doubt it will trouble me all that much.
The truth is, people with what are called ‘underlying conditions’, many of which follow decades without exercise, are in danger not just from coronavirus but from almost everything. If the Government is so worried about them, why has it followed transport and housing policies that have made it hard and dangerous to walk or bicycle, and so devastated the health of the people?
I must ask them: are you really worried about our health, or are you just afraid of being blamed for a small number of the deaths that your policies are causing? And are you just anxious to try to demonstrate how good you are? In such matters, we fuss where we do not need to, and do nothing where urgent action is required.
If a train crashed tomorrow and ten people died, it would be huge headlines for days, even though railways are, in fact, extremely safe. An inquiry would be held. But each year more than 1,700 people die in road crashes, and another 25,000 are seriously injured, and it barely registers, because their lives are ended or ruined in ones and twos.
Governments distil fear into power. In a way, they are right to do so. We fear foreign invasion. The State builds a navy to protect us. We fear crime and disorder.
The State hires police and builds prisons. But they have become less and less good at these basic tasks, and perhaps they now seek other fields, where they can show how much we need them.
I have serious doubts about whether our Government has any idea how to slow the spread of this virus. I suspect it quietly reached these shores long before anyone noticed.
But I am quite sure that many of the current panic measures do far more harm than good. They create the idea that we are in the midst of a terrifying plague that will kill us all, when the truth – though disturbing – is far less frightening.
Their worst effect is to savage the economy by scaring people away from normal activities.
I went to the cinema last Sunday evening and there were six people in the theatre for what ought to be a successful film. A florist known to me has just lost hundreds of pounds in business from cancelled events this weekend.
We have all seen the staggering, tottering behaviour of the stock markets, possibly triggered and certainly worsened by virus frenzy.
No doubt it will soon become impossible, under some frantic Emergency Powers Regime, to make this point. I’ll be accused of giving aid and comfort to the virus, or of spreading Alarm and Despondency.
But before the roadblocks go up, and you need a pass to go to work, I thought I’d say it anyway.
In the Pandemic, It's Every Nation for Itself
By Patrick J. Buchanan Tuesday - March 17, 2020
"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time," said Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey to a friend on the eve of Britain's entry into the First World War. Observing from afar as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the Old Continent, Grey's words return to mind. And as the Great War changed Europe forever, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be changing the way European peoples see each other.
"All for one and one for all!" These were the words by which "The Three Musketeers" of Alexandre Dumas lived their lives.
This was the ideal upon which the EU and NATO were built. An attack against one is an attack against all. The Schengen Agreement by which citizens of Europe are as free to travel through the countries of their continent as Americans are to travel from Maryland to Virginia is rooted in that ideal.
Yet, suddenly, all that seems to belong to yesterday.
How the EU's nation-states are reacting to the coronavirus crisis brings to mind another phrase, a French phrase, "Sauve qui peut," a rough translation of which is, "Every man for himself."
The New York Times has written of the new reality. In Sunday's top story, "Europe Locks Up and Faces Crisis as Virus Spread," the Times wrote:
"While some European leaders, like President Emmanuel Macron of France, have called for intensifying cooperation across nations, others are trying to close their countries off. From Denmark to Slovakia, governments went into aggressive virus-fighting mode with border closings."
Describing a host of countries heeding the call of tribalism and nationalism, the Times laments Monday:
"Today, Europeans are... erecting borders between countries, inside their cities and neighborhoods, around their homes — to protect themselves from their neighbors, even from their own grandchildren. Confronting a virus that knows no borders, this modern Europe without borders is building them everywhere."
In a few days, the Europe of open borders has become history.
"As the pandemic spreads from Italy to Spain, France, Germany," reports the Times, "there is a growing sense of the need for harsh, even authoritarian methods, many of them taken from China.
"Europe has been terrified by Italy. Suddenly, many of the continent's countries are trying to lock down, to protect themselves and their citizens. The idea of European solidarity, and of a borderless Europe where citizens are free to travel and work, seems very far away."
Italy, hardest-hit country after China, is on lockdown. Germany is closing its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have announced they will close borders to all foreigners. President Donald Trump has expanded his travel ban on Europe to include two of America's oldest friends, Britain and Ireland.
Slovenia has closed its border with Italy. Norway is on lockdown. International travelers who arrive in Norway risk a mandatory 14-day quarantine, regardless of their health.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Canada is barring entry to all travelers who are not citizens or permanent residents. The only exceptions are air crews, diplomats, and, "at this time," U.S. citizens.
What we are witnessing is the clash of the claims of human nature and of ideology. Through history, most men have put attachments of family, tribe, faith, country, race and nation above the claims of liberal ideology.
But while all citizens may have the same God-given right to life and constitutional right to "equal protection of the laws," all people do not have equal rights to our affections or concerns.
For most men, the claims of the heart are superior to those of the mind. Foreign folks do not have the same claims upon us as our own. In a crisis, people put families, friends and country first.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson declares that, "all men are created equal." Yet, what truly seems to enrage him and to justify the rebellion against George III are the crimes the king had committed and that he had been "deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity."
The king had violated the claims of our common blood while we Americans had not been "wanting in attentions to our British brethren."
Closing borders is a grievous offense against liberalism that is supposedly rooted in the sin of xenophobia. But what governments in Europe are saying by closing their borders, what Americans are saying by banning travel from Europe, is that while all men may be created equal, we will always put our own people first, ahead of the rest.
When a crisis comes, be it a war in which the survival of the nation is at stake or an epidemic where the health and survival of our people is at stake, we take care of our own first.
This is human nature. This is the way the world works.