Predictable Disasters: Scientists the world over have been warning their respective governments about the inevitability of a global pandemic for decades. They have urged them to prepare for outbreaks of new strains of infectious diseases against which their citizens, having no immunity, will find themselves acutely vulnerable. Those scientists’ warnings have been vindicated but, tragically, they have not, for the most part, been heeded.
HURRICANES are particularly destructive and often deadly natural phenomena. The number of fatalities arising out of the annual “hurricane season” in the Caribbean, however, have been consistently lower in Cuba than in neighbouring islands. Why? It’s not that Cuba is spared the attentions of serious hurricanes. Hurricanes strike the island as regularly as they strike any other in the Caribbean. The simple answer is that the socialist government of Cuba puts the welfare of its citizens at the very top of its list of priorities. This leaves Cuba unusually well prepared for the entirely predictable extreme weather events to which its geographical location is prone. That preparation saves lives – many lives. The capitalist island states of the Caribbean have different priorities. Those priorities cost lives – many lives.
Scientists the world over have been warning their respective governments about the inevitability of a global pandemic for decades. They have urged them to prepare for outbreaks of new strains of infectious diseases against which their citizens, having no immunity, will find themselves acutely vulnerable. To be ready for these global pandemics, scientists have counselled politicians and civil servants to make sure that excess capacity is built into their countries’ hospitals, and to stockpile vast quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE). They have also urged the creation of detailed “pandemic plans” so that state agencies know exactly what to do when mass infection and death threaten their populations.
The scientists’ warnings have been vindicated but, tragically, they have not, for the most part, been heeded. A global pandemic has indeed struck, but only a handful of nation states were in any way prepared for the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. In the overwhelming majority of countries the recommended preparations were not implemented. Indeed, far from being given excess capacity, hospitals and health services around the world have been consistently underfunded and their capacity to mount a successful pandemic defence diminished. Only in those countries seriously threatened by the SARS coronavirus outbreak of 2002-03 (China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand) was there anything resembling a well-prepared and effective public health response.
To properly prepare a nation for the outbreak of a potentially fatal infectious disease requires a state committed unequivocally to prioritising the general welfare of its citizens. Building in excess capacity in terms of trained staff, ICUs and hospital beds, and stockpiling PPE, should be regarded as simple governmental prudence by the electorate and the required fiscal resources allocated without serious objection. Politicians decrying such preparations as an unwarranted imposition on “the taxpayer” should elicit only angry condemnation and derision. Naturally, such states will, for many decades, have supplied universal, publicly funded and provided healthcare services to their citizens as of right.
The response of an ill-prepared nation would be altogether different. Possessing only the rudiments of a public health system, or a formerly robust public health system that has been consistently underfunded for decades, the necessary infrastructure for combatting a deadly pandemic would be absent. Poor and marginalised citizens, unable to afford the diagnosis and care they needed would present themselves to health professionals only when their condition had worsened to the point where they could be categorised as critical and hospitalised. This delay in seeking care has contributed significantly to the catastrophic overloading of hospitals – both public and private – that the world has witnessed in New York City and in the Italian region of Lombardy.
The absence of effective public health services, coupled with debilitating levels of poverty and inequality, is not, however, the worst feature of a nation ill-prepared to protect its citizens from natural disasters. To those glaring practical deficiencies must be added an equally glaring moral deficiency which makes national ill-preparedness on a criminal scale practically unavoidable.
That deficiency is the certitude pervading ruling elites and their enablers that, excepting themselves, human-beings are best considered “means to an end”. An “end” determined by themselves. It’s an attitude best summed-up in the verbal manoeuvre featured in HBO’s comedy-drama series “Succession”. When confronted with evidence of their criminal negligence, the series’ billionaire protagonists cynically dismiss it with the cryptic abbreviation “NRPI”. What does NRPI stand for? “No Real People Involved”.
If, in the face of disaster, only the rich are considered real enough to save, then the poor and the weak will soon be regarded as dispensable illusions.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 17 April 2020.
The simple answer is that the socialist government of Cuba puts the welfare of its citizens at the very top of its list of priorities.
ROFL. Even taking at face value your claims about hurricane deaths in Cuba vs those other island states, the best one could say is that the Cuban communists don't put the welfare of its citizens at the very top of its list of priorities in any other aspect of life. Given their wrteched living conditions it's the exact opposite.
And then just after slamming the "The capitalist island states of the Caribbean..." you write the following:
...(China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand) was there anything resembling a well-prepared and effective public health response.
Five of those are very capitalist states, and it's not as if China is Cuba either when it comes to the economy. As some True Believers in Marxism have pointed out, China should be better classified as State Capitalism.
Thank you for the belly laugh.
Its simple. Lest deaths from Hurricanes in Cuba because its a Communist Country.
A long bow I suggest.
So I guess its topography has no input(Its the largest island)
So less likely to suffer damage than the small islands of The Bahamas or Jamaica.
Or are you comparing to Dominican Republic which has 25 million pop compared to Cubas 11 million.
But Hey, lets get back to your story :-)
I enjoy your thoughtful articles. regretfully I don't believe this to be one.
You've really jumped the shark with the Cuba comparison Chris.
Any country that finds it necessary to make it's people, effectively, prisoners in their own country has a massive question mark over everything it does. I'll leave it at that.
Here is some first class analysis of the sorts of factors that should be involved in these sorts of decisions. Simplistic value statements don't tell you how to act and, by the same token, science doesn't tell you what to value; it just helps inform your decision. http://www.tailrisk.co.nz/documents/Corona.pdf
The risk of epidemics is real and obviously the more prepared the better but it's avoiding reality to pretend that it doesn't come at a human cost elsewhere. There's also the risk of invasion and the loss of life and liberty as a consequence - a really large, well equipped military force would help with that. Perhaps we could save a lot of lives by making all road lanes completely separate. These are not straw man examples, they're real world trade-offs, decisions, private and public, we are forced by reality to make all the time.
Nothing is completely safe, there's always a snake in the garden and there are worse things than death - as per your Solzhenitsyn quote.
Fear not, the %1 are working day and night and see COVID-19 as an opportunity of a generation.
Readers of Naomi Kleins's 'The Shock Doctrine' will know all about how they operate.
To: Tom Hunter & Oneblokesview.
Goodness me. So many knees - so many jerks!
Check out Cuba's health service, its education system, its guarantee of work to all citizens, its vibrant cultural scene, its low incarceration rate.
Now compare Cuba's concern for the welfare of its people with the United States' cruel indifference to the lives of everybody but the wealthy elites and their middle-class enablers.
You might also like to think about Canada's embarrassed refusal to accept Cuba's offer of trained doctors to help it fight Covid-19.
There are all kinds of freedom, fellas. The freedom to starve is not one I'd be willing to fight for.
‘ The freedom to starve is not one I'd be willing to fight for‘. Exactly Chris. The other day I heard something wonderful. ‘It’s not human rights but the rights of humans’. We have been told human rights are civic - the right to vote, the right to assemble, the right of free speech. But what about the right to food, shelter and health care? I think they come first and the former come later. At the moment we have it the wrong way round.
Last I heard, Cuba's life expectancy was greater than that of the US. Probably still is – not worth checking.
Cuba slightly ahead of USA, both behind Albania. One of the factors is the freedom to eat as much Maccas as you want!
Patricia that is a great comment. Rights for humans is our way to think today and into the future, and of course animals and the world. Trouble with we humans - we are so clever, with words and rationalisations and wanting to be unlimited though everyone else should be, that we are too sharp and clever, and cut ourselves. And actually the young are doing this literally.
What does that say about our conflicted, devious and deceitful society. More self-reflection and self-honesty needed if we are to conserve our humanity attached to positive descriptions, in the 21st century.
While I think of it, rights for humans - and birds! I saw on the cover of the NZ Geographic I think that there may be only 36 terns left alive in NZ, the world! What can we do - are we going to destroy another bird as we did the huia? We're better than this!!!!! Where have I heard that phrase before? https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/fallen-from-grace/
Patricia - If I have food and shelter, and you think you do not have enough of it -does your priority right "to food and shelter" mean you can take - rob or steal -it from me ?
And how can you satisfy your right to health care, if the demand or need for it exceeds what is available ?
Therefore our basic priority is in making sure that we all participate in the efforts of food, shelter and health care production and maintenance also while being in need of those things, at least if not totally incapacitated.
Isn't that the natural way to achieve the desired results in a constructive unity of purpose ?
Indeed. Apparently 3000 children die every day in India from starvation and diet insufficiency related illnesses. It puts the world wide panic about a few thousand deaths of old people on their last legs diving world wide in perspective. Where is the world wide effort and concern about India's poor? Or even the concern in their government?
D J S
"If I have food and shelter, and you think you do not have enough of it -does your priority right "to food and shelter" mean you can take - rob or steal -it from me ? "
Ridiculous question for a number of reasons. Firstly billionaires steal from everyone because they "think" they don't have enough resources. And from what I gather, they tend to hoard them rather than use them productively.
Secondly it's a bit of a strawman, but I would say that if you and your family don't have enough to eat, then stealing is not particularly morally reprehensible. My in-laws went through the Dutch "Hongerwinter", and they used to go out into the country and steal potatoes from farms. Otherwise they may well have starved. I wouldn't condemn them for it in the least.
And how can you bring yourself to put another before your own need or satisfaction? It is derisory of you to take about all participating in effort to ensure there is enough to go round in emergencies. This needs to be done at government level, with citizen input, that's what govt is supposed to be for in a modern state. Now they are just real estate agents or business brokers. Right? Of course it's wrong, only some of them are. Why not pester those in power instead of making constant suggestions here. It is a good place to discuss matters but when you are convinced of the rightness of a policy take it to an appropriate polly or civil servant and pester them.
I remember one guy wanting the local council to not put pines up in the plantation behind the town and he annoyed them so much that they pushed him out of their office. So it can end up with a bit of brouhaha but you would have tried for action - instead of words. And cunning has to be employed sometimes, for instance find out who had relatives in the nursery business who could grow on the little trees substituted for pines, and go to him. Get your devious gene going -that's what successful humans do.
Our real rulers, whether consciously or not, are dedicated to good times now and no times later.
Haha, Guerilla Surgeon and greywarbler -
In fact, those registered citizens without adequate shelter and food among us are already participating in the effort to alleviate their situation through the GST coming back to govt. from the consumptive benefits granted to them.
The only trouble with this is, that because of the liberal principle "everyone knows best what is best for themselves - and has the freedom to act accordingly within what is not illegal" - a personal wealth ownership creative component has not yet been introduced into our taxation system which receives contributions even from the consumption of baby food. (Meaning even babies participate in national welfare maintenance contributions ?)
Even though liberals accept that certain enforceable rules and laws have to be maintained for the sake of an ordered life and welfare for all, such as e.g. traffic rules and universally compulsory (at least elementary) education, they have failed to recognize that in the interest of a socio-economically united society not split into Haves and Have-Nots with mutually conflicting interests. a universally systematic effort with participation by all is the most promising way forward.
Or - what would be better ?
Jens. I'm sorry, but even with several degrees in subjects requiring fluency in English, I still cannot make out what the hell you are driving at in your last post. I can't even tell if you need to dumb it down or smarten it up.
This is the shot over the bow vital to people's governments dealing with the 12,000 km high tsunami coming toward us. Vital. Though I think higher of snails at this stage. Apart from the entertainment value.
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