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What Have We Learned Over The Last Two Years? – Analysis

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The world has undergone a seismic shift

As citizens in different parts of the world, we have over the last two years shared a common experience. We have witnessed and been forcibly part of a string of events beyond our individual control, that have changed the world as we know it. The world is now very different from the recent past. 

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We must learn the lessons of these events and influences to prevent catastrophic consequences in the future. The following is a reflection upon the changing environment that now confronts us. We must recognise what these events and influences are in order to learn from them.

The pandemic

Governments decided the endgame strategy for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was mass vaccination. However, vaccines have done little to stop the spread of the Omicron variant around the world. However, as data is beginning to indicate, the Omicron variant is very quickly building up natural herd immunity around the world. 

The lesson that is becoming very evident here is that it was not human ingenuity that brought an end to the pandemic through lockdowns, restrictions, border closures, and vaccines. Nature took its own course and is making SARS-CoV-2 endemic around the world.

It’s time for humanity to develop some humility. The human species doesn’t have the power over nature that has been assumed. The Earth as a system has its own self-correcting mechanisms to restore homeostasis. Very few have recognized this, even less have acknowledged this. This is an extremely important principle for solving future world problems. 

Many of the problems facing nations today are the result of collateral damage not caused by SARS-CoV-2 directly, but by the responses and decisions national governments made. An explosion in the incidence of poverty, rising unemployment, inflation, the destruction of many small businesses, the rise in deaths from other ailments, decaying mental health and suicides, and deeper divisions within society, are externalities policy and decision makers didn’t factor into their reactions to SARS-CoV-2 threat. In future reckonings, the damage done by government responses to SARS-CoV-2 maybe much higher than the actual damage done to society from the virus itself. 

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Public policy and administration 

Government handling of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic must be scrutinized from the lens of public policy and administration. Restrictions across the world appear to have occurred in a daisy-chain manner. There appears to have been a cognitive dissonance between what governments did and the data available, especially a few months into the pandemic. Society must scrutinize public administrations across the world to assess whether decision makers were victims to a global group think phenomenon in public policy. 

Computer modelling and forecasts appeared to take on an ‘aura’ of fact. Most forecasts governments acted upon were wide off the mark in what actually happened. Yet decisions were based upon a belief in the forecasts rather than factual data at hand. Model predictions are illusions, not facts. A model prediction is just one of numerous potential scenarios. Modelling natural complex systems is flaunt with issues that make them inaccurate. Government decision makers around the world have become reliant on predictions generated by these models, rather than the science behind actual data. This must be corrected and presents a massive lesson to public administration in the use of modelling as the basis of decision making. Governments failed to take enough account of the limitations of modelling. 

We have learnt that the real power within government is not with elected public officials. The real power is vested in non-elected and largely unaccountable bureaucrats. This is a stark lesson about the nature of representative government today and an important issue society must debate in shaping the future path of democracy to prevent rule by a technocracy reoccurring once again in times of crisis. Decisions that effect the lives of people must be made by those who are accountable to the people. 

The Media

The media failed to fulfil the role of a disseminator of factual information to the public during the pandemic. Many media organizations became a partisan players to selected narratives and even created unnecessary fear within the community. The media failed to question decision makers and canvass alternative scenarios. 

The media is the last check and balance against government abuse of power. It failed to scrutinize decision makers and question governments granting themselves extra powers over society during the pandemic. This is another very important lesson out of the pandemic.

Internet and social media monopolies manipulate what we can see or not see through the use of algorithms across their platforms. This creates false perceptions of reality, where certain views, organizations, and people are excluded from the public domain. Big tech, as these corporations are called have the power to control the construction of our social reality. This is a massive affront to the principle of freedom of speech and the nature of democracy. The lesson here is social media is now a major partisan political player within political systems. 

Social division 

The pandemic has created winners and losers. The winners have been the corporations run by the ‘chic’ revolutionary elite who have different views of what society should be. They are supporting neo-revisionary activists who are advocating a politics of prejudice and hate. They want to silence anyone who opposes their ideas.

There are perhaps some generational dynamics occurring. Ned Howe and Neil Straus argued that the Millennials would be the hero generation. Just like the Baby Boomers, the Millennials saw Marxism as a possible solution to the world’s problems. However, the Boomers saw the cold war, which is ancient history to the Millennials. 

Jean Twenge called the Millennials out for what she saw they really are, a self-entitled, generation me. Unlike the Boomers and Gen Xers, the Millennials are dispossessed, unable to life the lifestyle of their parents and have rebelled. In this light, the narcissism displayed by organizations like Black Lives Matter can be seen as quests to collect their entitlement. BLM and ‘woke’ groups project contempt, anger, and hate at the Boomer generation.  

On the other side of the divide, are masses of people struggling to survive. Their dreams of being self-supporting went away with their businesses and jobs. They have been oppressed by government through restrictions, with their souls under attack by hate and anger for what they believe in. 

Social division will become a major legacy of the pandemic. This will affect society for years to come and is rapidly changing the political divide. The traditional left and right have little meaning today. Political spectrums are splintering leaving it open for more minority interest parties to enter. Traditional political parties are finding it difficult to keep their historical support bases, which are rapidly shifting. There maybe a period of minority governments, or governments requiring the support of minority parties to govern over the next decade. Social polarization will lead to political fragmentation. 

The neglected issue of public health

Lifestyle illnesses resulted in many deaths during the pandemic. The vulnerable were those with comorbidities. After two years, no government has talked about issues of health and preventative medicine seriously. During restrictions there was no education about how people could develop and enhance their personal immune systems through good exercise, and proper diet. Preventative medicine is missing in our 21st century society. 

The pandemic has created an Orwellian health system were one solution fits all. Personalized medicine practiced for decades has gone in favour of the principle, one solution fits all. 

The scourge of corporate capitalism is allowed to produce unhealthy products, while pharmaceutical companies price medicines which are out of the reach of many who need them. These are all issues that require solutions. 

A failure of regulatory checks and balances

The robust system of checks and balances created for the pharmaceutical registration process, was pushed aside for political reasons during the pandemic. Corporations had massive financial windfalls, but questions about the products they presented to the world to solve the pandemic will be asked for years to come. As of today, we still uncertain about efficacy, and have no idea about long term side effects. Although there are many anecdotal stories about deaths and side effects, no central registrar of these events is being collected. 

The gatekeepers of the world’s pharmaceutical regulatory system have failed to do their job. This may potentially compromise trust in the system in years to come, if adverse effects of pandemic era medicines come to light. 

The biggest lesson of the pandemic was that citizens were only too willing to give up their rights out of fear. Fear has gone so far today, that one group is victimizing the other group over the medical decisions they choose to make. We are seeing tribal like behaviour across many parts of the world. We may be entering the endemic stage of SARS-CoV-2 now, but hate and prejudice will remain within society for a long time to come. The world could very easily slip into a society based upon privilege and dispossession if vaccine identification systems created during the pandemic are not dismantled. 

The world has undergone a seismic shift. This needs to be recognized and lessons quickly learned. 

Murray Hunter’s blog can be accessed here 

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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