Tag Archives: COVID-19

ME-ISM: The cult of the Individual

18 Jan

by Dr Stewart Hase

Let me state from the beginning that I am not opposed to human rights. I’m a member of Amnesty. I will never complain or even raise an eyebrow to someone’s right to order a quarter strength, half almond and goat’s milk, three quarter decaf, latte in a compostable cup while half an office block of people are waiting in line. 

Apparently, around a hundred anti-maskers invaded Westfield Shopping Centre in Paramatta at the weekend (https://cutt.ly/PjY76hy). The report, complete with video and photos even shows placards stating that Coronavirus is a scam. Clearly, these people have been over stimulated by Craig Kelly’s Facebook page and need to spend more time in the real world. 

What I most want to ask these demonstrators is what would be the motive of any government, particularly ours that is obsessed with neoliberal principles. Point the finger at anarchists by all means but she’s only running a party of two and has completely lost all influence. If they want to blame someone then they should blame that big guy in the sky with a white beard that apparently has nothing else to do than take an interest in one, tiny species on a very tiny planet, in a minor galaxy among the billions of galaxies in what is an increasingly large universe (apologies to Monty Python). 

But I digress and don’t want to spend too much time and effort pouring cold vaccine on yet another conspiracy theory: cognitive bias almost certainly makes this a waste of time and effort.

Let me also admit to the fact that I hate baseball caps and refuse to wear them. This is not pique but a broader statement about wanting an Australian culture not an American one. My protest includes a dogged resistance to spelling colour correctly and travelled has two &*$#@@! LLs not one, so there. The placard at the demonstration in Parramatta, that read, ‘We will not be muzzled’ is a more important issue. 

The culture of the individual or what I want to call MEISM, is embedded in the US constitution. In simple terms this was an attempt to ensure that the new country would not be subject to the power of governments, as it had been as a colony under the British. Individual rights were given the nod over collectivism. I’m sure that the founding fathers did not foresee how this would eventually play out when America became the most powerful country in the world, neoliberalism would rule and Trump would come to represent an American ideology that places the needs of the individual before the needs of the community, where the common good has become an anachronism. And the powerful are given free reign to do and say what they want.

And we, Australia, are inheriting this philosophy, just like the baseball cap. The anti-maskers, the anti-vaxxers, and those who don’t get tested or isolate when they have cold symptoms or lie when they enter public places make this clear. People who think about themselves rather than the collective good, who don’t care about the 80-year old that is going to die because they don’t want to wear a mask. And it’s not just because the mask is uncomfortable-it’s ideological. As an ex nurse, I’d wear a mask for hours and it is easy to get used to it.

As a psychologist, I’m obviously familiar with the fact that self-interest is a major human motivator. But there is a self-interest in being a good community member too because the community will take care of us-there is a strength in numbers. I suspect that this worked really well when we lived in small tribes and everyone knew everyone else and it was difficult to be a rebel. It is evident in small communities. But I suspect we have lost this with large cities and increasing population.

The effectiveness of communities relies on people being compliant: to put the interests of the common above their own. It relies on co-operation. It relies on leadership from our politicians and for the common to speak up with our expectations.

Or are we to follow the American way?

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

How the PM’s refusal to isolate puts everyone at risk.

14 Mar

Yesterday, Friday March 13th, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced that he’d tested positive for the COVID-19 virus earlier in the day, and was in hospital in Brisbane. Dutton returned from a visit to the US on Sunday, March 8, and attended a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other ministers on Tuesday.

Dutton stated that he woke up on Friday morning with a sore throat and fever, immediately sought testing, immediately received the result, and was immediately hospitalised.

On Thursday,March 12, Senator Derryn Hinch revealed he’d heard a federal minster had tested positive for the virus, and had cancelled all meetings. Hinch is not clairvoyant, one assumes, and the minister in question was either Peter Dutton, or another infected minister who is yet to be named. Mr Dutton claims to have woken up symptomatic on Friday, yet as nobody else has emerged as a contender, it’s reasonable to assume that Hinch’s information on Thursday  was in fact about the Home Affairs Minister’s situation.

This seems to suggest that Mr Dutton is misleading the public about the date his symptoms manifested, given that we can safely assume Mr Hinch is not a prophet. There is little else in this story that we can safely assume to be true.

The deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, advised the Prime Minister that he and other cabinet members present at that meeting do not need to self-isolate or seek testing for the virus, as Dutton was infectious for only 24 hours prior to displaying symptoms.

This is an astounding claim. The World Health Organisation advises that as far as we currently know, people carrying the virus are infectious for between 24 and 48 hours prior to symptoms manifesting.

 …we are learning that there are people who can shed COVID-19 virus 24-48 hours prior to symptom onset…

Noteworthy here is a) we are learning and b) shedding can occur 24 -48 hours prior to symptom onset.

The deputy Chief Medical Officer is apparently advising the government in contradiction of the findings of the World Health Organisation, and one has to ask oneself, why?

Morrison has since announced that he and his cabinet will not self-isolate, and will not seek testing. He has based this decision on the deputy CMO’s advice. We are now faced with the bizarre possibility that our most senior government members, according to WHO advice, have been exposed to the virus while interacting with a confirmed case, in a closed room, for several hours, and by their refusal to self-isolate, are prime suspects in its possible transmission.

Apparently the government and the deputy CMO cannot be trusted to properly inform the public on the matter of COVID-19. Quite where the deputy CMO acquired his definitive knowledge on the transmission period for the virus is unclear: nowhere have I been able to find support for his assertion, indeed, the overwhelming impression, trawling through international and domestic reports, is that to date, the period when a carrier is infectious is unclear and still speculative. And yet, the Morrison government has chosen to disregard this global reality, and work on the assumption that they are safe from the possibility of infection. As they are not self-isolating, they are risking transmitting the infection to everyone they come in contact with, including their own families.

If you are now feeling as if you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you are not alone. Far from a government that is strong, proactive and reassuring during a pandemic, we are faced with the possibility of a government that is possibly actively expanding transmission, with the most cavalier disregard for the consequences of its actions. In the general population, ordinary citizens are self-isolating for much less, and being encouraged to do so.

Mr Dutton did not only attend the cabinet meeting. He’s flown on planes, he’s been at the Sunshine Coast, and has interacted with his staff and family. Anybody who has had close contact with him has the absolute right to know when he became symptomatic.

And the deputy Chief Medical Officer needs to publicly address the contradiction between his assertions and the claims of the WHO, as do the health departments that are advising a 24 hour infectious window in apparent disregard of international guidelines.

The reality is we do not know with certainty, which is why a fourteen day isolation period was decided upon in the first place.

Misinformation puts everyone at risk. Demanding full, honest and reliable information on the virus is not “panicking” or “hysteria.” It’s common sense, and it is every single person’s right to know what we are facing. The government needs to do its job, and provide this information immediately, or step away entirely from this situation and allow independent, non-politicised experts to inform us.

UPDATE:

Peter Dutton has just admitted in a radio interview that he became symptomatic on Wednesday, not Friday as he stated in his press release. This means anyone in contact with him on Tuesday must self-isolate.

 

The reason for this latest falsehood is not clear to this writer.

 

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