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Let's hope it's a good one
without any fear
I’d be very interested to hear from people about how things are on the ground in their part of Australia in terms of dealing with Covid right now and moving into Christmas.
It’s one thing to read the various media reports and comments on the socials, but being away, I feel like I don’t have a good sense of what it is really like.
If you have a minute, I’d be keen to hear how you are all going. I’m sure other subscribers would be interested too.
I have to say, from here, things seem really confused back home, if not out of control. Am I missing something?
As for France, or at least, Nice, well, I feel like things are okay. They are up to 90% vaccination rate for everyone over twelve, and there are plenty of places around where you can get your third jab. Thirty per cent of people have had the booster shot.
Having said that, we were turned away from our booster appointment the other day because we don’t officially hit the five-month mark since our last jab until December 24. The earliest we could re-book for was the 27th and so we have done that.
I wanted to point out too that, although most venues here have a QR code on their door, and the pass sanitaire app does have facility for checking in, almost no-one does it and it seems a really, really minor part of the response. I mention this because it is a point of contention in Australian discussions, from a lot of commentary I see.
Make no mistake, though, case numbers are on the rise here too, though from what I can tell, hospitals are still coping okay. ICU occupancy rate in our region, Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, is at 58% according to our Covid app.
In the meantime, the good people of Nice continue to observe masking rules, indoors and on public transport, and we still get asked for our pass sanitaire about the half the time in restaurants, and 100% of the time in museums, concert halls, and movie theatres.
We were at the Christmas market last night and you must show your pass and be masked, and people seem happy to comply. It is honestly still rare to see someone without a mask in a mask-designated place, and I am yet to see anyone make a fuss.
Still, there was another big protest near us this week, and we bumped into them again a few hours and kilometres later down in Messena, but I really think that, overall, there is a lack of hysteria in how people in France are responding, and these protests represent a tiny minority.
The protesters themselves always seems pretty good natured, though I have zero sympathy for their cause, or their logic, and I end up feeling angry at their selfishness.
I value my freedom and privacy as much as anyone, but I also subscribe to the belief that the whole reason we have governments in the first place, why we come together in societies and develop rules and systems—why it is completely necessary that we do this—is precisely so we can manage risk, all the risks of being alive that are beyond the power of any one person to manage by themselves and that must be managed by some collective intelligence, the sort we have developed and institutionalised over centuries.
Big Brother, the surveillance state, is always a problem, never perfectly solved, but the idea that we can do without collective databases and other aggregating tools that allow us to think of ourselves collectively, and respond collectively to collective threats, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The issue is, ultimately, less to do with surveillance per se than with the transparency of the systems that enact it and our democratic control over them.
Watching the various protests around the world and seeing the way in which they are so easily infiltrated by far-right operatives, Nazis of various shades who have absolutely no interest in democracy, you realise how people’s legitimate concerns about government overreach are being manipulated, sometimes with those people’s full consent.
So, while I share concerns about such overreach, and while I wouldn’t trust the likes of Scott Morrison with my phone number let alone more personal data, the idea that governments don’t have a role to play in attempting to control a pandemic just seems fucking delusional to me.
The idea that you can take “personal responsibility” for your health during a pandemic is libertarian bullshit on a stick.
And yet that is increasingly where we are heading, and it is most obvious in places like Britain, the United States, and even NSW.
It speaks to a democratic failure that has crept up on us over the last thirty or forty years, as the memories of wars of all-against-all fade.
I was going to make a nice literary reference to Lord of the Rings or maybe Earthsea or some other book or movie where hubris or complacency falls victim to a hidden darkness that is suddenly, or gradually, loosed upon the world, but I think we might be past metaphor as the appropriate response.
The threat is real, and it is most likely to play out in the form of Utopia and Dystopia, the two happily living side by side with each other, and most of us drifting between them.
No single entity, no Gilead or Sauron or Big Brother, is manifesting to control our destinies, to put their boot on our face. No single thing carries the weight of our failures. Rather, a sort of chaos forces us back on our own resources, away from each other, and that is what will bring us undone.
The chaos is the point. The cruelty is the point. It brings everything else undone, and undone is the point.
I say all this from a position of privilege, travelling in an era of limited travel apart from anything else. But being somewhere other than home brings it home to you with the force of a freight train. An atom bomb. A pandemic.
Nonetheless, I agree with the Michelle Alexander, that those of us who oppose all these things, the political right in its many manifestations, those of us who want to respond properly to climate change, and who want societies that are safe for all of us: we are not the resistance. We are the mighty river these reactionaries are trying to dam.
And on that portentous note, ugh, I will wish you all the best for the rest of this year and the New Year and thank you all for following along. It’s been a tonic being able to write these posts and read your reactions, either onsite or via email.
I’ll continue posting after Christmas and for as long as we are away, which is still likely to be until md-February. I’ve been really impressed with Substack as a venue, including its CMS, and have been thinking about how I might continue the site, and how it might change.
Anyway, that’s for later.
Thanks again, everyone, and speak soon. Take care.