This post will continue at random intervals as I wake up and fall asleep. Ugh.
Jetlag: nature’s little reminder that the earth is round.
In a sec, I will say something about the future of this newsletter, but I thought I should at least cover the re-entry phase of the journey.
We’ve been back a week now, over a week, and it has been pretty painless. The bureaucratic aspect of travelling during a pandemic seems to be done and dusted, with just a few texts from various governments reminding us to report any Covidness, and that we might be asked to show certain documents. (They make it sound like someone will stop you on the street and ask to see our International Vax Certificate or something.)
Melbourne is buzzing along happily enough from what I can see, though foot traffic in the city is, in my estimation, down from “normal”. On Monday evening, most of the restaurants along Southgate were closed (permanently?) but the ones that were open were doing a pretty good trade.
The QR-code requirement at most places seems completely pointless given the fact that contact tracing is a thing of the past, and it is good that various jurisdictions are starting to wind back this bit of kabuki.
Mask-wearing is well observed, and my feeling is that should stay for a while yet.
I’m also happy for places to require some sort of proof of vaccination, apart from anything, to encourage uptake of subsequent jabs: the idea that you can manage a pandemic without such measures remains a weird fantasy of those detached from reality, either through wealth and privilege, or simply detached from reality.
(No doubt experience of the French pass sanitaire is affecting my thinking on this.)
Regardless, most of the key indicators are heading in the right direction and there is reason to believe we are through the worst of Omicron, though it would be foolish to think that, therefore, this is over.
So, while it is too early to give any sort of final assessment, there was an interesting thread on Twitter the other day looking at some overall figures, and I’m going to take the Professor’s numbers at face value (feel free to offer any insights via the comments section).
Basically, he argues that the pandemic was bad, but that we (Australia) managed it fairly well, and thus kept excess deaths—”typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods”—at a reasonable level.
We should be very happy about this.
He is at pains to point out that our public health response could’ve been better, and that he isn’t trying to minimise the severity of what we have been through, only that we have executed “an extremely successful public health response to the biggest public health threat in 100 years, with the result that it isn't even the biggest wave of excess deaths in 5 years.”
As I say, I’m not arguing about the figures, but I think there is something to say about this sort of commentary:
Well, since you asked, no, my Twitter feed isn’t full of these accusations.
To the extent that I have seen concerns, they have been understandable, and you don’t have to harbour suspicions of eugenics to have severe misgivings about the way the Federal Government has handled this pandemic. Aged care alone is a case study in the sort of vile decision making the Morrison Government has entered into that has cost lives, and it has taken a lot of paint off any idea we have of ourselves as a civilised society.
Bernard Keane points out that:
Hundreds of Australian aged care residents died miserable deaths in January as a consequence of the Morrison government’s staggering failures on aged care regulation, the rollout of booster shots and its refusal to address the aged care workforce crisis.The numbers are horrific, and a national disgrace: according to the government’s own figures, 389 aged care residents have perished as a result of COVID in January alone — far more than the total for 2021 — 282 — and already more than half the 2020 total which was dominated by another outbreak in aged care facilities in Victoria.Many of the dead spent their last days alone and unable to see family because of widespread lockdowns: 1261 facilities now have outbreaks, up from just under 1200 a week earlier, but outbreaks in aged care case residential numbers have surged to more than 9600, compared with 7800 a week earlier, indicating many more deaths to come.
Hundreds of Australian aged care residents died miserable deaths in January as a consequence of the Morrison government’s staggering failures on aged care regulation, the rollout of booster shots and its refusal to address the aged care workforce crisis.
The numbers are horrific, and a national disgrace: according to the government’s own figures, 389 aged care residents have perished as a result of COVID in January alone — far more than the total for 2021 — 282 — and already more than half the 2020 total which was dominated by another outbreak in aged care facilities in Victoria.
Many of the dead spent their last days alone and unable to see family because of widespread lockdowns: 1261 facilities now have outbreaks, up from just under 1200 a week earlier, but outbreaks in aged care case residential numbers have surged to more than 9600, compared with 7800 a week earlier, indicating many more deaths to come.
As I have said before, pandemics are inherently political, and it is therefore perfectly reasonable for people to respond politically, and to hold the government’s feet to the fire. And in terms of aged care, we are obliged to plunge the feet of those responsible deep into the flames.
My point is that complaining about any alleged overreaction to the pandemic misses a bigger point.
Part of the reason we have responded as well as we have to the pandemic is precisely because, even in our increasingly post-democratic society, citizens still have some ability to kick up a fuss about things that are important to them. We shouldn’t take unrepresentative utterances on Twitter as any sort of baseline, and we should further realise that such fuss-making does not lend itself to perfectly calibrated levels of outrage.
To the extent that this fuss-making has tipped over into extremism, the bigger problem has been the anti-vax movement. The forces they have unleashed—which will be exploited by certain politicians and sections of the media—are going to plague us for years to come.
None of this is to take away from the professor’s bigger point, just to put in a good word for difficult-to-calibrate righteous anger. In democratic terms, it’s a feature, not a bug.
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Now, a quick word about the future of this site.
I think it makes sense to draw a line under what we have done here. The response has been great, and I really appreciate all the kind comments, and it will be useful (if only for me) to have this record of what has been a confusing time.
As many of you know, I also run a Patreon site where I tend to talk about politics and media, technology and the future of work, as well as random books, music, movies, and television programs.
My experience here has convinced me that Substack is the superior platform: it is easier, as a writer, to use, and I think the newsletter model works better than the website model that Patreon relies on.
So, my inclination is to shift the Patreon site to a new Substack site and offer a mix of free and pay-per-view offerings on it as I now do at Patreon.
Transmittable Stories will remain accessible and free, and I will make one final announcement here once the new site is up and running.
Thanks again, everyone, and hope we can stay in touch.
And what the hell, a few last photos, and they all of washing. (A pox on all those body corporates that ban this sort of thing.)
Thanks. Melbourne CBD very quiet Tuesday morning. Both NGV locations feel like a nuclear war has started between the ‘free world’ and Putin. 😇
There is something about European washing hanging outside old European buildings that is a pure aesthetic pleasure. On the balconies of suburban Australian apartment blocks, however, it looks ugly and depressing.
Not that this ought to dictate body corporate policy of course. Just an observation!
Good move on the Substack plan. It's a lovely interface.
Thanks for another thoughtful post Tim. I couldn't agree more with what you say about the deliberate whipping-up of the anti-vax protesters. I can only hope it comes back to bite the likes of Morrison, Kelly, Hanson eventually. And Morrison has his inhumanity and carelessness with people's lives on full display in this government's (non-)actions on aged care. No-one should ever forget his deliberate policy of doing nothing to help aged care home residents over the last 2 years.
Great photos again. Good subject matter is only half the process - it needs also some sort of personal creative vision to make images that interest other people. Which you do!
I don't subscribe to your Patreon site and have found Substack very easy to navigate and use personally. If you do move your writing to a Substack setup I for one will definitely be interested in paying for some/all of your content.
Hope the jet lag is diminishing by now and that you settle back into Melbourne without too much culture shock. ;-)
thanks for sharing the journey Tim - it was well done. I don't know about the other site, but this one worked well. stay safe regards Mark