Everyone agrees that this virus pandemic has changed everything. Questions must be answered now that will remake everything: do we need office buildings, how do we relate to our neighbours, our pets, and our devices, international travel, coughs and sneezes in public places. Is Daniel Andrews God or Lucifer?
And who should make all the new decisions that will change all our lives forever?
Tumbling wildly inside this avalanche of newness, our first response is to try to limit all this change, sequester the entropy. Like well-trained border collies we try to round up fragments of change that might help: paying nurses and teachers for what they do, training security guards to be useful, and shopping the aisles least travelled in the IGA.
But all the new decisions we must make will spawn new questions, and while we can stop the chain from becoming genuinely exponential with a facemask here and an intensive care unit there, we can’t go back to the time before COVID-19. Like ‘Away’, where we throw our trash, it is an illusion.
At this critical moment in history we have to ditch containment as the prime policy for dealing with change. We need to fire up our imaginations, rather than hosing them down. Throw the border collies a distracting bone and let a whole pound full of dogs out.
Last Saturday, Geraldine Doogue, on Radio National led a discussion on energy policy in the post-COVID era. She and her three guests are experts in politics and climate change. They all agreed that ‘our COVID success’ is due to our governments allowing science to guide us. But really, our relative COVID success is mostly owed to being a small population on a very large island, so closing international transport does most of the required containment.
Geraldine’s progressive thinkers suggested that our politicians could go one step further in containing the disease by putting the scientists in charge of amelioration – and then putting them in charge of the much greater threat of global climate change – wouldn’t that be lovely?
Dreaming of politicians for the people
Yes, but it’s a pipedream. It would require our politicians to switch their allegiance away from the very wealthy corporations and individuals who own and operate them, to an allegiance to the common wealth and the common well-being. And even if some parliamentarians made that unimaginable leap of allegiance, few of them have a good enough grasp of science to understand how to integrate it into socio-economic policies.
In America today the politicos most energetically appealing to any notion of common good are promising to round up all the liberals engaged in sex trafficking children and drinking babies’ blood, and all the scientists inventing vaccines whose only purpose is to further enrich Bill Gates.
Here, our ruling team in Canberra is, awfully, run by fossil fuel merchants and profiteers. (Morrison’s trying to catch up; one of his staffers is married to an avid promoter of the QAnon conspiracy, which is a 13-year-old boy’s dream of a cosmic nightmare wearing red shoes).
So let’s take our imaginations off the leash and reinvent things; like the University of Newcastle researchers who’ve designed a ‘Lego block’ made of material that stores energy as effectively as lithium-ion batteries at about one fiftieth of the cost. Given that most of our politicians are five watt bulbs in 200 watt sockets, let’s invent new ways of generating political energy.
In fact, better ways of doing everything have already been invented. What has kept them from being implemented is that they don’t enrich the rich. Time to tell the rich, we can’t afford you anymore.
Phillip Frazer blogs by a tiny light on a hill at www.coorabellridge.com.