Burning by gaslight

In le Tour de France, most people know that the leader of the race wears the coveted yellow jersey. What is less well known, except to die hard fans of the race, is that the rider coming dead last bears the title of the lanterne rouge – the red lantern. Le Tour is a 22 day race that climbs massive mountains, runs alongside rivers, and through valleys. The cyclists race over three thousand kilometres over that time, with only two rest days. Just crossing the final finish line on the Champs Élysées is an achievement in itself, lanterne rouge or not.

Australia’s efforts to vaccinate the population against Covid19, famously not a race, are now being described by the Prime Fibister as a Gold Medal run. A quick look at the world stats suggests that, in the developed world, Australia is putting in a highly successful bid for the lanterne rouge. The gold medal, or yellow jersey of this run is further out of reach than the peak of l’Alpe d’Huez is for your average weekend lycra fiend. And this is not a situation where just crossing the finish line is a tremendous achievement. Speed matters. Big time. The longer this takes, the more people will die, or become chronically ill.

Our level of vaccination is terribly dangerous, and I don’t intend to go into the reasons for the vaccination stroll out. They have been well chronicled elsewhere. It’s not just the speed (or near terminal lack thereof) that bothers me. It’s that we’re told it’s not slow.

It’s a Gold Medal Run.

We are at the head of the queue.

The Federal Government has done everything right but ATAGI… but the Victorian Government… but Delta… but we’re fine, it’s all fine, we’re going to be fine, because there’s a 3 point… no, a four point (wait, I come in again) plan to exit the pandemic.

And it will be a gas led recovery. Except when it won’t.

Lockdowns are the worst weapon we could use, and totally unnecessary.

But lockdowns are the only weapon we can use, and the only path out.

But also vaccination is our path out, but it’s not a race.

It’s a Gold Medal Run, and I never said it wasn’t a race.

Also this is the strictest lockdown anyone has ever seen, but garden centres are essential retail, and it’s fine to attend your local bowls club.

We couldn’t possibly do any more.

The gaslighting from both state and federal governments has been seriously next level.

But as Melbourne falls into another lockdown and we try to maintain our composure, the thing that is really killing me is not just the gaslighting. It’s that it’s working. It’s that so much of the discourse we’re seeing has been fomented by the murdocracy and their government slaves into Melbourne vs Sydney. It’s that we are directing the rage against each other. We have allowed them to turn this into region against region, us against them, “you don’t understand what we’re going through and you never could“.

Sydney supported Melbourne and now we are being abused. Telling us our lockdowns aren’t strict enough – don’t you see we’re doing everything we can?

What do you mean Sydney supported Melbourne? We are supporting you so hard, when we copped the most horrendous abuse. We were told we had Stockholm Syndrome, that Dan was a Dictator, and that lockdowns were unnecessary.

The thing is, all of those statements are true. Sydney did support Melbourne. And Melbourne is supporting Sydney. There is a flood of love and support in both directions. I received numerous care packages during lockdown last year from friends in Sydney, and constant messages of support.

But there is also a government and murdocracy stoked bonfire of hate, and it’s sucking all of the oxygen out of the discourse. It suits the government, and News Limited, to have us fighting each other, so that we don’t notice what they have done, and are doing to us: merrily shredding our way of life and using it to line their putrid nests.

Sydneysiders, for the most part, are indeed doing everything they can. Just like Melbournians, they are following the rules, staying home, and desperately pining for hugs and freedom. It’s entirely pointless (but oh! so tempting! I’ve done it myself) to tell Sydneysiders that their lockdown isn’t hard enough (which, by the way, we know it’s not, because the numbers are not coming down.). But it’s also cruel. Because Sydneysiders have no control over this, anymore than Melbournians had control over whether we had a curfew or not. It’s the NSW government that is failing to bring the numbers down.

The question of whose lockdown is stricter is entirely meaningless. A lockdown has to be strict enough. And the definition of “strict enough” is very clear – it has to bring the daily number of infections down. NSW’s lockdown is not doing that, so it’s not strict enough. By definition. I don’t care whether Sydney has a curfew or not, or how far they are allowed to go for exercise, or for how long. I don’t care whether we can compare just how tough we each have it. I just want them to be safe. To be free. Just like I want to be safe and free.

Daily Cases: Current Sydney Outbreak vs Melbourne’s second wave. The rolling 14 day average for Sydney is a little lower, but still rising

It has been traumatising to watch the NSW government do all of the things that the Victorian government did that we know don’t work. Locking down individual apartment buildings. Locking down individual suburbs. Keeping kids at school too long. Wanting to send senior kids back to school. It’s terrifying to watch, like a horror film where you know the main character is going to die. All the shouting at the screen, and through the internet, in the world is not going to work. It’s traumatising in part because we fear for our Sydney friends, and in part because we know if it’s loose there, it will get loose here too.

The worst part is that the gaslighting and misinformation are ramping up. There are claims that vaccine hesitancy is the reason we haven’t got good vaccine coverage, so the government has put out ads to encourage young people to get vaccines that are simply not available to them. Meanwhile epidemiologists say that we need to vaccinate 80% of the population to achieve herd immunity, but now the government is saying 80% of the eligible population. This is a very, very different number. 80% of the eligible, ie adult, population is only 62.7% of the entire population. Not, by anyone’s estimate, sufficient to achieve herd immunity.

Now, more than ever, we need to be asking difficult questions of our politicians, and demanding their reasons and evidence for the approaches they take. If they can’t provide evidence, and are unwilling to share their reasoning, then we must hold them to account.

But we must also focus on who has the power. Whose actions have the greatest impact. People attending a party when they should be in lockdown are enraging, sure, and it doesn’t help, but overall it’s not their actions that leave the entire country vulnerable. It’s the ongoing lack of effective quarantine. The lack of vaccine availability. And the failure of governments to make the hard decisions, lest it make them politically vulnerable. Let’s face it, if we had an effective quarantine system that didn’t keep letting the virus out into the community, people going to parties would not be a risk.

Not to mention the whole issue of insecure work and poverty that mean people have to work while displaying symptoms, lest they not earn enough to feed their families (here we are in 2021, and we still have people homeless, hungry, and poor… it’s outrageous, but that’s a whole other blog post).

It’s entirely appropriate to apportion blame right now. But let’s make sure it goes where it’s deserved. To win this race, we have to get everyone over the finish line.

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