Friday, 20 March 2020

New world disorder?

It's difficult to absorb the enormity of what's in motion. We are seeing first hand how fragile so much of we take for granted is. It's bad, it's going to get worse, and we are only one catalyst event away from chaos. You could be forgiven for expecting the worst.

Today the order was given that pubs and restaurants should close. We are slowly moving toward a lockdown. Further measures have been taken but in some respects are exacerbating the problem and without public cooperation a lockdown may be entirely futile. Most people will do all they can to abide with the containment measures but in London we have a large feral population that will exploit the situation.

I believe it is highly likely we will see a repeat of the 2011 looting, probably within hours, where the police will end up adopting the same hands-off tactics. They don't have the manpower or the resources to mount a full scale fightback, all the while half the force will either be off sick, AWOL or tasked with policing hospitals and guarding key infrastructure. I'm not sure when it will come but we are sure to see outbreaks of violence at hospitals when the NHS starts to turn away patients. I expect to see the army deployed in London sooner or later.

London though, is only part of the problem. Parts of the north with large muslim populations are going to be problematic. The Independent reports that 25% of all deaths in UK are Muslim elders as Muslims are not stopping from mixing with their elderly and each other. It's a language and culture issue.
"in pockets of Muslim communities, there is mistrust – or simple unawareness – of government advice. The official NHS website on the coronavirus, which has been prominently plugged during the prime minister’s daily press conferences, is available only in English.
This leaves many minorities whose English is not proficient enough to fully understand medical terms like “quarantine” and “pandemic” reliant on foreign or social media sources for their information.
The rest of the Independent report makes for grim reading. Bradford's muslim population is effectively a state within a state, where authorities have to be sensitive since they aren't actually in control - which is going to be a problem. I won't be the remotest bit surprised to see a repeat of the Manningham riots as the Pakistani youths challenge police authority. 

Ultimately councils need to be as ruthless about containment of infection clusters as they are when they're hounding elderly people for council tax. If they hogtie themselves with political correctness again then they'll get a lot of people killed. 

Then, of course, there's that small matter or what happens when a bored and restless population have had enough of being cooped up, the weather improves and supplies run short. The smart move for the government will be to ration petrol to stop people travelling but whatever we do we're going to be in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. I don't think containment is remotely realistic.

As much as keeping order with the existing stresses is difficult it becomes all the more difficult when the population is competing for basic amenities and supplies, with rumours sparking panics and internet theorising running wildfire. If civil order does start to break down we may even see civil militias forming to bolster police efforts. 

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this, but as with Brexit there is a great deal of complacency. The full apparatus of the state is being mobilised to cope with what's coming, which will necessarily see a downgrading of normal services, where gaps in provision can be mitigated but not over the long term. Outside of Coronavirus there are still the regular health and social care demands and basic sanitation functions that need to be maintained. When these things start to break down it demands the people themselves step in and improvise. Ordinarily that would be encouraging but not when you're trying to contain the spread of a deadly virus.

Britain has shown extraordinary resilience in times of crisis but we've never been tested like this before. Never have we had such a fragmented self-oriented society with such varied and complex demands of the state. Moreover, this is not just a national emergency. This is especially a Europe wide problem meaning our food imports could soon run into trouble. Reassurance from government counts for so little when so many miscalculations have been made over Brexit. All the while we see lorries backed up on the German border. Normal trade flows are about to collapse. 

For the moment the government seems to have the confidence of the nation, and a great many believe this will blow over after a few weeks of disruption. That can turn virtually overnight. If the army is deployed in London then there's the danger of a Bloody Sunday type incident that could see all hell break loose. From there the government could rapidly lose control. If then the food situation starts to look hairy then we can easily descend into anarchy. I hope it won't come to that but even in the best case scenario, there is probably no undoing what we are about to do to ourselves. There is no return to normal. The normal we knew is gone for good. 

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