Category Archives: China virus

Return of industrial action lifts the spirits

On the slight relaxation of the lockdown in Paris, Dalrymple writes:

No sooner were people allowed a little more freedom than the rail union, controlled by the communist CGT, went on strike. Yes, life is definitely returning to normal in Paris.

China flu and the persistence of illusion

The Wuhan virus is of relatively minor consequence for the mortality of the world population

Follow the science.

On this view, writes Dalrymple, science

speaks with one voice, ex cathedra. It lays down doctrine that humanity, most of which is not scientifically minded, must humbly accept. Neither the world nor science is like this.

Epidemiology, he points out,

is not only an inexact science but can be a powerful tool for the regulative bullying of the population by ­bureaucracies.

The Wuhan flu is

not the Black Death, which killed between a third and a half of the population of Europe. The 1957 Asian flu was said to have killed up to 2m people and the 1968 Hong Kong flu 1m, yet they have passed from collective memory, perhaps without having entered it.

The illusion that the risk of epidemic default on mortgage obligations had been eliminated

There is an increasing unfamiliarity with death as the natural end of life, and

assuming that this is an epidemic of relatively minor consequence for the mortality of the world population, the panic must be in part because of the apocalyptic nature of death from the disease.

The China pandemic

will no doubt be mastered in time; there will be a vaccine, perhaps a treatment. But it will have dented mankind’s illusion that it has everything under control — give or take a blip — on the upward ascent to a life without suffering, the unpleasantly untoward, or the unforeseen.

Dalrymple reminds us of the time before the collapse of Lehman Brothers,

when mathematicians claimed to have developed a model that eliminated the risk of epidemic default on mortgage obligations. This proved illusory and was always foolish; but it suggests that the illusion of control will return soon enough, once the epidemic is over.

A salutary effect of the Chinese flu

Dalrymple notes happily that the Wuhan virus crisis

has shut Greta Thunberg up for a time and saved us from her adolescent scolding.

 

The NHS teddy-bear

Health service agitprop

No good crisis should go to waste, writes Dalrymple, and

the priests of Britain’s secular religion, its highly centralised National Health Service, have not been sitting on their hands.

There has been so much NHS propaganda during the Chinese flu crisis that one might have believed that the propaganda

was under central direction.

The NHS evangelicals deliberately confound the health service bureaucracy with the devotion and skill of doctors and nurses, but of course

they are not the same thing — very far from it.

Emotional kitsch

Our NHS

Dalrymple points out that the propaganda in favour of Britain’s sovietised health service

has been more or less continuous since its foundation in 1948, though it has become shriller as it departs further from reality. The purpose of propaganda is to forestall any examination of reality in favour of simplistic slogans convenient to power.

There is a striking willingness in many of the people who are the objects of the propaganda

to repeat and believe a slogan without any compulsion to do so, and without the slightest inclination to examine its truth — indeed, without any awareness of the need for such an examination.

There was no oppressive force to deter these people from inquiry,

but they preferred the comfort the slogan offered to the effort and possible discomfort of finding the truth. The idea of the NHS played the role of teddy-bear to a population with many anxieties.

People will have experienced deficiencies in the failing service — long waiting times, offhand or disagreeable interactions with the bureaucracy, etc. But

like Russian peasants who believed that the Czar knew nothing of the oppression which they suffered, and would have put an end to it if he had known, the British continued to believe that the NHS had been born with original virtue and that the defects they experienced were exceptions. Repeated scandals of gross neglect or sub-standard treatment were shrugged off.

Dog in the manger

The British, Dalrymple notes,

were inclined to believe that if the NHS was unpleasant to negotiate, at least (being more or less a monopoly) it was equally unpleasant for everyone. Fairness and justice were equated with equal misery.

He explains that

the uncritical national admiration, approaching worship, of the NHS has required the subliminal acceptance of a certain historiography: before the NHS, nothing; after it, everything. Before 1948, the poor received no treatment but were left to fend for themselves when they were sick, and more or less, to die. After 1948, the ever-solicitous state system looked tenderly after the health of the population from cradle to grave.

The NHS has had no egalitarian outcome, rather the opposite,

yet the belief in its levelling effect persists.

The NHS propaganda

has been so successful that it now accords with the sentiments of the population, a triumph that no communist regime achieved despite Herculean efforts at indoctrination. The triumph has been achieved without compulsion or violence, and ought to be an interesting case for political scientists who study the successful inculcation of political mythology.

Wuhan flu and the public health Moloch

Cult of the (failing) state health service

Dalrymple writes that the Chinese virus crisis has in the West reinforced a tendency to authoritarianism and emboldened bureaucrats with totalitarian leanings. He has been surprised by

how meekly the population has accepted, on the say-so of technocrats, regulations so drastic that they might have made Stalin envious. There has been no demand for the evidence that supposedly justifies severe limitations on freedom.

One view is that the authorities

are trusted by the population to do the right thing. Much as we lament the intellectual and moral level of our political class, there are limits to how much we despise it. We believe that our institutions still work, even when guided or controlled by nullities.

A less optimistic interpretation, says Dalrymple, is that the population

is so used to being administered, supposedly for its good, under a régime of bread and circuses that it is no longer capable of independent thought or action. We have become what Tocqueville thought the Americans would become under their democratic régime, a herd of docile animals. Only at the margins — for example, the drug-dealers of the banlieues — do the refractory rebel against the regulations.

Creepy weekly state-sponsored ceremony of compulsory applause

The Wuhan flu has revealed that,

whatever our traditions, we are less proof against authoritarianism than we like to suppose.

Authority, says Dalrymple,

is rarely content to stay within the limits set down for it, but is like an imperial power always seeking the means of its expansion.

He warns:

There is no human activity that has no consequences for health, either individually or in the aggregate; and what is the public but an aggregate? Public health, we have learnt, is the highest good, the precondition of all other goods. A solicitous government has the right — no, the duty — to interfere in our lives to make sure that we stay healthy. And authority once taken rarely retreats of its own accord.

Whited sepulchres: England’s no-good cops

Then: deliberately unthreatening uniform

Cowardice of the police in Great Britain

Dalrymple notes that in the UK, the Chinese flu

revealed how quickly the police could be transformed from a civilian force that protects the population as it goes about its business into a semi-militarised army of quasi-occupation.

The transformation is not new.

It has been a long time since the policeman was the decent citizen’s friend. Under various pressures, not the least of them emanating from intellectuals, he has become a bullying but ineffectual keeper of discipline, whom only the law-abiding fear.

Nice to the nasty, nasty to the nice

Dalrymple first sensed this many years ago when a traffic policeman asked to see his licence.

‘Well, Theodore…’ he started, calling me by my first name when a few years before he would have called me ‘Sir.’ I had gone from being his superior, as a member of the public in whose name he exercised his authority, to being a minor, whom it was his transcendent right to call to order. He was the boss, I the underling.

Now: festooned with the apparatus of oppression

The change in uniform has worked in the same direction.

Since the time of Peel, the uniform of the British policeman was unthreatening, deliberately so, his authority moral rather than physical. Now he is festooned with the apparatus of repression, if not of oppression, though he represses very little of what ought to be repressed — in case it fights back. The modern police intimidate only those who do not need deterring. Those who do need deterring know that they have nothing much to fear from these empty vessels.

Concentrate on the inessential

Dalrymple points out that the Wuhan virus has come as a boon to the British police.

Increasingly criticised for their concentration on pseudo-crimes such as hate speech at the expense of neglecting real crimes such as assault and burglary, to say nothing of organised sexual abuse of young girls by gangs of men of Pakistani origin, they could now bully the population to their heart’s content. And they could imagine that in doing so, they were performing a valuable public service, preserving the law and public health at the same time. Thus they transformed their previous moral and physical cowardice into a virtue.

In bullying the average citizen who was very unlikely to retaliate,

they took no risks, unlike with genuine wrongdoers and law-breakers, who tend to be dangerous.

Ordered to comply with the latest nostrums of political correctness

Most individual policemen joined the force

motivated by some kind of idealism, a desire to do society some service.

Morally bankrupt leadership

Before long, though,

they had these naïve fantasies knocked out of them by the corrupt leadership of the hierarchy which owes its ascendency to its willingness to comply with the latest nostrums of political correctness.

The faint embers of the policeman’s initial idealism were no doubt rekindled by the opportunity to prevent the spread of the China flu, as they supposed that they were doing, but

they far exceeded even their flexible and vaguely-defined authority and began to inspect citizens’ shopping bags to determine whether they were hoarding goods that might be in short supply.

The vice of outsourcing everything to China

Dalrymple notes that Wuhan flu and its consequences have been rather revealing about the West’s condition. On the matter of supply chains and interdependence,

the economy, as we have constructed it, hangs by a thread.

Western folly

The speed with which so much unravelled came as a surprise —

untune that string, And, hark, what discord follows!*

If we had stopped to think,

we might have realised how unwise it was to outsource production of almost everything to distant and not necessarily benevolently-disposed foreign powers.

Ponzi scheme

Yet, says Dalrymple,

our habits — spending more than we earned for decades — required it. To maintain the illusion of solvency, money had to be created and interest rates kept low. But to avoid the appearance of inflation, prices (except for property and financial assets) had to be kept low. The only way was to outsource manufacturing to low-cost economies, and voilà, with the able assistance of the coronavirus, the economic situation that we are in.

Will we ever learn?

We discover when shortages arise that

most of the things of which we go short are not necessary to our happiness; materialism, that the good life is ever greater consumption of material goods, whether refined food or sophisticated electronics, is false, and we have run after false gods.

But

as soon as normal service is restored in the form of endless supply and huge choice of material goods, we revert to our materialism.

We were probably sincere in declaring that consumption of material goods was not all-important or necessary to happiness. It was just that

the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

*Troilus and Cressida act I, sc. 3
†Matthew 26:41

Non-working girls and the Wuhan virus

Impact of China flu on the markets of flesh

Dalrymple explains that no sector has been worse hit by Chinese flu fallout than French harlotry. The effect of social distancing on prices for the strumpets’ favours has been striking.

Elasticity of demand for prostitutes’ services in a fornication market is great or small according as the amount of coitus demanded increases much or little for a given fall in sex-price, and diminishes much or little for a given rise in sex-price. In Paris today, says Dalrymple,

supply outstripping demand, such few clients are now to be found that they are in a position to negotiate downwards the prices of the services they desire.

He observes that since the filles de joie work entirely in the informal sector,

they have also been left without coverage by social security.

Anaïs de Lenclos, porte-parole of STRASS (the Syndicat du travail sexuel), has demanded that the government do more to help the cocottes. Dalrymple remarks:

It is impossible for me to pass judgment as to whether [the tarts] could, and therefore ought to, have put something by for a rainy day.

However, he warns that

those depending on the government to guarantee them a living when all else fails—and that means many millions of people—are not in a strong position to object or complain when they are subject to government interference.

In other words, if the French bawds are to receive special assistance, why should they not be taxed? He asks if prostitution,

being merely one kind of work among others, could rightfully be forced upon unemployed women in receipt of social security, who had not the right to turn down available work in supermarkets, for example. Surely, training could easily be given and certificates handed out. At least at elementary levels, no very prolonged apprenticeship could be required.

Getafix

When infectious disease doctors are more famous than footballers, you know an epidemic is serious

Professors of medicine, writes Dalrymple,

don’t usually look as if they were the drummer of a 1960s rock band just emerged from drug rehabilitation for the 17th time. That is how Didier Raoult, elevated to the rank of the most famous infectious disease doctor, looks. If you type Didier in your search engine, up comes Raoult, before even the soccer player, Drogba.

Raoult

has a jaundiced view of mathematical modelling of epidemics, because they have so often in the past been so wildly, and in retrospect so ridiculously, wrong and exaggerated.

He has consistently pleaded during the Chinese flu for a sense of proportion.

At least in terms of mortality, if not in those of clinical horrors, it is by no means unusual (he says): there have been many worse epidemics. It takes bravery to say this publicly now, when no one yet knows where or how the epidemic will end.

Cult founder

Raoult’s view is that the approach to the Wuhan virus

has been wrong. There should have been mass testing and treatment with his drug régime. If that had been done from the start, we should not have been facing an economic and social apocalypse.

While he claims excellent results for his treatment,

most of his peers (not that he recognises any as such) do not believe that he has established his case. His publications on the subject are poor methodologically, and in this context method is all.

Panoramix

Raoult would reply, says Dalrymple,

that his detractors are conventional, plodding, stick-in-the-mud, apparatchik types. His view of the world is that it is full of mediocrities opposing strokes of genius. He is good at ad hominem attacks. He detests the Parisian domination of everything, having pursued his whole career in Marseilles. But the fact that his provincial colleagues do not agree with him somewhat undermines the simple story of the provincial David versus the Parisian Goliath.

Magic potion

Dalrymple says that when he sees pictures of people lining up on the steps of Raoult’s hospital to be first tested and then treated by his method if positive for the China virus, he cannot help but think that the professor has become

a religious leader. His treatment method will survive any demonstration that it doesn’t work. When prophecies fail, they are not abandoned, they are projected once more into the future. If I were seriously ill and likely to die, I would probably want to try Raoult’s régime, faute de mieux.

Paris under the shadow of Chinese flu

The doctor-writer reports that the Wuhan virus has emptied the City of Light. Anyone with a country place has left. The bright lights have gone. Père-Lachaise, where he likes to stroll, is shut. La Peste, the Camus allegory, has turned literal. A taxi driver tells Dalrymple that he thanks God

that the tabacs are kept open. To live through an epidemic and have to give up smoking would have been too much.

Dalrymple says that

a few days’ confinement to barracks is one thing, a prolonged period quite another. So far, it has all felt a bit like one long bank holiday or, at worst, a Sunday in Wales in the old days.

You must carry

a laissez-passer that can be demanded and inspected at any time.

Dalrymple’s wife, also a doctor, has been ‘controlled’ three times; he has been ‘controlled’ once. This is

every policeman’s dream. Fighting crime is difficult, demanding papiers is easy but nevertheless a fulfilment of duty.

The police were polite, in Dalrymple’s case.

I had forgotten to tick the box stating my reason for being outside, and strictly speaking, could have been fined. But since no truly bad man wears a tweed jacket such as mine, the policeman let me off.

He explains that Parisians of the type who can work at home

are prohibited from jogging from ten in the morning to seven at night. The authorities feel that there are still too many of them and it is difficult to keep a jogger at the regulation distance of two metres when he is hurtling towards you in his fluorescent Lycra outfit. I won’t miss them: joggers always seem to me to have an expression of reproach of the sedentary on their faces.

As he walks through the streets in which there are scores of shuttered shops and other enterprises,

I wonder how many of them will open again. Will only large companies survive, leading to the yet greater corporatisation of our politico-economic dispensation?

Theodore Dalrymple: no truly bad man wears a tweed jacket such as his

Dr et Mme Dr Dalrymple