Saturday, 27 June 2020
With leadership like this. . .
For most of my teaching career, when most young people were reasonably biddable, behaved themselves and did as they were told unless given psoitive reasons not to, if a class were unruly it was usually because the teacher was not very capable. If a whole school had a discipline problem it was usually because the head was weak
Much the same appears to apply to countries.
New Zealanders follow their government's instructions because their prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has led them well: acted quickly, treated them as adults, given full and honest explanations, and followed her own rules. Their deaths attributed to the virus are I believe still under 30, in spite of a recent new outbreak
Of course, New Zealand has only a small population.
Germany has a population bigger than ours. They have so far experienced 8 955 death, or 108 per million population. Their Chancellor, Angela Merkel,is reported to have led then with honesty and integrity.
The UK's record to date is a total of 43 232 deaths attributable to coronavirus, or 650 per million, six times greater than Germany.
The pictures which have appeared in the papers and on TV over the past two days, of thousands ignoring the physical distancing rules on of crowded beaches and at unauthorised musical concerts are frightening, especially to someone in my age group (more of that later.)
In response Prime Minister Johnson has called on us "not to take liberties" and "to be responsible."
This from the man who set the example by attending a crowded rugby match a the beginning of the outbreak, not only shook hands with people likely to have been in contact with the virus, but openly boasted about it, and gives enthusiastic support to his chief advisor Dominic Cummings who ignored the official government guidance by, among other things, going on a sixty-mile drive to a beauty spot with the excuse that he deeded to test his eyesight.
A letter in today's Guardian suggests we describe failure to respect government guidance as "the Cummings effect." We call vacuum cleaners Hoovers and ballpoint pens Biros so why not?
It is a truism that good leadership is by example.
"Do as I say, not as I do," is rarely if ever effective.
If there is a further serious coronavirus outbreak the government will doubtless try to blame it on the failure of the people to observed their rules, and will probably get support from the sycophantic press. But part of the responsibility will remain with their inept leadership.
There is a very real sense that most of the people on the crowded beaches, at the unauthorised concerts , and celebrating Liverpool's success in the football league,are behaving rationally according to Tory mores: put self- interest first and "there is no such thing as society. ( "There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, " to give the complete quote)
"Why shouldn't I put the interests of myself and my family first? If Cummings can do it why not me?" is a logical position to take.
Most of them will be under 40, probably much younger. If they catch the virus they are very unlikely to suffer much and have only a very small chance of dying from it. Many who do catch it will be unaware they have it - asymptomatic in the jargon.
But that doesn't mean that they can't pass it on to those of us in society who are far more vulnerable.
A graphic in the July edition of Prospect Magazine shows that if some one of my generation, 80+, catches it we have a 500 times greater chance of dying from it than someone under 40.
So I for one will be avoiding crowds and continuing as far as possible with self-isolation, and would appreciate it if the less vulnerable would follow the guidance scrupulously.