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Secularism and the Pandemic

Posted by Secular on September 8, 2020

At present we seem beset by so many problems, some old, some new. The dangers of nuclear weapons have been around for a long time, posing a global threat. The scourge of terrorism has affected us all, changing the way we get through airports (or used to). Anti-terror protective concrete blocks now bedeck many sites in our cities.

Climate change, as well as causing extreme weather events, threatens to put our cities under water due to rising sea levels. Climate change deniers on the right of politics have effectively sabotaged efforts to take appropriate action. On the left, the cancel culture, identity politics and social justice warriors create a major nuisance.

As well as the perennial problems of racism and inequality, our developed world economies have reached a state of stagnation where there has been no real wage growth for the last decade. Our standard of living has stopped rising.

What next? The pandemic. Our normal lives are gone, jobs are lost and we are now in the Second Great Depression. It is hard to be optimistic in the face of all this.

Yet, if you read Steven Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, it is impossible not to be optimistic. Given the will and the right approach, take heart, all these problems can be solved. And the key is the Enlightenment values that have improved the human condition so immensely over the last 200 years: reason, science and humanism. Not coincidentally, these ideals align exactly with secularism and the aims of the Secular Party. So let’s now consider the most topical issue.

The pandemic

The first case of infection with the virus now known as SARS-CoV-2 occurred in Wuhan in November. After almost two months of denial, misinformation and suppression, the authorities locked down Wuhan on January 23. By this time the virus had spread throughout China and overseas. While the Chinese authorities were still denying that it was contagious, despite the evidence, the US Embassy in Beijing had already issued a warning on January 7 about a new contagious disease in Wuhan.

The Wuhan Huanan Market has been suggested as the possible source, but there were apparently no bats or pangolins in that market. However there were bat viruses under investigation at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and their security was reportedly lax.  Now, the Chinese Communist Party again seeks to deny that the virus came from Wuhan, and wants to punish Australia for suggesting it did. Australia has become much more wary about China in recent years, and justifiably so.

Even if Chinese authorities had acted earlier, we still may have had a global pandemic because the virus is so contagious. Ironically, because of the Chinese government’s surveillance capabilities and coercive power, contact tracing is easy for them, and China is now the safest place in the world from the virus.

Meanwhile we are stuck with the age-old plague remedies of quarantine and physical distancing, plus enhanced hygiene. We can be confident that, as with all past human advancement, Enlightenment values will save us, and science will come up with a vaccine. It may take another six months and we must just endure the situation as best we can. We need to learn how best to keep cases to a manageably low level.

Long after the virus is conquered, we will still be suffering the economic consequences. Like progress in other ways, we have learnt how to manage economies much better since the Great Depression. JobKeeper is a novel idea and a good one. We now also have what is called Modern Monetary Theory. It seems the Liberal Party’s “budget emergency” scare campaigns were not just an exaggeration, but a hoax. If the Treasury owes the Reserve Bank $100 billion, does it matter? If there is no inflation, probably not.

The welfare state will look after us, but to what degree will depend on politics. The closure of international tourism, the decline in international student numbers, and the cessation of immigration leave a big hole in the economy that cannot be filled.

We should open up as soon as possible. Where to start? China is now safe from the virus. Our argument is with the CCP, not the Chinese people. Let them come here and learn the benefits of two other features of the Enlightenment: freedom and democracy.

John Perkins

0411 143744

Secular Party of Australia
PO Box 6004, Melbourne 3004



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