As South Africans we are surrounded by a bureaucratic and executive tomfoolery that many swallow by the gulp. Currently we are in lockdown due to COVID and this has brought with it its own silliness.
Sale and transport of alcohol and cigarettes is illegal, as is a garden fork or board game in the aisle over from the apparently essential chocolate and candies while we sit cooped up in our homes for three plus two weeks. Additionally, the chaotic implementation of the lockdown has seen even sanitary pads, condoms, and lube prohibited from purchase. There is something wrong with anyone who believes this is somehow acceptable. But alas, there are many people who do think like this and invoke all sorts of arbitrary justification for it. Alcohol and cigarettes are addictions, but they are also acceptable coping mechanisms. And in this time, people certainly need their coping mechanisms as they sit idle at home for several weeks on end with no certainty of their future. Such people do not need to be told “it’s for your own good”.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought many people out the closet on what they believe, and the results are worrisome for future liberty to say the least. What many people believe is that they will do whatever is necessary to overcome a perceived emergency at whatever the cost, including ‘snitching’ on lockdown rule breakers that go for a walk alone.
I have stopped counting the murders and deaths by security forces since the start of this lockdown. On Good Friday, someone was allegedly beaten to death by soldiers for consuming alcohol in his front yard with his wife. He was apparently in contravention of lockdown regulations doing this. The deaths of innocent people, some of whom who were not a threat to anyone by any imaginative stretch. For what? To add insult to injury, there were again people who supported the heavy-handed humiliation tactics by the army and police because these people somehow ‘deserved it’. Even worse were the police and army members who refused to condemn their colleagues and instead actively defended them on social media.
People are so high up in their ivory towers of virtue that Jordan Peterson once even called out those that believe they would have helped Anne Frank and other Jews in Nazi Germany. His reason being that people are not as brave as they think they are, not least because they do not seem to factor in the penalties should they be caught, and that it is easy to retrospectively see what was right and wrong and make a decision with no threat to being subject to forces that would have influenced such a decision at the time.
However, right now in South Africa we can see that Peterson should probably have further qualified his statement; namely that to decide how you would or ought to act, you first need to perceive a need to act. To perceive a need to act, one must be able to distinguish between arbitrary and substantially justified acts. Many South African are failing miserably in this first step and swallowing literally everything that proceeds from the mouth of the executive without critically considering it or the implications, all because ‘it is for the good’.
Similarly when Cele said that crime is so low right now because of the alcohol ban (patently false for a variety of reasons), more came out the woodwork to support and justify Cele’s statement citing the blood soaked weekend hospital ER floors and trauma medical staff go through and that therefore ‘he is right’. Such people are vital to society and the economy, but they chose the blood-soaked ER rooms and emotional appeals to ‘do the right thing’ are never a good way to make policy.
There are many, many more people who are not earning in this time, and many people will not have a job to go back to either. But we are not to worry, because as we sacrifice their livelihoods on the altar of the state, it is for their and our own good. My grandmother’s gardener called her saying how desperate he is (she withholds most of his wages at his request to head off any financial loss he may incur should he be robbed). He needed to travel from the nearby township to her to fetch some money to buy food because he had not budgeted for a two-week extension. But this movement is of course verboten.
I generally dislike calling someone ‘privileged’ as part of making an argument, but I cannot help but call out the sanctimonious virtue signaling and posturing that is severe enough to break a spine. Particularly of the (seemingly mostly) well-off, insulated and ignorant middle class in their warm or otherwise well sheltered homes with well-stocked pantries, while residents in Mitchells Plain riot for lack of food.
On 14 April, we again learned that the metros are seemingly at great risk of a wave of infections, to which I can only ask what five weeks of lockdown achieved then. Further, it was revealed that depending on the amount of new infections per day it will be determined whether the lockdown is lifted or not, but these numbers are completely arbitrary. This can be contrasted with countries that did not lock down and are experiencing similar or even lower rates of infections and curve flattening. It has become apparent that economists have largely been excluded from the debate in countries that have locked down, and where economy concerned leaders such as Donald Trump said “no” originally, they were heckled and lambasted to no end.
It does not matter how you explain your concerns of the supposed cure being worse than the actual disease itself (governments have been making policy in a vacuum of reliable information derived from models that are constantly adjusted downwards). Much of the time the response is mere regurgitation of that the government said or some thumb sucked rationality attempt to justify the lockdown rather than actually critically interrogate the extent to which we are upending modern civilisation. The effects of which are all based on poor modelling uncertainty, rather than the certain economic disaster that will follow if these measures are heeded.