Aussies: Don't Blame Each Other for Not Social Distancing. Blame Scott Morrison
Jump onto your social media for a moment. Facebook will yield the best results in this social experiment I’m sending you on. It’s very likely that you’ve just seen a bunch of people complaining about their fellow Australians not adhering to social distancing and self-isolation instructions. It’s frustrating to see personal accounts and news stories shaming swathes of people out at the pub, milling around crowded beaches and filling up cafes. Even the Prime Minister, police commissioners and state premiers have lashed out, scolding people for carrying on as though we’re not in the midst of a global crisis.
But…and this is the important part…we can’t get angry at each other. We need to be angry at our leadership. They are responsible for this failing to protect the population from the pandemic. I would like to explain why, because it’s a combination of actions, and lack of actions, that have gotten us to this point.
Scott Morrison and the state premiers have been consistent in their message: adopt social distancing and self-isolate. Just one problem here…they haven’t been clear on what this means and who it applies to. There are a range of understandings of this from ‘stay in your house’ through to ‘socialise but in the open air’. Perhaps it means only adhering to the rules concerning gatherings of 100 or less, or space out 4 square metres.
Language used by Australia’s could suggest that it’s the role of the venue operators to manage this. It also suggests that it’s the individual responsibility to police themselves. Instructions on who enforced self-isolation needs to apply to are unclear. If you arrived from overseas before the announcements of self-isolation for arrival, do you have to adhere to the new rules? Are there any penalties for those breaking self-isolation? We can assume no, as there are many reported breaches of mandatory self-isolation falling on deaf ears.
Part of the reason why people can’t maintain the expected social distancing is because the government are throwing around new terms with vague definitions and expecting the population to divine the intended meaning themselves.
Conflicting (and Ridiculous) Directives
If there’s one thing Scott Morrison is good at, it’s dropping the ball in times of crisis. The only reason he isn’t on holiday in Hawaii right now is because travel has been restricted. At the beginning of the week, which feels so long ago, ScoMo insisted that it was safe to keep our schools open because they’re implementing social distancing. All students will stay 1.5 metres apart.
There is no version of these directions that aren’t stupid. It’s impossible to put into practise, as classrooms are in no way large enough to allow this spacing. Half a metre apart isn’t possible in most cases. Even if you moved the student populations into open areas, the boundaries of the school make it impossible.
So they’ll stagger out lunch breaks to allow spacing. Cool, doesn’t fix the classroom issue though. And some school populations number in the thousands, timetabling is hard enough without this last minute addition. Again, a stupid idea.
Finally, schools are ‘ramping up’ hygiene measures. By this they mean sending out posters instructing people to wash their hands. What they didn’t do was supply any extra resources or staff to make this happen and before long schools were running out of hand sanitiser and even soap. Again, a stupid idea.
No measure put in place has helped the situation. On top of that, keeping schools open except as a ‘last resort’ contradicts every other measure in place. No gatherings of 500 or 100 in an indoor setting is a rule we have to follow, but it doesn’t apply to schools. If a major portion of our society is not following these restrictions, then we’re wasting time following any of them. It’s little wonder why people are still heading out to venues and events, as most of them are still smaller groupings of people in larger areas than many schools.
Perhaps you consider school an essential service in a time of pandemic. Maybe it is for the best, and maybe teachers can’t communicate with their classes online. But that doesn’t explain why casinos are being kept open. If there’s no call to shut down the casinos, it’s hard to imagine what harm a trip to the beach will do. These half-assed messages are coming from the government and it’s little wonder people aren’t taking them seriously. Don’t get cross at people lining up outside Costco (which is a store we apparently have now?) at 4am because they lack essentials after panic buying wasn’t adequately addressed by the government.
This is especially true when it comes to schools. You’d think our state premiers would put a higher value on children.
State Premiers Put a Higher Value on Business Than Children
If you decide to collate the past weeks speeches, articles and commentary provided by ScoMo and the premiers you’ll notice a consistent line throughout. Closing the schools will damage the economy and keep 30% of the workforce at home.
What they don’t mention are the teachers, the importance of education or even the health and safety of children. In fact they will avoid such topics as best they can.
They have repeatedly told us that they think transmission rates are lower among children, that they won’t get as sick as adults, and children are more likely to be infected by an adult than another child. The time to get in front of the crisis by locking down the nation has been and passed. Our leadership weighed the value of children in time of a pandemic and damage to the economy and made their decision.
We’ve been told that keeping business open has a higher value than protecting school-aged children, so it’s little wonder people aren’t taking the pandemic as seriously as we should.
School kids actually play a duel role in this disaster. The government have pushed them to the side in favour of keeping money moving, preferring to wait and see how many children are infected before taking action. In the meantime, those children will function as a modern boogie-man.
Scott Morrison has insisted that letting children stay home from school will result in them spreading the infection among the community (yes, I know, it contradicts their claims that students won’t transmit the virus as much as adults, just play along). They tell stories of youths wandering the streets and infecting one another. Mark McGowan, the jelly-spined premier of Western Australia, tells us that his teenaged children would go and see their friends instead of staying home. Weird flex, that one. I don’t think his lacklustre parenting constitutes evidence, though.
The reality is that school aged youths are scared. They’re uncertain as to what’s happening day-to-day, they get told one thing while having to do another. They feel as though they don’t matter in the scheme of the crisis. Many have been given the impression that this virus isn’t going to effect them, which is a dangerous message.
Rest assured, younger readers, as you’re not the only people on blast from the leaders of Australia. Hoarders are being singled out as well. McGowan ensures that he appeals to all age groups by childishly calling them ‘jerks, drongos and bloody idiots’ and ScoMo testily demands that they ‘just stop it’.
Sure, they haven’t put any measures in place or taken any action to fix the panic buying disaster Australia has become, but they’re really cross about it you guys.
One might say that the lack of action by the leadership is the reason why our shelves are still bare. You could even say that telling people that things are getting worse and that we should prepare without providing solutions to the problems has contributed to panic buying. And you’d be right.
Try not to get angry with people lining up to get supplies they hadn’t hoarded beforehand. They might be desperate. If we knew what to expect, if we had clear and strong leadership, people would be less likely to panic.
Instead the government wants to encourage us in pointing the finger at someone else. Strawman teens wandering the streets as though they don’t have devices and the internet to stay in touch with their friends and nasty hoarders are the problem. Blame them instead of us.
This isn’t a proactive government. It’s reactive. It only tries to fix a problem after it’s arrived. There’s no forethought or planning evident here. If there is a plan for when we should take action and what to expect in the coming weeks. We don’t even know when the next communication is coming. Rather than scheduling updates they will blurt out half-measures when forced at any ol’ time of day.
People are kept in the dark, and their confusion is being met with silence. You can head over the social media and ask ScoMo and other members of the government for clarification but you’re not going to get a response. Uncertainty creates anxiety, and anxiety leads to panic.
The end result of all this is a population facing down a major health crisis, the impact of which is being cushioned by weak, vague and sometimes useless direction from our leadership. People are getting angry with each other and there’s plenty of frustration spilling over social media. We need to stop shaming people for needing food, or posting about the importance of social distancing while simultaneously inviting people to hang out so long as you’re outside.
We can’t be pointing the finger of blame at each other.
We have to point it at this smug prick.
Health workers can tell him in person when he starts turning up in hospitals to weirdly try and force a handshake on them.