The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Simon Lincoln Reader delves into the politics of lockdowns and the motives behind it in his weekly column. As in many other countries, South Africans initially trusted in politicians as the fear of an unknown virus drove them to respect calls to isolate themselves in their homes. But as the weeks dragged on and the devastating effect of the lockdown with widespread hunger raising its ugly head; they started to question the wisdom of the draconian measures and the decision to ban the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol fuelled this to a frenzy. Giddy with the control they exercised over the new nanny state that they have created; the Government banned the buying of T-shirts and flip-flops and back-tracked on a decision to allow ciggies and booze. SLR warns that if we give power to the politicians, scientist and ‘legacy media’; we will emerge from the pandemic with a disease still lurking and we will be in a “partial existence constantly policed by armies of yellow-jacketed jobsworths and blue haired community standard moderators none of whom are capable of or even interested in slaying the beast.” He says the creeping control of governments makes it easier to understand Elon Musk’s resistance to lockdown measures. – Linda van Tilburg
The beast outside the cave
By Simon Lincoln Reader*
There is an analogy in circulation that interrogates the wisdom behind lockdown methodologies applied from New Zealand to South Africa to Britain.
A caveman discovers the presence of a beast in the wilderness. Acting quickly he rolls a stone across the entrance of his dwelling and inside he is safe. But outside the beast still lurks.
One of the loudest voices encouraging us to return outside belongs to that of Elon Musk, who now occupies an unenviable position. To be described as the enemy of progressives and smeared as “far right” would, under normal circumstances, be near fatal, reducing all his achievements to the same standard of misrepresentation that his own President is frequently subjected to. But fortunately these are not normal circumstances.
The mask slipped last week, but it had been coming. Ever since he wondered aloud whether the malaria prophylactic hydroxychloroquine may be used to combat COVID-19, his agitation had been growing in ways that had previously led to statements about “pedos” in Thai caves and taking Tesla private.
So when Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson was exposed as having broken the very lockdown instructions he was instrumental in establishing, Musk leapt at the opportunity to jeer the professor and his model coding that has come under even greater scrutiny in subsequent days.
Ferguson’s Animal Farm-ing of public trust was a political concession more than a personal scandal; Downing Street chose to throw one of its commanders under the bus, or asked him to lie down in its path, instead of admitting that some of its ammunition was faulty.
For Musk the moment was a gateway; barely a week later, in defiance of Alameda County’s rules, he reopened production at the Tesla factory and confronted the public narrative of hostility that had accelerated just as quickly as his own exhaustion.
Local officials in California say Elon Musk may reopen his Tesla factory if the company meets safety requirements: pic.twitter.com/tExai4NZn2
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) May 14, 2020
Consider the forces Musk has chosen to oppose. The majority of governments. The majority of the scientific and academic communities, most of whom will not have to suffer the uncertainty of being furloughed. The majority of the legacy media, some of whom are quietly shifting their policies to accommodate unfortunate revelations – the Five Eyes intelligence grouping’s investigation into the origins of the pandemic as one example (something not long ago they themselves dismissed as a “conspiracy hoax”). There are the aforementioned progressives in western commentary and Big Silicon Valley – within whom we would ordinarily note Musk as a fixture. And as supporting features, there are the groups that seek to exploit the lockdown for their own political ends, incorporating irrelevant but highly charged pressure jolts such as climate change or race grievance.
With that in mind its perhaps easier to understand his resistance through an exploration of a world that could be crafted at the hands of these self-declared enemies. Nobody works, but somehow miraculously everyone gets paid. The role of government is limited to the enforcement of a essential / non-essential categorisation scheme that includes jobs, food and even clothes. The mandatory worship of health and safety institutions. Relationships can proceed virtually but not privately. A social point aggregation system, allegedly due for trial soon in China, where authorities control access to religion, travel and financial services.
These are just some of the documented ambitions projected by those approving of lockdown acquiescence – both elected and unelected. Left to them to determine policy, we will roll back the stone to enter an unrecognisable, partial existence constantly policed by armies of yellow-jacketed jobsworths and blue haired community standards moderators none of whom are capable of or even interested in slaying the beast. “Same as the lockdown, just shittier”, as the French author Michel Houellebecq recently remarked.
Like all the results of the great divisions of our time, I expect the eventual losers of the argument between lockdown acquiescence and lockdown resistance to cover their tracks or excuse themselves sufficiently to make it sound as though they won. But it doesn’t appear Musk is as obsessed in winning here as his critics would have you believe. Despite his intergalactic intelligence, his position is grounded in the simple if fatalist belief that the cause of all death is in fact birth. His actions may not result in the end of the beast, but they may go some way to stop it being increasingly politicised for the worst as it wanders.
- Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Medium.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.