The Rise of Nerdocracy
On opening The Australian newspaper this morning, my eyes were drawn to a troubling combination of words: Shaking Hands Off Cards for 10-15 Months.
I was hoping the headline was based on a quote taken out of context or made by a marginal political figure. But they were the words of Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy.
Murphy made the remarks when asked by a journalist whether it were true life would not return to normal in Australia until a vaccine for the coronavirus was available. Murphy confirmed it was. He said:
I think it’s unlikely that we will be able to have very large close pack crowds until we’ve got rid of this virus...I don’t think we will be shaking hands and randomly hugging and getting crowded in rooms for a long time.
The import of this for Australia's way of life is huge. It means no bars. No live music. No sport. No public fun of any kind for at least a year.
How can this be justified?
The answer, of course, is the novel coronavirus. But let us recall that the rationale for the lockdown was to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.
With fewer than 100 deaths in Australia to date it is clear this is no longer the aim. The aim now is to prevent any deaths from occurring from the virus at all.
On its face this is a noble aim. But as Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on.”
The Australian government like many of its counterparts in the West has decided to save Australian lives by suspending Australia's way of life. This is despite the virus only being dangerous to one section of the community, all of whom are free to take whatever precautions they deem necessary to avoid infection.
An elimination strategy relies on indefinite repressive measures affecting the entire public. This will be economically devastating, and moreover presumes that life but not way of life is worth protecting.
As Jonathan Sumption, a historian and former UK Supreme Court justice said in an article recently:
There is more to life than the avoidance of death. Life is a drink with friends. Life is a crowded football match or a live concert. Life is a family celebration with children and grandchildren. Life is companionship, an arm around one's back, laughter or tears shared at less than two metres. These things are not just optional extras. They are life itself.
Experts tell us we can no longer enjoy these things. But experts see the world through the prism of their expertise—one aspect of human affairs.
Leaving scientists in charge of our civil liberties is like leaving economists in charge of our labour laws. Pretty soon you are left with nothing.
Expert advice is important and for the most part positive, but only in a culture of robust opposition. Today this is sadly lacking due to the state of fear the public has been whipped into. Experts have become our saviours, nerds our gods, epidemiologists our gatekeepers and overlords.
There is never any good reason to be in a crowd or to go to a concert or on an overseas trip or to drink alcohol or kiss a stranger or eat unhealthily. Nothing except the old fashioned concept of freedom and individual choice.
Only data is used in expert studies, reducing the human spirit to figures in spreadsheets and coordinates on Venn diagrams.
So let’s hear what the nerds have to say. But let’s keep in mind that we—the demos—are the ultimate decision-makers.