Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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07 Apr 2020 : Cognitive Displacement

Yesterday was spent mostly dealing with a completely stir-crazy two year old who wants to 'take flowers to all the people in hospital', despite being insullated from the news and so on. We are having a holiday at home is wearing thin. I am among the ranks of people trying to work with kids on laps singing Frozen numbers and tugging for attention. I saw one guy on Twitter who had frozen his two young sons' toys in blocks of ice and given them spoons to chip away for release. They were filmed contentedly chipping away in garden as he worked watching. Evil but genius. We finally went for a walk around a couple of blocks, my first outing since walking to Leeds' train station on March 17th. I emerge like Papillion blinking at the sun. Wonderful.

The news from the UK today is that Boris Johnson has been admitted to intensive care. How awful for him. Awful for the nation is that Raab is standing in as leader. What else could go possibly wrong? No sense of schadenfreude from me on Johnson, but the internet is full of 'take it on the chin'. There is something, however of the sub-tragic in this, a bit sub-Lear in the hubris turned sour downfall.

There is certainly tragic enough news from around the world. Talk now from some parties of the waves compressing and the duration moving further out in time. Of course, vaccination could be the only viable exit. France surpasses 10,000 deaths and the nes from Italy is that many poorer families face the challenge of food - which in terms of culture and context highlights the impact on that country. The masses of itenierant migrants and sex workers in Italy must be sesperate. Both Italy and Spain publicly point to the failure of the North of the continent to inject hope and finance into their systems and economies. As Italy has now 17,000 deaths and Spain 14,000, the economic fallout mounts. If those countries are not to be be viable or collapse, then Europe must accept that that is this is the end of the Eurozone and the EU project. The response from the EU in terms of finance and political will has been shocking, and there is a sharp division here between these high-level forms of asisstance (not present to date) and the lower-level forms of coordination that have been very good, succh as block purchasing and ordering.

Trump has now disolved into complete denialism and cognotive dissonance today. He is desprately blame-shifting. The daily briefing is full of blame, obfuscation and bravado. He shuts down question after question. Fauci and Birx look ashen. He accuses WHO of being 'China centric'. He claims the absurd:

WHo got nearly “every aspect” of the coronavirus pandemic wrong. 'They did give us some pretty bad play calling ... with regard to us, they’re taking a lot of heat because they didn’t want the borders closed, they called it wrong. They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong.' Later on Twitter in the early hours of the 8th: he doubles down:

‘The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?’

Of course in 2018-19 the USA funded only 14.5% of the WHO budget. This is still substantial for a single country, but the claims of hurt exceptionalism, and blame of others whose competence has now risen to a challnge for some months, is beyond further analysis. Yesteday - the 7th of April - there were 1,736 deats in the US and many states are not even starting to really enter the upswing. Chaos reigns and he is swinging more wildly each day. The Atlantic article last week nailed him to a post.

In Australia and the UK talk is now about the survival of the HE sector. It is trues, there is no good reason that the current model (the past model?) can be expected to continue. Some institutions will collapse unless there is intervention in Australia's third largest economic sector by value.

At the end of the evening I have a roundtable with the Diplomacy Foundation in Geneva: MCOVID and the Future of Multilateralism. I'one of three of a very grand panel. Under-Secretary General Hochschil from NYC and Ambassador Bhatia of the Singapore Mission to the UN, Geneva. And me. I try to be diplomatic and stateperson-like, but end with a blast on the endemic short-termism of capitalism and the liberal order, and the need for new systems of value and public goods. All concur that the multilateral system, and indeed multilateralism is on a knife edge, the system needing radical change.

In India there were 5,000 cases today. This is as neutral as I can summon as it will increase. Yet in contrast to the UK, Pakistan is testing 20,000 a day.  


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