Alternative to Inhumane Selected Testing, Global Isolation & Immobilization Policy
As public health authorities cite mortality risks and prioritize repressing demand on critical care beds, people have embraced the public health researcher’s statistical conceptualization of people as disease vectors. People have embraced a sort of altruistic policy, suggested by public health officials for indefinite implementation. We can see this collective enforcement everywhere, including in certain cities around the world where COVID19 rages. Today and for some indefinite time, the only people allowed to move their bodies in plague-riddled Milan are people who have dogs to walk, recalling the days when the only people allowed to take breaks at work were smokers.
While we admire the brand of selflessness, there is also a very strong element of inhumanity in our approach to the pandemic. Though doubtless dogs are better for health than cigarettes, the issue here is that indefinite detention, the prohibition of walking is also torture in a walking species, which is what humans are. Yet if we agree with population management experts in law, that immobilizing criminals and migrants long-term in prisons is a necessary cost, logically we must agree to the similar recommendation of population management experts in health: immobilizing disease vectors long-term in their homes is a necessary cost. In both cases, there is a greater good at stake. It’s just not the greater good we’re thinking of.
In deference to the public health model, the Trudeau government and provinces are stepwise imposing extended mass quarantine and immobilization. The federal government has offered $85 billion to compensate businesses and individuals for the economic depletion that will accompany extended shut-down of all but “essential” services, apparently such as, looking out my home office window, issuing parking tickets to the quarantined. Most Canadians are pleased to cooperate with trusted authorities, and they certainly show themselves to be a beautiful people in their cooperative attitudes. One Globe & Mail thought leader posed himself a Pandemic Mr. Rogers, affirming that Canadians should be “helpers,” and that what helpers do is isolate and immobilize themselves. But there is more to being a responsible member of a human society, even in an emergency.
Another approach is possible in many places. In Vo, an Italian town where a COVID19-related mortality occurred, the government instead tested everyone and isolated the 3% of the population that proved to be infected (80% of whom were asymptomatic). In a mere two (2) weeks, the blanket-testing and selected-isolation approach eradicated COVID19 from that population. While blanket testing costs money up front, it can be more efficient and effective, and likely costs less than shutting down the entire society and economy, and indefinitely treating all people (but especially those without vacation homes) inhumanely as nothing more than disease vectors, per the technocratic statistical population-management model.
The blanket testing/selected isolation approach may not work in cities, such as Milan and London, where for specific reasons of age demographics, culture, and global transportation centrality, COVID19 rages throughout the population. For those cities, selected testing/blanket isolation & immobilization is considered the most appropriate policy. But blanket testing/selected isolation would probably work best in places like Manitoba, and most of Canada. It could well be that regions disadvantaged under global capitalism could move into a forward economic position, diminishing global inequality, if they were permitted to take advantage of their more moderate COVID-19 exposure, instituting a universal testing rather than the universal isolation & immobilization approach.
This is not the only policy area in which governments in Canada treat Canada and a region like Manitoba with policy better suited for Milan or London. While global centers have the resources to manage morality throughout, including solidarity with the afflicted, we have a distinctive responsibility in our region to always recognize that that the authoritative status of population management and policy expertise not only reflects their wonderful technical knowledge, but is also conferred by experts’ attunement to the conditions at the hearts of the global system—misconstrued, in technocratic conceptualization, as universal welfare.
We need to be able to recognize when and where population management detaches from the human, becomes inhumane, so that we can instead support policy alternatives more effective and efficient for circumstances in our part of the world, connected to but also distinct from people in other places. Incorporating Enlightenment sociological and developmental biology perspectives can help us keep our eyes on what it is to be human and what we need to make to support humanity. In this pandemic, a cost-forward blanket testing/selected isolation approach would cost some percentage of $85 BN, yes. It would require redeploying many of the underemployed in the work of testing. It would also reduce the runaway risks and costs of universalizing blindness to the multiple conditions humans need to thrive and survive. For all their public recitations, none of the potential upsides of the crisis will materialize if we are not able to recognize these conditions.
Are we blinding ourselves to our humanity in order to prevent us from squandering our wealth on making less-central regions viable, in order to reserve our wealth as back-end compensation for the disruption of existing centers of overaccumulation? What is Canada’s interest in this?* Our problem isn’t insufficient mobilization. Our problem is that we are already excessively coordinated, as a one-week lockdown makes evident. Prioritizing policies that keep the wealth in overaccumulation centers, stubbornly discounting life outside centers of overaccumulation, will reproduce the crisis conditions, because they inhere in dehumanization and inequality. This pandemic, like the epidemics before it and the crises that will come after it, has everything to do with how capitalism in a dense human-population world smashes its giant, necessary, global working class into no economic choice but to reproduce themselves by living off of what combination of commodified and, especially, uncommodified goods and services they can access (Katharine Moos, 2019). Capitalism separates wealth from the working class, but the population is needed to grow wealth. The wild game must be supplemented by poultry. The development must sprawl into field, forest, and watershed.
If we cannot remember our humanity, and pursue the appropriate policy approaches that allow us to thrive, we have nothing to look forward to but more crises. You could see how that would happen, and be celebrated as morally just, within the framework of capitalism. But it isn’t solidarity if it only ever sacrifices one way.
*It turns out that what Canada is interested in is what it has always been interested in: extractivism, rah, rah. The government is intent on reserving its power to socialize costs for subsidies to twilight oil rentiers. So it doesn’t want to pay up front for comprehensive testing, and preserve any hope of having an economy not in decline, let alone implement policy on behalf of humans. Instead, it’s forcing the Canadian people, from their home-detention sentence, to suckle the bloated, near-moribund corpse of trash oil capitalists.
Anglo-American Health Authorities Prescribe Indefinite Isolation/Immobilization:
‘How long will we need to practice social distancing? “For now, it’s probably indefinite,” Dr. Marrazzo said.’ —New York Times, March 17, 2020.
‘How long, then, until we’re no longer behind and are winning the fight against the novel coronavirus? The hard truth is that it may keep infecting people and causing outbreaks until there’s a vaccine or treatment to stop it.
“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” says Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of a book on how outbreaks spread. “The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for. As Kucharski, a top expert on this situation, sees it, “this virus is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two, so we need to be thinking on those time scales.’
Testing is Being Deprioritized
Iceland is the exception, is mass-testing and select-quarantining to stop the virus in Iceland by mid April.
Iceland’s relative sovereignty makes me think that what contrastingly distinguishes an unspoken Anglo-American social contract is that the people of the hinterlands must always disgorge themselves to the overaccumulation centers. That’s what makes the Anglo-American model tick.