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Where did it all go wrong? Don’t be duped – think it out for yourself

By John Keeble

Hey, Daddy, what did you do in The Great Pandemic of 2020? Well, son, I stayed at home, drank a lot of wine, and thought.

But, Daddy, couldn’t you have done something more important than think?

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Actually, son, no. Thinking was the most important thing that most of us could do. While others saved lives with selfless dedication, the rest of us had to isolate ourselves. We had the time and the need to evaluate our own lives, beliefs and attitudes – and to work out where our world went wrong and how to put it right.

You can imagine that family conversation ten years on when Covid-19 has been beaten but remembered as the killer that changed the lives of the survivors. This is how it continued:

At that time, in the early months of 2020, we thought the pandemic was the worst disaster that could befall us. Then it gradually sank in that, if one incredibly small virus could bring us to our knees in a few months, maybe the other warnings could be right too.

Before the pandemic, people sort of knew about the risks to the future but most of us soothed ourselves with lullabies like It’s Someone Else’s Fault, There’s Nothing We Can Do, The Parrot Song (Fake News! Fake News! Fake News!), I’m Okay – What’s the Fuss?, and It’s Happening to Someone Else And That’s OK, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

Then along came Covid-19. What a shocker. In the UK, despite death stalking across Asia and Europe, the government was so slow and inept that it could not even protect the heir to the throne and the Prime Minister. In the U.S., pretty much the same incompetence but with a massively higher death toll.

Except, of course, it was not just being slow to react. It was the political ideologies and economic systems that favoured the rich and buggered the poor, the vulnerable, the animals, and the environment that we all depend on.

When I think of those two great peoples – courageous, generous, hard-working – and the politicians who failed them so miserably, I cannot help thinking of the World War One assessment of the men who fought and the generals who sent them to their deaths: Lions led by donkeys.

A problem is that human lions are often good people who believe the best in others. They are often easily led by emotion-jerking and lies. And human donkeys may be hopelessly incompetent and self-serving but have the unconscionable ability to mislead with lies and emotional manipulation.

Then there is the very human problem. Once we have set up our mental universe that reassures us we are right and safe, it is very difficult to change. The trenches sorted that out in WW1. Covid-19 sorted it out for many in 2020. The virus crisis gave enough of a shock to us personally and the human world generally for people to see new realities and the need to change to survive.

Tragedy, contradictions, hope, anger, wounding humour … you could read the news any day during the pandemic. If you were there, you could see and witness it.

The British Prime Minister thanked the National Health Service for saving his life. This sparked some hope that his political party and government would stop trying to wreck it. In the U.S., the president got his foot stuck in his mouth again – at a time when 2,000 Americans a day were dying he praised the virus as a genius bacteria … er… no matter, at least he managed to sign orders to open more wild areas to hunting and fishing, and authorise plans for a massive frigging fracking scheme likely to make global warming targets impossible.

In the real world, lockdowns showed how human pollution was ruining the planet. Reduced pollution drew gasps with reports and photos of clean air and natural water. For many people, it finally killed The Parrot Song.

Credit: Getty Images

Mostly unnoticed, other elements of the disaster-to-be were unfolding. The U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information, for example, reported that parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans were hitting record high temperatures, according to Bloomberg writer Brian K. Sullivan. “The high temperatures could offer clues on the ferocity of the Atlantic hurricane season, the eruption of wildfires from the Amazon region to Australia, and whether the record heat and severe thunderstorms raking the southern U.S. will continue.”

It was a time when people began to realise they were victims of gaslighting – the creation of false “realities” to make them doubt their sanity and the truths they had witnessed for themselves.

They started to face up to the rapidly increasing severity of social and environmental problems.

  • The climate is being wrecked. How do you feel about that? What should we do?
  • The health systems are disgracefully unfair and getting worse. What should be done?
  • Moral leadership has dropped into the cesspool with good people destroyed because of the colour of their skins, with children ripped from their parents and held in concentration camps, and with vulnerable people, including veterans, driven to suicide. Are you happy with that?
  • Law enforcement is so pathetic that armed gangs can protest openly for the right to catch and pass on Covid-19. How much more will you put up with?

Many people realised during the pandemic’s lockdowns that they needed to stop reacting to emotional jerks from politicians and big business, start thinking for themselves and their families, and come in from the hateful illusions of personal gain to join the warmth of those trying to save our societies and the world for future generations.

Not that personal gains amounted to much for most people. The wealth of our ruthless free-market economies was going to the rich and powerful. A fraction was dribbled out to the middle and lower classes – and that was being ground down, year after year, as the rich took more and more and the planet paid an impossible price.

That was part of deliberate and relentless inequality. In our nations, and between countries, it was a system where success was measured by how much overconsumption a person could indulge in. For the poor, it meant slum life, little or no medical care, poor food, no hope, early death. Covid-19 certainly increased that tub of misery with millions losing their jobs and medical cover.

Now, in 2030, we think of that time as the good old days. Odd, isn’t it?

In the post-pandemic years, people were too eager to snatch easy answers – we let the big corporations and the robber-baron political grabbers define the new reality in which they plundered our countries and the world.

Now, we have everything that many people feared before the Covid-19 epidemic: a world of devastating rises in sea levels, violent weather events everywhere, killer water and air pollution, rising temperatures, emasculated health services and social security. Civil conflict, too, but there is always enough money for “security”.

If only the people of 2020 had thought more about the future instead of where to get their next bottle of hand sanitizer. If only they had fought and voted to sanitize their nations and the world rather than just their hands.

Maybe that way, there would have been a future for people and the planet.

If you’d like more information, just take an interest and build up sources and knowledge. The three articles below and the Bloomberg article above will be a good start. Then make up your own mind about what kind of world you want after the epidemic, and what you can do to help bring it about. Three things are certain: there can be no return to the old world; whoever wins the battle to define the new world will set the course for the coming years, maybe decades; and enough raindrops can make a world cleaning flood.

Gaslighting, what you need to know

Christian writer Jim Taylor on: The three myths Covid-19 has killed

How your rights and protections have been ripped away

John Keeble is an international photo-journalist living in Cuenca. He “retired” after 25 years with The Guardian in London and has spent the past 15 years giving media services to NGOs as well as writing about and illustrating social issues.

46 thoughts on “Where did it all go wrong? Don’t be duped – think it out for yourself

  1. Great article – thanks for your insights. It is long overdue that we address the corporate socialism that has been expanded by policies of Fed Reserve Bank helping to create greater income inequality. Health care linked to employment has once again been shown to fail society. While an avid free enterprise proponent, this has been corrupted by corporate socialism – “interest free money”, propping up failing companies instead of letting the system work allowing them to go bankrupt. Newer, better players will step in and fill the void. The changes needed are significant. We do however need to start addressing these issues immediately. Good health to all.

  2. good read. post covid 19 pandemic we will need to see the world differently. every politician that helped give us this pandemic will need to be voted out of office as those that allowed this to happen certainly cannot be trusted post covid to find solutions to the problems they created. the wealthy elites need to be reigned in as they are not being now. all these calls to reopen ecnomies and put people back to work are coming from the wealthy elites hiding in their bunkers, the same wealthy elites taking billions in government handouts while workers suffer with a mere pittance. only when the politicians return to their chambers, when the wall street brokers return to the floor of the stock exchange, and when the elites leave their bunker hideouts should we even consider opening the economy. as long as the wealthy are in hiding, so should us little peons just trying to survive.

    1. The politicians didn’t give this to you. China did. You can thank them by buying more of their cheap goods.

  3. We agree, great article. And without elaborating on the possible things we can learn from this, As my dearly departed father would suggest, take this time for personal reflection and make something of this time. Our 20-something year old daughter, who lives and works in Chicago, has been salvaged from a long list of terminations to continue working for her company from home, and the “core group” is already seeing that the business (which is already +5% in sales over last year) can survive, if not thrive, with fewer employees and no reliance on brick and mortar. And I think empirically, we are all marveling at the clean air in the absence of vehicular traffic here in Cuenca. We all know there are lots of things that need fixing, and loads of room for improvement. So if you aren’t able or willing to do it yourself, you can at least get on board with the effort, before you depart this earth.

    1. No…. we don’t “all agree”, but thanks for assuming the responsibility for speaking for all of us.

  4. Wow! Lots of thoughts being provoked (in a good way). Some have been issues for me for many years. Others are new. Either way, I always appreciate your ideas. Thanks John.

  5. What a load of drivel. Another individual that thinks sitting around having profound thoughts, projecting a bunch of virtue and being slapped on the back by people as useless as he is means something. What are you going to do with this? You are going to go around and talk to each other and say, “Wow that guy is really smart and we are smart for recognizing it”. Again easy to point out bad landings but very difficult to fix.

    1. My thoughts exactly….. this is an OPINION piece. The fact that this poseur was with the Guardian says it all…. “the paper’s readership is generally on the mainstream left of British political opinion, and its reputation as a platform for liberal and left-wing editorial has led to the use of the “Guardian reader” and “Guardianista” as often-pejorative epithets for those of left-leaning or “politically correct” tendencies.” You can see that he waited until the very end to take his swipe at Trump….. that was right after he expressed his determination about “what we all need to know”.

    2. “Hello DARKNESS my old friend, I’m reading your idiocy once again.” Gee Ed, there is a name for people who see no value in deep thinking, virtue, introspection, and personal reflection……..If I think clearly about this I think I can recall that name……..OH yeah, I’ve got it……they are called ignorant deplorables! I see you are in no danger of having any deep thoughts invading your cerebral cortex. John….Thank you for a well written and thought provoking article. I hope the human race will emerge from this wholly preventable tragedy with some renewed dedication to real core values, but my hope fades every time ignorant fools feel the need to prove how far gone they really are. Good Luck to us all.

        1. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to put some thought into subjects before acting on them? Failing to think clearly is one reason we have many of the problems we have.

          1. Thoughts by the average man have the same impact on world events as throwing a feather at a speeding freight train from 100 feet away. I guess it makes people feel like they are having an impact. What bothers me are people that think non stop projection of virtue is actually being virtuous. These are the people that pull all of the air out of the room and blunt the impact of people that actually have a plan and are doing something.

    1. that is correct, there is a fine line, and unfortunately in Cuenca at least, they are erring way too much to caution. We have Cuencano family that are hurting, no work, no money. Managing this from Quito makes no sense at all, GYE Quito and Cuenca are completely different, not to mention the rest of the country. 2 PM curfew, REALLY ? what does it serve. Wearing a mask in your car, bunk, spraying the streets, complete waste. Social distancing, yeah that makes sense but half the people ignor it because of the other stupid rules that give them a false sense of confidence that big brother is looking out for them Yeah right

      1. I would normally never tell this on a forum like this in a million years but I see it as helpful if not necessary to maybe get people acting and not just thinking. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Just a thought, the check we are receiving from Uncle Sugar is a windfall for many. My wife and I have already donated an equal amount to our Prefict. The initial thought was that it would go to the elderly and poor. Turns out they have some cover by the government but young families out of work are pretty much SOL so they have decided to use it I think for that. It seems to be an evolving story. Just a thought.

        1. Do mean prefect? I didn’t know Yaku Pérez was asking for handouts. Or did you donate to a prefect in another province? I would suggest your donation would do more good at the local level, not on the provincial level.

          1. Nobody asked me for anything and yes coincidentally it is in another canton with an individual we have a very long history with. My desire would be that people do their own thing in their own way. This is just what we did. The point is more doing less thinking. Thanks

          2. Good on you on both counts, Sara; The spelling and the idea. That’s just the way I am disbursing my funds.

        2. I so agree and as i see expats scrambling for their bonuses and windfall money while they have lived on their pathetic fixed incomes You wonder how they got into their so called desperate financial situations in the first place. Did not save, invest? Lived the good life but have to live on social security?

          This gift is a windfall for anyone retired give half back to those in real need

          1. I’ll take your question as being non-rhetorical, Bill, and it is a good question indeed.

            For the most part, in the case of people from the U.S., it is a function of living beyond or just at their means for virtually all of their lives. Do you know anything about the history of Warren Buffet? He saved and invested 50% of every penny he earned until he was 40 years old. How many Americans do you know that save and invest anything? 40% of them don’t even have $400 for an emergency and now that many millions of them aren’t working, what do you think that means?

            My first stimulus check is already accounted for, right here in Cuenca. There is need all around. You don’t have to look for it to find it.

            1. I will say Ken, that when my wife and I married we decided to live on her (modest) salary, and bank mine. Best decision we ever made. Eventually we phased off that plan, but we always saved. I am amazed how many people do or did not. Time is your friend in investing the soon the better. I think my son gets it, my daughter, not so sure.

        3. Yup, already done it and my check arrived today. That said, I spread it around a bunch out of mistrust and seeing so many with so many needs.

          I can imagine only one person so stupid that they would down-vote what I just wrote. I wonder who it is?

          Oh, look! I was right, it is Elise. Absolutely dumb as a brick. The liar that said she would prepare chicken for the homeless down by the Rio Tomebamba at the redondel del Sagrado Corazón. What a hypocrite.

          1. We live in a very rugged and sparsely populated area. There could be a desperate family living a quarter of a mile away and I may not know they exist so I depend on the locals. I’ve developed friendships with a number of people the years out here that I have complete faith in. The biggest problem is my ability to communicate how I want the money spent in principal. My Spanish still sucks in so many ways. Another thing I do is I have a young guy that works for me and I’ve begun to pay him to help the single mothers, elderly, etc. with projects they need help with or work they need done. He knows who they are and he uses my tools and materials and decides for who and what needs to be done.

          2. We live in a very rugged and sparsely populated area. There could be a desperate family living a quarter of a mile away and I may not know they exist so I depend on the locals. I’ve developed friendships with a number of people the years out here that I have complete faith in. The biggest problem is my ability to communicate how I want the money spent in principal. My Spanish still sucks in so many ways. Another thing I do is I have a young guy that works for me and I’ve begun to pay him to help the single mothers, elderly, etc. with projects they need help with or work they need done. He knows who they are and he uses my tools and materials and decides for who and what needs to be done.

            1. I know you don’t need my assent, but what you have written makes perfect sense to me. My only lament would be that you would get so much more out of life here in Ecuador if you were fully bi-lingual, but that is a completely different issue. I am fully bi-lingual and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t.

              As I just got through posting to PixelVt, you don’t have to even look to find people in need and I’m sure it is no different in your neck of the woods.

            2. Helping just one family may be enough. If more folks helped more families…..I reached my word limit too

  6. Thank you, John, for putting this tragic event into your unique perspective.
    On the plus side, air is cleaner in Cuenca. I can see stars I never saw before, over Turi.
    Shocking as events have unfolded in Guayaquil, I’m pleased that our government has owned up to its failings and continue to help those poor souls.
    As the author of “Extinction” you have your finger on the pulse of how to anticipate dramatic changes to society and the environment.
    Very thoughtful piece, John, And I’ll be checking out the references, Be safe. Be well.

  7. “Hey, Pops, what else did we do? We witnessed the end of the petrodollar, and the end of Social Security, in July 2020.” “Well, what did you do about it? We stayed home with masks and gloves on whilst the American Empire ended, just like the Roman Empire did.” “Then, Ecuador dropped the dollar, and we lost all our “safe” money in Ecuadorian banks.” Wow-wee!

    1. End of the petrodollar AND Social Security.?…..not likely. Perhaps, in a very extreme scenario, another stable currency could compete with the $US, as a second reserve currency, (Yuan, Ruble, Euro, etc….) but all are weaker, and are dependent on the $US….. so why would they want to do that….especially in this environment???? Social Security to end ? (I assume you mean the US SS payments) will NEVER happen…. although the buying power might slightly decrease over a long period of time (inflation or disinflation). Meanwhile, Ecuador will never drop the $US (at least in our lifetimes). To have the $US as the backbone of the economy, gives the sovereign bond market a degree of legitimacy that it otherwise would not have. AND, most of its outstanding debt (which will have to be regularly re-negotiated) is denominated in $US or petro-dollars anyway.

      So all the Expat US haters out on this site should beware that, being on the $US… Ecuador’s success, in a large degree, depends on the U.S.’s success. Don’t forget that the U.S. government owns the printing presses, and can legitimately create hard and digital inventory, as it assumes more and more debt. Ecuador can’t create a currency (Correa tried it with his phoney “digital currency” , dependant on the good name and credit worthiness of the Ecuadorian government (yah, right)). And the greenback will hold up so long as governments around the world continue to recognize its value. If the US slips…… Ecuador is screwed big time.

      Again, for all you haters and self righteous expat virtue signalers: “Be careful for what you wish for”

      1. Expats that arrive here because of their hate for their home country, that gave them the opportunity to earn, save, get ecucated, and travel, are the worst

        1. You are correct. Many (not all) made wrong decisions or poor savings and investment choices over the years, that affect their retirement income. It used to be (ten years ago), you’d come across gringos that were right up front and say that they couldn’t afford the Ecuador quality of life if they had to live on what they had “back home”. There is no shame in that!

          But, over time, more and more new arrivals, and even people that had been in the country already, started finding more noble and political motivations as narratives for why they were motivated to live overseas. I’m not saying it is all B.S., but a bunch of it is. It’s always interesting to talk to people who have gone through the “metamorphosis” and have difficultly admitting to the fact that they are essentially economic refugees.

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