Has the coup happened yet? You have the advantage over me. It was supposed to have taken place on Sunday. Then it slipped back to Monday morning. When Monday morning came and went in a markedly coup-less state the date was revised to Wednesday. Anyway, there was to be a worldwide media blackout after which President Donald Trump — for it is he — would announce to the world that he was still in control and that Joe Biden and a whole bunch of others had been arrested for their various roles in covering up election fraud.
The rapidly shifting date of this coup reminds me a little of my mother-in-law’s frequent assertions that the world is going to end on, for example, 12 October. And then when that day drifts by in a rather bland manner, she will announce that due to some mistranslation she got it wrong and really meant 12 April. There is another connection, too, as she is also — like a number of other ‘Christian’ extremists and end-timers — predicting the Trump coup, while cleaving to the conviction that Covid is either a complete myth or was deliberately concocted by scions of the One World Government to depopulate the planet: the Great Reset.
Plenty of atheists sign up to this notion, at QAnon and various other convocations of the far-right. A magnificent coming together of mentally ill believers and disbelievers, their jeremiads amplified by the idiot box of social media.
The right has never really trusted Covid, thinking it at best chimeric and at worst a plot by Bill Gates, commies, one worlders etc. Its scepticism can be seen most clearly in the proportion of American conservatives who would refuse even a US-made jab — some 25 per cent, compared with 9 per cent of liberals. Why would you have a jab if you think the virus doesn’t exist, or is at worst a bit of a sniffle, or, if you’re really mad, that the vaccine is linked in some way to the rollout of the 5G network?
Meanwhile, over here, Sage has got itself terribly worried that the vaccine take-up will be lower among the UK’s ethnic minorities because of ‘structural and institutional racism and discrimination’. When the Sage experts — experts in epidemiology, not sociology — spew out generic rot like that it tilts me ever so slightly towards the nutter lobby of the anti-vaxxers. If they can be so blithely wrong about that, what else have they messed up on?
Institutional racism has nothing whatsoever to do with black and Asian folk declining the vaccine. Religious belief may have something to do with it, given that some of the most charismatic evangelistic churches and the Dutch Reformed Church and the tabernacles are agin it, and these places have a high proportion of black worshippers. The British Islamic organisations, meanwhile, have been unequivocal in urging people to get the vaccine, but there still persists, in a few Muslim communities, a fear that some vaccines might not be halal, given that previous vaccines have used bits from pigs.
More to the point, though, is that the earnings and living standards and educational attainments enjoyed by some sections of our ethnic communities are lower than the national average, and that the take-up of vaccines closely correlates to social class. Once again, racism has nothing whatsoever to do with it. There is something patronising, as well as absurd, in insinuating that white folk who refuse the jab are incivistic morons while black folk who refuse are somehow victims.
I am not an anti-vaxxer — which is just as well, as I probably wouldn’t have a job if I was. I would not deny that a certain totalitarianism has manifested itself these past ten months along with the concomitant denunciations of those who dare suggest an alternative point of view, be they experts or laymen. My approach to vaccines is magnificently unscientific: if the disease which I am being vaccinated against scares me more than the jab itself, I will trot down to the surgery. That means I will take the Covid jab, just as I would have signed up for a measles jab. But not a yearly flu shot and not one for chickenpox.
We are, as a nation, terribly gung-ho for the Covid jab, which I suspect is a consequence of that rather totalitarian mindset I mentioned. Yet only 50 or so miles away from where I’m writing is a nation split down the middle on the issue of the vaccine. Just 54 per cent of French people say they would have the jab. Next door, in Germany, the figure is only a little higher. The Germans have long-standing reasons for objecting to vaccination programmes, dating back almost 150 years. If only we could all be like the South Koreans who are 85 per cent in favour of the vaccine. That suggests one of two, or both, racial stereotypes: that of the East Asians being, in general, terribly obedient and compliant towards authority, and more intelligent than the rest of us.
For the moment, then, I’ll join in with the jubilation that we lead the world, almost, in the rollout of these vaccines. I have minor worries that the testing period was a little briefer than is usual, but am generally happy to trust those experts.
What worries me more is the efficacy of the vaccine. Israel is the real leader of the world in vaccinations, with almost a third of the population jabbed. But they’re locking down even harder, with police stopping anyone who’s more than 1km away from their house without good reason. It has been made clear here that even after a jab we will still need to socially distance — in which case, some might ask, what is the point of the jab? And if Matt Hancock is right and the government will ease restrictions only when no new variant is found, doesn’t that mean perpetuity under lockdown?