COVID-19 and the illusion of meritocratic democracy

We are logistically, culturally and intellectually unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. What I mean by that is that the model of society we have accepted, is riddled with fundamental flaws that are only now becoming apparent to the general public. One of the key problems is the illusion of meritocratic democracy on which our lives are now depending. Not least of which is the one that Thomas Paine warned of, arguing that an hereditary ruling class was as absurd as an hereditary mathematician.

I have been writing about these sorts of absurdities at the core of the plutocratic model in the UK for many years now, most recently in the context of the 2019 general election. In my opinion, one of the key problems is the cultural framework that allows this societal model to continue.

Specifically, the widely accepted illusion that the UK is a meritocratic democracy, when in reality the analysis clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of the population are politically oppressed in order that an hereditary class of plutocrats are able to exploit them economically. Put simply, it is neither a meritocracy nor a democracy in the true sense of either word.

In order for this illusion of a meritocratic democracy to continually maintain itself, the 1% and the 99% must both think that the 1% are superior to the 99% and in some way deserving of their situation. If this delusion did not exist, we would all recognise that their privilege and our want, has been allocated by little more than an accident of birth.

And if it is simply a random lottery, then what reason is their to respect their authority. After all Lord Rees-Snooty is not in the position he is in because he is one of the most compassionate, intelligent, forward-thinking, and creative individuals in the UK. Because if that were the case, his family wouldn’t have to paid quite so much money to make people think that he is.

The reality is, for anyone that has spent any time around these sorts of people, a large proportion of them have actually fooled themselves in to believing that they lead privileged lives because they are superior to everyone else. To which one must really ask, if faced with someone suffering this delusion, if that where the case, then why do they need private education, regressive taxation systems, inheritance tax loopholes, tax havens and secret societies to stay on top from one generation to the next?

This skin-deep charade of meritocratic democracy has to be maintained culturally in order to stave off revolutionary tendencies. Even now the internet is awash with rich people telling the rest of us how to cope with this global pandemic. And while I am sure those people are probably more deluded than the rest of us as to their superiority, the fact that the traditional media collude with them is the perfect example of this repeating drumbeat that wealth signifies intellectual and moral superiority.

Those same people that were deafeningly silent when the country had the option to stop the most attention-seeking sociopaths amongst us from taking control of the country last year, are all of a sudden very vocal in reminding us of just how clever they think they are.

The reason I bring this up now is because we as a species are facing a fairly seminal moment in recent history. Are we going to entrust our lives and the lives of our families, friends and communities into the hands of some of the most intellectually-inbred, and morally vacant sociopaths capitalism has ever produced?

And if you are in any doubt that this is the case in the UK, their response to the lack of available ventilators has been a text book example of who not to put in charge.

The Eton-educated leadership of the UK responded by awarding a contract to build ventilators to Dyson, the company that is headquartered in the tax haven of Singapore, with it’s manufacturing now largely based in Malaysia. And apart from the fact that the owner likes to pretend he is a patriot, one of the only significant things Dyson has done in the UK in recent years appears to be helping the Tory party maintain control of the UK government.

However, the mistake that the De Pfeffel-Bunter administration made was in confusing not enough ventilators with no such thing as a ventilator. We don’t need a new one designed. We need more of the ones that we already have.

And therein lies the problem with believing in the illusion of the meritocratic democracy which is disguising the capitalist plutocracy behind it. Where as a meritocracy would produce the best of us, instead we get the most morally vacant offspring of the 0.1%. Where a democracy would represent the will and the needs of the population, we instead get a modern system of robber barons and rotten boroughs. Not only is the decision to award the contract an immoral one, it is quite patently a bad one.

The Dyson product will need to be tested and modified through as series of factory iterations to make sure it works, before it is then tested and approved by the DoH processes for medical use, all while the production lines at Dyson are being repurposed and their staff re-trained, new components either being sourced or designed, tested and manufactured from scratch, and all before one new ventilator ever comes off the end of a production line.

Now keep in mind that there are manufacturers of tested and approved ventilators that just need access to more manufacturing capacity and components. Those capacity deficits could be remedied very quickly by declaring a 6 month state of emergency, creating a temporary patent holiday on the ventilators and their components, requisition suitable production facilities with appropriate retooling capacity and seconding suitably skilled personnel. The government could cover the running costs and wage bills for repurposing, and running the production of the ventilators that we already know do the job on a time-limited basis dictated by the state of emergency. And they could do that far quicker than bringing a new design to market.

And as for asking JCB and Army engineers to help, this is quite obviously the desperate knee-jerk response of an administration that has no idea what it is doing, and that responds to panic by falling back into its default position of plutocratic parasitism. But it does not have to be this way. Around the world, in ever greater numbers, individuals and communities are standing together in solidarity.

In Italy on hearing that the local hospital couldn’t get valves for their respirators a start-up company stepped in by using their 3D printers to make the parts. In Spain a community of 3D printer enthusiasts have set up an open-source volunteer-run community to help others begin printing the parts that their hospitals need. In the USA, a Doctor working with his friends has begun 3D printing surgical masks. In fact all over the world there are now distilleries repurposing their production lines to manufacture hand sanitiser, not least of all in the UK, Canada and the USA.

Most of these cases are simply people and communities demonstrating what the vast majority of us are more than capable of, caring for other people. Unfortunately there are some among us who, from a very early age, have been taught to see the world through the lens of “what is in it for me and fuck the rest of you?”.

Government decisions that are taken during this COVID-19 pandemic will determine how many people will die in the UK in the next twelve months. At some point in the not too distant future thousands, possibly tens of thousands of families will demand to know if their loved ones would have survived if different decisions had been made.

One of those decisions will be the awarding of the ventilator contract to a Tory donor who had no experience or capacity for mass-producing a critical care ventilator that other companies were already making. Unfortunately we are all going to have to find out exactly how many people have to die so one of their tax-avoiding mates gets the grubby hands on even more tax-payers money.