- Date published:
4:02 pm, May 16th, 2020 - 66 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, child welfare, class, class war, covid-19, culture, Economy, Ethics, quality of life, schools, Social issues - Tags: capitalism, children, covid-19, health
Why are parents being told to send their children back to school this Monday? Is it because the health and welfare of children is upper most in the governments mind? Maybe the psychological impact of a child losing social contact during their formative years is a thing the government’s worried about? Or maybe the government’s wringing its hands over children being denied the opportunity of an education?
No. I think not.
For weeks we’ve been fed the line that children are somehow magically equipped, such that the coronavirus will by pass them, or barely affect them, or/and anyway, they’re not really infectious.
When New Zealand’s Siouxie Wiles was asked whether children ought to be tested before returning to school a few weeks back, she responded that testing was
“…not a good use of our resources when there is so little evidence that children play a big role in the spread of Covid-19.”
Now. I’m guessing that Siouxie Wiles has become somewhat the unofficial official spokesperson or authority for New Zealand when it comes to Covid 19 – ie, she isn’t going to say a damned thing that contradicts or upsets government’s thinking.
That came at the end of an article in The Spin Off that essentially propagated the “magical children” myth – children rarely got infected and even if infected, would likely have only mild symptoms. There was a lot of numbers picked from various testing regimes that were presented at face value to underscore that comforting message.
Fast forward a few weeks, and reports of children being infected, but displaying symptoms different to “the norm” are bubbling to the surface. Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome (PMIS), as the symptoms in children have been labeled, take, according to The Atlantic, “many weeks to manifest”.
In line with what has gone before, The Atlantic article goes on to reassure its readers that cases of PMIS are rare and that the effects tend to be mild (except for the children that die).
All of the above may be accurate enough, and there really may be very little cause for concern around covid 19 and children. Or, as a piece in The Guardian points out –
“…it is not yet clear whether [children] have a lower chance of catching Covid-19. Although fewer children have been picked up in national testing programmes, this could be due to fewer being tested. During the early phase of the epidemic in Europe, adult travellers played a dominant role in seeding infections, which also meant, purely for circumstantial reasons, that children would have played a less significant role in spreading infections.”
I think it’s entirely reasonable to harbour elements of doubt around the story we’re being told about children, their likelihood of infection and the odds that they can be infectious.
New Zealand remains at a level of lock-down. But what are we to make of ourselves as a society when we’re willing to expose our children to a potential threat in the wider environment before anyone else?
Last week, schools opened and parents could send their children if they chose to. One local school I know of normally has around 200 pupils and there has been one child in attendance. In other words, if the attendance rate at that school is even close to being indicative of attendance rates across the country, parents aren’t happy about sending their children to school yet. Regardless, this coming week, they’re being told to send their children back.
Why? Isn’t it normal to shield children from unnecessary danger or, out of all of us, expose them to potential risk last of all?
Well no. As Helen Clark might say “It’s about the economy stupid!”
Our politicians’ relationship with the idea of liberal capitalism is not unlike how a devotee might present offerings to their deity in the hope or belief that things will then be alright. The difference is that a devotee would not normally have to get the children “out of the way” and possibly into harms way to go about satisfying their religious wonts.
Just to be clear. Jacinda Ardern’s government did not, as popular belief would have it, act fast to shut down New Zealand in the face of coronavirus. They followed along somewhere around the middle of the herd, and as announced by Jacinda, would have allowed cruise ships to keep berthing at New Zealand ports until the end of March… if other countries hadn’t begun to lock down and so given them tacit permission to do what should already have been done. Luckily enough for all of us, the number of infected people in New Zealand at that time was less than in other countries.
And now with an idea of economy still at the forefront of their mind, are there those who shrug at the potential for a little human sacrifice when the prize is to be a place towards the front of the herd? There’s obviously been some thought put into calculating what potential price would be worth it – otherwise our children would not be being sent back into the wider environment first, so that the working class can get back to their jobs that essentially service the needs of white collar wallahs who are going to continue working from home for now.
The way I’m seeing it is, that in the event New Zealand sees no further deaths from Covid 19, this mind set that has seen fit to elevate the integrity of a liberal capitalist economy above the potential risk to children’s life and well-being becomes no less toxic and misanthropic for all of that.