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What have we learnt over the last two years?

By Murray Hunter - posted Friday, 11 February 2022

As citizens in different parts of the world, we have over the last two years shared a common experience. We have witnessed and been forcibly part of a string of events beyond our individual control, that has changed the world as we know it. The world is now very different from the recent past.

We must learn the lessons of these events and influences to prevent catastrophic consequences in the future. The following is a reflection upon the changing environment that now confronts us. We must recognise what these events and influences are in order to learn from them.

The pandemic

Governments decided the endgame strategy for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was mass vaccination. However, vaccines have done little to stop the spread of the Omicron variant around the world. However, as data is beginning to indicate, the Omicron variant is very quickly building up natural herd immunity around the world.


The lesson that is becoming very evident here is that it was not human ingenuity that brought an end to the pandemic through lockdowns, restrictions, border closures, and vaccines. Nature took its own course and is making SARS-CoV-2 endemic around the world.

It's time for humanity to develop some humility. The human species doesn't have the power over nature that has been assumed. The Earth as a system has its own self-correcting mechanisms to restore homeostasis. Very few have recognized this, even less have acknowledged this. This is an extremely important principle for solving future world problems.

Many of the problems facing nations today are the result of collateral damage not caused by SARS-CoV-2 directly, but by the responses and decisions national governments made. An explosion in the incidence of poverty, rising unemployment, inflation, the destruction of many small businesses, the rise in deaths from other ailments, decaying mental health and suicides, and deeper divisions within society, are externalities policy and decision makers didn't factor into their reactions to the SARS-CoV-2 threat. In future reckonings, the damage done by government responses to SARS-CoV-2 may be much higher than the actual damage done to society from the virus itself.

Public policy and administration

Government handling of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic must be scrutinized through the lens of public policy and administration. Restrictions across the world appear to have occurred in a daisy-chain manner. There appears to have been a cognitive dissonance between what governments did and the data available, especially a few months into the pandemic. Society must scrutinize public administrations across the world to assess whether decision makers were victims to a global group think phenomenon in public policy.

Computer modelling and forecasts appeared to take on an 'aura' of fact. Most forecasts governments acted upon were wide off the mark in what actually happened. Yet decisions were based upon a belief in the forecasts rather than factual data at hand. Model predictions are illusions, not facts. A model prediction is just one of numerous potential scenarios. Modelling natural complex systems is flaunt with issues that make them inaccurate. Government decision makers around the world have become reliant on predictions generated by these models, rather than the science behind actual data. This must be corrected and presents a massive lesson to public administration in the use of modelling as the basis of decision making. Governments failed to take enough account of the limitations of modelling.

We have learnt that the real power within government is not with elected public officials. The real power is vested in non-elected and largely unaccountable bureaucrats. This is a stark lesson about the nature of representative government today and an important issue society must debate in shaping the future path of democracy to prevent rule by a technocracy reoccurring once again in times of crisis. Decisions that effect the lives of people must be made by those who are accountable to the people.


The Media

The media failed to fulfil the role of a disseminator of factual information to the public during the pandemic. Many media organizations became partisan players to selected narratives and even created unnecessary fear within the community. The media failed to question decision makers and canvass alternative scenarios.

The media is the last check and balance against government abuse of power. It failed to scrutinize decision makers and question governments granting themselves extra powers over society during the pandemic. This is another very important lesson out of the pandemic.

Internet and social media monopolies manipulate what we can see or not see through the use of algorithms across their platforms. This creates false perceptions of reality, where certain views, organizations, and people are excluded from the public domain. Big tech, as these corporations are called, have the power to control the construction of our social reality. This is a massive affront to the principle of freedom of speech and the nature of democracy. The lesson here is social media is now a major partisan political player within political systems.

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Murray Hunter's blog can be accessed here.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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