There are few allies as sought after by counsel defending an accused but innocent man as a reliable historian.
To be a reliable historian a certain sense of detachment, a drone’s eye view of events, is necessary. One cannot be influenced by belief, one cannot be swayed by bias.
Objectivity is obligatory.
As the pandemic advances it is reasonable to hope that as every day passes we are one day closer to a return to something that might begin to look like our old normality — even if a few Rubicons have been crossed, especially the one in regard to private hospitals.
In that instance it is just possible that the future has arrived in the most unexpected, sudden and maybe irreversible way.
In any event, when that welcome back-to-normal day dawns, reliable historians will be needed so we can best learn the lessons on offer and understand the mistakes we made too.
Though one — the all too obvious failure of the neo-liberal ambition of an ever smaller, weaker and disengaged state — is already apparent, it may seem a tad premature to call for historians when a shortage of ventilators may be a matter of life-or-death for so many.
Yet, had we listened to reliable historians rather than quack economists and the politicians who peddled their chutzpah, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a coronavirus advisory note, might not have advised its students and staff working abroad to take immediate flight from “any county with poorly developed health services... for example the USA”.
That assessment is of course laden with belief but, tragically, the facts of the unfolding disaster in America, and President Trump’s increasingly bizarre pronouncements on it, confirm it.
It may resonate of neo-liberal hubris to look askance — but sympathetically — at America’s difficulties as we consider how we might provide temporary morgues to cope with the extreme consequences of an expected surge in the pandemic.
Yesterday’s prediction from the Economic and Social Research Institute that the economy, so briefly resurgent, will fall into recession this year, shrinking by as much as 7.1% must also temper judgement of how others have responded to the crisis.
The ESRI based its prediction on a 12-week shutdown and the hope that the economy recovers quickly afterwards.
Despite that, a prediction of 7.1% contraction on foot of 5.5% growth last year — a 12.6% swing — is beyond sobering.
That the US Senate this week passed a $2.2 trillion emergency package, the biggest in America’s history, tells the same story in a different but louder way.
Nevertheless, there is a sliver of optimism, one that a reliable historian might emphasise. The death rate in Spain has slowed for the first time in a week.
Spain recorded 655 deaths in a 24 hour period straddling Wednesday and yesterday, bringing the total to 4,089. The number of confirmed cases
in Spain stood at 56,188.
The country has the dubious
honour of recording the world’s highest one-day national death toll of the pandemic to date. Its total of deaths has surpassed that of China.
Patience has long been recognised as a virtue, but in today’s world, where a single sneeze can cause terror, it is essential.