Do Americans have a too rosy view of the UK?

I am attending quite a few webinars these days to see what I can learn.

You know what? Everyone, no matter how much they know, is completely new to the reality of the pandemic we’re in. I’ve started to notice that some people respond a little chilly at times, as if they are on the defensive. I imagine that this is because they’re acutely aware that they don’t have all the answers.

There are various aspects to studying this virus and its impacts. There are those who see it as a scholarly exercise and, for example, want to chart how various groups in the population are affected and how the effects of the lockdown result in even greater health disparities, with some also wanting to remedy those effects.

There are those who look at legal aspects, those who are working in labs to study the virus and learn its secrets, those who are working on tests that check for the presence of the virus (antigens) or the presence of signs that someone has had the virus (antibodies), those who work on treatments and those who on vaccines.

Not all researchers keep in mind that politicians and other decision-makers as well as the public may have a very different view and make decisions very differently.

The main message that strikes me over and over is the almost complete lack of preparedness. Countries appear to have been much better equipped to deal with floods and earthquakes and terrorist attacks than to deal with a pandemic. That maybe because a pandemic isn’t a highly visual event, requiring a lot less physical effort but instead demanding brain power and cooperation in that thinking effort. Coordination.

There are no people to be dug out of rubble. There is no mud to be cleared. Cooperation is hard enough when it concerns physical efforts, but still much easier to do than when all aspects of a society are affected, society-wide.

Yesterday, I attended a webinar by the NAM/APHA. The panel was different than had been announced but was very interesting, composed of people who do connect their work with everyday reality.

True leadership is sorely lacking in many countries in the world right now.

Some time ago, in a video for a course I made, I said that there was a lot of bad leadership in the world right now. People who believe that encouraging divisiveness makes them better leaders than if they were to unite the world. We’re seeing the reality of that in action now, notably in the UK and in the US.

I heard Mary Bassett (director of the Fran├žois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the department of Social and Behavioral Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) mention the risk workers in the US face when they have to choose between their own health and safety, their colleagues’ health and safety and their employers’ wishes (and power).

When workers risk losing their jobs when they self-isolate, for example, this can really complicate matters.

Then she said something along the lines of people in the UK not needing to consider that angle at all and I thought “Where does she get that idea from?”

Some Americans have a very rose-coloured view of the UK, I’ve noticed over the years, while in reality, the situation in the UK can be worse. That’s because the US is pretty WYSIWYG and the UK is not. The US tends to go through major shifts (from D to R and back again). These changes may be less dramatic in the UK, giving off the appearance of something solid and stable. Never underestimate the effects of the British class system. Appearances can be deceiving.

Particularly in this post-Brexit phase, with Britain not wanting to guarantee workers’ rights in the UK (one of the stumbling blocks in the negotiations with the EU), the view that workers in the UK are well protected (and that the UK welfare system looks after workers well) may need some adjustment. Workers’ protections in the UK require vigilance. Or should I call it alertness?

In the UK, almost nothing is ever what it looks like at first glance.

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