Last year in these pages I gave readers a taste of an eerily empty London my wife and I encountered on our travels. I also recounted the heavy-handed (I would go so far as to say ‘despotic’) treatment we got on coming back into Australia and its hotel quarantine, not least the sorry behaviour of some police officers. (And no, I am not the usual police-distrusting law professor. Until this pandemic I was easily the most pro-police law professor in Australia, possibly in the entire Anglosphere, having grown up in a middle-class Toronto home where the police were trusted and the jobs they did highly valued. When you lose me, fraternity of police officers, you’ve got big problems because if you think the likes of the woke, PC, inner-city types who’ve supported this incredibly heavy-handed policing during the pandemic will continue to be there for you down the road as other issues arise, well, you’re dreamin’.)
Anyway, despite more than a few Australians seeming to think that travelling overseas requires the sort of bravery displayed by Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain, my wife and I again hopped on a plane just before Christmas and headed abroad. (Spoiler alert: those pilots had a life-expectancy of two weeks while a healthy, thin Australian (Brit, American, Canadian) under 75 years of age during this pandemic has a life expectancy exactly what it was before the pandemic.) This year was as other-worldly as last year. For a start, this time we needed all sorts of tests we didn’t need last year. Our first stop was Toronto, travelling through Los Angeles. And the Joe Biden regime, the one that in 2021 has overseen more Covid deaths (with its heavy-handed mandates, lockdown recommendations, masking, etc.) than there were under Trump in 2020 (who delivered the vaccine and who faced more virulent variants) made us get a PCR negative test under 48 hours from landing in LA. Only one place in Brisbane could do that. We lined up and waited.
Still, we were both excited to be going back to Canada to see parents and family we hadn’t seen in two and a half years. I don’t think I realised just how much the fear porn press had scared people senseless (and boy do they have a lot to answer for down the road). On our United Airlines flight to LA – and I promise you I am not making this up – the rules were so idiotic and senseless that the stewardesses were yelling at us and others to put on our masks between bites of food. Yep, you were to take down the mask and then take a bite or swallow and immediately put it back up. Given that the viruses are millions or billions of times smaller than the gaps in cloth masks surely even some public health type supremo wouldn’t be as dumb as to order that. Or so I thought to myself. Still, seeing the conviction with which these stewardesses were enforcing these rules I got to talking with the one in our area. I asked her how things were going for those in the aviation industry. She was based in LA, and she told me that the whole pandemic would be over by now if only everyone would get vaccinated. My wife having elbowed me in the solar plexus, I refrained from pointing out that the US states with hard vaccine mandates and the strictest masking rules had more cases per capita than the laissez-faire ones; or that despite the vaccine mandates in Europe, there were more cases this Christmas (with the vaccine etc.) than last year when we travelled. You see this was a woman so unsceptical of what the ABC-type media were disseminating that at one point she told me she thought the unvaccinated were trying to kill themselves. They were sacrificing themselves. I don’t go too far out on a limb here in saying this flight attendant was not completely up on the latest excess death data in the developed world. Covid deaths at their peak never came close to cancer or heart disease deaths. For the healthy and thin under 30 (unvaccinated) you had the same chances of being killed by lightning and far more in a car accident. Heck, at one point this woman told me the US was doing worse than anywhere else on the Covid front. I took my marriage in my hands and gently told her that was wrong. All sorts of European countries were doing worse. She was unmoved. And as our seats were assigned, so were we.
That brings me to Canada and entering the country. ‘Oh, my Lord, what a fiasco!’ We had all our documented negative tests and vaccination proof on hand. But even with those (and what, precisely, is the point of being vaccinated?) and after some 23 hours of travelling, we had to get into an interminable line for another Covid PCR test at the Toronto airport. It took forever. We were then allowed to leave (again, what’s the point?) to go to our house. We were supposed to isolate until the results came in. In the meantime, the government put us in the wrong group – 14-day quarantine not 2-day isolation – and when I phoned, the woman said this was happening all the time and we should just ignore all the emails coming in telling us to go for this or that test. It was a complete s***-show. Meanwhile, Canadians are so insanely worried about Covid that it was a relief to be with immediate family and with our kids over from London. They promised us sanity once we got to the UK.
Let me put it this way. I’ve spent a career critiquing top judges and the lawyerly caste from which they emerge. It is now woke, not much committed to democratic decision-making, and its median views are politically far to the left of those of the median voter. But all that said this pandemic has made it clear that the doctorly caste (so not everyone, but in general terms) is worse. And worse again is the journalistic caste – as a whole, uninquisitive, lazy, and too politically aligned or stupid to challenge despotic and incoherent government rules – leave aside how these pandemic responses have been imposed at the expense of the young, the poor and those in the private sector, while massively benefitting the already super rich, the old and those in the public service.
Still, a week into the New Year, we flew into Britain. No tests needed to get in (though you do have to show you’ve been vaccinated to avoid isolation). The customs guy spent two seconds waving us in. No lockdowns at all. And at least half of the people aren’t wearing masks anywhere. They might know that no randomised control study has yet shown they do much of anything – only politicised observational studies of no worth. Or these Brits just have the rebellious spirit Australians claimed to have. But don’t.
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