Current Controversies

By Joanna Santa Barbara and Andre Kamenshikov | 2021-07-01 00:00:00

Should we go all out to avoid climate change doom?

By Joanna Santa Barbara, in New Zealand

No. We will go far beyond a two-degree temperature increase. There is simply no political appetite for the changes that would avoid this. The best-case scenario is to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The IPCC gives this only a 50-66% chance. Seriously! And no country is even approaching the level of action it would take.

Rationally, we must just accept that we’ll go beyond two-degrees and pursue as much self-sufficiency as possible individually.

Yes. The probability of turning the situation around looks low. But while there is any chance whatsoever, we should push with all our might. Even a tenth of a degree less may make a difference. How else can you look your grandkids in the eye?

The Vaccine Controversy in Russia

By Andre Kamenshikov, in Moscow

People around the world stand in queues to get their vaccine shots, but the picture in Russia is the opposite. Today hundreds of vaccination stations are open in Moscow, yet the number of people getting their vaccine shot has recently dropped under 10,000 a day. This is nothing for a city of 15 million.

In other regions the trend is in the same direction. After about 10 to 15 percent of the population get vaccinated, the rate drops; actual vaccinations are lagging behind about half of all countries.

The Moscow government will pay senior citizens about 1000 roubles (approx. $14) to complete a vaccination course. Posters urge people to get their shot, and the government is discussing plans for mandatory vaccinations for some professions.

Why? First, the government’s approach was inconsistent, initially downplaying the risk of the new disease. Leading “experts”, who were defacto pro-government propagandists, called the virus a “wonderful miracle” that does not affect children and is no more serious than a common cold.

However, the government soon adopted quarantine measures, though when the president first announced it, he did not use that word, but spoke about an “extended vacation period.” Measures to support the population and businesses were more limited than in other countries.

Official policies kept changing to fit government priorities. When they held the public vote to change the country’s constitution and let Putin remain in power until 2036, the health statistics “miraculously improved.”

Officially there have been 125,000 COVID-related deaths but the excess mortality over the same period is about five times higher. This discrepancy varies from region to region. The central government gave responsibility for dealing with the pandemic to the regional governments, many of which just manipulated statistics.

There is growing evidence that Russia’s first vaccine, “Sputnik-V” is actually quite effective, but the second one has been publicized as better, with no side-effects. In fact, recent investigations show it not only has no side-effects, but zero protective effects against the disease, actually increasing the risk of COVID infection by providing people with a false sense of security. Yet over five million doses of it are offered around the country. Coincidentally, Ms. Anna Popova, the head of the institution specifically responsible for monitoring the quality of consumer goods, happens to be listed as one of the inventors of this new “medicine.”

However, the recent decline of vaccination rates cannot be explained only by a rational reaction to the inconsistent policies of the government. If that would be the case, vaccination rates would grow as evidence mounts in favour of the first Russian vaccine “Sputnik-V”. In fact, we see the opposite.

This vaccine hesitancy reflects the existence of “two realities”. People go along with the official position on most important matters. This conformism is not just a superficial cover-up; most people prefer to believe what the government tells them, to avoid difficult moral dilemmas. Yet the picture changes as soon as people confront consequential personal choices.

When asked to explain, they usually give an irrational answer. “We know someone whose friend died after getting vaccinated”, “There are rumors of microchips being implanted into a person during the vaccination.”

Their actual motive is this: “If the government encourages you to take action, but actually leaves you with a choice don’t do it and keep out of harm’s way.” This is a sort of a “basic instinct”, a historical legacy of a society that was never able to free itself from centuries of authoritarian rule, and such an instinct often directs people’s behaviour far more than rational argumentation.

Such apparent irrationality gives the authorities a perfect rationale for further authoritarian action: “Our society is simply unprepared for democracy.” I predict that this type of argument will soon be heard on Russia’s official media.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2021

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2021, page 31. Some rights reserved.

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