Tag Archives: Iraq

Covid Deaths in Context

I have very personal reasons for wanting the pandemic restrictions precautions to remain in place, but I realise that most young, healthy people have no such concerns. They know they’re immortal so the death toll from Covid is simply a number…right?

Wrong. The numbers shown on the graph below are for the US only, and while the great majority of Covid deaths occur in the 50+ age brackets, there are some eye-wateringly large numbers in the younger age groups as well:

The numbers shown in the graph above are already out of date but they provide a useful snapshot of who’s been dying in the US. As a mother, I can’t look at 795 children dying of Covid without getting a lump in my throat. Covid is an awful way to die.

And what about the young adult age group? 5,581 deaths doesn’t seem like a lot in a population of 360+ million people, but what if we compare those deaths to military personnel lost by the US in the last 100 odd years?

Afghanistan

‘Only’ 1,928 young lives lost during the 20 years the US military spent in Afghanistan:

Covid 5,581 vs Afghan War 1,928.

I’m not going to bother working out the yearly average. These numbers speak for themselves.

Iraq

Click on the pic below to see the full sized version. There you will see that ‘only’ 4,431 young people died in the Iraq offensive.

Covid 5,581 vs Iraq War 4,431.

Vietnam

Going further back in time to a period in which I was a young adult, the Vietnam war resulted in 58,220 deaths from a range of causes:

That’s a lot more than the 18 – 29 year olds [5,581] who’ve died from Covid thus far, but the Vietnam war went on for roughly ten and a half years – from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 – and the youngest soldiers to die were only 16 while the oldest was 62:

I don’t want to create shifty numbers by counting those Covid deaths under 19 or those in the 40 to 64 year old age brackets. Instead, I’ll just add the 18-29 year old group to that of the 30-39 year olds – i.e. 5581 + 16,343.

Why? Because 18 to 39 is a realistic age range for people fighting in wars, and if I’m going to compare Covid deaths to military deaths then I want it to be as accurate as possible.

So, combining those two age groups gives a total of 21,924 Covid deaths. Divide 21,924 by 2 [ie the two years of the pandemic], and you get an average of 10,962 Covid deaths per year.

If you now divide the total number of Vietnam deaths [58,220] by 10.5 [i.e. the number of years of the war], you get an average of 5544.762 deaths per year.

Covid = 10,962 deaths per year
Vietnam = 5544.8 deaths per year

Korea

Further back still, US forces suffered a total of 36,913 military deaths in Korea from 1950 to 1953:

Although the Korean War never officially ended, active fighting only lasted for three years so I’ll base my calculations on the 3 year number. If you divide the total number of deaths in Korea [36,913] by 3 [ie the number of years], you get an average of 12,304 deaths per year.

Covid = 10,962 deaths per year
Korea = 12,304 deaths per year

For the first time, we get a war that’s been more deadly than Covid, but we had to go back almost 70 years to do so.

And finally we go all the way back to World War II.

World War II

In World War II, the US lost 407,300 military lives from December 11, 1941 to September 2, 1945. That’s a period of almost 4 years. If we divide the total number of military deaths [407,300] by 4 [i.e. the number of years of the war], we get an average of 101,825 deaths per year.

Covid = 10,962 deaths per year
WWII = 101,825 deaths per year

Another war that has beaten the number of Covid deaths…or has it?

What if I add up all those military deaths and average them over the total number of years in which wars were fought?

The screenshot above is from an Excel spreadsheet I created. The Covid deaths by age group are eight days out of date but they were the only ones I could find so I inserted a more up to date figure in the final Totals row.

To me, two things almost leap off the page:

  1. there have now been almost twice as many Covid deaths in the US as all military deaths combined [since 1941],
  2. the military deaths in the US took place over a period of 45 years. The Covid deaths occurred in just two years. And the pandemic isn’t over.

If the US lost this many people in a war, the nation would be in mourning for a century. Why do these Covid deaths not inspire the same sense of horror…and respect?

A lot of people say that restrictions cannot last forever. They say that people have to be given their personal freedoms back.

I say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Personal freedoms are not a right. They cannot exist without a society to support them. The social contract says that individuals give up some things in order to receive the protection of the ‘group’.

What kind of protection? Education, healthcare, law enforcement, a justice system, public transport, roads, jobs, homes, high tech gadgets, nightclubs, parties, power, food, clean water to drink and flush indoor toilets…

Now think about what would happen if all electricity stopped being produced for two weeks. Would you survive without light, aircon, heating, food delivered to supermarkets, rubbish removed from the streets, street lighting, access to hospitals, public transport etc etc.?

Some of you would, 99.9999999% of us wouldn’t.

All the protections I’ve listed plus thousands more are our reward for contributing to society and abiding by its rules. If we don’t want to abide by those rules we are free to find a desert island and live like savages.

If we can’t survive on our own, we have to accept that personal freedom, individual freedom can only exist within the context of a society of some sort. But that freedom must be earned.

How? Through social responsibility towards all members of society, even those you don’t personally care about.

Why? Because everyone will get old and sick eventually. If you want to be cared for when your time comes then you have to pay your dues now.

And finally a word about restrictions. Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others is not fun, but it’s miles better than dying of Covid. It’s also preferable to having your economy collapse because everyone is off work being sick.

Good hygiene is something everyone should practise all the time, not just when a pandemic hits. Not washing your hands after pointing percy at the porcelain, or wiping your bum, or picking your nose is disgusting. Only creeps do that. Yuck.

Keeping your distance from others so as not to spread the virus may not be ‘fun’. In fact, it can crimp your social life if clubbing or getting pissed at the pub are your favourite things in life. But keeping your distance from others won’t kill you. It could kill me, and dying is no fun either.

More to the point, dying is permanent. No coming back from the grave. No miraculous resurrections. Dead is dead is dead. Forever.

By contrast, missing out on your social life is temporary. Equating the two is like saying that stubbing your toe is as bad as having the whole leg amputated.

With the greatest respect, grow a pair and grow the fuck up.

Meeks

p.s. most of my data came from Statista.com or Wikipedia. Information on the oldest and youngest Vietnam death is from : https://www.uswings.com/about-us-wings/vietnam-war-facts/


Refugess and the politics of shame

Back in 1956, the Western world watched and did nothing as Hungary rose up against its Communist overlords in a bloody revolution that took place on the streets of Budapest.

I was almost four at the time. I didn’t know:

  • my Dad was one of the people who fought to kick the Soviets out, or that
  • our hard won freedom would only last a couple of weeks, or that
  • the West would sit on its hands as we begged for help to keep the Soviets from coming back.

As an adult I know about the Cold War and the possibility that intervention might have started World War III, but as that child, all I knew was that suddenly we were going on a great adventure, Mum, Dad and me. On the way out of the city, we passed lots and lots and LOTS of mounds in the park. They were covered with flowers and looked very pretty.

I don’t know where the flowers came from. It was starting to be winter already, but I remember them, one of a handful of visual images I retain from that time. I also remember being on a train. The train stopped in the middle of nowhere and Dad made us jump down on the tracks and run away.

Most of the time I travelled on Dad’s shoulders. He’d been a gymnast and was very strong. When the guide took us through the minefield at the border, Dad told me that no matter what happened, I was to stay absolutely quiet. No chatter. No laughing. No crying. Nothing.

I remember desperately needing to pee, and I remember snow but I don’t remember the moment when Dad fell, with me on his shoulders. I do remember that I didn’t cry out though, and I’m still really proud of that almost 60 years later.

We made it across the border into Austria but we had nothing left. Everything of value we gave to the guide to pay for our passage. Luckily the Austrians took us in. We lived in barracks with a lot of other people and I remember making a snowman outside.

As Dad spoke fluent French and German as well as Hungarian, he made some money as an interpreter for the people in the camp, but that money paid for extra food, nice stuff that wasn’t provided by our hosts, things like eggs and tiny bars of chocolate for me.

I remember one of the few times my father smacked me was when we went to a shop to buy some chocolate. In the window were some small toys and I think I was enamoured of a tiny metal frypan or pot. When my parents refused to buy it for me, I chucked a tantie [tantrum]. That’s a memory of shame.

Most of those very early memories are good ones though. I remember flying on a real plane and loving all the fresh fruit the cabin staff gave me. Oranges! Oranges were still a big deal in Europe in those days. And I remember thinking how silly my mother was because she threw up the whole time we were on the plane.

It took us about a week to fly from Austria to Australia and the Australian government paid for everything because…we were Hungarian refugees and the Western world was ashamed of not helping us.

Less that twenty years later, Australia’s involvement in another war – Vietnam – led to us accepting the first lot of boat people to arrive on our shores. These were South Vietnamese people who had been left behind when the West withdrew its forces…and its protection.

I remember that there was some grumbling amongst more conservative Australians about all the ‘boongs’ [derogatory label] arriving on our shores, but those Vietnamese boat people settled in and made us a better place. And they sure as hell added to our cuisine!

Now we are faced with another wave of boat people, and like my people and the Vietnamese people, they too owe their plight, at least in part, to our involvement in the Middle East. Prime Minister Howard decided to join the Alliance of the Brave, or whatever that bullshit name was, and Australian troops were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq.

I don’t want to get sidetracked into an argument about the rights and wrongs of our interventions overseas, but one thing is crystal clear – those interventions did not bring peace to either Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, they could have triggered a domino effect in the Middle East as the whole region destabilized.

And that destabilization had victims. The lucky ones are those that died in a split second of sound and fury. The ones left behind to pick up the pieces did what humans have done since the dawn of time…they ran. Like me and my family, they grabbed their children and ran into abject misery because what they left behind was so much worse.

The big difference between me and mine and the Middle Eastern refugees is that the West has lost its capacity for shame.

For Australia, this descent into cruelty began with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the label ‘queue jumper’. By calling the Middle Eastern boat people queue jumpers, Howard gave the latent racism of Australians a moral high horse to sit on.

I have to admit that when I first saw the footage of teeming refugee camps, I too bristled at the thought of queue jumpers taking the very limited spaces that Australia had to offer. I did not think, ‘Why aren’t we taking more of them?” I thought that fairness required a first-come-first served policy, with the most desperate getting to Australia first.

That was the power of the label ‘queue jumper’. What I didn’t realise at the time was that risking your life and the life of your child, spouse, elderly parent on a leaky boat is the ultimate sign of desperation. I also did not realise that these so called ‘queue jumpers’ were doing exactly what my parents had done – selling everything they had to pay for hope.

The misinformation about the Tampa and the ‘Children Overboard’ affair did not help.

Was that a deliberate decision on the part of John Howard’s government? Or simply an unfortunate mistake?

All I know is that even after the truth came out, the taint did not go away. In many peoples’ eyes, the boat people were no longer just queue jumpers, they were heartless, soulless, cunning bastards capable of sacrificing their own children to get what they wanted. How could any right thinking Australian let such people into our country?

In time though, the footage of cold-hearted queue jumpers drowning off Christmas Island threw a spanner in the works and the government was forced to change the narrative.

Courtesy of The Age

Picture courtesy of The Age. Click the photo to be taken to the original article.

Suddenly, our policy of exclusion was not about the queue jumpers any more, it was about the ‘people smugglers’. They had to be stopped, and if that meant being cruel to the surviving boat people well, so be it. As all parents knew, sometimes you had to be cruel to be kind. After all, we were trying to save their lives and wipe out a terrible, immoral scourge, weren’t we?

And so Australian politicians from both sides decided to enforce off-shore processing. If the boat people realised they would never get to Australia they would stop trying to come, wouldn’t they?

The answer to that naive question is no. The truly desperate don’t function on political logic. They are driven by fear on the one hand, and a naive, rose-tinted hope on the other. The truth is, the boats have not stopped coming, they have merely been diverted or sent back to come again another day.

When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott boasted about ‘stopping the boats’, he was telling only half the story. The other half, the desperate, grimy half was, and is, being hidden from us behind a policy of silence.

By pursuing their off-shore detention policy, the government has ensured that it can keep all of us in the dark. What we don’t know won’t prick our delicate consciences. It won’t make us demand a better way. And it won’t make us realise that the queue jumpers are just like us. That, more than anything else, is the prime objective of the media ban. By keeping the detainees invisible, the government makes them ‘other’ and humans have been scared of the ‘other’ since we lived in caves and had to fight each other for limited resources.

How unsurprising then, that…people… like Pauline Hanson feel free to spew their message of hate and fear? Who is going to call them on it when the truth is hidden?

I don’t know what the answer is, but after reading this article on Medium today, I know that current policy has to change. Not to save the refugees but to save ourselves. We like to think we live in the Lucky Country, and we like to think our culture is based on the ‘fair go’, but how will we see ourselves once history finally opens our eyes?

The truth can hurt but lies kill.

Meeks

 


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