Sunday, April 19 – Worst Apocalypse Ever
By Bruce Deliverants DIEHARD, AUSTRALIA
Well, this is awkward.
When Jorah asked me to be part of this group’s global lockdown diary, Australia was days away from lockdown. In essence, we didn’t actually know life was about to change for humanity in such a way.
I mean, Jorah did, and I guess this is why he’s been so pro-active in passing on personal experience of the age of the pandemic. The age of social distancing, the age of lockdown, and (silver lining) the period of epic-level awareness of the importance of hygiene both personally and… in society as a whole, I guess.
Lockdown has been a mixed bag in Australia – we’re an island nation and – outside of the four “real” cities* – people are, for the most part, fairly spread out.
This, even before lockdown, led to a schism across society. Australian culture is… fairly fcked up at the best of times. We mostly have Rupert Murdoch and his media empire to thank for this. I suspect in recent years a couple of kiwi marketing jerks* known as Topham Guerin – armed with dank memes and a massive army of bots funded by… actually- let’s not go there. I, for one, am not going to talk politics until Sars-Cov-2 fields a candidate in an election. Then? It’s on.
So look – this thing is literally a couple weeks late. I did have the perfect fresh tale ready to roll, of a town three days into official lockdown lite. Sigh. This deserves mention, but I’ll add this as a footnote, not a side-chain-rant.
(Editors note: We at IW really enjoy a good side-chain)
I live on a small community, currently even smaller than normal, because up until November of 2019, we had 80 households sharing 1000 hectares of bushland, bordered on the north with a river, usually lush, but sadly for the first time, it was completely dry all of last year. It’s been a hell of a time lately.
As readers may have heard, the continent of Australia, specifically it’s Eastern Coastal regions, was swept by massive bushfires all of last Southern Hemispheric Summer. This came on top of the worst drought and drying of groundwater in living memory. The fires and following floods, coupled with our only means of vehicle access, a concrete bridge, burning in the second hour of our November 8, 2019, firestorm.
So here we are, mid-march 2020. Lockdown comes to Australia around 10 days after we finally get a temporary access bridge installed. That’s right. Funnily enough, myself and a few remaining locals, less than 20 of the usual 100 or so residents still have homes. The rest are in rental or emergency accommodation across the region or in other states. We literally still have the ruins fresh from the fires due to natural disasters on top of natural disaster with no break since that fateful day of hell last November.
So – Jorah, Citizens of Wuhan, Chongqing, all of China – trust me – while I lost only two close friends at the time, as far as uncertainty and limbo and isolation, social distancing, sheltering in place goes, we’ve been at it since last November.
I feel your pain. And the rest of the world, if you’re having a bad time coping with being stuck at home for the last 3 or so weeks? Know that my “family bubble” is on day 158 or so, with just 5 short supply runs during that time – shopping only, little to no social contact, and high level of supply chain interruption for anything not able to fit in a small rowboat and towed across the river.
So, my story might suffer a little from just…not really being that exciting as far as the actual pandemic. This in itself has put Australia in a tricky position – we’ve had outbreaks in major cities of course – and yes, regional towns all around the town of Glen Innes (60km from our remote mountain home, population roughly 3000 people, fairly quiet at the best of times) do have confirmed ICU cases with COVID-19 – but, thus far, no confirmed cases (or even testing done) in our small town.
(Editor’s note: I hope you’re right, but you can’t find what you don’t test for!)
Two residents of our community did get tested – one after being in contact with a later confirmed case (he tested negative) and an elderly fellow who showed symptoms, but fortunately, he also tested negative.
Finally, this brings me to my extremely late entry.
Just over 2 weeks ago, and 2 days into our state of New South Wales (NSW) entering “Stage 3 lockdown”, I took a trip into town because we literally did need supplies. Toilet paper fever had begun a week before this, but I was already fairly prepared and expecting lockdown, thanks to both knowing Jorah’s insider perspective, and, due to following the outbreak graphs globally as the Diamond Princess carried COVID into the United States, Europe, and as close as 25km or so from our town, and the two cases there were on a cruise ship.
Being somewhat capable of understanding the concept of exponential growth, R-ratings for infection vectors at layman level, and I guess just doing basic math, I had gone full prepper from early February. The top of the line, military-grade CMNR hazmat PPE I ordered wayyy back in Feb still hasn’t arrived, and may never arrive, due to bans on export on masks from Europe, and new laws in the US commandeering 25% of the output from relevant PP manufacturers for U.S. First Responders. I understand this and take no issue as I am in a fairly safe place right now. However, I am also disappointed as this was my flagship of personal protection, and my backups are really just spray- painter N95, half face, and the filters haven’t actually arrived from 3M, either. Surgical masks and hand-sewn it is, I guess. At least I stocked up on a hundred or so pairs of gloves, and a fuckton of meds, painkillers, immune boosters, and we have fairly large and decent gardens and neighbors we can trade with. We won’t starve, we’re used to this, so far it’s not even the worst thing to happen to our community this summer.
So, here we are – or were, a few weeks back – with an immune-compromised wife, being a 51-year-old cigarette smoker (I am pretty damn fit for my age though – mountain life). I had already adopted hygiene, disinfection, and distancing protocol a few weeks before lockdown.
It seemed a good idea to practice, and also to spread awareness in my own community – hippies are notoriously unhygienic, and… fond of hugging everyone they meet, all the time. They also (not sure your publisher will include this confession) have a bad habit of sharing “bongs” – I’ll add at this point, I’m from New Zealand – we’re not a nation who use “bongs,” and I’ve always thought they were disgusting germ and virus factories, so… the last time I so much as touched one was around 1995.
I had 4 shops I needed to visit, and the dreaded Woolies Supermarket to wrap up.
Town itself was pretty much empty. People in Glen did follow lockdown laws, non-essential stores were closed, workers at home, or (sigh) lining up at the Unemployment Benefits desk at “Centrelink.” This is what Australia calls it’s Government Citizen Welfare arm.
It was actually a day that left me with a sense of dread afterward.
While most stayed home, and most young people did the right thing and avoided shopping – the elders who were at most risk, completely ignored everything.
I had already decided small town Aussies would be slow on the uptake, to be fair, our threat level is far less than major cities – but – Sars-Cov-2 seems to be fairly contagious, and the mayor of our town had been advised by health Authorities that we should expect confirmed cases in the next 2 weeks at most.
Since we have only TWO ventilators in our town, and I believe that’s pretty much also our only 2 intensive care beds as it is – I wasn’t going to take the risk of my wife becoming infected due to my slip-ups.
My car was carefully disinfected, I wore new gloves every time I got out of my vehicle, used a new mask each time, sanitized, segregated items for later treatment, etc.
In the entire day, I saw only one other person so much as wearing a mask – no gloves.
No hand sanitizer. Most shops taking cash, and when I questioned one business (not going to shame anyone, this is a small town) about potential transmission on plastic banknotes, I was told that they would disinfect all money at the end of the day.
I noted, she didn’t actually wash her hands after handling the cash I passed her way.
I have since suggested to every business I shop at, that our small community store simply placed a bowl of disinfectant on the counter – all-cash purchases are dropped directly into the bowl of diluted bleach.
Shopkeeper retrieves notes, pats dry, store cash stays clean.
Distancing markers had been placed in a few stores – mostly packed with elderly citizens who stared at me like I was a lunatic.
By the time I got to the Supermarket, ridicule had become open.
Laughter, scoffs, one person loudly coughed while standing beside me, and… while I feel this person was simply an arsehole, that did head trip me later on – the what if – asymptotic transmission, etc. etc. etc.
So Jorah, for the rest of the world, perhaps you deserved that blog post, fresh, and carrying the sense of urgency the world at large still needs.
A couple of weeks later, I’ve made another trip to town. Still, not many masks, very few gloves, but, the feeling now is that stage four lockdown could still happen, most stores will close due to the economy crash if the virus doesn’t get us first, and… infected are fairly much all around us – though, very few cases thus far.
Australia, and particularly our state, have an incredibly zealous police force since the last election handed them a blank cheque and zero oversight into anything whatsoever. In the last 2 weeks, our state has just cleared its first million dollars in fines for being outside your home without an essential reason. Fines start at 1600 dollars for going to a park or beach, up to $11,000, and prison terms if you’re subject to a quarantine order or make trouble for the cop who just fined you $1600 for getting a driving lesson from your dad.
I totally understand the reasons why lockdown right now is essential. Aussies, in general, are either fully for it, or fall into the “I watch youtube for science, will never trust authority figures of any kind, and I see sinister motives behind everything whatsoever” camp – so to them, this virus is alternatively weaker than influenza, a complete hoax to trick everyone into accepting martial law and forced vaccination and tracking. Identical to China, our federal police force purchased this system in 2018, it’s live and rolling out but no official launch as such, or, I just can’t go there but let’s just say racism is rife within this country and has been for a while.
Police and defense force personnel doing checkpoints aren’t really helping this perception much, I’m afraid – almost none of them wear PPE, they don’t follow even minor distancing protocols, and have taken their vague and completely discretionary powers to the extreme at every opportunity: leaning in car windows, searching pretty much any car they stop, this means, almost every car trying to cross the border is searched by ungloved, unmasked police who spend 10-30 minutes tearing apart up what I imagine would be dozens to hundreds of vehicles at every border crossing each day. I consider the police to be on par with healthcare workers and employees at any chemist outlet, as far as likely infection vectors.
I’m sure many will get better with time, but right now, the example they set isn’t helping calm the tinfoil crowd; the opposite seems to be the case, if anything.
I don’t have anything to add for now. In summary, our local town has no serious confirmed cases yet, but most accept that it’s only a matter of time.
Australia, in general, gets a mixed score: people who formerly hated our government due to their handling of the bushfires, now think they’re doing a good job.
The slowing in infection, relative to some other countries, is both a positive and means distancing does help, but, this also causes more division and distrust of the government, which has, to be fair, literally shut down all dissent, points of government contact, actual government and parliament are suspended until May. They have also appointed a temporary “COVID Response Authority,” which is exclusively made up of executives from the mining, logging, and resources industries, who have been granted free and unrestricted rights to do anything they want.
Right now, fracking, logging, and new mine approvals are instant, and a ton of other deals and laws have been passed instantly with no government debate or oversight, no protest or even complaint from ordinary citizens is possible, and while COVID is, of course, a global existential threat, it saddens me to see so much tinfoil prophecy become self-fulfilling due to opportunistic greed at the top.
So here we are, finally, at the end of this first snapshot from this weirdo on a hippie commune far from anywhere important in the world.
All quiet on the Eastern Front, for now.
The greatest single impact in our family bubble has been my immune-compromised wife being refused treatment by our dentist, she is now 11 days into toothache hell. One molar needs a root canal, one developed an infection, so it’s too risky to even pull one or both of them, due to legal restrictions on the use of high-speed drills, and her medical status, she has to simply try to live with constant pain indefinitely. No dentist will see her until the pandemic status is lifted. This could be 18 months or so, or however long it takes to develop and produce a vaccine. Ouch.
Next post, I can double down on our hilarious and incredible array of conspiracy theories sweeping Australia right now on social media. We have so, so many.
Most certainly the wider region of Northern New South Wales, and Melbourne, are the epicenters of Antivaxer, Anti-5g, Anti New World Order, Agenda 21, High-Speed Rail being the reason for the fires – which were almost certainly caused by HAARP or sparkler dust or chemtrails or orbital directed energy weapons) so you can imagine how many people have become experts on Pandemics thanks to hours of study at “You(tube)-niversity.”
Meanwhile? It’s almost 1 a.m. I hope you enjoyed this perspective on life during a pandemic from…. well…. this weirdo who basically lives in a national park, nothing happens simply by turning a tap of switching a switch – so day to day life all depends on doing stuff, or it doesn’t.
Right now, I just feel like I’m lurking as far as the main event goes. I am prepped for the worst but also feel like, if anything, my family is actually pretty blessed right now.
Lockdown for me, within our little valley, our property, and even my actual house site gives me around a 1km x 1km front lawn and riverfront walks with a near-zero chance of even meeting another resident most days, let alone outsiders. We have gardens, we’re used to supplying runs to small locals towns at monthly intervals or every two weeks tops – we’re still practicing full protocols, but… relatively? Right now, as far as most of humanity goes, I would guess I’m in the 1% least locked down humans in lockdown.
Sure, I’m in a cage, like you all – but it’s a cage only slightly smaller than before it was a cage, so my life hasn’t changed in ways that, for example, my 20-month-old son has noticed – and this is mostly because half of his life has been desertification followed by apocalyptic fire, then floods meaning we pretty much have taken him out of our home bubble maybe a half dozen times in his life.
He’s still free to walk and play and roam with us within walking distance, of course. We take this seriously, by the way. We don’t allow any visitors, we don’t visit anyone, we follow decontamination protocols if we go anywhere outside our home site. It’s just that our version is made far simpler than for most because most of our community are gone, there are no hard surfaces to speak of which aren’t natural, no one goes to them but us, so we have near-zero chance of infection in our safe zone.
Stay safe out there in the hot zones, fellow humans!
Bruce from Diehard, over and out for now
(footer notes from way up the top of this rant, feel free to edit them into oblivion if it brings my word count in line. I pity the editor)
*(Citizens of literally anywhere may argue Brisbane isn’t an actual city, it’s simply a quite large country town with the odd patch of tall buildings).
** I would like to call them far worse names and consider it a loss to my own honor and that of my homeland, to know that these two… * are born and raised in my hometown of Wellington, NZ, and I can fairly much make a decent case that these two idiots were responsible for the entire east coast of Australia being roasted last summer – including 66% of my mountain community, and two very dear friends who perished in the firestorm of November 8.
***I’ll add this later – it’s messed up, though, varies by state. It seems to have flattened the curve quite well, aided in the regions by literal massive distance and extremely low population density compared to the rest of the Planet, and… dumb luck.