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Newsletter 399

Published July 19, 2021
Gladys demonstrates the correct wearing of mask in the presence of toxic rhetoric

This has been one of those weeks I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m writing this delayed newsletter from the country, where I’ve had to return on grave and unhappy family matters. I won’t go into details but as you can imagine, travelling anywhere at present is an ordeal. Until now I’ve avoided any requirement for a COVID-19 test but when venturing out of Sydney it’s a necessity. It leaves me wondering if those who have endured multiple COVID swabs have any skin left at the back of their nostrils.

The current Sydney lockdown looks like it’s going to stretch on towards the far horizon. It’s yet another taste of hubris for Gladys’s gang who have spent months congratulating themselves on their brilliant handling of the pandemic. Faced with a new outbreak they managed to stuff things up immediately by trying for a soft, partial lockdown rather than going in hard with a short, sharp burst. Meanwhile the Delta strain has continued to spread merrily, engulfing one community after another.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Australia’s much-vaunted success at containing the virus has been a fantasy. There’s no way COVID-19 can be eliminated, it can only have its claws pulled by a committed vaccination program – and this is where Scummo has employed his familiar leadership skills. You know it’s a disaster when there’s an ‘exclusive’ on the front page of The Australian celebrating the PM as the nation’s saviour.

Scummo’s opening of “the Pfizer floodgates”, as the Oz put it, seems to consist of telling a pack of demonstrable lies about how he has tripled the supply of the vaccine, when the amount has not changed at all. On 16 July The Guardianpublished a table of OCED countries showing the percentage of their populations that have been fully vaccinated. Iceland was at the top with 73.89%. At no. 38, the very bottom of the table, one finds Australia with 10.11%. It’s hard to spin such a statistic and make it look like a triumph, but all-in-a-day’s-work for the Murdoch press.

Let’s simplify matters: The vaccine roll-out has been comprehensively mismanaged. When decisive early action was required we got hesitation, penny-pinching, plans that were never implemented, and a public relations offensive. By the time the rest of the world is opening up we’ll still be cowering behind the wall of smugness and delusion built by the Federal government.

The assumption that illusion is as good as action has real-world consequences in terms of COVID casualties and economic ruin. It’s the same old tune every time, and it always ends on the same sour note.

In the absence of visitable exhibitions this week in Sydney, I’ve written a piece about Artemisia Gentileschi, using a new book by Mary D. Garrard as a point of departure. Now established as one of the great feminist icons, Artemisia is the artist who challenged the Old Masters of the Renaissance and Baroque. Garrard examines the artist’s relationship with her times and with a range of female authors who celebrated women’s achievements in an age of flamboyant misogyny.

As the movies are equally inaccessible I’ve returned to Netflix, reviewing the six-part series, How to Be a Tyrant, which takes us through the tricks of the despot’s trade, with special emphasis on Hitler, Saddam, Idi Amin, Stalin, Gaddafi, and the Kims of North Korea. Although the subject matter may be bleak the tone of these programs is relentlessly jovial. Viewers with no taste for gallows humour need not apply, even allowing that there’s nothing especially funny about living under the thumb of a ruthless dictator. How fortunate we are in Australia to be oppressed only by the whims of great galoots.