TUMBY BAY - It seems like there is nothing like a widespread and deadly pandemic to expose the hidden underbelly of society. In terms of revelatory power it even outdoes warfare.
While war seems to starkly illustrate the worst and the best in humanity, a pandemic is much more subtle in its nuances.
In war identifying an enemy is real and concrete; but in a pandemic the enemy is largely unseen, moves with remarkable stealth and strikes seemingly out of nowhere.
As such, the pandemic lends itself to many interpretations, including blame and intent. This in turn leads to a multiplicity of responses.
At one end of the spectrum are those people deeply offended by the ability of the pandemic to interfere with their unrelenting efforts to create wealth, mainly for themselves.
The response of these people is to pretend to ignore the impact of the pandemic and insist that the corporation, the country, the economy must continue to prosper no matter how many people die.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who value life above all else and insist that the survival of as many people as possible transcends any other consideration, including the economy.
Between those two extremes are the vast majority of people, including those whose health and livelihoods are both at risk.
As the bones of these differences are laid bare it is possible to observe exactly what makes them tick and where their motives lie.
In Australia, for instance, the economy first extremity is firmly entrenched in the federal government while a position nearer the second – let’s save lives - extremity lives among many of the state governments.
This difference makes it plain that the position of the federal government is largely informed by pressure from the corporate sector.
This is no surprise given that the current federal government is conservative in nature and counts big corporations as its leading supporters and donors. That’s where the cronies are too.
While the government recognises its obligation to protect society it nevertheless cannot help constantly looking over its shoulder at the corporate interests prodding it in the back.
Those corporate big shots, whose health is protected by wealth, have always believed that any economic sacrifice in times of stress (or human sacrifice in times of war) should rest firmly on the shoulders of the poor and working classes.
In wartime, the working class was the greatest contributor to what is crudely called ‘cannon fodder’.
So such thinking is what informs the response of the corporate sector to the pandemic. If anyone has to suffer to maintain their wealth and status it must be anyone but them. This is, unfortunately, the way capitalism works.
By contrasting the approaches of Australia’s federal and state governments to the pandemic the ethical schism is plain to see.
Similar scenarios are currently playing out in many, if not most, other countries in the world.
It is unclear whether there will be a reckoning if and when the pandemic ends.
As some progressives call for a re-examination of how societies work they are countered by strident calls for a return to what is considered normality, that is, business as usual.
This is nowhere more evident than in the final days in the lead-up to the elections in the USA.
Democrat Joe Biden, in particular, has been forced to adopt a rhetoric that is a lot more progressive than he might otherwise desire.
What might have been another boring electoral contest between two similar candidates with commonly held views has been turned into something much more significant by the pandemic.
Whichever side wins, its beliefs and actions will reverberate through the lives of everyone in the world - whether in Australia, Papua New Guinea or on a small atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
The pandemic, among all its other manifestations, has delivered the world a possible turning point that cannot be ignored.
Especially if, because of Trump’s indolence in dealing with it, the virus generates a big win for his opponent.