Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail – COVID-19’s Expose on Infrastructure.

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I like to think there are two types of infrastructures when it comes to issues like COVID-19: Individual Mental Preparedness (IMP) and Government Long Term Planning (GLP).

Out of the two, IMP is the one that slips by the most. In fact, I would say, that it is the one that most people never consider themselves.

When you live in abundance, it is easy to assume that your lifestyle is the norm, that you can take it for granted.

The idea that you should invest in some kind of “bug-out” bag (more on that in another ramble) and have stocks of tinned food is largely laughed at here in Australia.

The issue is not so much hoarding supplies, but more the mental preparedness everyone should have.

For an Australian, perhaps the most American part of me, is the rigid belief that everyone should be a responsible individual, fully aware of their rights and abilities and act accordingly.

This means taking the right steps to ensure that you are a self-reliant individual, that you have done the work to prepare yourself for disaster and you don’t rely on outside help too much. It means understanding your role in society, how you can help others with your knowledge, building a network of support within your circle and coming together when it counts.

It also means that you understand that fundamentally, the government’s role is not to directly support you, but the greater whole, and that it is your responsibility to take care of yourself in drastic situations and those around you.

This does not equate to hoarding supplies for yourself, especially in time of strife. If large purchases were meant to be shared amongst your support network, then this is more acceptable, but such a network should have already been prepared long before the crisis hit.

I think a large portion of the population lack a good amount of IMP. There is a bizarre habit of relying on the government to spoon feed us everything and miro-manage us. However when they do go to spoon-feed us, we revolt and claim that they are oppressive.

I like to believe that when a strong individual has good mental preparedness, there is a keen appreciation for what you already have and the means in which you can prepare yourself. This preparation allows you to have strong mental acuity throughout the crisis, and lessens poor behaviour like hoarding.

Blaming the government for all the problems you have, expecting them to bail you out and rounding on strangers for breaking curfew, are all signs of people who lack good mental preparedness for extraordinary situations.

This is why, in the Facsimile post, I lamented the death of curiosity. If curiosity was a greater element in today’s society, more people who be aware of the dangers that are present out there and be more proactive in learning skills for themselves.

Whether it would be being aware in the back of your mind that the world is due a pandemic, or perhaps even you learning about the great woodsmen who hid out in the forests, living off the land and inspiring you to emulate them, a greater sense of curiosity allows you to develop awareness of issues and create a drive to be prepared for them the best you can.

For those who say what if the danger never comes? Wouldn’t all your efforts be wasted?

To that, I say, if you learnt skills throughout your journey of preparedness, how can that be a waste?

If you were a “prepper” and learnt good outdoor skills like tracking, identifying edible fruits and nuts and had a great time doing so, is that a misuse of your time?

If you made good friends and received help from them during the times when you struggled, is that really an issue?

Becoming a self-reliant and resilient individual, who take personal responsibility of their own well-being, should be the norm for people everywhere. Just because we live in a time of stability, does not means that we should abandon our learning for new skills and abilities.

Having such a strong mental infrastructure to support yourself and those around you, allow you to better prepare for devastating problems and allow you to bounce back quicker.

In today’s society, we are so relaxed, so lazy and so utterly non-curious about life and the skills we need that we have lost sight of what it actually means to be “busy” and actively improving ourselves. We think, that because our society is so great, we can rest easy on our laurels and plateau for the of our lives.

How tragic is that, to know that you can trick yourself into believing you are 100% fine the way you are.

There is a philosophy to Formula 1 that I adore and adopted for myself. At the pinnacle of motorsport, there is a desire to constantly evolve.

Much like how a second is an eternity on track, the same is off-track. The car at the beginning of a season in Australia, is entirely different to the car at Abu Dhabi for the finale. It has evolved, changed, become grippier, faster, and undergone subtle changes.

The colours and overall shape is the same, but it is now several seconds faster than the car it was at the beginning of the year.

Formula 1 cars, are constantly in a “beta phase” of continuous improvement. The progress they make never fails to astonish me. Mercedes-AMG Petronas has literally decimated the sport with their technological advances. Hate them (and I do) or love them, one has to respect their abilities to truly innovate a box on wheels.

We should all adopt such similar attitudes to ourselves. How many skills can you learn? What can you learn? What should you explore?

Should we not be constantly innovating? This only makes our past selves more interesting, because we can see actual progress when it comes to our own individual evolution and makes us grateful for what we have right now.

Gratitude for the now and a sense of purpose regarding personal improvement will easily help and empower a lot of people regain something of what we’ve lost collectively and better prepare ourselves for catastrophes.

Speaking of disasters, before COVID-19 struck, Australia had a particularly bad start to 2020, with bushfires ravaging the entirety of the Eastern Coast.

The conflagration that befell us was nothing short of biblical with its intensity, speed and longevity is defeating almost all of our conventional fire tactics.

To understand just how terrible this year’s bushfire was, there are just three salient points to note:

  1. The fire was so intense, the smoke created a breathing hazard in metropolitian areas and turned the skies a hellish brownish red. I could physically taste the smoke where I lived, something I never thought I would ever experience. I researched face-masks before COVID-19, wondering if I needed them, after the smoke proved that bad.
  2. We have the largest, most professional bushfire volunteer corp in the world. We know fire. We backburn regularly. We do everything in our power to ensure the flames do not enter properties. We did everything right where we could, but we still lost.
  3. 18.6 million hectares were burnt, a billion animals died and many species driven to extinction and as much as 300 million tones of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere and 6 firefighters died.

It was obscene.

Much of the blame was attributed to extremely dry conditions that had developed in late 2019, and the lacklustre response by the Australian government to properly take action.

Rightly so.

Many people who live in rural areas, already tend to have excellent IMP. They are resilient, hard-working people with extensive knowledge ranging from raising cows to fixing their Holden ute’s engine. But no amount of preparation can combat one of the worst droughts ever experienced and a wall of fire that somehow lit up the areas you had just backburned.

This is where the failure of government long term planning comes into play. Climate change denial is a ridiculous policy to adopt. It is always better to err on the side of caution than to somehow think that there is nothing changing about the planet’s climate.

The government’s lack of response to the drought, the constant refusal and acknowledgement of rural Australian issues and denial to take preventative action is purely theirs for blame. They may not have started the fires, but they were the reason why it took so long to finish the fight.

It should not have taken a Black Summer to end the fires.

The focus of every government should always be the future. In an ideal world, that is their job. To help where individuals cannot. To future-proof us and set-up frameworks that benefit society as a whole.

The Black Summer of 2020 is a colossal failure of that concept. Persistent warnings from Fire Chiefs around the region, and scientific data were all ignored for a party’s policy regarding “ignorance around climate change.”

A party so far removed from the fight, that their illustrious leader tried to force handshakes with people directly affected by it.

I find myself, a relatively reasonable and cool-headed individual at most times, but every time I think about this year’s bushfires, there is this righteous anger that flares up and makes me furious.

The failure of the government’s infrastructure to everyone directly involved, in monumental and I find it despicable that such poor leadership continue to be unpunished.

Anywhere else in a workplace, such incompetence would have resulted in instant dismissal and exile.

Our Prime Minister is still here.

Being a moron.

Moving on, to COVID-19, I think, the pandemic, globally has shown just how petty a lot of our political parties are. The sheer toxicity in the political environment has slowed mankind’s progress down to a crawl.

Ideologies are exchanged without a care for proper vision and a need to guide the future, not destroy the past.

Reactionary division seems to be name of the game for contemporary politics and such stupidity will only serve to slow down our ability to react to our own issues.

Global politics has also serve as a detriment to how we handle national issues. Our leaders do not need to fix the world’s problem. They need to fix our problems first.

The over-complexity of globalism has created an impossible task for politicians. They need to present themselves for examination to the rest of the world, whilst simultaneously proving themselves to the citizens of their country.

This is impossible as well as superfluous. Your country is deemed successful by what your country does within its’ own borders. Everyone else will look on with admiration for what your country has accomplished, if it is ruled well. Foreign policy should be a lesser priority, especially considering how globalism seems to value bringing everyone down to a crappy, instead of individual progress.

For truly global players like the U.S. or China, they can play against each other, but for many countries, including my own, we need to focus less on what the U.S. or China wants and more on what we can improve here. There is this irritating need to placate the bigger powers, when really, the energy spent there, could be focused elsewhere internally.

There needs to be a culture change around manufacturing, around jobs and around how we view ourselves as a nation, if we are to properly address issues within our own borders. Self-reliance, self-sustaining and self-awareness of our limitations, our strengths and our resources are the key to tackling issues that the world throws at us.

The stronger you are internally, the better you can handle the stresses of the world.

The same principle applies to an individual, as it does for a nation.

COVID-19 displayed hundreds of flaws that have been built up around the need to focus on globalism and “anti-local” practices to make a quick buck. This is what I define as a lack of infrastructure to deal with major problems like a global pandemic.

I won’t touch on them all, but the most obvious one to me, are international students and universities.

I won’t sugar-coat it, my dyad of degrees have left me with an extreme bitterness and anger towards the education system, especially on a tertiary level.

How Australian Universities display COVID-19 Lack of Infrastructure Planning.  

There is a high atmosphere of dissatisfaction when it comes to the average Australian university student’s experience.

This isn’t coming from a decidedly bitter and frustrated individual like myself, but many on-the-ground discussions I’ve had with my friends and my limited time as a Monash University journalism student eager to expose the bullshit universities present to us.

First some facts.

In Victoria, university education is not free. HECs are a type of government loan that almost all normal students have to acquire in order to attend universities because paying those upfront fees are almost impossible for most families.

HECs are valued at approximately 10,000 AUD per year. This means that an average student will accumulate around 30,000 AUD in debts by the time they finish their undergraduate degree.

30,000 AUD. Enough to afford a decent car. But instead you receive an arbitrary piece of paper.

With well over tens of thousands of students every year applying for a degree, that is a lot of money rolling in from HECs alone.

However, in their infinite wisdom, top tiered Victorian universities decided to leverage their reputation for excellent education by opening themselves up to the international market.

So now, we get an increased flux of international students from every single country around the world, eager for the taste of juicy Australian education.

None of these students can borrow from the government. All of them have to pay upfront. This means a greater cash flow for universities and thus more money for everyone in them. Everyone should theoretically get a better education. More equipment, better facilities, fancier and better looking tutors and blah, blah, blah.

Reasonable right?

Well, no, you’d be wrong. Because the slow bastardisation from a once proud lineage of excellent education has now turned into a multi-million dollar corporation with the “Vice-Chancellor” now effectively a CEO.

If the Church of EA (a gamer reference there) has taught us anything, most corporations that get big quick, tends to engage in some pretty atrocious anti-consumer practices.

It didn’t take long for universities to do just that.

Let’s go through the long litany of sins shall we? I shall do my best to stick to a 2 sentences per sin.

First, the standard for entry got raised and dropped at the same time. Your score in VCE became more crucial than ever before to get into truly elite courses such as Biomedicine, but was also worthless when it came to other “simpler” courses like Science.

You could now get a degree by achieving the bare minimum. Personal anecdote: I got my Science degree with Passes for almost every single science subject I did. Passes are a score of 50-60. Credit were measly 60-70s, Distinction were ranged from 70-80 and a High Distinction was 80-100.

So many students have applied for universities after high school, without any proper reason to do so, other than “it’s university, you should do it, like everyone else.” This persistent intake year after year, created a situation where in the end, the shitty students like myself caused the idea of undergraduate degrees to become a formality, not an achievement.

Passing an undergraduate, became as easy as passing high school. This creates a different attitude to job-markets, where suddenly everyone has a degree and you are no longer considered special.

Universities’ facilities became worse, as more and more students crammed into inadequate laboratories, and used ancient technology. Where was all the money coming in, being spent on? There weren’t even enough study areas to fit students with their laptops.

University clubs also lacked support, with many Club Presidents having no experience, nor mentors to assist with the maintenance of club fees and be efficient with marketing during Orientation Week.

Privatisation within Universities also became a unique bureaucratic nightmare, such as my own experience in the Fencing Club, as I had to deal with a separate organisation beyond Monash University called TEAM-Monash. They represented and also didn’t represent Monash University in the same capacity, making it a nightmare to navigate the organisation structure and discuss club issues with.

Tutors and lecturers were often unhelpful and recalcitrant, many of them lacking proper education etiquette, leaving many students stranded and alone, desperate for help. Crude powerpoint lectures would lack information and answers for exams, leaving students like myself, immensely infuriated.

The teaching style was insanely lazy. Many subjects resorted to rote learning, quite potentially the dumbest, most apathetic style of teaching ever devised, and of no use in a proper workplace or in the life-skills department. You do not remember what you’ve learnt in 2 weeks of cramming for an exam versus the valuable lessons taught in a proper workplace with hands-on practical assessment.

Rote might be adequate for primary and high school, but at a tertiary level, such methodology are woefully insufficient for what is meant to be a stepping stone to a career.

Perhaps, the last and most damning sin of all, is that universities don’t give a shit about their students. The atmosphere of apathy is so strong, that it leaves many students feeling lost, aimless and depressed.

We are treated like cash cows, given a caged lifestyle of laziness, depression, loneliness and poverty.

Punctuated only by furious cramming and borderline satisfaction that you’ve survived.

Only for that sensation to be depleted by the next semester.

I’ve rarely seen any students have a good time at universities, which speak to the piss-poor infrastructure that universities have created with their management and priorities. When there is a palatable sense of despondency around campus, you know instinctively there is something wrong.

COVID-19 finally paid the huge amount of karma that these institutions have long had coming with their gross malpractice of greed and poor infrastructure. Too long have they relied on international students to keep their coffers full and continue their slide into mediocrity.

I am immensely pleased to see such “education camps” suffer, because they’ve made students and their families suffer for so long, dashed so many dreams and left so many young people broken, with their bullshit anti-consumer practices.

To see this multi-million dollar bastard that has ruined so many people’s potential, start to crumble, is easily one of my greatest pleasures out of this pandemic.

Sincerely, I hope that this is a time for them to reflect on their own failures, and how all their poor decisions has led to this moment.

Universities represent an shining example of how globalism and poor infrastructure in context of self reliance and self-sufficiency has crippled how we conduct business.

COVID-19 needs to be seen as a lesson to start focusing inwards, improving on ourselves, before we can start addressing other nations’ issues. There are still a lot of problems, beyond our shitty education sector that we need to get answers for.

Climate change, land use, natural disasters, urbanisation, population growth, declining standard of living, our own human rights treatment, and how we can actually get a Prime Minister similar to NZ’s Jacinda Ardern are easily some of the most contentious issues plaguing our society at the moment.

All of which have taken a backseat to our need to somehow appease China and the US at the same time, without ever showing how spineless we are.

At the very least, our PM has slowly stiffened his resolve against China and are now openly calling for investigations into their affairs.

I just wished he did it when we seemed stronger.

Australia has so much to offer its own denizens. We could easily be one of the most autonomous and self-governing countries in the world, with our identity forged by our own success and abilities.

But instead, we are subservient to the world, never really pushing our limits and crippled by poor leadership and infrastructure.

If we are ever to grow, we need to really focus on ourselves and our future, instead of allowing the world to dictate what they are to us.

~ Damocles

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