Governments currently have their hands very full trying to contain a pandemic and give everybody tons of free money with tax revenue in free fall. Seems that silly old private economy mattered after all. But geopolitics isn’t on hold either. So with China’s navy on the prowl while the United States docks carriers to protect crews, let’s spare a thought for what globalization should look like going forward.
Globalization has a bad name, especially among the paranoid. But one of my historical maxims is “Never ascribe to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity.” I am very skeptical when told people are masterminding both the conduct and the concealment of a massive world-historical plot who frankly seem incapable of organizing a brawl in a saloon.
Remember also that conspiracies once unmasked tend to unravel. Stupidity just sits there blinking.
Speaking of stupidity, back in the 1990s I had endless fun twitting neoliberal politicians who blithered about the “information age” and thought they’d invented international trade or some such.
It was odd partly because it was such old news. Before 1914 people said the world was so economically, socially, and intellectually unified that war was unthinkable. It came anyway. And in “Gulliver’s Travels,” dating back over a quarter millennium, an early recognition of globalization: “this whole globe of earth must be at least three times gone round before one of our better female Yahoos could get her breakfast, or a cup to put it in.”
So never mind the wonders of the Steam Age. The point is that our leaders have been monumentally stupid about the shape of the 21st-century globalized world, not because of some U.N.-directed plot to enslave us all but because many of them hold very stupid ideas with the tenacity only intellectuals can manage. Primarily that communist China is, or could be domesticated into, a normal participant in world affairs by being nice to it and pretending not to notice when it did horrible things.
Even this fatuity is not a novelty. We did it in the 20th century twice, with the Soviet Union for much of the Cold War and before that with Hitler. If Martians invaded to farm us for food, we’d do it with them. It’s what we do. But waking up is also something we do, at least in the West.
When the crisis is past we’ll have something to say about politicians across the spectrum who initially underreacted to COVID-19, from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio saying virus schmirus, go eat in a Chinese restaurant, to Ontario Premier Doug Ford saying virus schmirus, go enjoy March break. And politicians to whom private employment was just a distant rumour who then panicked, overreacted, and tried to shut the economy down for, oh, say, half a year and give everybody Monopoly money. But let’s save some harsh words for people who turned out to be useless idiots for Beijing.
Lenin called them “useful idiots.” But these people haven’t been useful even to the Politburo let alone themselves. Like Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and World Health Organization consultant, who when opposition MPs suggested closing the border replied, “WHO advises against any kind of travel and trade restrictions.” And after praising “a certain country that’s trying very hard to do its best … transparently” burbled, “I think the idea is to support China.”
I’m willing to support any country struggling with adversity. But helping a tyrannical regime hide blunders and lies that killed people worldwide by delaying an aggressive response to COVID-19 is not part of her mandate. Or so I hope.
To repeat, people are not plotting with Fu ManWHO to take over everything. Rather, they are mushily disposed to believe backward selfish national sovereignty is finally yielding to benign world government, as backward selfish private enterprise is to benign domestic government. When mainstream media still treat Chinese statistics as reliable, as Reuters did April 14, it’s not conspiracy. It’s stupidity.
It’s also venality. Like too many international agencies, WHO is in China’s pocket; hence that humiliating phone interview where Canadian Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director-general, pretended he couldn’t hear the word “Taiwan” then hung up and moved on. And it’s a bad mental habit. When journalists expressed dismay that Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu denied China’s data “was falsified in any way” and accused them of feeding “conspiracy theories,” to applause from China’s sock puppet “journalists,” our Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland pretended she couldn’t hear “China.”
Finally, it’s dangerous. Taiwanese authorities warned of human-to-human transmission back in December, when WHO was parroting China’s contrary lie. And WHO’s dubious Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus just doubled down, accusing Taiwan of orchestrating a months-long racist attack on him. Yes, the same Taiwan stripped of WHO observer status at China’s urging. And the same Tedros who still praises China’s transparency over the pandemic and as Ethiopian minister of health is alleged to have covered up local cholera epidemics with Chinese help. And who chose China’s friend and genocidal maniac Robert Mugabe as a U.N. goodwill ambassador then had to remove him after an outcry. You’re doing a great job.
In a crisis, the modern mind is prone to stroke someone else’s long grey beard and drone “experts say,” a phrase I would ban from headlines. But the Canadian government leaned on WHO not because the latter are the crème de la expertise or as part of a DaVinci Genetic Code conspiracy spanning centuries and continents. It’s because WHO’s advice fits their PC preconceptions, from intolerance to geopolitics. And it is those preconceptions we must challenge.
Globalization brings many benefits. And also costs, like supply chains, as brittle as they are efficient. But our governments’ duty is to their citizens, not the brighter collectivist world of the imaginary future. And they should act accordingly.
Even Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich in 1938 and ordered Britain to ramp up military production. But as Brian Lilley just wrote in the Toronto Sun, Canada apparently “farmed out its entire health policy during this COVID-19 crisis to the World Health Organization” in an ongoing “dereliction of duty,” including Health Canada now refusing to approve “a cheap and rapid test for COVID-19 … made right here in Canada” and in use globally, because WHO said not to.
Here let me tip my hat to those luminaries including Macdonald-Laurier Institute scholars who just signed an open letter to the Chinese people COVID-19 “China’s Chernobyl moment” and warning that the Chinese Communist Party is an evil aggressive blundering menace, including in its manipulation of WHO.
If you can’t see it, you’re too dumb to organize a brawl in a saloon let alone a vast international conspiracy. And you’re certainly too dumb to be allowed to run a country.
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.