THE NON-SAFE NON-PASS
I am increasingly amused at the government’s invention of a coronavirus safety product where no product exists. The SafePass.
We keep hearing about the SafePass and its conditions. Only ... there is no actual SafePass. It refers to documentation that attests to one of three conditions, that you have to keep with you in the event you visit a public place.
“To ensure a SafePass, people must either have proof they recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, present a certificate of vaccination with at least one dose three weeks prior or the negative result of a test taken in the past 72 hours.” (Cyprus Mail).
You would not know this by examining the smug language of the official statement of the Minister of Health:
The use of a SafePass remains mandatory in all indoor venues, such as shopping malls, theaters, cinemas, places of religious worship, and / or events such as conferences and trade fairs.
The presentation of a SafePass is not mandatory in outdoor spaces, such as the outdoor areas of restaurants, outdoor theaters / amphitheaters / cinemas, etc.
I’m also amused by the compliance system. Your non-existent SafePass can only be checked in the unlikely event of a police deployment. Owners of establishments like restaurants or gyms apparently don’t have the right to check your credentials. Only the police.
Quite apart from the constitutional implications of such a move, it sets up a series of questions that cannot possibly be resolved successfully.
Are tourists and visitors going to be treated the same way? Have they been informed? If so, it will be a great opportunity to cancel their vacations here and go somewhere else. (I can just imagine a Russian showing up for vacation with a certificate that they have had COVID. Sure.)
Do the police have the staff available for the job? How often will they be policing? How many times, statistically, can they cover the same place? How will we ensure that favoritism doesn’t take place but equal selection of locations does?
What happens when videos of police being shouted at in restaurants emerge? What happens when people refuse to show their non existent SafePass? Is this really the role we want for the police? Can we already predict how many articles are going to appear in foreign press about this, right at the time when we need positive PR?
The restaurant owner has a vested interest in getting customers but no authority to check them. Will the owner be fined as well for non-compliance? Or is this a new generation of Pontius Pilates? They can wash their hands instead.
This ridiculous approach reminds me of an equivalent law passed in Greece some years back. During the financial crisis, people were burning construction lumber and scrap in an effort to heat their homes. This caused huge pollution, particularly in Athens. To stop that, the government passed a law stating that on days when the pollution level reached above a certain level, the police would be able to search people’s homes to see if they had a fire burning, and fine them.
Was this measure ever implemented? Of course not. Was this a tremendous overreach of basic civil rights? Of course it was. Did this measure solve the problems of poverty or atmospheric pollution in Athens? Of course not.
At some point we have collectively abandoned any pretense of rational policy and given way to the kind of blindingly stupid and blatantly dishonest measures and politicians we have been seeing dominating public life. Not just here - everywhere.
The only plausible explanation for this SafePass is that it will die a quiet death, ignored by everyone. The law-abiding people of this island will fret and comply, incurring stress and discomfort to do so. The rest will laugh their way through it.
Where I live, street racing on the Limassol seafront road had already restarted and few people are respecting the curfew. Yesterday night a procession of cars honking their horns was driving down the avenue around 2330. This followed the motorcycle races around 2315. There are, as usual, no police to be seen, despite the fact that there is a police station on this very same avenue less than a kilometer away.
"I'm shocked, shocked to find street racing going on here!"
Even if they could intervene, my understanding is that the next day the telephone rings, a series of well connected families shows up, and their precious offspring goes free. It’s the same whenever football hooligans decide to tear things up.
The billboards of Limassol are now full of older white males with vacant gazes and glowing slogans but no solutions. Elections are coming up. 650 candidates are vying for 56 seats in Parliament.
Cyprus, Greece, and other countries literally face existential threats. Quite apart from the neighborhood we live in, we see daily that the system we have developed is no longer fit for purpose. If it were, we would not be incurring a massive public debt; we would not be developing a statist society; and the policy outcomes of both this expenditure and approach would not be so tragic.
Anyone living here today lives at what is possibly the apogee of the western liberal democracy model. This model has its roots in classical Greece and Rome, and we should justly be proud of it.
But what is missing today is the sense of accountability and responsibility for that model. If we don’t exercise personal responsibility, then any model fails. If we don’t hold corrupt politicians and other accountable, then the model fails. If we do not understand that self-sacrifice was a recurring theme, for example when citizen soldiers stood in the line at Marathon or Plataea, then the model fails.
Instead, we have a distorted sense of entitlement. The state works for the few, not the many. Generations of political families have emerged, all feeding at the same trough. There is no separation between personal self interest and the interest of the state.
Means-testing of policy is literally unknown in Greece or Cyprus, except perhaps in terms of how many votes it will buy.
Amid this system, our real priorities and needs are being largely ignored, or managed so ineffectively as to not be managed at all. The solutions proposed are often worse than the underlying problems.
And finally, we face global competition and indeed aggression of the kind we have perhaps not seen for over 200 years. Our planet is witnessing the slow collapse of one global hegemon and the rise of another. While part of a European Union of nations, it is clear that this union cannot and will not protect its member states in the case of conflict.
And across from us we have a growing regional hegemon that is increasingly unconstrained and making strategic moves that are far beyond anything we can imagine. These moves have a crystal clear methodology with only one outcome in mind.
We have SafePass.
A fictional solution to a very real problem. One of many such convenient fictions.
I sincerely hope we can afford them.