Coughing at the health minister and spitting at the gardaí

 What would you say might be fitting punishment for those people who, according to reports, deliberately coughed in the face of Simon Harris, the south’s Health Minister, or who cough and spit at gardaí?  Even in normal circumstances this would be mildly disgusting; in the present pandemic it shows a total disregard for anything or anybody but the present moment and themselves.  In this time of heroic efforts it is criminal. A fitting punishment? Have them  clean ICU toilets for a week with their gob-free tongues.

But don’t think of these people as a different species. Their actions show that they are focused on a few seconds of ‘fun’ as they see it, regardless of everyone else. You’ll see something similar going on at a political level south of the border. Even while reported cases of the coronavirus in the south soar, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have managed to squeeze in time to advance plans to form a government, with the help of some independents.  Why are they doing this? Purely for political advantage. Even though it’s generally agreed that people like Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney and Pascal Donoghue are doing a good job, and even if a coalition were formed, it wouldn’t make sense to switch ministerial horses in mid-pandemic. So what’s the thinking behind these coalition moves? Selfish political gain, blocking Sinn Féin from the levers of government. Other parties than Fine Gael and Fianna Fail must, by the very law of averages, have some valuable contribution to make in helping the state survive this existential threat. But yerra houl’  your whisht – we don’t want people with unelected advisers helping run things. Let’s keep the power where it belongs – with us.

At international level, the same theme of inward-looking selfishness obtains, with a few exceptions. Trump is closing the US borders and looking after Americans, France is sealing itself against outsiders,  all effort is being expended at a national level. Has the EU co-ordinated virus response across Europe? You could have fooled me.

There are just two exceptions to this, both from countries with a communist background. China has sent ventilators and other medical equipment to sore-pressed Italy, and Cuban doctors – some of the finest in the world – have flown to Italy and are helping the afflicted people there.

There must be all sorts of ways in which international co-operation could benefit everyone. But as late capitalism plays things, it’s every country for itself. Which in ways is as irresponsible as the Hamilton-coughers and let’s-spit-on-a-garda brigade. How ironic, that much-abused China and Cuba should show the way.

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