Vaccines, Panic buying, and Black Lives Matters: The best of The Case in 2020

Source: The Feed

We look back at some of the biggest moments of the year explained by The Feed’s Alice Matthews in The Case.

This year has seen all of us need a little explainer about what exactly is happening. From what it all means when there's a panic buying craze to whether the police should be armed.

The Feed's Alice Matthews has provided key moments of clarity on some of the most difficult subjects in 2020.

So here's how The Case explained the biggest issues in 2020.

Panic buying: The pandemic pain

The panic buying of essentials like toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic is something Dr Steven Taylor, author of 'The Psychology of Pandemics', said was a coping mechanism.

"People need to feel in control of the situation, feel like they're doing something to keep themselves safe," he said.

Seeking control can quickly snowball, and Dr Taylor says the feeling of scarcity can make fear contagious.

But panic buying isn't something that's specific to 2020. In the 17th century, tulips became in high demand with surging prices -- tulips ended up costing up to five times the average house.

Some experts have said a sale was enough to feed, clothe and house an entire Dutch family for half a lifetime. 

And who could forget the toilet rolls selling for up to a thousand dollars online?

Well, Tulip mania inevitably crashed. It had a detrimental impact on The Netherlands economy over 300 years ago. 

Dr Taylor says the “fear of scarcity” creates real scarcity, and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s vulnerable people who are impacted. 

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COVID-19 debt: Should it be repaid?

When the pandemic hit, the federal government announced it will be spending hundreds of billions of dollars to support the economy and the Australians during this period of uncertainty.  

The level of debt from COVID-19 spending has been compared to wartime and said to be a burden on future generations. But where does the money come from? 

Well, Dr Steven Hail, an economics lecturer from the University of Adelaide told The Feed the money is literally made up.

“Money comes from a computer keyboard, it’s just typed into existence,” Dr Hail said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in March the relief package “will be paid back for years to come, there’s no secret in that.”

It’s not something Dr Hail agrees with. 

“If the government spends more than it taxes and increases debt, it in no way compromises the ability of the government to spend in future, it is in no way a burden on future generations,” he said.

Dr Hail is a bit of a renegade. He is a proponent of something called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

It’s an approach to thinking about economics and government budgets that challenges conventional thought such as a surplus equals good and a deficit equals bad.

Should it really be looking to future generations to pay it all back through slashing public funding and making us pay more tax? 

“If [the government] tries to cut back on spending or raise taxes then they’re wrong and people should very loudly protest,” Dr Hail said.

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Should a vaccine be mandatory?

We've all got COVID-19 vaccines in our mind, especially after the news that Pzifer and Moderna are reporting their vaccines have an efficacy rate in the 90 per cent range.

But usually, vaccines take 10 to 15 years to be developed. So should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory?

There's no suggestion that a COVID-19 vaccine would be made compulsory by the government.

Dr Katie Attwell from the University of Western Australia, analyses mandatory vaccination policies around the world. She believes making the vaccine mandatory is a last resort tactic.

"It much more needs to be a question of how can we understand what people are concerned about?" Dr Attwell said.

The concerns some have raised is the speed of the vaccine delivery, as the UK became the first country to take on the Pzifer vaccine in December.

Speaking in June, Professor Kristine Macartney, the Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance, said people shouldn't be concerned about shortcuts.

The effort for the vaccine has been led by scientists from across the world each trying to ensure life can return to normal.

"Millions of people are gearing up to ensure these checks and balances all work at every stage," Prof Macartney said.

"The scientific endeavour is absolutely remarkable."

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Black Lives Matter and a closer look at policing

The death of George Floyd and the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement led to conversations about policing, and questions about whether police should be disarmed. 

“When people own guns, when they carry guns, we think that it enhances fear and decreases a sense of safety,” RMIT psychologist and criminologist Dr Michelle Noon said. 

In 19 countries around the world, police don’t carry guns on regular patrol. 

Dr Noon says guns can raise the stakes, “they’re reducing the propensity of police to use those other incredible skills they have for human-to-human connection.”

Some studies have found carrying a gun can make you more paranoid and interacting with one can increase testosterone. 

Firearms are non-negotiable in some circumstances, especially if officers are putting themselves in harm’s way. 

But the carrying of guns has been criticised in Australia. 

“Guns have brought us traumas,” said Warlpiri Elder Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves, from the remote NT community of Yuendumu.

In the aftermath of the death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker, who was shot three times in his home by a police officer during an arrest operation, some Indigenous elders have questions about the validity of carrying guns in all circumstances. Police officer Zachary Rolfe has been charged with murder, and will stand trial in 2021. 

Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves told The Feed, “We are saying this again and again and again. Politicians, pay attention to our needs. We are crying out and saying to you, enough is enough, we do not want guns. Guns is not our culture.”

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Telling the truth about Santa

The magic and myth-making of Santa Claus are almost universal. 

From the half-demon, half-goat Krampus, who whips bad kids in Central Europe or the Icelandic elves who leave rotten potatoes in their shoes. 

There’s Grandfather Frost and his sidekick snow maiden in Russia, a Buddist monk in Japan with eyes at the back of his head and an incredibly controversial Santa’s helper called Black Pete, in the Netherlands

Santa sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. 

That is a “deeply uncomfortable feeling”, according to therapist and Spooky Psychology podcast co-host Megan Baker.

The adoption of Santa’s Elf on the Shelf has taken that famous tune to take a whole new meaning. 

If you’re not familiar with the Elf, it’s a recent trend involving an elf doll placed around the house, that watches kids around the clock, reports back to Santa at night

Dr Matt Beard from The Ethics Centre says security cameras are “expanding the Santa story in the wrong direction.”

Instead, he believes there needs to be a change in how we embrace the man in the red suit. He proposes the end to the lie that Santa’s real.

“We tell our kids that they shouldn't tell lies, and yet we rationalise and vigorously defend these kinds of lies,” Dr Beard said. 

The thought is that the magic of Christmas, and by extension Santa Claus, will be lost if the truth is revealed. 

“We make it seem as though it's an ‘either or’, where we can buy that lie and the mystery and the magic, or we can have cold, hard, boring reality,” he said. 

But Dr Beard says there is an in-between. His own four year old knows Santa's not real, but loves the story and takes part in the magic in spite of that. 

“If something has to be real in order for it to matter to you, I think that that's short-cutting imagination rather than expanding imagination,” Dr Beard said

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