Updated: May 23, 2021
Originally published in Medium on March 28, 2021 before being censored
So, there seems to be confusion in the air. The panic orthodoxy is showing cracks. Immunity to evidence seems to be gradually declining. And the ritual of vaccination is calming unnecessarily agitated brows.
However, political autocrats the world over have been leveraging our mass gullibility and unthinking servility to their proclamations, and the real fear is whether that genie will ever go back into the bottle again.
Asserting “another four weeks of lockdown” because of some uptick in demonstrably less than precise PCR tests (indicated to be so now by WHO as well), or some alleged tour by a new C-19 “scariant”, apparently needs no justification, just bald assertion. And the sheer madness of applying over and over those failed tactics that clearly seem not to work is, of course, not contested either.
And it is hard to take heart from anywhere. US States that have thrown off the yoke of COVID “autocracy” are flourishing comparatively. Infections (“positive tests”) in Texas post removal of their mask mandate roughly a fortnight back, have plunged by roughly 29%. But too much of the US is still in a fact-free delirium. The UK is a true basket case, and the slippery slope from proud liberalism to crotchety authoritarianism has been depressing, not to mention shocking. The fact that excess deaths are again below a 5-year average seems irrelevant, the depth of economic devastation is just ignored.
Pictures of “liberal” Netherlands beating protesters, Germany with detention camps and flirting with asserting the right to annul sacred periods of worship like Easter, Canadians locking up priests, and multiple jurisdictions locking up people for opening businesses that are just their livelihood. Japan, so little affected by COVID despite minimal “lockdown” asserts that no non-Japanese may attend the Olympics. What does your nationality possibly have to do with a pathogen 99%+ recover from, and which needs close sustained proximity, virtually always indoors to transmit, clearly unaffected by a bloody national identity card?
Countries that look at the Maldives which requires a negative PCR test (that most scientifically unjustified of invasive ceremonies for anyone asymptomatic) “only”, but then no quarantine, and off you go, claim that is only feasible because the resort people go to is an “island” itself.
Yes, but presumably more than one nationality, and more than 5 people occupy this resort, all with different and checkered epidemiological histories. So, if 200 people land on this “island”, they are “trapped” together in celebration, and that is somehow less dangerous than if they were to land on a beach resort on the mainland?
Well, in your Maldivian getaway, you only trot around the island. And otherwise, you may wander around a metropolis. But unless you violate someone’s space, or hack into their face, unsure how that matters, especially when Disney in Florida and New Year in Wuhan both make a mockery of this? But grand declarations seem to trump any rationality or meaningfulness.
And in New Zealand hospitals are close to collapse with overflow (COVID is not blamed, though much of it comes from issues of related access we are told), and their economy is looking forward to a double-dip recession. Being a poster child of draconian probity may need to come with various warning labels.
And then looking at a graph of North and South America and Europe, versus the “x” (horizontal) axis hugging fatalities of Asia, Africa, and even Oceania, helps you realize the “results” may be independent of tactical human agency, and we may need to jettison our control fetish and transition back to more holistic living.
The Pandemic Playbook
There is a playbook here, as commentator Naomi Wolf has identified for would-be tyrants. First, you invoke a terrifying internal and external threat, then move on to creating a “thug caste,” target or recruit the media (depending on their independence or lack thereof, what a change there has been on that front in the US for example from the time of Watergate to WMD), moving onto “emergency” suspension of the rule of law and annulling its progressive cohorts.
What provoked Ms. Wolf’s 2008 best seller was fear that terrorism, with all its nationalistic flag-waving and theme songs, would be the leverage (we had war logos and updates with theme music after the Iraq invasion for example). But maturity happily, perhaps providentially, prevailed there, after many dubious years.
Then came the financial crisis, and it seemed we had to ensure no one culpable actually paid any real penalty, and taxpayers “bailed” out the “too stupid and big” and power brokers fiddled with financial circuit breakers so that meltdown was less likely to be repeated in the near term. Socialism for the rich with capitalism for the poor was never better demonstrated.
Then Cameth COVID
Medical crises have historically been rich fodder for such intrusions into lives and liberties. As Ms. Wolf highlighted, cholera and typhus were exploited in the 19th century by the British to intimidate freedoms and invade people’s privacy. Interestingly, the first anti-vaccination movement arose from British parents in the Victorian period.
Naomi Wolf’s earlier screed now seems unnervingly prophetic. From the pandemic has flowed vastly less freedom worldwide, and perhaps the worst expressions of this have been in the allegedly “free” West. The fall from grace, though, was sadly quick and comprehensive.
We have the ability to interrogate this, following Ms. Wolf’s catalogue of fascistic sins:
Emergency measures suspending the due process of law. The perpetuation of this is the very definition of a police state. We can be grateful that in some countries, where initially the “all or nothing” fixation took over, this has mellowed, and economic revival is having to waltz with pandemic prudence.
Schools being shut, completely against all the medical data and science, and while eviscerating the prospects of our young, and therefore frankly, our own prospects down the road, in more ominous jurisdictions this also serves to break the social contract with the next generation.
“Vaccine passports” for a middling pathogen with a 99%+ recovery rate is utterly absurd. But the “optics” of taking so-called but currently unproven “preventive” measures, as with schools, are far more compelling than the realities. Sadly, there are human forces far stronger than logic. These actions all add to the wherewithal of a digital surveillance state, and “private” data increasingly if such passports/certificates are undertaken, becomes public fodder.
Forced business closures. The targets are very clearly the niche providers, the smaller entrepreneurs, restaurants, and sole proprietor businesses, therefore concentrating the economic bonanzas on the Amazons, Wal-Marts, and Targets. Tech stocks rose a vertiginous 27% in one-quarter of the pandemic, showcasing their role as an absorbent of our waylaid time and energy. But furthermore, if everything humans can do with constricted freedom, allows these companies to profit from and harvest data from such locked in activities — an insatiable tech leviathan on the prowl — then going out to exercise, worshipping in a Church or meandering through a park, eating at a restaurant, going to a pub, actually being immersed in an educational environment, are all inimical to the monopolizing underway. If humans can only or primarily connect through digital platforms, then profit and social influence can be continuously superimposed upon us. Let us cheer the outlier countries and states that are however imperfectly pushing back against this oppressive nonsense.
And once businesses are closed, just limit assembly per se, go after people desperately trying to flock to beaches or playgrounds, or organize playdates for their kids, no radical theater (“radix” going back to roots, at such times, can be the most “radical” of all), no street corner congregations in the sunshine and open-air (no transmissibility demonstrated in such settings) especially where people can gather to inveigh against the hypocrisies of the age. In California, much of Britain, and other cuckoo land jurisdictions, fines are slapped on for being “out” in the “wrong” zip code, penalties are assessed for gathering in larger than prescribed numbers (ten or something “colossal” like that). In “open” schools students sometimes get one day to play outdoors overseen by “educational” storm troopers, meaning penal environments are more humane in terms of daily exercise and fresh air. Again, let us recall, this is a viral strain that most people don’t even know they had and virtually everybody recovers from, and for which now, for better or worse, there are also vaccines! How absurd does absurdity need to be, before people demand their lives back?
Forced “face nappies.” Sweden has no such requirement, Florida does not, in much of South Asia people wear these contaminated masks (from soot, pollution, and their own exhaled waste), half off and half on, and all these places have either “as good” results in terms of mortality (Sweden matches the EU average despite its mismanaging of care homes), or better (Florida’s stats are better than 70% of US States, certainly better than the “poster children” of the orthodoxy as I call them, New York and California) or far better (South Asia’s death stats are so remarkable that you cannot factually say “pandemic” and be remotely serious). No peer-reviewed studies demonstrate a medical necessity for masks, in fact, quite the opposite. And yet, this symbolic lark of being forced to be “muzzled” with constricted oxygen flow, has no broadcast endpoint.
Muzzles on, certainly marries readily with suppressing free speech. Censor dissenting voices, have Twitter and Facebook impose “truth standards” (and when did the Fount of verity pass to them?). And everything that is against the mulish, “one size fits none” paradigm must be disdained. And so here we are, policing the slightest ripple of emotional duress among “true believers”, where every mediocrity who is an official mouthpiece has to be lionized as a celebrity, and every push back against the “rubber stamped” orthodoxy is called “incitement.” So “incitement” gets its fangs, and the right of free expression, the equivalent of the US First Amendment, is left languishing, in tatters. Universities are telling professors they risk their livelihood for, say, speaking up against the ridiculous PCR tests which were designed for manufacturing processes originally (such “lynchings” are so common now, that authorized hit pieces in once-respected journals don’t even get noticed), news stations choose only “sanitized” voices, and the echo chamber reverberates with mass-produced “nonscience” as I call it, “nonsense” with credentials.
Certain mouthpieces of what Ms. Wolf calls the “biofascists” are unduly deferred to, no matter how regularly and consistently wrong they are. Christian Drosten in Germany was co-author of the spurious article “validating” PCR tests (the peer review has gone missing) that was validated in only 2 days by a magazine (Eurosurveillance) he is on the Editorial Board of, and this led to the manufacture of a testing protocol he profits from! And all this from Germany. He is being sued and has received a “cease and desist” order, and no major media outlet will, of course, cover that controversy even as extremely timely, relevant, and newsworthy as it is. Neil Ferguson has never had an accurate pandemic prediction we know of and has no medical background to make any of his prognostications unduly authoritative, and he has been catastrophically wrong this time. But his “SAGE” (all the world’s a stage for silly data-free predictions), still holds the British government apparently spellbound. And the fickle medical chameleon in the US, Fauci, who is a true contortionist, having held virtually every view (no masks/masks, no asymptomatic spread/asymptomatic spread, no lockdown/lockdown, and many other dizzying gyrations), joins his unsavory cohorts listed here, in being the recipient of massive funding, as long as those views continue to flatter the interests of big Pharma and big Tech. Dissenters, far more eminent researchers in the field are, as mentioned above, reputationally attacked, slandered, and undermined.
Corporate interests seem to have merged with public policy in a heinous way. Unverifiable COVID data is purportedly served up in a way that directly affects stock markets (The COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins as Ms. Wolf highlights rightly, are both recipients of large donations from technocrats like Michael Bloomberg). Corporate interests and public policy have intertwined in many autocratic regimes over history, but digital presentation being leveraged for stock market influence is very 21st century.
The period becomes an excuse for clamping down on religious minorities. Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, Muslim communities in various countries, churches have been singled out in some countries where they are a minority, even in Canada a well-publicized case of a priest who insisted he would stay “open” to provide weekly services for those who wished to worship was locked up. Again, remember this is over a vastly hyped flu with an infection fatality rate globally of around 0.12% based on seroprevalence studies, including those affirmed by WHO. Until you keep reminding yourself of the factual “non-event” COVID itself is, and the seismic affront our response to it has been, you may end up “debating” this as if there were a scintilla of rationality in the premises being asserted…your life is ours, we own your liberties, simply because there is an unsubstantiated outbreak of paranoia over a virus strain. Rather than verify, and only take actions that inhibit life and freedom, gradually, reluctantly, and very provisionally, we opt to panic outright and leech life, a literal blitzkrieg of autonomy devastating political effrontery.
And the frosting on this anti-human confection is the championing of policies that weaken bonds between human beings, that dilute family ties, that keep friends and colleagues apart. All these have been introduced and policed and enforced, and this may be the most pernicious part of the entire package. I am so delighted that in some jurisdictions (US States, Sweden, Norway, Sri Lanka of all places, Singapore), friends and family are back to celebrating, people are back to work together, places to mingle are flourishing. They have struggled ahead through the media and global political mire, but at least now they can find ways forward together as a human community. That this has yet to translate in sane responses beyond and between borders, shows what a death grip irrationality has on us here.
Beware the Western Contagion
Currently writing from Asia, recently at a dinner with Ambassadors from Europe, this hit home so clearly.
Western Europe and the United States are benchmarks for much of modern society, and rightly and deservedly so. They championed liberties, gave us the Industrial Revolution, and then the digital revolution, taught us branding, created templates for individual enterprise, had corporations become more socially conscious and contribute to markets they operate in.
Extraordinary literature and music and the arts, liturgies, and wit, and global paradigms have flowed from these commercial hotbeds and from these greenhouses for creativity. Medical breakthroughs flowing from there have saved lives around the world and added countless years to the lives of children, and education and aid have, at their best, provided the bounties of benevolent compassion with a healthy developmental catalyst.
However, there is now something rotten afoot (and not just, a la Shakespeare, in the state of Denmark). It seems COVID policy in too much of the West (and no surprise that Eastern autocrats jump on board) is an attack on the granular distinctiveness of free human beings and the very qualities that make us human.
While there continues to be a positive flow from the West of technology and investment and ideas, countries not overwhelmed with the pagan religion of COVID must resist any temptations to ape Western mania. And the “masks” will be the biggest challenge symbolically. No science attests to them. Masked jurisdictions as explained have done no better in any way that makes a palpable difference, and that is scientifically clear on the data. It’s not an argument anymore. When very tightly together in congested spaces, sure apply the precautionary principle if you like. But everywhere else, it’s an affront.
Bonding face-to-face is part of our humanity, to enjoy smiles, nuances, jokes, irony, the full range of our expressiveness.
We run the danger of losing the ability to pick up social clues or read each other, from behind our ineffectual wrappings. After New Year’s in Asia, the Super Bowl in Tampa, teeming protests, much of this mercifully “maskless” on the celebratory front, again it is demonstrably absurd.
A friend back in the US wrote to me and asked, “Are restaurants open there yet?” I said, “Yes, since last September.” It hurts to share it. She works in the industry, her life and prospects were stolen, and with her age and physical condition, it was not remotely for the sake of her health. And she well knows it wasn’t for her aged relatives who didn’t make it this far in life without realizing there are far saner ways to keep others safe, and it has been happening naturally, generationally.
And many, many, would readily trade a heartbroken, antiseptic six months of biological survival, for the mild risk (95% recovery above 75 without serious comorbidities too) that allows them to fully relish the family they’ve loved and nurtured and are entitled to treasure every possible moment with that providence allows.
Continuing to ban assemblies as well, as in too much of the West still, keeps other kinds of human alliances from forming, or people with similar interests and aspirations from communing. New cultures, breakthroughs, co-creation, and even business models emerge from such interactions. We are otherwise “frozen” with the ideas and relationships we had in March 2020 as Ms. Wolf points out, augmented by some Zoom “screen time”, invariably suboptimal and invariably far more transactional.
And as a corollary, children in and out of school still having to be distanced and wear masks, when every iota of medical data argues against it, shows a dogmatic immunity to facts that undermines the entire educational enterprise on its face.
Imagine a generation terrified of every “stranger” as a source of infection! Oh, and this has to be anchored in the conclusion that somehow all human biology, immunology, virology, and the evolution of coronaviruses, all transformed fiendishly and malevolently in 2020! All public health nostrums (which were anti lockdown and masking prior to 2020), without any new studies or evidence, were with the swish of political “magical wands” completely upended.
And these nerve-wracked kids, look dubiously at each other, as they keep their prescribed distance (said distance pulled out of a hat), “masked”, invariably feeling menaced, an entire generation who won’t learn how to form human alliances, pick up cues from adults, and who don’t trust their bodies or their own instincts. This is how you render potential future rebels or original thinkers docile and compliant.
And if we can maximize “distance learning” (platforms are ready, and they don’t “educate” they just provide a barrage of facts by which to tick a box), then space not mediated by technology, including inner space, becomes for these youngsters, alien territory, clunky and inaccessible. We become remote from ourselves.
And the Contagion Could Spread
So, now, if human interaction becomes ever more congregated on Zoom, not only do we run the risk of too much being recorded, IP being harvested and spied upon, but the “inconvenience” of throwing off our ennui, inertia, and torpor, and “going” somewhere to meet people and being enlarged by doing so, becomes not only a health hazard but something that we can ban on “efficiency” grounds, having lost sight of larger, more ecumenical value.
Desperate to retain power, the current juntas and autocrats fear “analog” engagement, and they will keep at it, finding ever more cartoonish “COVIDIAN” justifications to punish, encumber and restrict it. Humans coming together are at times a revolutionary force says Naomi Wolf, but even more potently, they are the only sustainable evolutionary force too.
And if Ms. Wolf is wrong, and this is just the mistaken appearance of malign intent, but actually just dominoes of ineptitude, stupidity, and passivity all falling, with a crashing thud, and then we are lurching from one catastrophe to the other, so be it. But we can’t hold that hope out.
Actually, as per Occam’s Razor, power blocs availing of well-tested levers of mass manipulation for their own profit and advantage, on some days seems a simpler thesis than wanton, oblivious stupidity on such an Olympian scale.
There are a small number of leaders globally who have wisely given a wide berth to the most noxious of the above temptations. And we have to believe more will wake up, even if it needs the “philosophical placebo” of something called “vaccine” and the smelling salts of “economic crisis” to be able to do so.
And remember, what about next time? And what happens if our now impaired immune systems struggle against a resurgent flu or influenza epidemic? And what happens when the printing presses can’t oblige and the magical money trees experience drought? What happens when the insanity of policies, such as property owners in New York going bankrupt as they can’t evict tenants due to C-19 regulations, and those tenants are living rent-free (therefore hoping things “don’t” go back to normal), become ever more evident?
We can’t ever do this again, it’s not sustainable.
Eventually, even serfs rebel and the tipping point of this no longer being adequately credible even to those untroubled by facts, I suspect is coming.
We need to strengthen our economic and educational foundations. Countries and regions need to have a latticework of alliances and not put all their eggs in any one geopolitical basket. We have to have competitive local industries and simplify our regulations and mobilize our political will in upgrading human capital and reach out to collaborate and bolster our sanity and spittle collectively.
There is a literal war afoot, on what it is to be human. As Sinead Murphy reminded us so poignantly, “non-death” is not life.
We have to reclaim for human beings the right to be “alive” and the accountability to decide, individually and collectively, what that will really mean.
And nothing, no pathogen, no virus, no tragedy or challenge, can possibly matter more than that. The story of humanity is not about enfeebling fears, much less the amplified “terrors” of a flu. The story is about grand conquests of the spirit, audacious excursions of body and mind, the majesty of vision, the challenge of converting intentions into action, of transforming and transcending challenge after challenge. We fumble, we falter, we weep at our follies, but we keep moving.
The saga we must reclaim has been, and must remain, a tapestry of possibility. If 2021 is rung out debating idiot distance requirements and prophylactic treatments posing as “vaccines” and sticking diapers on faces, we will most certainly have lost the script.