“No pure form of totalitarian government has ever existed.”
— Anonymous Commenter on Quora.com
“When dividing a pie, first determine your fair share. Then, take less.”
— My mother
Back before I ever experienced a government-ordered covid lockdown, I used to tell my kids that in our family, we were members of the counterculture. I explained that while it is important to be kind to everyone, and that all people should have the same basic rights, it’s especially important to notice when systemic inequities exist and work to level the playing field of Basic Opportunity: consider always the needs of others (and those less fortunate), in addition to the needs of yourself.
Other keywords I used to define our political orientation included “liberal,” “left-wing” and “progressive.” I am including some definitions for these and similar terms throughout this essay, because after using them for a couple of decades of my adult life, I wasn’t precisely sure what they all meant.
American Heritage Dictionary: “liberal - favoring reform, open to new ideas, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; not bound by traditional thinking; broad-minded.”
Prior to 2020, I liked to tell my kids: if you follow your curiosity (thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert!), and do good work, you will meet people with similar values. You will make friends who are concerned about economic injustice, hold important minority political perspectives, and possess ultra high levels of uniqueness, highly-educated brains, alternative education ideals, and idealism to spare: “likeminded” people. When you work to remedy ignorance, you put the Progress in Progressive!
I also believed, and told my kids, that the way to avoid the worst public policy atrocities of our time - totalitarian societies like Nazi Germany during the Holocaust - is to ensure that ones own society is peopled by kind, empathetic, unique, compassionate, and most of all, intelligent persons. These are the sort of people, I told my children, whom we should surround ourselves with and aspire to be.
Freedictionary.com: “conservative - a political philosophy advocating the preservation of the best of the established order in society and opposing radical change.”
Wikipedia: “The term right wing can generally refer to the section of a political party or system that advocates free enterprise and private ownership, and typically favors socially traditional ideas.”
There was one specific part of my political ideology that was crumbling even prior to 2020: I was meeting conservatives, libertarians, populists, religious persons, and even (gasp) republicans who were kind, empathetic, unique, compassionate, and extremely intelligent. At first this kept surprising me, because there’s a pretty strong progressive Message that anyone with non-progressive views can be identified by their lack of smarts, their anti-social biases, and their inability to listen. But I had to admit, once I started befriending people outside of my liberal bubble, that this generalization was not actually true. I could no longer tell my children that progressives were the only smart, kind folks on the block.
Merriam Webster: “populist - a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people.”
Surely though, I reasoned, and told my kids, since progressives had come up with really superior values to begin with, one would be _more likely_ to meet progressives (as compared with standard-issue Other People) who embodied all the compassion and braininess that will eventually make the world a better place for as many people as possible. Already, people who called themselves left wing and progressive were gaining political clout, and time would only tell how they would best use their power in government: Enacting universal healthcare? Making polluters actually clean up their devastating disasters?? Eliminating subsidies for dangerous, toxic, and unhealthy industry??? Bringing an end to foreign wars???? The possibilities were endless, and surely the future would be brighter now that the progressives were in town!
For a long time, I had parroted a common sentiment in democratic circles: If you’re not with us, you’re against us. But now I was starting to realize how many people on the left seemed to have their terminology confused, and had therefore erroneously concluded that all conservatives, religious people, and Those Holding Differences of Opinions were raging racists, bigots, and homophobes who wished to chain women to the kitchen stove. It turns out that there are a few of these crazy people out there, but they are known as extremists, not republicans.
It took me until 2020 to further realize that the existence of extremism is not at all limited by political party affiliation.
From Merriam Webster: “extremism - the holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism.”
When the covid response came online in 2020, I sought individuals and organizations setting an example I could proudly share with my kids. Surely, especially within the ranks of progressive, counterculture homeschoolers and conscious-of-social-justice persons like us, there would be a collective outcry. Curfews?! In the United States of America?!?! Surely in this fragmenting landscape, those standing at my political home base would be some of the first to fight back against restrictions that were incredibly drastic, which would surely be especially devastating to the poorest persons in society.
“We don’t know how bad the virus is!” friends kept saying anxiously. But we all had access to the same news reports that were ostensibly the only information that existed at that time, and I couldn’t see how the actual stated numbers could possibly justify the sudden tightening of government control. I had never noticed the government to be especially interested in public health at all, up till now, especially during my countless unsuccessful attempts over the years to obtain affordable health insurance for my family. And curfews: mostly in the evening, but with some exceptions, and it was okay for liquor stores to remain open…to combat a respiratory virus?? It just didn’t add up.
But it would be okay, I reasoned. Progressives would soon point out how little actual evidence pointed toward covid having a high CFR or IFR in the first place, not to mention the ways (I discovered during my research in mid March, 2020) successful treatments for other respiratory viruses were already showing great success the moment doctors began to repurpose them for covid.
No need for panic here, we would point out, and we progressives would soothe the collective soul while helping to prevent excess deaths due to the virus.
Wikipedia: “progressivism - holds that it is possible for human societies to improve through political action. As a political movement, progressivism seeks to advance the human condition through social reform based on purported advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization.”
Historicalindex.org, concerning left wing politics - “…In most cases, the left wing of political ideology represents a belief in a strong central government, which uses its power to help create economic and social equality. People on the left generally believe in taking income from the wealthiest and redistributing it among the poorer part of the population. They also generally believe in enforcing social equality through governmental regulation.
“…In American politics, the left wing is generally represented by the Democratic Party, while the right wing is represented by the Republican Party. For some countries, both of these parties might be considered right wing or left wing, and this is because the definitions can be quite variable depending on the politics in a particular place. As a country moves to the left or right over many years, the dividing line between the two political sides will generally move along with the philosophical shift.
“But Mama,” some of my kids kept asking, “why is everybody else scared besides you? Maybe covid really IS scary.”
Well, it’s definitely scary to watch what passes for news right now, I told them. What worried me most, I further explained, was the 24-hours-per-day media flood of fear. It’s hard for anyone to think clearly when they’re scared.
I told my kids what we were being told on the news, in late March, which was that the virus was very contagious, and caused symptoms of flu and low blood-oxygen in some people, mostly much older and sick people, and hardly any problems at all in children.
But I also explained that I couldn’t connect the dots between what was being reported and the proliferation of new covid rules. Why on earth would people shopping at independent businesses transmit the virus more capably than those shopping at big box stores? Small businesses in my county (city? State? Region? It was difficult to know where the rules ultimately came from) were required to limit the number of customers who entered their buildings while chain stores were not.
From my research I found that covid seemed to be fatal occasionally, and especially in those elderly people with chronic diseases, which does describe most elderly people in the industrialized world - but even then the numbers didn’t look much worse than a bad flu year. I calculated CFR and IFR using my most generous estimates based on numbers provided by the New York Times and Worldometer and other sources, and I still couldn’t justify the fearful warnings and admonitions.
Of course, defining “worse” depended on _actual_ numbers, and it wasn’t clear who was in charge of coming up with these, or when we would have access to them. I told the kids that I was not impressed by the squirrelly data gathering which seemed to be actually lagging way _behind_ everything the news outlets were reporting nonstop with Tremendous Grave Authority. Why on earth were we advised to freak out about a theoretical death rate, hypothetical case fatality rate, and imagined infection fatality rate, if there was still no good way to determine who in a given population had active infections, who had already gotten and recovered from infections, who had died _with_ rather than _from_ covid, and how long the virus had been circulating to begin with? There was literally no standardized data, just a lot of huffy bureaucrats saying this couldn’t possibly at all for sure no way be a bioweapon, incidentally we all hate and also admire China, and also don’t forget that an election is coming up soon and Good Politicians Care About You: Stay Home and Stay Safe!
I’m fine with investigation and anecdotes and argumentative rabbit holes, I told the kids (and I’m used to tactics employed by guilty children of all ages), but I’m not cool with shutting down the entire world’s economies “just in case” one academic’s quick mathematical model turns out to predict the way one respiratory virus might behave.
“Epidemiological Modeling” involves adjusting variables to make assumptions about certain things in order to provide a simulation about what might happen in a given situation.
This can be useful, I explained to my very uninterested children, but there’s a problem with using mathematical models to come up with public health policy. They easily create circular logic: Science Sponsored By Us Says That Covid Is Highly Dangerous and Might Kill A Lot Of People, Because When We Model A Scenario In Which Covid Is Highly Dangerous And Kills A Lot Of People, Covid is Highly Dangerous And Kills A Lot of People!
I could create a mathematical simulation wherein I become a millionaire over the course of this year, but it would be dishonest if I were to imply that there’s any chance at all that this will actually happen. And if you were wanting to verify the chances of me remaining solvent and being able to repay a loan, for example, why would you take my word for it?
Data from research like this is technically correct, I told my still-bored audience, and it’s perfectly legal, but from the perspective of a person who cares about their health, the information is nearly useless.
So why were we being bombarded with fear?
Suddenly, plexiglass windows-without-frames-or-walls had sprouted up in between customers and cashiers in most of the stores, and I took extra deep breaths when standing in front of them. Social safety talismans! Between all the acrylic, and playing hopscotch on pairs-of-feet stickers on the floors, I figured I was now about as safe as bicyclists become when they zoom around with helmets dangling from their handlebars.
I had spent the ten years prior to 2020 studying some of the relatively little that is known about the functioning of the human immune system, the pathologies of chronic vs. acute infections, and what sort of action steps might be possible in the context of an individual’s life to optimize health. During my research, I learned that while there are many reasons it makes sense to bolster a body’s defenses against serious illness, effective methods to absolutely prevent an entire population from getting sick from a virus as or more contagious than a common cold is pretty much not possible.
I say “pretty much” because in theory one could devise bubbles for everyone and live in them always - or stay home for ever and not go out - but no one apart from mad scientists live in Theory, and no one besides wealthy people can afford to stay home all or even most of the time. Also, health is SO much more complex than Mechanistic Exposure Between Viruses and Hosts, and in my opinion - not that anyone was asking - it is poor public health policy to announce that Preventing Exposure is The Most Important Thing For All People to do, indefinitely, and nothing (except for hooking you up to a dangerous ventilator) can be done if you get sick, full stop.
Among other problems with this mechanistic vision of health (in addition to humans not being machines) is that it ignores the literally millions of variables that, with tremendous nuance, influence whether a person gets sick with a stuffy nose or flu-like symptoms vs. no symptoms at all…and why very occasionally, somebody with the exact same infection, dies. Also, our immune systems evolved with “germs” and they need to encounter them more or less constantly in order to continue to function. And in any case, I couldn’t see how population-wide contagious-disease prevention would be worth it if it required quarantining healthy people and preventing all social interactions. It would literally be impossible to be successful at such population-wide avoidance unless you shut down society indefinitely, and the damage from such a plan would be so incalculably huge that risk of death from the disease in question would need to be _extremely_ well-understood and much more serious than any contagious-disease pandemic that has ever been described - not just a series of vague hypotheticals like the covid 19 risk-of-death still remained.
I still remember where I was standing when news came of lockdowns IN CALIFORNIA. At first, others in my social circle expressed disbelief too, but within moments many people had inexplicably picked their jaws right back up off the floor. We were all supposed to wear masks when in the presence of anyone not in our immediate household. And not see anyone outside of our household. But what about outdoors? What about indoors with the windows open? We were supposed to stand far apart. Oh, and singing was bad - really bad. And you could get a ticket if you went to the playground, and my kids were petrified of getting a ticket, and the CAUTION tape on the slides and monkey bars really freaked me out. What if we’d already had the virus? How could all the experts know that covid was brand new without large-scale population-testing initiatives? Why were they touting PCR testing instead of diagnostic testing? It didn’t make any sense to me that individuals should go to a special testing center in order to determine whether or not they were sick. I was amazed by the number of rules being created and changed every day.
“Sara, you’re always so negative,” friends told me. “Scientists are doing the best they can to understand the virus, and people are scared. All we’re being asked is to stay home for three weeks to flatten the curve.”
“They don’t want to flatten any curve!” I sputtered. “Since when does a bad flu year close down the world?! Every year, _millions_ of people die from zillions of health problems AND diseases, and since when does ANY actual crisis shut down the economy?!?! The math doesn’t even make sense, because there’s no curve to flatten, because nobody knows the CFR!! And what will three weeks of staying home possibly do, besides postponing this week’s cases for two more weeks? I just looked it up, and USA hospitals, right when they privatized and specialized, got rid of most of their extra ICU beds - and that was years ago. We have pretty much the fewest hospital beds per capita in the industrialized world! Nobody’s gonna change the medical system, let alone in three weeks. If the issue really was needing beds or ventilators, there are ways to get them - but it’s not even clear if ventilators are helpful, or just kill people faster. No, what the pharmaceutical companies want is to scare you so that you are begging for the vaccine that’s coming next. We won’t be done in three weeks.”
“You are such a conspiracy theorist! Not everyone is going to change their diet and try to improve chronic health problems in order to deal with a global pandemic. We live close together. Vaccines will be something people want. People are scared, and people want to help NOW. That’s why I’m wearing a mask: because the cashier at the grocery store deserves to know I care. And now I’m done talking about covid - it’s too triggering.”
I wondered if I should feel guilty about something - my friends and also most of my extended family seemed offended every time we discussed the covid response.
But this response seemed inSANE to me! Surely lockdowns, even in the Peoples Republic of California, would be stamped out by uprisings, and surely these would be coming any day now, to alleviate this “three weeks and counting” bullshit, not to mention my growing and depressing sense of my little family becoming an island, rapidly losing connections to the mainland while the waters rose all around.
Brittanica: “liberalism - political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others, but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty. As the American Revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine expressed it in Common Sense (1776), government is at best “a necessary evil.” Laws, judges, and police are needed to secure the individual’s life and liberty, but their coercive power may also be turned against the individual. The problem, then, is to devise a system that gives government the power necessary to protect individual liberty but also prevents those who govern from abusing that power.”
Wikipedia, concerning both the republicans and the democrats: "Ideologically, all US parties are liberal and always have been. Essentially they espouse classical liberalism, that is a form of democratised Whig constitutionalism plus the free market. The point of difference comes with the influence of “social liberalism" and the proper role of government.”
“Mama, does anyone else agree with you? Wouldn’t it be easier to just go along with the rules? Why do you need to argue about everything?”
Why indeed. Well, children…remember back in Germany, when Hitler was coming to power? There was a time, over many years in fact, when people were starting to behave in certain ways, “just following the rules,” that were dangerous: even though no one had been sent to the gas chambers…yet.
I was scolded both by friends and family members for this, and my own children, most of whom said my horrible analogy was disturbing, completely false, and totally melodramatic. Hitler ran a totalitarian state that was targeting Jews and other deviants by using completely falsifiable theories of eugenics, whereas right now We Are All In This Together and living in a democracy, apart from those idiotic Trumpers who are obviously “covid-deniers”, “anti-democratic”, and “anti-science.”
It had been startling how quickly it happened: over the course of a couple of weeks, me not-wearing a mask in public caused many people to glare, step away, yell, refuse entry, and otherwise howl with virtuous rage, even while I still could not find evidence that masks prevented transmission of respiratory viruses. The only studies I found that investigated mask use in community and hospital settings found no causal link between mask wearing and a reduction in infections, serious illnesses, or deaths (and noted a statistically small increase in respiratory infections in mask-wearers as compared with unmasked persons).
Luckily, mathematical models were once again to the rescue! Hypothetically (a plethora of new studies were brilliantly proving this), once the right numbers were plugged into the models, masks that had for years failed to prevent the transmission of disease were suddenly highly effective at doing so. Also, I learned, good democrats always wore masks. Sometimes even while driving alone in their cars.
Things were different at the auto mechanic, however. He was a republican, and in his shop, I could breathe and smile freely.
And what an incredibly bizarre thing, all these new sets of confusing rules that seemed perfectly designed to encourage people to make healthcare decisions based on political ideologies. Was I now similarly expected to go consult my congressman if I wanted an appropriate treatment for diarrhea?? Or perhaps I should next ask my doctor to advise me about campaign finance reform. I found this aspect of “the news” to be the definition of insanity!
Yet still, now a few more weeks into lockdowns, legislated “social distancing,” and face masks, I felt quite alone in wishing for any nuanced discussion of human immunity, health, and successful prevention of and treatments for respiratory viruses, not to mention the rising political fervor. I held out hope that soon my voice would be joined by My People.
We progressives were the ones, after all, who were perfectly equipped to point out the dangers that lurked behind the profusion of covid rules (rules, rules, and more rules characterize totalitarian societies); we of all people would remember how “public health emergencies” have historically been used to justify “temporary” restrictions on or elimination of civil liberties (remember the “typhus quarantine” in WW2 Germany https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abc0927 ); and we would certainly want to avoid promoting dehumanizing and separatist ideologies that encourage neighbors to turn against neighbors, families to turn each other in, and many, many ordinary people to follow authoritarian orders.
I learned that in some places, 311 hotlines were now in place so people could rat on any neighbors caught socializing with Unacceptable Numbers of friends. At the same time, I heard that there were some states where all was business as usual. My theory: governors enacting strict lockdown policies were politicians who in the future wished to run for President.
(Off topic thoughts concerning retrospective limitations of my theory: if lockdown governors had indeed been those persons seeking future presidential bids, that ultimately would have meant approximately 37 new presidential candidates…while we are shepherded toward a maximum of precisely two in the USA. How come we are allowed to choose from an entire store’s worth of inventory in order to pick our most favorite alcoholic beverage to serve with dinner, but we get only two choices when voting for the leader of an entire country?? Who makes this stuff up? Who actually selects the two candidates out of all possibilities in the entire country, thereby excluding voters from 99.99999% of the voting process??)
“We’re just following the rules.” Countless anonymous people throughout modern history have said this while mysteriously following directives that with hindsight are clearly horrendous, but at the time are justified by calm appeals to “science” and “hygiene”.
The USA was now in an Official State of Emergency, as were many states. The reality of this wartime loophole - “Sara, how can you question this?! People are DYING from covid!!!” - meant that certain of our constitutional rights were suspended. This seemed like a huge deal! Presidents and governors and other officials could now make orders, laws, and regulations without due process nor checks and balances. It seemed like this had little if anything to do with a respiratory virus, nor would it help a severely sick covid patient in any way. Instead, this looked like an acceleration of government control and censorship that had emerged into the public view during the war in Vietnam, and again during the war in Iraq and 9/11, and at so many other moments when I hadn’t been alive or paying attention.
Now I was finally paying attention, and I couldn’t un-see the present and future possibilities.
Surely we, the Superior Left-Leaning Social-Justice Types, would quickly and collectively revolt - any day now - against the tsunami of….What The Media Was Telling Us. I didn’t want to be melodramatic or anything, but what else could one call this constant stream of gushing Encouragement to Fear and Believe and Buy Stuff (but not TP) and Stay Home, besides “propaganda”? It absolutely WAS propaganda, it seemed to me, that was bound to strike a dangerous chord within the particularly divided, precipitous political and economic tenor of The Industrialized World, Circa 2020.
Britannica: “propaganda - dissemination of information - facts, arguments, rumours, half-truths, or lies - to influence public opinion.”
In 2020, instead of being encouraged to “do” science, or “understand” science, we were supposed to “believe in” science. The legacy media newscasters might as well be announcing brightly, dozens of times per day, “Tune in All The Time for more Scientism, our new state religion, with further instructions brought to you by our very own Priests Of Science!”
You know what made me actually weep in front of my kids? The net corporate profits for the biggest companies (Walmart, Amazon, Blackrock, etc.) during the summer of the 2020 lockdowns, when in my community, nearly every non-chain restaurant and small business was forced to shut its doors, in most cases never to reopen. Hardly any politicians were saying anything except Stimulus Checks Are Coming. Yet these obscene corporate profits were the largest ever recorded!! The actual numbers boggled my mind. Pronouncing the numbers was physically painful.
For instance: Walmart became $63 billion richer during the first few months of lockdowns, while paying wages so low that 14,541 of their workers in 9 states needed food stamps — all subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.
I mean, I didn’t claim to have all the answers. But plans to infuse an additional 40% of the existing total amount of US Dollars into the economy over a two-year period, while allowing most of it to funnel directly upward to create several dozen new billionaires and trillionaires even as working class Americans were plunging into poverty at record rates…didn’t feel like progress to me.
The more I thought about it, in the summer of 2020, the less possible it seemed that the left wing ideal of a Benevolent Big Government could ever come to be. The reality seemed more like this: Corporations Enjoy The Rights of People Except More So —> Government Control Tightens For Ordinary Non-Corporation Citizens —> Government and Corporations Get Bigger/More Incestuous/More Powerful —> Citizens Argue Amongst Themselves While Dividing a Rapidly Shrinking Portion of the Pie —> Government Control Tightens Even More For Ordinary Non-Corporation Citizens —> Cycle Continues And Everything Gets Worse. Even when democrats are in power. Even when republicans are in power. No matter who wins, government gets bigger, and opportunities expand for increased Control.
This was the first time I was finally connecting the dots, not that I was proud of being late to the party: The top priorities of Big Government and Big Business would NEVER be the things actual people want and need; the system couldn’t allow such priorities. Many greater minds than I have spent a lot of time articulating why this is (e.g. this nice short infographic concerning how “Corruption is Legal in America”: https://youtu.be/5tu32CCA_Ig ). Many philosophers talk about it too.
It would be better maybe, more peaceful for sure, to ignore my gut feelings about the world situation. But how??
My kids drew the line at discussions concerning economics, because they said everything was too awful for me to justify discussing stressful topics that were so incredibly boring.
I kept obsessing after they went to bed.
This all seemed a lot bigger than a virus, which, despite padding “covid death” statistics by including deaths WITH covid instead of deaths FROM covid, still didn’t justify such a large-scale, non-health-focused governmental response. When I looked it up, I found evidence that the shutdowns were directly padding the pockets of most Americans who have investments, but especially Large Corporations. In fact, it seemed arguable to call the Corporate Sector our third - and possibly most powerful - political party, and they don’t really care about American elections at all: no matter who wins, their profits get increasingly large while working class persons are increasingly squeezed and ill. Handouts for these corporations have grown during Every Single Administration since Jimmy Carter, while wages for working class Americans have remained effectively flat for decades.
I had changed my opinions concerning a couple of important issues in my life, but I had never done what progressives appeared to be doing, which was opening a wholesale black hole into the metaphorical basement, into which ethics, morals, and ideals were being deposited. If a few hundred dollars per citizen - plus a teeny bit for small businesses, plus a shit ton for Big Business - were the best policies that the left wing could stand up for as “stimulus”, I was severely disappointed in the counterculture.
It was then I had to start facing what was coming from Progressive circles: crickets.
But there was not just silence: apart from now two identified exceptions in my personal life (later many more, but only two people at first), all my dear friends and family members were following these non-evidence-based new “health” mandates, handed down first by the military industrial complex after implementing the State of Emergency. What came next, of course, were equally fear-mongering orders emerging from “public” “health” agencies: We shouldn’t get together with friends; We should get used to policies changing daily and without notice; Children should not play with each other; States without lockdowns are dangerous hotbeds of conservative extremism and contagion; Adults’ Fears Trump Kids’ Needs; Beaches and Skate Parks should be closed; Public schools should be replaced by “online learning”; People should stay home from work whenever they are sick despite no paid sick leave; Authorities should be listened-to, just as long as they say the opposite of whatever Donald Trump says.
Progressives were now actually _leading_ the calls for lockdowns, while scapegoating those who would question authority by, for example, attempting to share information concerning effective, easy, and cheap treatment protocols for seriously ill covid patients. Or noting that lockdowns were hurting elderly, poor, or vulnerable populations most of all. Or discussing the ways in which people’s biology affects their illness severity. Or questioning the administrators and CEOS who seemed hell bent on virtue-signaling their way to the top by implementing ridiculously-so-called “health” initiatives.
The list of topics that could get one’s content Disappeared or Canceled now included an incredible array of issues and states-of-being, reminding one of the Precrime unit in a particularly dystopian science fiction movie. Doctors, nonprofit organizations, citizen scientists, students, lawyers, activists, environmentalists, political organizers, homemakers, and academics, among many others, found themselves “violating community standards” and losing access (without notice) to their own data and hundreds of thousands of subscribers on many different platforms. In other cases, these same Super Definitely Possibly Dangerous and Always Super Positively Absolutely Racist Conspiracy Theorists received Warnings and lost their jobs.
At one time, this would have triggered left wing outrage; now, it was progressive administrators and CEOs doing the censoring. Were the puppeteers in government, or Big Business? Or was there even a difference anymore? And if there weren’t puppeteers…then what the hell was going on?!
This was insane, and soon SOME additional people would see it, I still felt sure, regardless of their political affiliation. I told my kids that I would never forgive myself if I pretended to agree with the ridiculous stuff coming out of the mouths of the mainstream news reporters. I found small comfort in standing up for truth as I saw it, even while my family and friends were chastising my opinions and confusing my children (who were experiencing the psychological effect of lockdowns). I couldn’t imagine how horrible things must be for families whose income had gone away during this time, and there were a TON of people feeling the squeeze. Indoors or outdoors, we rarely saw children anymore. Also, why were so many people’s feelings getting hurt whenever somebody disagreed with them?
In August, one of my kids asked angrily, “How long has it been again?” Five months, I said. “Well then, these lockdowns make me feel like I’ve been wasting my time for _five whole months,_ and I think it must be WORSE for grownups because they have less time left to live!”
“Western governments and ruling classes can easily afford Religious Freedom for the commoners because they no longer use religion as the primary means of justifying their power. Temporal authorities force upon the populace the belief systems that they control and that they use to justify their power, which are now science and democracy as defined by the state.”
In a tiny silver lining, I resumed correspondence with three old friends with whom I hadn’t spoken in years. We expressed collective awe at the current level of crazy, and it was good to hear that other people were making some kind of noise, even if it wasn’t in my precise neighborhood.
Despite my own strong feelings about the rationale behind and (lack of) evidence supporting the mandates (first for masks and curfews, and later for vaccines), I still strongly believed that it’s quite important that you do you. If it turned out the orders given by the Department of Defense and the CDC et al were the actions you personally deemed correct for your own self and your family, then you should have every right to do that which was right for you.
The disturbing thing about it was (and still is), even dear friends and family were (and still are) actively excoriating and excluding those who didn’t fall into lockstep and follow the rules. And nobody I know has apologized.
The message from the political left now sounded a lot like this: Do and Think the Right Things, Be A Member of One of the Few Marginalized Identity Groups We Protect…or stay well hidden so no one knows I associate with you…or go to hell.
News, as opposed to propaganda, should consist of information. News stories should not consist of political messaging and instructions for how to think and behave upon receipt.
Like 1984 but in real life, the left wing pressure to Goodthink in 2020 become so immense and sudden and suffocating that when I contemplated the reality of keeping my current social circle - vs. letting go of relationships and support I had imagined would endure for a lifetime - I stopped being able to cry. The grief and anger was way more than I wished to share with my kids, but it oozed from my pores for months. Years, actually.
We moved across the country in September, and I learned that while there were a few other homeschooling families in our new hometown, with kids the same ages as mine, the progressive liberals among them “weren’t seeing new people.”
Had the left always been this way, and I’d never noticed? Or had the strangeness been building for a while, only to burst into its true political firestorm of colors right now? According to The NY Times et al, there were two points of view about any given topic: the right one, and the wrong one. The narrative, and the conspiracies. The democrats, and the racists. The people who did what they were told, and the people who did evil things.
I could barely believe it. And my life was privileged! My husband hadn’t lost his job due to lockdowns. We had been homeschooling for ten years already. Each day, I woke up in my home to a strangely quiet Groundhog Day, and then there would be meals to cook, and children whining. “When can we see people?”
“When will this END?!” one child in particular would cry every day, before dissolving in an I-give-up slump of depression and rage. Then maybe there would be yet another tantrum, followed by a session with a new graphic novel on the couch.
Out in society was the deluge of new rules, and almost all of my friends and family - plus supposedly, half the voting public - who supported the existence of such rules. And this was NOT right. This wasn’t I-do-me, you-do-you. These were freaking authoritarian orders, the number and exact specifications of which mostly depended on the political orientation of your state’s governor and/or your town’s mayor. It was not enough to spontaneously begin signaling your belief in an entirely unproven theory of preventing the transmission of respiratory virus aerosols by wearing masks; according to the as yet unwritten yet absolutely-understood progressive rulebook, it was entirely reasonable to label someone a fascist and a grandma-killer if she didn’t wear one, and do that “labeling” out loud and in public. Just as suddenly, the toddlers were wearing masks too. We were supposed to understand that any and all authoritarian behaviors could be excused because someone Felt Fearful and Oppressed Enough.
American Heritage Dictionary: “socialism - any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.”
I pointed out again, to whomever would listen, that no evidence apart from mathematical “models” existing once again only in Theory could find a correlation between mask usage and a reduction in serious respiratory illnesses or deaths. I still couldn’t find any studies indicating that masks could prevent illness from covid or any other virus transmitted via aerosols.
But that was no problem! To be on the safe side, said the chipper newscasters, it would be better for everybody to hide in their houses until the vaccine was ready. Voila! Perfectly confounded epidemiology at its finest: Practicing masksandsocialdistancing proved that masks and social distancing are Very, Very Important in avoiding covid and every other infectious disease, even while the importance of understanding the difference between dying With covid vs. dying From covid seemed to be forgotten, along with any attempts to calculate an IFR and CFR based on actual population-testing statistics. Not to mention that there was a thousand-fold difference in mortality risk between a chronically ill senior citizen and a child - most of the latter of whom were still being confined to their homes to avoid getting a virus that many of them had already had.
Meanwhile, suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes was actually correlated with an enormously increased risk of dying from covid. Also, I wanted to yell, so many chronic diseases are firmly correlated with dying, and we never barely EVER talk about these on the news! For the first time in a century, this current generation of children was projected to live shorter lives than their parents, because average lifespans in the developed world were actually going down.
But masks were super definitely absolutely totally important! Whereas changing one’s diet to reduce sugar and processed foods, which can significantly improve blood sugar numbers in as quickly as six weeks’ time, was never even mentioned as relevant by any bureaucrat anywhere. Imagine how our collective health might have improved if we’d cut out processed foods and sugar for the past year of lockdowns…
When I pointed out this logic, people who had known me for decades called my opinions “dangerous” and “hurtful,” and rebuked me for my failure to comply with The Rules, which I surely would do if only I understood that “people are scared” and one must “believe in science” in order to “get back to normal.”
If my kids express interest, I tell them that there is plenty of disagreement about the exact definitions of various political terms, but some agreement as well:
Wikipedia: “authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political status quo, and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic voting. …States that have a blurred boundary between democracy and authoritarianism have sometimes been characterized as ‘hybrid democracies’, ‘hybrid regimes’ or ‘competitive authoritarian’ states.”
As far as I can tell, there are many types of authoritarianism. A single supreme dictator would obviously qualify; totalitarian regimes are by definition authoritarian; and fascism refers to a form of authoritarianism that particularly enforces citizens’ nationalistic behavior and loyalty.
Merriam Webster: “fascism - a political philosophy, movement, or regime…that exalts nation…above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Merriam Webster: “totalitarian - of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship...)”
I found this comment on Quora.com: “Totalitarian rule is called this because the power of those who govern extends to every aspect of life and society; in other words, total rule. They tell you what to say, what to think, where to live, what to study, where to work, etc. Obviously, because of the difficulty of controlling large populations minutely, no pure form of totalitarian government has ever existed. However, Soviet Communism, German Nazism and Italian Fascism attempted to be totalitarian, but for very different reasons.” https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-similarities-and-differences-between…
Citizens in an authoritarian regime (say, under the reign of a dictator) do not necessarily support the intrusive rules of the state, but totalitarian situations can evolve almost organically, no dictator needed, when citizens are totalitarized: that is, when a majority of citizens become willing to not only submit to but actually internalize and enforce the intrusive rules of the state.
According to Matthias Desmet in “The Psychology of Totalitarianism”, a large percentage of a population must be experiencing four things in order for totalitarianism to achieve momentum:
1. Lack of social bonds or meaningful relationships.
2. Lack of meaning in the world (for example, having meaningless jobs).
3. Large amounts of free floating anxiety, which in some cases has no discernible cause.
4. Large amounts of unvented frustration and aggression.
As the months went by, into and through 2021, I daily explained to my kids that I still didn’t totally understand what was going on, and that nobody else really seemed to either. I explained that a lot of people were still very scared, even though it had been over a year of the same fear campaign with few updates, and the virus was _still_ not nearly as bad as those in charge kept saying it might be, and none of the so-called Public Health Authorities would share their proprietary definitions of how bad “bad” needed to be in order to qualify as Bad, anyway.
Maybe there were a ton of other people just as skeptical I was, but Social Distancing guidelines were doing a good job of destroying what remained of communities everywhere, and I wasn’t meeting many. I told my kids that it was a crime, how all the information about effective ways to treat severe covid were still being censored in every form of media. I told my kids that a lot of things were very wrong: adults were confused, and children should be allowed to play with each other.
Some of my kids were so depressed about not having much social interaction, and so tired of me talking about covid policy, that they just glared at me darkly each time I spoke. And I just kept parroting words about “truth” and “right and wrong” because I had to remind my own self, in addition to my kids, what the point of it all was, anyway.
In March, Biden extended the State of Emergency for another year. He did so quietly, with little fanfare. How easy it seemed to dismantle a republic while consolidating control! I couldn’t imagine any president going forward who wouldn’t similarly want to keep such a State of Emergency going indefinitely.
So many media outlets were dispensing Gallons of Narrative per minute: let’s freak out about this virus, and stay home all the time (except when we go out), and not research matters relating to Health for ourselves (until a vaccine is ready), and not park kids in front of devices (except for entire days and weeks and months of Distance Learning), and make things feel “normal” and “safe” (we must only hang with Intelligent, Careful people, and even then, intermittently).
How long did the propagandists think they could string us along? And why was there so much of it to begin with?
I told my kids it was well past time to really talk about death. Exhibit A Number One Question: what made “covid deaths” more deathy than other deaths?
My kids were already totally tired of me talking about how we have an unprecedented number of epidemics facing us today, which all fit under the umbrella label of Chronic Illness: autism/ADHD, depression, behavioral disorders, mental health problems, addiction, diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, skin problems, digestive issues, thyroid problems, overweight and obesity, reproductive challenges, hormonal imbalances, kidney problems, hypertension, inflammation, feeding problems, developmental delays and “sensory” problems, not to mention dozens of strange disorders involving the immune system that are literally just being described in the medical literature as more and more people get diagnosed with strange, so far incurable maladies.
All these modern diseases add up to an incredible number of early deaths (“seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S.” - more than 1.7 million Americans per year <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5876976/#sec1-ijerph-15-00…;) and reduced quality of life, and these diseases barely existed a few hundred years ago, even in places where people lived a long time. Sure, there were odd cases here and there, but nowhere even approaching the levels of illness that exist today.
I’m not a medical professional, but it doesn’t take a fancy degree to understand that this isn’t a matter of genetics. Changes to the genome take a LOT longer than one or two generations to express, and while genes can predispose us to developing a certain set of symptoms, our modern industrialized lifestyle brings us a lot more problems than “mere” susceptibility to infectious disease. Never before have humans felt this crappy overall, required this much medication and doctors’ expertise to stay alive, and been so able to survive in a weakened state. We humans are very flexible, and good at normalizing the poor health of ourselves and our families to an enormous degree. But while our epidemic of modern diseases is common, it is NOT normal. Rather than blame disease on poor genes, and infection purely on the infectious agent, it seems like an important line of research is to look at people who are healthy and who have recovered from various diseases, and try to understand why their bodies are working so WELL…so Normally.
The only problem is, this is not very profitable. Which leads to an uneasy conclusion: the outcome that is best for the financial bottom line of the corporations tasked with protecting our “health” in this country…is the outcome that involves us collectively _staying sick_. To wit: more than 85% of the trillions of dollars spent on public and private healthcare in 2020 went toward treatments for chronic disease.
We are not a healthy bunch here in the industrialized world, and this did not start nor end with covid. It is hard to avoid another unpleasant conclusion: those who called for masks, lockdowns, and vaccines wanted us to think covid deaths were more important, more worrisome, and unworthy of any frame of reference as compared with all the other things people die from, in order to scare us more. Further motivation can be found by simply glancing at Big Pharma’s obscene profits over the past three years: by suppressing and censoring information about effective, cheap ways to treat covid, and continually amping up the fear factor, fast-tracked vaccines became coveted and mandated. That’s how we ended up with “vaccines” that didn’t prevent infection nor transmission yet became the world’s most profitable drugs, available with complete and total liability protection for the manufacturers under emergency use authorization and then the childhood vaccine liability shield. Why would any pharmaceutical company NOT jump at the opportunity to snag a piece of the action, no conspiracy theories needed?
The narrative concerning the sudden virtues of these criminal pharmaceutical companies (I refer to too many lawsuits and immoral human experiments, domestically and abroad in recent decades, to list them here) remains stunning, because so many people adopted it and continue to proselytize it as their own. Especially those on the left.
One night, I wanted to make a little sketch of some numbers, admittedly squirrelly as they all are.
I found the CDC stating covid had “caused” 452,279 deaths over the past 11 months in the USA (it’s worth noting that some countries and populations experienced almost no covid fatalities, and it would be fascinating to investigate why). This number, of course, includes countless hospital “covid death” reports such as these:
88M, PART 1: a. Failure to thrive, b. dementia, c. type II diabetes, PART 2: COVID-19 positive
79F, PART 1: a. renal cancer – 4 months, PART 2: COVID-1
74F, Accident, PART 1: a. COVID-19 infection & bronchopulmonary aspergillosis complicating sequelae of blunt force injury of right, PART 2: diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity
84F, PART 1: a. Alzheimer’s, PART 2: COVID-19 disease
88M, PART 1: a. cancer of larynx, PART 2: COVID-19 infection
85F, PART 1: a. Arteriosclerotic CV disease, PART 2: Atrial fibrillation, COVID-19
60M, PART 1: a. Septic shock – days b. E Coli Bacterium-UTI c. GI bleed – acute blood loss anemia-esophageal necrosis d. acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, PART 2: Hypertension, HX of COVID
88F, PART 1: a. Complications of dementia, PART 2: Atrial fibrillation, arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, COVID-19
79F, PART 1: a. Coronary artery disease – years, PART 2: COVID-19, myeloproliferative disorder, diabetes, Parkinson’s
83F, Accident, PART 1: a. Complications of COVID-19 – NS, PART 2: Traumatic brain injury, failure to thrive, atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease, urinary tract infection
87F, PART 1: a. Senile degeneration of brain, PART 2: Complications related to COVID-19 infection
98F, PART 1: a. End stage dementia b. Adult failure to thrive c. Positive COVID-19, PART 2: blank
64M, PART 1: a. Acute heart failure b. Chronic systolic heart failure c. Ischemic cardiomyopathy d. A. Fib, hypertension, HLD, PART 2: COVID-19
72M, PART 1: a. Parkinson’s disease, PART 2: Hypertension, history of COVID-19 and deep vein thrombosis in Jul
Meanwhile, there were over 6 million car accidents in the USA in 2021, which killed 42,915 people and injured over 2 million more.
Covid is different, people kept saying. Covid deaths are preventable! But so are car accidents, technically. By doing little more than not-driving, your risk is virtually eliminated! If we were really serious about saving lives, we could lockdown, stay home, and so many lives would be saved every year! Or, why not lockdown until such time as cars are made safer? Why not double down on protecting the world from car accident deaths? Why not stop as many car accident deaths as possible?
Also of note, cancer in 2021 was estimated to have killed 693,000 Americans.
Heart Disease rates are also increasing, with 604,000 Americans dying from it in 2021.
And then, of course, there are dozens of other Chronic Diseases under our umbrella. Kidney failure affects almost 750,000 people per year in the United States, disproportionately minority and low-income patients. (Compared to whites: African Americans are 3.5 times more likely to have kidney failure.) (Statistics · The Kidney Project · UCSF)
Diabetes deaths topped 100,000 in 2021.
I found some buried reports about handsome bonuses that many hospitals were getting for each death certificate that included a positive covid PCR test result. I mean, it’s hard not to see how practices like these would bump up the covid death rates and remove focus from other issues.
“Life is a messy, risky, and at times lethal adventure, and while it’s perfectly acceptable and in fact compassionate to try to lower this risk to some extent, a complete elimination of all risk would create a dull, lifeless world devoid of conviviality and meaning…
“On the one hand, there is the attitude that Death must be vanquished at all costs; that the highest value is survival and safety, both for ourselves and for the ones we love; that the natural order is cruel and unjust and should be controlled and sanitized.
“On the other hand, there is the perspective that an overemphasis on fighting Death — which, after all, is an inevitable part of life — ultimately ends up sacrificing the very things we live for. Those of us in the latter category don’t advocate a cold indifference to fate or a “let it rip” attitude; we merely believe that the fight against Death should not become an all-consuming holy war, which demands as its sacrifice the soul.”
I guessed it was quite clear, actually, and not stupid at all: the mainstream covid summary-of-events was way easier to propagandize. “Here’s The Very Simple and Scary Message - And Stay Safe, Everyone!!”
The similarities between pre-WW2 Germany and 2021 in many places around the world were increasingly striking, in the political sense. And yet when I mentioned this, friends and family were offended. “What are you talking about? Nobody’s targeting Jewish people except white supremacists, and no one is targeting _any_ minority groups at all. This isn’t fascism! It’s about Staying Safe. On the other hand, the white supremacists are very scary, since nearly fifty percent of the country voted Republican, which is practically synonymous with Racist. What’s wrong with masks, anyway? They _might_ work! Just wear one and relax a little. Vaccines are coming and they are for those who believe in science. Meanwhile, everyone must quarantine to Show They Care. People are scared. I don’t understand why you don’t believe in science. Are you a covid denier? You are hurting my feelings!!!”
“No pure form of totalitarian government has ever existed.” This is so difficult to remember when we’re busy recreating abstract, purely totalitarian governments throughout history in our imaginations. THEN was so different than NOW which is a nuanced, complex, and Way Different Time and place! And so we can be blinded to the impure yet dangerous totalitarianism sprouting right under our noses.
A lot of people were waking up in 2021, even though the public squares of our time - social media - were diligently censoring and Slowing Down people who woke up too loudly, gaslighting and silencing by turns.
Oxford Dictionary: “gaslight - manipulate (someone) using psychological methods into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning.”
As I write this at the end of 2022, some estimated hundreds of millions of people around the globe are just learning that our gut feelings over the past three years were actually correct. It wasn’t an accident that so many of us were censored for “violating community standards.” Everyone I know who was injured (thankfully not debilitated or killed, like unlucky others) after receiving their fast-tracked mRNA vaccines has discovered that no one at the FDA, CDC, or Big Pharma is monitoring or acknowledging their symptoms, and their doctors are afraid to even discuss the growing issue of vaccine injury, due to fear of losing their licenses. Billions of people were certainly impacted by the way information concerning cheap, effective, simple treatments for respiratory viruses - including covid - just never popped up in google and other search results.
Not only are people being censored and shadow-banned and blocked by private companies like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook et al, but it turns out that MANY branches of the federal government have been ordering up the algorithms, Successfully “Requesting” Big Tech’s Compliance with implementing same, orchestrating the gaslighting, curating our newsfeeds, paying off the legacy media, and censoring untold millions (billions?) of counter-narrative posts and people - from academics to doctors to politicians to ordinary Joes and Janes on the street - sometimes using “Russian Security Threat” as a conjured proxy. But largely, federal operators have halted any pretense. They - our USA federal government, including “public” “health” and “security” and “intelligence” agencies and the executive branch - have financed and are financing the enormous propaganda campaign specifically to manipulate us, and to serve the interests of those citizens who actually count (hint: not We The People).
It is difficult to contemplate the monied interests who encouraged (and still encourage!) our own friends and family to scapegoat and shame us, and to spit “Conspiracist!!!” in our faces…without yet again noting the similarities between Right Now and Totalitarian Governments down through the ages.
And they said it was all about Safe and Effective…
I believe we may accurately use the term Biomedical Fascism to describe the covid response.
So, have you felt exhausted and alone and cut off from your social networks and most shreds of community due to incredibly bizarre, seemingly-“everywhere”-narratives over the past three years? Well then, the good news is that many powerful organizations within the federal government and corporate America actually aim to make you feel that way!
Yay. Isn’t modern technology grand. This is us, standing on the shoulders of giants.
Is this in any way acceptable? I shake my head involuntarily every time I consider the perverse situation and the improbability of any regulation even beginning to address the enormous, unconstitutional privacy and other antitrust concerns in our lifetime. I would be unable to believe it, except I’m getting highly practiced: the tip of the iceberg, as illustrated by The Twitter Files, is being ignored and ridiculed by “progressive” “liberal” “democratic” news outlets. I sometimes look like I’m having severe tics.
What took me so long to see it?
Walter Kirn: This is the novelist in me talking, the outright conspiracy theorist: just imagine, as a thought experiment, that all these techniques are being put into place for things you think are good. But, they’re all being put in place by your enemy, so that you’ll accept the structure of tyranny on the basis that it’s YOUR tyranny. And then we’ll flip it, and you will all be the victims of it. You who allowed it in the first place, because it served the agenda that you backed, served the politicians that were popular with you; you will now become its ultimate victim because the structure of policing and suppression and surveillance and censorship is now going to be passed in a suitcase to your worst enemy. And you approved of it. You let it be built. You cheered it on. You fucking fools. And if I were to write a terribly ironic, dark novel, that is the ending I would give it, if only as a warning of what’s possible…
Matt Taibbi: Americans have always tended to be pretty patriotic, hard-working for the most part - we’ve never been a terribly radical country. But they’re gonna make people radical with stuff like this.
Walter Kirn: Definitely. And those who aren’t radical, they are going to call radical, and treat them as though they were, until the perverse incentive is to be as bad as they say you are, because you’re going to have to defend more and more against a kind of slanderous onslaught. Maybe from your own family, maybe from the government, maybe from a corporation. And you’ll be a Suspect Person, and Suspect Persons start getting pretty ornery after a while, especially when they’re wrongly accused. To take a country that’s largely innocent and declare it guilty and then start treating it as though it were, is a recipe for inflammatory social events.
Wikipedia: “Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and political freedom, and minimize the state's encroachment on and violations of individual liberties; emphasizing the rule of law, pluralism, cosmopolitanism, cooperation, civil and political rights, bodily autonomy, free association, free trade, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, freedom of movement, individualism and voluntary association. Libertarians are often skeptical of or opposed to authority, state power, warfare, militarism and nationalism, but some libertarians diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing economic and political systems.”
As we know, the extreme ultra Scientism and vaccine mandates picked up steam in late 2021, and like many people, I saw them coming but did not have any idea what to do. I watched the progressive, left wing (and many conservative, right wing) administrators and directors and CEOS of all those companies and government agencies and Elite so-called Educational Institutions like colleges, and even alternative and homeschooling organizations, schools, nonprofits, and camps, fall into lockstep.
My sense of humor all but disappeared. My heart was pounding so loudly that my powers of cognition were certainly dulled, but it was impossible to miss the irrational, non-evidence-based, corporately-spun propaganda machine, and all the people Just Following the Rules: here were mandates requiring hundreds of thousands of unwilling people (the shots had already been “free” for anyone who DID want one, for months) to get a vaccine that had shoddy, insufficient, and non-transparent safety and efficacy data, and _did not prevent infection with nor transmission of covid_.
It didn’t prevent transmission!! The talking heads at the FDA actually said so on camera. Regulators were leaving the agency in unprecedented numbers, citing extreme disagreements with the regulatory process that had more holes every time I looked it up. The media spouted not facts, but instructions and orders: “BELIEVE covid shots are Safe and Effective and will allow you to Go Back to Normal. TAKE the shots. Take the shots. BELIEVE in the shots. Covid will continue. BLAME the unvaccinated.”
There was literally no basis for vaccine mandates, and yet people were implementing them. Good Germans were everywhere.
Bad Sara, That’s Not a Nice Thing To Say!
But what else could possibly explain such behavior except a mass hypnosis? Somebody else put it more bluntly: Everyone thinks they’d be a Schindler, but it turns out…well, we know how it turns out. Most people aren’t Schindlers.
I knew better than to imagine that most of those who still called themselves progressives would see the irony which was SO freaking ironic, I would have been laughing constantly if I wasn’t still in mourning for any last vestige of a sense of humor.
I went into our backyard that week and dug a fish pond: three feet deep, eight feet wide, and thirteen feet long. I moved thousands of pounds of dirt, and channeled my rage by digging myself into exhaustion for eight days straight.
In L.A. and NYC and many other places, thousands of police officers, fire fighters, first responders, teachers, and municipal employees were given an ultimatum: get vaccinated, or get fired. A disproportionately large number of these formerly-“front-line” workers were from black and other minority populations.
A covid-recovered Catholic New York City Police Lieutenant described the situation (after the rejection of his religious exemption application) that caused him to take an early retirement from the force after 18 years:
“Personally, I had to give up my career. I’m not where I thought I would be. I thought I would getting ready to be a captain in the NYPD and pursue higher ranks. At the end of the day, I’m still blessed, but I’m worried for New York City. I love New York City, I worry for all the young guys that are still living in that city and trying to raise a family, and anyone, any city worker like teachers, nurses, these are great people and they’re being demonized. As crime runs wild in the city, all of a sudden, the people that pay their taxes, that bear the brunt of everything in the city, they are turned into the bad guys, and I just pray for New York. I really do.
“There were MANY of my colleagues who took this vaccine and they did not want to take this vaccine. They took it to keep their employment, to put food on the table, and I would never judge anyone for doing that, but it was horrible, the way they were being pushed into it.
“The days before you were allowed to submit an exemption, people felt the pressure. Even myself, and I’m not a guy who feels much pressure, I tell you, my right eye at the time was fluttering. It was fluttering for weeks and months leading up to that day…and in that line, at One Police Plaza, everyone’s there lining up to get the shot. And I’m seeing hundreds of guys lining up, day in, day out - as the days got closer it was more and more. It went from 40% vaccinated, to 60% vaccinated, 75% vaccinated… And people were feeling the pressure, and the unions weren’t there for them, they felt they had nowhere to go, and I felt the same way. Which is why I started to look for different career options. I was like, I can’t believe I’m doing this, in my 18th year, looking for different career options! I’m down there at work, I’m watching grown men, with tears in their eyes, sit down, take a shot that they don’t want to take, stand up enraged, and immediately storm out of there: “I had no choice. I had no choice!!!” Same thing with women.
“And you know, these are not your average New Yorkers, these are tough, tough people. They’re New York City police officers, they see and go through things that other people have nightmares about. They deal with these things numerous times per day, they are not your average people, and you watch that response to the mandates…it really just cemented my own conviction even more: Hey listen, I can’t do that, I can’t violate my conscience. I can’t sit there and tell my children to do the right thing, to speak up for the truth, and to protect the weak, I can’t tell that to them if I don’t do it. If I were to succumb to take this thing just as compliance, none of it making sense to me, none of it in my religion…I can make money doing something else. If New York City doesn’t want people like you there, if they don’t want people of faith there, it’s time to move on, then.”
I felt gratitude for the growing number of friends I now kept on speed-dial in my virtual rolodex, who were also speaking up. People were speaking up everywhere. As a result of our big mouths, we were losing jobs and career opportunities, friendships and relationships; getting social media accounts suspended; finding our letters rejected by legacy media outlets. We commiserated and made attempts at humor while refusing to condone biomedical facism. It appeared that the only differences between “red” and “blue” these days consisted of yelping about “hot-button issues,” and who to blame first. I was disgusted with pretty much every politician and unelected leader of the “free world”…actually, it was now obvious, a one-party system controlled by the industries making the most money: Eds and Meds and Military and Tech, currently pumping out covid propaganda with caffeinated industriousness to rival any global war effort. We really were already living in a corporate/state oligarchy.
Wikipedia: “Oligarchy - “rule by few”…is a conceptual form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. …Throughout history, power structures considered to be oligarchies have often been viewed as tyrannical, relying on public obedience or oppression to exist. Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as meaning rule by the rich, for which another term commonly used today is plutocracy.”
Fat lot of good my friends’ and my small revolutionary acts were doing, since most of our (former) fellow revolutionaries appeared totalitarized. But one must stand up for what one believes to be true, I kept telling my kids. We were luckier than most.
I was so very angry.
Britannica: “science - any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.”
“Determined as I am to unearth the full truth, I must confess that I’m afraid of what the consequences may be in a deeply divided and frightened citizenry where hatred has been stoked for years at both ends of the mainstream political spectrum and where confidence in even the most essential of political institutions appears to be at an all-time low. I really do not know where we are heading. I only know that truth, justice, humanity and mercy are ends in themselves and should never be relinquished or compromised.”
—A Fellow Thinker in Challenging Times
As near as I could tell, the political left with which I used to align was in the throes of an ideological collapse. In less than two years, political discussions had moved from Ensuring That Wealthy People Pay Their Share of Taxes…and Getting Money Out of Politics In Order To Aspire Toward A Real Democracy…and Removing Equal Protection Under The Law For Corporations Since They Aren’t Actually Human Beings…to a feverish level of identitarian wokeness, a peculiar and unstable ideology that appears to value appearances and Politically Correct Language above anything resembling acknowledgement of the physical and economic realities of the working class.
It has been especially fascinating to watch CEOs, politicians, and even military and FBI leaders embracing, for example, a habit of stating their pronouns. How handy, no? You get to be politically virtuous simply by stating whether you’re a man or a seahorse, or if you’re for or against global warming, and you never have to discuss crimes against humanity or the reality of the unwashed masses living in poverty.
This strange shift within liberal circles is something I have recently learned can be described through the lens of postmodern political thought.
Wikipedia: “…Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse characterized by skepticism toward the "grand narratives" of modernism [which itself as a philosophy explicitly embraces concepts such as reason, rationality, truth, and “objective reality”], opposition to epistemic certainty or stability of meaning, and emphasis on ideology as a means of maintaining political power.”
As far as I could tell, in no universe besides the pages of the New York Times et al in the USA circa 2021 would postmodern identitarian wokeness be described as standing for progressive or liberal political values.
And the postmodern affiliation explains why it is nearly impossible to have a constructive conversation about woke topics with somebody who possesses differing views from oneself, because such conversations rely on a shared understanding of the nature of reality. Wokeness allows its followers to construct their own little bubbles of ideology, complete with Personal Business standing in for universal truths, and handily disconnect from anyone or everything else in the world.
It’s a tragic feature of modern intellectual life that its practitioners are more interested in confirming ideological biases than they are in finding out what is true.
[Also]…There is an enormous problem in the intellectual world that no one has yet figured out how to solve. The issue is that there is not a great deal of demand for their services.
My kids rarely appreciated any of my diatribes, but I shared my thoughts with them anyway, since it’s my parental duty to educate: instances of totalitarianism look different depending on the particulars, I told them - it’s not always anti-Semitism and racism, for example, but systemic perversions of power always include significant “Othering” of specific groups. And similarly, revolutions are rarely successful, and they look different too, depending on the particulars of the moment. “Then why even try, Mama?” my kids asked, disinterestedly. “If you can’t win, what’s the point?”
Well, because by now it was clear, I was sad to tell my children, that the political left - whom (I thought) used to espouse values similar to ours - and the progressives who had once been the voice of minority groups who wouldn’t ordinarily be heard, were now the ones in bed with the regulatory agencies who were sleeping with the pharmaceutical companies, and were actually fanning the flames of rising totalitarianism. (Actually, maybe the political left WERE the flames now. Or at least the lighter fluid.)
Anecdotal reports - the only sort of reports that existed, since Big Pharma had ended all vaccine safety trials after just a few months - were pouring in. Friends, relatives, friends-of-friends, and neighbors were reporting many more side effects and injuries after their shots than from covid itself. They were also all getting covid.
Our local community college, DelTech, announced their vaccine mandate in the same week that a sprinkling of news articles reiterated the fact that covid vaccines do not prevent infection nor transmission with covid. The college president issued a statement that all students and faculty must be “fully vaccinated” in order to set foot on campus.
The president refused to meet with angry faculty, students, and parents, nor justify his policy. During the protest outside of the office of the president, several dozen people stood around with signs, chatting with campus police officers. A long-time teacher at the school was next to me, calmly explaining how his religious exemption - signed by two members of the clergy at his church - was denied by the college with no explanation. Another young woman, who held an administrative position in the college offices, was told she could no longer bring her two-year-old to the campus daycare during work hours unless the toddler was vaccinated.
DelTech’s president continued to refuse to meet with anyone to discuss the topic, and failed to respond to letters and phone calls from students, faculty, parents, and community members.
About a month after our protest, the president received a raise for his Exemplary Handling of Covid - in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars for DelTech, earmarked inexplicably for “covid relief” - from The State. Later in the season, Due To Unstated Reasons, the college withdrew the vaccine mandate entirely.
A revolution is unlikely, Kiddos of Mine! But investigating truth and standing up for it in small ways, and with great love, might be more important than ever. In a debate, your goal is not to convince your opponent, but the people observing your conversation. We must stand up for what is true and right, I told the kids, because it is the right and true thing to do. And because it shows others that standing up is still possible.
In a remarkably short time, lockdowns but now especially mandates had waged authoritarian-style economic warfare, definitely on any “counterculture” types, but most especially on working-class persons, ironically including people of color, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations. And progressives didn’t seem to mind at all.
It is quiet violence, but it is violence nonetheless, when the government removes economic privileges and jobs from those who do not comply with their rules; forces people to make a non-choice between complying and being unable to feed ones family; and censors and censures those who dare dissent from the Mainstream Narrative (“covid is so bad that we must do anything in order to stop anyone from getting it, no matter the cost; covid is so bad and there is no way to save lives except to wear masks and develop a vaccine for it; covid is so bad that even though the vaccines don’t prevent transmission nor infection nor severe symptoms and actually have significant risk of serious side effects and even increased risk of severe covid infection, we must mandate these shots and exclude from society all those who won’t get vaccinated”).
Also suddenly, having the luxury to be able to comply with the left wing political agenda was only possible if one was wealthy - such a strange switch, seemingly unseeable by those scared enough or willing enough to obey. It was certainly noticeable to all those coerced-enough to comply. The left used to be the downtrodden, the poor, the hippies! And now the left was mostly…the Rich and Powerful.
My now politically-homeless friends and I exclaimed in awe at how many of us had been taken in by the propaganda, and had seemingly lost our minds. Because it wasn’t like our own personal morals and ethics had changed over the past couple years, while it seemed as though what remained of the political left had abandoned the ideals that had once undergirded the counterculture.
And don’t even get me started on the proliferation of vaccinated-only social events, birthday parties, and weddings...
I had never felt so lonely in such an enormously inhabited world.
“…the most important thing for the State is to ensure “social cohesion” — even if it takes some official lying to coax the population into lockstep. Hitler could hardly have put it better.”
More people unsubscribed from my tiny email list than ever before. “Your views are dangerous,” said one. “I can’t see how you are anything besides a Trumper,” said another. “You hurt my FEELINGS,” stormed a third. “You might want to do a teeny bit of extra checking to see if you’ve been taken in by sources responsible for conspiracy theories,” patronized a fourth. “You’re a troublemaker.” “You’re somebody who cares about their health, but not everyone does, and we all have to stay home most of the time to protect the vulnerable people who can’t stay home, since nobody can always stay home - staying home shows solidarity.” “The vaccines don’t prevent transmission, and they don’t reduce cases, but they might reduce viral load in the nose, I think, so it makes epidemiological sense for everyone to get them to protect public health by slowing the spread, according to epidemiologist expert professionals.” “You need to stop confusing people, and keep the message simple.” “You should be wearing TWO masks right now because you should FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!!!!!”
It was almost funny, but mainly it was too surreal for tears, and I couldn’t cry anyway. Plus in October, our whole family was down and out with covid, an un-fun flu-type illness that made me personally feel surly and rageful and vengeful and sick for eight days. Who needed friends who’d unfriend you after decades of friendship for disagreeing with them? Not me, not meee, not meeeeeeeeeeee….
“Big Brother is also an emergent social phenomenon. The social pressure that maintains norms, which in a healthy society embody compassion and responsibility for life, is crucial for the administration of totalitarianism. People become agents of the state, reporting on each other, censoring themselves, and by their obedience creating an appearance of universal loyalty even if, privately, they may wish to rebel.
“The tendency to do evil in the name of good hints at a problem. The evil that appears to us so insane, the hunger for power that seems so monstrous and which invites the elemental label “evil” to begin with, is actually very rational. It is the inevitable conclusion of the crusade for good and against evil. Good, as an absolute concept, justifies any measure to achieve it. Evil, as an absolute concept, justifies any measure to destroy it. If you are on the side of Good, then the more power you have, the better. Power therefore becomes an end in itself…
“What usually escapes commentators is that the source of this seemingly mad vision is purely rational. It is not a senseless evil. The logic is that power must have no limit when it is in the hands of us. And recall the deep taproot of the concepts of good and evil: Us is good. Them is evil. Therefore, we must, regrettably, turn even art, even sex, even science toward the ends of power. As Mussolini put it, “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”
Charles Eisenstein https://charleseisenstein.substack.com/p/handfuls-of-dust-and-splinters…
If you have ever learned anything about dog training (or conversed with someone like me, who might’ve possibly at the time been pretentiously extrapolating other-animal-behavior to explain human psychology), you have likely heard the term “alpha male,” and of the innate drive for wolves to form hierarchies and dominate each other. This means you have indirectly heard about a scientist named David Mech, who has spent most of his life studying the behavior of wolves, and whose own book popularized early research on wolf pack behavior.
The only problem is, the extremely famous research findings, popularized by Mech himself, are completely false. Mech has been begging his publisher to stop publishing his 1970 book that perpetuates the falsehoods, but as of 2022 it is still in print.
The basic problem is that the original (very small amount of) research on “wolf pack” behavior, conducted in the 1940s by Rudolph Schenkel, were studies of exclusively unrelated wolves living in zoos.
‘In his research, Schenkel identified two primary wolves in a pack: a male “lead wolf” and a female “bitch.” He described them as “first in the pack group.” He also noted “violent rivalries” between individual members of the packs. “…small fictions of another type (jealousy) are not uncommon. By incessant control and repression of all types of competition (within the same sex), both of these “alpha animals” defend their social position.”
‘Thus, the alpha wolf was born. Throughout his paper, Schenkel also draws frequent parallels between wolves and domestic dogs, often following his conclusions with anecdotes about our household canines. The implication is clear: wolves live in packs in which individual members vie for dominance and dogs, their domestic brethren, must be very similar indeed.
‘…Schenkel studied two packs of wolves living in captivity, but his studies remained the primary resource on wolf behavior for decades. Later researchers would perform their own studies on captive wolves, and published similar findings on dominant-subordinant and leader-follower relationships within captive wolf packs…”
After Mech spent his early years similarly studying and popularizing the behavior of wolf “packs” in captivity, he spent some time studying wolves in the wild - and the first thing he noticed was that the behaviors he observed were completely different from those observed by Schenkel and other watchers of zoo-bound wolves.
“”…The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots,” Mech writes [in a 1999 paper http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/basic/resources/mech_pdfs/267alphastat…] “is particularly misleading.” Mech notes that earlier papers…examined the potential of individual cubs to become alphas, implying that the wolves would someday live in packs in which some would become alphas and others would be subordinate pack members. However, Mech explains, his studies of wild wolves have found that wolves live in families: two parents along with their younger cubs. Wolves do not have an innate sense of rank; they are not born leaders or born followers. The “alphas” are simply what we would call in any other social group “parents.” The offspring follow the parents as naturally as they would in any other species. No one has “won” a role as leader of the pack; the parents may assert dominance over the offspring by virtue of being the parents.
“While the captive wolf studies saw unrelated adults living together in captivity, related, rather than unrelated, wolves travel together in the wild. Younger wolves do not overthrow the “alpha” to become the leader of the pack; as wolf pups grow older, they are dispersed from their parents’ packs, pair off with other dispersed wolves, have pups, and thus form packs of their own.
In an article in 2008, David Mech noted that it takes 20 years before new research fully sinks in. I wonder: was he being overly optimistic?
By the winter of 2022, almost everyone I knew, vaccinated or not, had either had covid or was having covid. I knew more people who had gotten seriously ill or injured after the vaccine than had suffered from any lasting complications from covid itself. Once again, this could only be noted anecdotally. Hard Numbers seemed like an ephemeral idea that would be forever lost to history, since every time I looked it up, I found the sands shifting underneath Covid Death Counting Protocols, Covid Case Reporting, Changing Cycles of PCR Sensitivity, Viral Evolution, Definitions of Fully Vaccinated Persons, and Censorship of Anyone Trying To Tell Their Story Concerning and Receive Medical Care for Vaccine Injury.
We must stand up for what is right, I told the kids, just like the truckers are doing in Canada: 90% of them are vaccinated, yet they recognize that totalitarianism is bad for everyone, regardless of political affiliation or vaccine status.
Once again, in March, Biden renewed the State of Emergency for one more year. Lots of governors did the same, and Canada certainly seemed happy to lead the parade. I could find barely any news stories about this continuation of the cancellation of our constitutional rights, just tons of headlines explaining how blocking traffic was violence even worse than actual violence, while truckers demanding meetings with elected officials to discuss unconstitutional mandates was a horribly racist situation, and that peaceful block parties in sub zero temperatures justified arrests and imprisonments, police brutality, and the government freezing people’s personal bank accounts.
Ah, kiddos of mine…I know you’re heartily sick of my lectures. But it’s not exactly my fault! The terrible metaphors just come to me:
Standing in the Riverbed of Life in 2023, it’s impossible to miss the quickening current. Information concerning covid, the government and corporate response, and the lies we’ve been fed are like a tidal wave roaring past, and it is carrying us all downstream whether we like it or not.
The most reliable, robust meta analyses on Covid IFR have been conducted by Stanford medicine professor Dr. John Ioannidis. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.10.11.22280963v1
Unlike other studies relying on highly flawed mathematical modeling, Ioannidis' work has used more accurate seroprevalence data. Ioannidis and his colleagues have published a new review of the literature, examining 40 national seroprevalence studies covering over 30 countries.
After conducting a rigorous analysis of international seroprevalence, Ioannidis and colleagues report a median infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.035% for those aged 0-59, who represent 86% of the global population. [By comparison, “the seasonal flu” in general has an IFR of approximately .1%.]
In other words, the survival rate for 6.8 billion people across the world who were infected with Covid in 2021 was 99.965%.
A disease with a survival rate of more than 99.9% for most people does not warrant the panic, hysteria, and violation of core societal principles that the West has seen.
—A Fellow Citizen Science Reporter
Dr. Ioannidis initially noted a much-lower-than-the-models-predicted covid IFR back in early summer 2020.
So many others tried to speak up.
The covid response was never justified.
And of course, as we all know, the tightening of bureaucratic control happened anyway, leaving in its wake an enormous (and rising) toll: massive numbers of rules, and Covid Compliance Committees, and fractured businesses, communities, families, and personal lives. Not to mention a New Normal of Emergency Governance, and the enormous current health burden of covid itself.
Covid cases and deaths (plus excess deaths) skyrocketed after the vaccination campaigns began. It is now clear that young people are much more likely to be seriously injured or die after an mRNA shot than from covid, and insurance actuarial data and other non-political sources report that excess deaths around the world - especially in populations of young, healthy, and employed persons - spiked again in 2021, AFTER the shots were mandated. The covid response remains an even worse threat than it was back in 2020 for the average working class person: in order to keep your job, you need to get the shot, but once you get the shot, you’re more likely to get sick with covid AND to be injured by the jab.
There’s one thing about bureaucracies: they never get smaller on purpose.
In slow motion over the past three years, I have realized yet another way I was mistaken in my beliefs: it turns out that possessing kindness, empathy, uniqueness, compassion, and most of all, intelligence does not prevent people from becoming totalitarian and fascist. It is true that those in my growing community of freethinking friends and family members (our motto: “don’t screw people over!”) are without exception kind, empathic, unique, compassionate, and super smart. But these qualities do not set such friends apart from those others who showed a willingness to Follow Orders over the past three years, since each of the latter were similarly emotionally and intellectually endowed.
So what is the difference between those who will easily follow and especially enforce diktats (“an authoritative or dogmatic statement or decree”), and those who will question and resist?
My suspicion is that the differences are not a visible sort of thing, and have a lot to do with the way humans are essentially now living in captivity: nearly everything we eat, inject ourselves with, possess, interact with, live in, and even think about is adulterated, made more toxic by our own hands, disconnecting us from the rest of the ecological web of life, and degrading our health. In turn, while “genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger,” our deteriorating health exposes weaknesses expressed as disease in myriad forms, depending on an enormous variety of biological factors: some of us experience depression and anxiety, some have thyroid and endocrine problems, some find ourselves addicted to substances or worse, some of us get ulcers, some of us get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmunity, arthritis; kids’ development gets interrupted, adults’ thriving is prevented, and older people experience a loooooong, sloooooow, normalized decline that is common (but NOT normal). Some people experience brain fog, cognitive issues and dissociation, along with countless other symptoms. And it follows that some percentage of people will be more susceptible to totalitarizing forces.
Talk about global health crises.
When all of these stresses and pressures increase (like they are), and human health continues to decrease (like it is), it also follows that our societies will present many achilles’ heels even before they completely disintegrate.
But the thing is, there is so much hope in this fancy analysis of mine! I am firmly convinced that on an individual level, one can turn health crises around with lifestyle changes: in our family, we experienced what I’d call miracles, except miracles require a lot less work. With this perspective, in a very real way, our families can be the change we want to see in the world. And if predisposition to totalitarianism is on the same spectrum as, just for example, predisposition to autism or depression or hypothyroid or OCD or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, then hey - what are we waiting for!? A little hard work never (usually) killed anyone, and side effects are generally wonderful.
Totalitarianism today….and who knows what’s possible tomorrow!
“[T]here’s a kind of militancy to this entity. It is hard to identify this blob, this governmental-like thing. Often, corporations are a big part of it, that seems determined to reach into every aspect of life - including the most intimate - and police it, and re-order it. And I think people are recoiling against that. So it isn’t even a question of, ‘Should I try to save the world or just hunker down?’ It’s more like, how do I defend the most basic way of life because it seems to be very much under threat.”
—American philosopher Michael B. Crawford https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3EsX-mjfHE
Is it possible to reject the Othering that characterizes totalitarized populations, while setting healthy boundaries and attempting to understand other people, without immediately implementing such othering in my own social life?
“Life is not fair,” I tell my children. My mother said this to me, and she says that my grandmother said it to her. The thing is, and I’ll bet my great grandmothers - who fled Poland to escape rising fascism and its accompanying antisemitism - would agree, this statement is no justification for immoral actions. We must face the unfair vicissitudes of life with an equally strong sense of right and wrong. One cannot eradicate unfairness, but one CAN cut a pie one bakes oneself into reasonably equal pieces. And while it might be selfish to eat _all_ the pieces without sharing, it is really okay to eat one of them.
My world felt like it was spinning out of orbit well into the first half of 2022, and I felt less kind, empathetic, unique, compassionate, and intelligent than I had in a very long time. Had day become night? Good people were doing terrible things. People I loved were unwilling to talk about actual problems, but absolutely willing to scapegoat whomever the Experts told them to. People who did terrible things were in power. And why oh why were so many people’s feelings getting hurt when others called out the insanity?
More and more of us were speaking out against covid propaganda, but much larger forces were bent on censoring dissent.
Good ideas seemed few, and success seemed hopeless. How should I interact with those organizations and persons who were upholding and supporting medical mandates, and who treated me as less than human to my face (or in my inbox)? Should my course of action be different from how my kids might carefully interact with totalitarized individuals and groups? How should one navigate a relationship when the other person/group is _partly_ hypnotized but still partly freethinking, as in the case of so many of us? What did the future hold? How could a child come of age in this system without becoming destitute or dependent, and/or selling his or her soul?
In early 2022, I made a list of all the friends and relations and community organizations who had ghosted me, castigated me, asked me to stop writing or talking to them, unsubscribed from my e-mail list, and enforced covid mandates that excluded unvaccinated persons specifically and Wrong Politics by association.
Certainly I have had disagreements over the years with many people, but I have never had more than two dozen people say, in not so many words: “You think and behave wrong, therefore I’m done interacting/working/socializing with you now.”
“Covid mandates are over!” many friends and family members have recently told me happily. “There are so many other, more important issues to address in this world.” “Anyway, masks still might work, so why do you keep worrying about them?” “I am/my organization is just continuing to keep the covid rules that make sense in our situation/to deal with liability/to keep people feeling Safe.” “I’m soooo done with covid and don’t want to talk about it anymore.” “People were just trying to help - why are you stirring up negativity, still, now, by talking about it?”
We were just trying to help, and now it’s over anyway. How could I fault someone for that? Should I instruct my children and try myself to simply ignore any remaining Strange Feelings toward those who so recently aligned their support with those who would scapegoat Anti Vaxxers as ignorant, slovenly, vindictive grandma-killers, causers-of-a-pandemic, who deserve (Chomsky himself) to die in their homes if mandates forbid them to leave to buy food?
Yay. Covid is over now.
Without questioning what happened over the past three years, without acknowledging the devastation caused by lockdowns on the Lower-Than-Laptop-Classes, without addressing the loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of still-fired unvaccinated workers, without questioning senseless directives to cover the faces of millions of children and adults and otherwise seriously disrupt and sometimes eliminate normal social interactions, without closely examining the continuing emergency orders (and in Canada, the imprisonment of protesters and freezing-of-dissenters’-bank-accounts) enacted or endorsed by leaders of the “liberal,” “free” world, without forcing Big Government and Big Pharma and Big Tech to accept liability for the loss of health (and in many cases, lives) for a growing but still unknown number of persons injured by the covid shots, without investigating widespread censorship of information concerning cheap and available treatments for covid and now vaccine injury that could have saved millions of lives (along government censorship and social engineering in general), and without invalidating the countless remaining medical mandates and support for these at organizations that base admission on vaccine status…well, without doing all that and much more, the myriad factors of the past nearly three years that some call “covid” remain exceptionally NOT over, and are still quite dangerous: a smoldering pile of totalitarian kindling that could easily erupt when we next face an “emergency.”
And through it all, we humans still face Very Pressing Issues. Plus also, covid the virus is not over, young and old people are excluded from many institutions and events even now in 2023 due to vaccine mandates, legacy media even sometimes grudgingly admits that vaccinated persons are comprising the majority of covid hospitalizations, censored treatment protocols aren’t any easier to obtain now than they were three years ago, doctors are being disciplined for offering counter-narrative information, and the MANY comorbidities that make one more likely to die with covid (and for other reasons!) are worsening every year.
In the end, I still do not fault anyone for getting injected with an mRNA shot, although I am extremely unlikely in this lifetime to share a desire to do so myself. I DO fault those who supported or implemented vaccine mandates, or condoned such mandates by inaction and support for others who implemented them. One situation constitutes a personal choice. The other illustrates immoral medical coercion, for which rising totalitarianism and General Unfairness is no excuse. The first situation is a difference of opinion; the second is an unacceptable intrusion by government and organizations big and small into the private lives of citizens.
I tell my kids, even though they never ask anymore, that it is possible for one single issue to embody the irrational rationality of our time: those who do not choose to get injected with mRNA vaccines today remain shut out of and discriminated against in many sectors of society, an amplification of vaccine-status discrimination that has been building for decades. More mRNA shots are in the pipeline. If my kids choose to make what I believe to be the best healthcare decisions for themselves going into adulthood, they will face vaccine-status discrimination at countless potential decision points along the way.
Meanwhile, young people who do get the covid (and many other) vaccines face increasingly and disproportionately large, known and unknown risks - while Big Pharma enjoys complete exemption from accountability and liability, plus inconceivable profits now and going forward. Our entire economy is ever more dependent on the “success” of an industry that uses taxpayer money to develop less and less useful (check out the practice of redefining “efficacy” to mean a change in disease “biomarkers” rather than any improvement in health or symptoms….) but exceptionally valuable-for-business medications that are arguably worsening our collective health and keeping us sick.
I once heard an economist predict that “healthcare” would bankrupt our economy by around 2030, and a case can be made that this prediction is already coming true.
So long as Big Pharma manipulates rather than actually fabricates their data, even when their drugs injure millions of people, the consequences for Business as Usual are completely affordable . “[T]here are much harsher penalties for institutional level fraud than there are for an institution harming members of the general public.”
This all means that mandates for our young people comprise further indoctrination concerning the hopelessness of attending to their own healthcare, and a shameful incorporation of a state religion - biomedical politics - into many institutions of higher education.
Even though the estimated CFR and IFR for covid turned out to be so much lower than Modeling predicted - _much_ lower than the flu for every demographic except the very old, the very sick, and now the covid vaccinated - schools and universities simply added covid to the propaganda (described so compellingly by Illich, Holt, and Gatto et al, so many decades ago) that continues to be vomited in the general direction of our youth. “Covid” has quickly become more of the same justification for rules and institutions that keep young people docile and out of our economic machinery until they can accrue enough debt to turn the cranks themselves - rules that have characterized their schooling and LIVES for so many generations now.
Are elite and “liberal” educational institutions even worth attending any more, if they ever were? Our young people are fed nonstop justification for censorship, even while the political left parrots, College Is The (Only) Place Where You Learn To Think For Yourself. Plus, admission costs a shit ton. Hmmm…no thanks anyway.
But what is next? How can I guide my children toward their future? What defines a Successful Life? How can I help them become the sorts of people who will fearlessly lobby college administrators or bureaucrats or Good Germans everywhere, concerning the importance of free speech? I look at my children these days, and I try to live in the present moment so I can attempt to keep a liberal-style open mind.
“Pseudoscience is a loaded term that is typically used to disparage any type of alternative viewpoint. Because of the inherent uncertainty in what constitutes an objective basis for its definition (as “pseudoscience” typically ends up characterizing whatever challenges the current orthodoxy), a variety of definitions have been proposed. At this point, the most universally agreed upon definition is that any belief which cannot be scientifically disproven (thereby “unfalsifiable”) constitutes pseudoscience.
“A great challenge with Western Medicine… is that it behaves as an unfalsifiable ideology that no amount of failures can disprove.”
—A Midwestern Doctor https://amidwesterndoctor.substack.com/p/critical-thinking-in-the-age-o…
So now, quite a few people who were so put off by my “dangerous” statements just a few short months ago, are “done with covid.” And they have recently contacted me or proffered friendly small talk, as if nothing ever happened between us.
In my puzzled brain, I imagine these folks standing in a line, a long line of lovely persons who either enforced covid mandates, or shouted at me for not complying, or patronizingly explained why only Good Germans are good Germans. Do I want to be friends with them any more? (Not that they’re asking. They are either still done with me, or completely ignoring their previous ignoring of me.)
Generally speaking, I find the answer is no.
When someone tells me I’m dangerous and crazy, or stupid and hurtful, or dumb and obviously deceived by an idealistic conspiracy, I’m not in the habit of jumping back in, a year later, to make happy small talk and pretend that good friends sometimes do these things, haha, we all have totalitarian moments!
I’ve always thought I would make an ungraceful cuckold, and now I know for damn sure.
I admit that the situation is trickier with some people. The love is still there, AND I feel battered and exhausted, let down and angry, AND it is important for my children especially to have relationships independent of how I feel. I do not really know how to move forward except by taking one slow step at a time, and discerning at necessary junctures whether to follow my intuition or my intellect, since each seems primed toward wildly divergent conclusions lately, which cognitive dissonance then prompts terrible clamping sensations in my chest.
Oxford Dictionary: “cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”
If any or all of those kind, compassionate, empathetic, unique, talented, and intelligent people said, “Hey, I am so bummed that I fell into line with the totalitarian situation back last year - I’m really sorry about it, too, and am planning to avoid doing so again,” well then, for sure - I am all in, in terms of rebuilding that friendship or working relationship or whatever.
But such an apology or even an acknowledgement hasn’t happened yet, not even once. There have only been these sort of brush-off-hellos: “Hey, how you been for the last three years while a virus kept us all in our homes a lot?! What a thing, huh?! So good to be out and about now! It’s been crazy busy. How’s the weather round there? Wanna hang out sometime?”
As the world turns, maybe the disconnect I still feel from many formerly close friends and family is less of a disagreement concerning covid or political topics than it is an actual postmodernist schism: a lack of a shared basis for understanding, and a fundamental difference between our respective acknowledgement of objective reality.
“Following the covid science” and its accompanying narrative is the definition of pseudoscience, really: If you “feel” that covid was a monster, that covid regulations are the medicine, that your Medicine is safe and effective, that our political system is dependent on Goodspeak and democracy is just a few votes away, that Thinking Right must be taught by the experts, or that people like me are the enemy (until we aren’t anymore)…well, me arguing with your ideology will be akin to my arguing the existence of your god.
The difference, though, is that if your god once commanded you successfully to follow Follow The Science, and you might do so again at any time, and if by extension you’re willing to throw me under the bus if your God Science Says So…well, then, no thanks. I personally need to steer away from followers of your religion.
And more to the point: if you still attach to your Scientism beliefs, it’s likely that you and I no longer share an understanding of the nature of reality. And therefore, I am not proud to say but it’s true, I grieve the loss of your friendship while having little desire to rekindle it.
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Lately, I think a lot about raising my family - and going forward - differently. Could it be that I, an athiest Jew from New Jersey, am seriously contemplating the Benedict Option?
Wikipedia: “…The idea of a "Benedict option" involves finding the communities in which virtuous life can flourish, since Dreher argues that the existing culture has already forsaken the virtues.”
I’m certainly looking for something that includes local community. I want to show my children how important it is to cultivate spiritual fortitude, value the scientific method over “faith” in science, cultivate MANY useful, beautiful, and legitimate ways of investigating and understanding the world, and favor discussion over censorship. I want to find examples of places and organizations where checks and balances are actually functioning to prioritize personal, community, and ecological health rather than supporting increasingly enormous and shaky power structures underbraced by extreme inequities. I want my children to grow up in community, and to treasure the friendships that develop when each party is committed to Not Screwing People Over.
But especially: I want my kids to play, be outdoors a lot, explore and honor and be awestruck by and laugh about our world, and do Kid Things without always having to justify and explain and prove Why Kid Things Are Important. I have lost any remaining hope in the possibility of the USA achieving anything closer to democracy than its current existence as a corporate oligarchy…so I’m not totally sure what to tell my kids about Government Politics apart from: Fasten Your Seatbelts and Avert Your Eyes…while deeply appreciating the courageous possibilities outlined in the Serenity Prayer.
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
Fascinatingly, my social circle of close friends - though now nearly entirely dispersed around the country and the world (the _local_ Benedict Option is what I seek in addition, at the moment!) - is more philosophically diverse than it has ever been. I count republicans, democrats, socialists, libertarians, independents, and anarchists among them. They include Christians, Jews, atheists, Buddhists, and members of other spiritual faiths. My friends come from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds, and have a variety of occupations, vaccination statuses, and life stories.
I have still so far failed to find existing homeschooling and “alternative education” organizations that resisted the diktats over the past three years, and which I had hoped would illustrate a better way forward for my children. With some exceptions, my former progressive, liberal, socially-conscious homeschooling community no longer espouses the ideals that inspire me.
What is left, after rejecting so much?
My hope is that someday soon there will be a sea change, and maybe progressive anarchists and others will begin calling out and therefore diffusing the power of what Paul Kingsnorth calls “The Machine”. Liberals and others will cancel covid restrictions and 95% of the rest of the bureaucracy besides! Everyone will be busy for quite some time, unraveling the mess we have embedded ourselves in, but we’ll be gentle with ourselves and take our time, keeping our eyes on the ultimate goal: thriving human communities, locally focused, every one different and therefore requiring fewer and fewer centralized Sets of Rules! Doctors and holistic healers and regular people will rip off the goddamn masks! Republicans and Democrats will recognize that bikeshedding about “hot button issues” is way more divisive and exhausting and useless than working together to deal with the important things that we all care about, plus there exists more than two ways to think about things! We will all recognize that real “health” “care” involves so very much more than political wrangling and corporate profiteering, and we’ll get busy reclaiming Bill Gates’ chemical farming nightmare into a regenerative agriculture experiment, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in thousands of years!
Hey, a mom can dream, can’t she??
Merriam Webster: “anarchism - a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups.”
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
I feel that we have tipped past the point of no return on the macro level. The world - its defining myths, narratives, and structures - will fall apart without my help.
To give up hope for and attachment to our society’s old stories - that weren’t working well even before 2020 - occasionally gives me a profound sense of both peace and purpose.
I want to show my children alternative ways of existing within a rising tide of authoritarianism. I want to diffuse the grip of those technocratic influences that threaten the existence of our communities, the health of the earth’s systems, and the worth of our personal lives. I want to get better at choir directing, and I think intergenerational singing groups embody what is awesome about human existence. Matthias Desmet calls our personal projects “parallel structures,” and the heartening thing about these is that they are revolutionary acts at a human scale.
Especially while reading Desmet’s work, I am less inclined than ever to believe that there are malevolent, evil people trying to ruin the world - difficult and twisted as it is to imagine, the most corrupt bureaucrat or CEO is likely to believe that s/he is working for good. And I am understanding for the first time that a ruling elite does not necessarily create totalitarianism - rather, the totalitarian system itself can create a ruling elite. Therefore, eliminating the ruling class, even if it were possible, would not remove the Problem. Also, fearsome and powerful though the current power structures are, they are actually quite brittle, which is why it’s worthwhile to keep speaking up and finding each other.
I don’t think it follows that those who commit immoral acts should be excused based on Lack of Free Will (“Your Honor, I was hypnotized!! Plus, Life Isn’t Fair and I Wanted A Bigger piece of the 99%”), nor allowed to continue their despotism, and regardless of its organically grown origins, I am STRONGLY against totalitarianism. I believe that there is right and wrong in an absolute moral sense, regardless of political or religious doctrine. Therefore, I think that dangerous and terrible things are being perpetuated by humans in the name of political and economic power, and that it is very important to elucidate why and how these things are dangerous and terrible in order to shine light in the darkness. Or maybe the important thing is to remember to laugh. Really, all the things that are real and human and precious both strengthen us, and weaken totalitarianism.
I want my kids to understand why it is so important to avoid othering. And to set boundaries. And to remember that 1984 was a parable, with direct analogies to, rather than specific descriptions of, the challenges of our time.
I guess I need to “stop going to the hardware store for milk,” as one of my friends so wisely reminds me, and teach my children thusly: it’s time to look beyond the people and institutions I used to think I depended on (sob! This is very hard to do), and appreciate the individuals who are coming together to - as the saying doesn’t go - help the Phoenix rise before more ashes are burnt. I can offer no epiphanies, but solidarity in spades.
I want to connect with other people, laugh at the insanity, host “cultural exchange” home visits for our teens, build Parallel Structures, move near each other (where are the vibrant pockets of community near you??), and let our kids play together. Let’s keep building actual social networks, and reclaim our personal and collective health, and build communities based on shared work, homemade food, music, regenerative agriculture, art, healthy home-building and -making, and rediscovering nothing less than our humanity.
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
That mirror analogy is a strangely two-way street, both intimidating and inspiring. I am carrying it with me into 2023, while I hold a new resolution: feel my feelings, and let go of bitterness. Holding onto it characterized more of my emotions over the past three years than I wish. I don’t yet know what and whom I can trust, and this liminal state is difficult to explain to my children.
I still tell my kids that we are members of the counterculture. I add that I am truly politically homeless, and will never again vote for a candidate based on their party affiliation: I must find evidence of a candidate’s humanity and moral fortitude else I pass on voting at all. I no longer believe that big government in the USA will ever work for the people - the bloated one we have is too rotten and corrupt. I tell my kids that I hope the government can be dismantled and decentralized in a miraculously speedy and peaceful way, while I simultaneously try to settle in for the long haul in case Whatever Happens Instead is less pleasant and occurs on a time scale outside of my lifetime.
I have lots to say to my kids these days on the topics of morality and right and wrong, the non-postmodern specifics of which I believe will be more important than ever in their personal lives.
What I seek is an uneasy peace: to simultaneously work enthusiastically for what’s right, while acknowledging that the pace of societal degeneration is accelerating. I _must_ find moments of peace for the sake of my children, to help them and myself find our place in this world.
My dream is for our children to navigate this suffocating political and economic system without becoming enslaved to a two-parents-working-grind; for our grandchildren to never even encounter addictive, health-destroying, immune-system-disabling preposterously-termed processed “foods”; for our great-grandchildren to be born into a time when endocrine disrupting Forever Chemicals and disposable plastic packaging are antiquities of a bygone era; and for our great- great-grandchildren to have so VERY many more important and fun things to do than consume entertainment and advertising, thereby relegating propaganda to the status of Quite Difficult To Dispense.
I want it all, right now, for all of us. There is work to be done, and I am ready to find out what it is.
(I intended this series of essays to be the end of a beginning. See you on the barricades!)