«I know about sureness,» said Didactylos. Now the light, irascible tone had drained out of his voice. «I remember, before I was blind, I went to Omnia once. This was before the borders were closed, when you still let people travel. And in your Citadel I saw a crowd stoning a man to death in a pit. Ever seen that?»
«It has to be done,» Brutha mumbled. «So the soul can be shriven and-»
«Don’t know about the soul. Never been that kind of a philosopher,» said Didactylos. «All I know is, it was a horrible sight.»
«The state of the body is not-»
«Oh, I’m not talking about the poor bugger in the pit,» said the philosopher. «I’m talking about the people throwing the stones. They were sure all right. They were sure it wasn’t them in the pit. You could see it in their faces. So glad it wasn’t them that they were throwing just as hard as they could.»
«Small Gods» by Terry Pratchett
So, «two weeks to flatten the curve» turned into two years. And at least in Germany, there is no end in sight. After all, give a politician power, and you have to pry it from his cold dead hands. And that goes double for all those spare time wanna-be block wardens (aka bureaucrats).
So, here are a few mostly unordered thoughts about the situation in the beginning of 2022 (mid-February 2022). I guess 2020 was confusion, 2021 was control, and 2022 might be sanctions.
#1 The door that must not be opened
First of all, I am not concerned about Covid. Yes, it’s dangerous for some groups. And members of these groups should have the ability to protect themselves. But most people are fine. Personally, I have a less than 1 in 500 chance of dying. And I have played enough RPGs to know how rare a 1 in 100 dice roll is (well, 1 in 100, what else?). But seriously, Covid is not the issue. At least in Germany.
What is the major issue is the wedge that Covid can be for some rather totalitarian collectivist … aspirations. There is currently the push to establish mandatory vaccinations for adults in Germany (and other parts of the world).
Just think about that for a moment. Politicians want to decide that you have to take a medical treatment. Spare me the «it’s just a jab» talk — it is a medical treatment, ostensibly designed to combat a pandemic. And forcing a medical treatment — that is something not even your doctor can do. He advise, he can recommend, but he cannot push you to a treatment. But now some politicians, who usually get pretty rich in a not that well paid job, can. People who often did not even finish a single professional education (at least in Germany). People who have a strong need for power.
These people can decide about you taking a medical treatment?
I’m going to say something that has already brought me criticism, and which will continue to bring me criticism, but if we go this path, we’ll end up with a new batch of «Stolpersteine» (memorial stones in the street reminding the population of abysmal atrocities during Nazi Germany). And I say this to be clear: We are not there yet. Thankfully. There is still time to stop this insanity. But we have to stop it early. You can’t — easily — stop a totalitarian regime once it got into power. And I am concerned most people act like the catholic church acted during the rise of totalitarian regimes: not yet … not yet … not yet … not yet … too late.
And sure, especially in Germany that is a bitter pill to swallow. After all, the Nazis were really bad, they were literally Hitler. And telling someone one paves the way to such a regime — while acting with the best intentions — that’s a hard-to-impossible sell. We are conditioned to react with repulsion to anything in that regard. And to strike out to anyone who claims we would be doing something similar.
So, yeah, this might sound like hyperbole, but I don’t think so. It’s about the state, i.e. some politicians, deciding what to do to your body. It might not seem like a big deal if you are vaccinated and boostered right now. Well, with the right so-called vaccine, that is. But considering the talk about mandatory vaccinations makes only sense for the next wave of Covid, you can be pretty sure that any mandatory vaccinations will affect you too.
It’s a cache blanche for medical treatments.
Including those even the vaccinated and boostered would not want. And yeah, even if it’s only about an obsolete, leaky vaccine as the one being used right now. The firewall that will fall with mandatory vaccinations will be used to pressure you into taking the next batch of vaccinations. After all, we already did it with that batch of Covid vaccines. So why not do the same in the future as well? Just think of all the talks about «we already have mandatory vaccinations for children. We already require measles vaccinations.» The same reasoning — one step further — will be used if we allow for mandatory vaccinations of adults against Covid. How was it:
«I didn’t jump to conclusions. I took a small step, and conclusions there were.»
Buffy in «Buffy – The Vampire Slayer»
And when we are already taking these so-called vaccinations, why don’t we also take X, after all, we did the Covid thing.
So, that is a door that must never be opened. Never again must the state decide over the will of an individual which treatments to take or what to do with his or her body. Because in the end, the state will decide which life is worth living. Well, in a way, they are doing so already.
And if you think that is hyperbole answer two questions:
1) Is is possible that a person dies due to a Covid vaccination, no matter how rare this is?
2) If yes, doesn’t that mean that pressuring an individual to get vaccinated means the state decides that the lives of those dying due to a very rare side effect are less important than those people dying of Covid?
If you answer both questions with yes — which I would consider truthful — doesn’t this mean the state is already involved in eugenics? Deciding which lives of the population are more important than others? Not my thought (forgot who said it, sorry), but one I consider worth considering.
#2 Prediction: Pharmaceutical companies will develop a new version of the so-called «vaccine»
Given that the vaccines are made for a variant that no longer exists (and severely decreasing in effectiveness), pharmaceutical companies will likely develop a new so-called «vaccine» in 2022. There is just too much money in it. And the government (at least in Germany) will use the new vaccine as (further) reason to make vaccinations mandatory. Because the population has shown that voluntary vaccinations do not work (see next point).
#3 The state (i.e., politicians, and many citizens) still don’t understand what freedom means
One common theme during the last two years was the rather strange concept of freedom. Essentially, it boiled down to: «You either voluntarily do what we want, or we’re gonna force you.» And yeah, no, «it’s voluntarily, but if people don’t do it, we’re gonna force you to do so», that’s not free choice, that’s an ultimatum. Neither is pressuring people with high fines, or even jail free choice. (And given that many «we will never do x, that is fake news» turned out to be true a few months later, I get nervous when «we will never do x» deals with the x of the police holding you down while a so-called doctor puts a needly in your arm. Talk about lost trust.)
The best (aka «worst») example was the German minister for health (no joke, this person is the one responsible for the health ministry, including well-renowned institutions like the Robert-Koch-Institute):
«Es wird ja niemand gegen seinen Willen geimpft. Selbst die Impfpflicht führt ja dazu, daß man sich zum Schluß freiwillig impfen läßt.»
Karl Lauterbach, on the 19th of January 2022, in the «tagesschau», https://youtu.be/6JeFWSfUC0c?t=131
or use this YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cd_z8tQ1tA
which roughly translates as:
«Nobody is vaccinated against his will. Even mandatory vaccination leads to people getting vaccinated voluntarily in the end.»
Karl Lauterbach, on the 19th of January 2022, in the «tagesschau»
No, this was not an error in translation. Nothing was lost in translation. This schmuck really thinks that compulsory vaccinations lead to voluntary vaccinations. After all, no force was used. Just huge potential fines. Or prison. But hey, no force. So it was voluntary. So just give me your money, or you get hurt. But given that I did not actually hurt you, hey, you did give me your money voluntarily.
That’s the quality of politicians we have. Well, good night and good luck.
BTW, it’s interesting that this news media show is not available in the mediathek of the German public broadcasting system. Look at the image, do you notice a date missing?
It was in the broadcast of the 19th of January 2022. Strange. But it’s still available on their normal website and on youtube.
And yeah, it reminds me of Dörner’s «Die Logik des Misslingens» [The Logic of Failure]. I’m not going to translate it, but hell, that’s prescient:
In einem dieser Versuche kam eine Versuchsperson in eine Lage, in der sie sich zum einen außenpolitisch bedroht fühlte und zum anderen mit den Problemen einer großen Arbeitslosigkeit fertig werden musste. Das Mittel, welches ihr zur Lösung beider Probleme einfiel, war: «Ich führe eine allgemeine Wehrpflicht ein!»
In dem Moment, in dem dieser Einfall kam, fiel der Versuchsperson jedoch auch ein, dass sie noch wenige Stunden vorher ihren Mitregierenden laut verkündet hatte, dass man möglichst nichts zur Stärkung des Militärs tun dürfe, schon gar nicht zwangsweise. Damit war der Zielkonflikt da. Was tat die Versuchsperson? Sie führte die freiwillige Wehrpflicht ein, mit dem Kommentar: «Das müssen die einsehen!» (Der Vorfall wurde mir von einem der seinerzeitigen Versuchsleiter, Tim Tisdale, berichtet.)
Die Motivation, die hinter solchen verbalen Zusammenführungen des Unvereinbaren stehen mag, scheint mir klar: Man will das eine, ohne das andere lassen zu wollen. Und verbal passt ja auch beides zusammen. Vielleicht merkt man bei der Formulierung auch gar nicht mehr, dass es sich um Unvereinbares handelt.
Solche Verbalintegrationen des Unvereinbaren können, das sei nebenbei angemerkt, auf die Dauer dazu führen, dass sich die Bedeutung der Begriffe verändert. Wir wollen einmal kurz am Beispiel der «freiwilligen Wehrpflicht» vorführen, wie so etwas gehen kann; die Suche nach historischen oder aktuellen Parallelen überlassen wir dem Leser. Wer nicht einsehen will, dass er sich der «freiwilligen Wehrpflicht» zu beugen hat, der hat eben den richtigen Begriff von Freiwilligkeit nicht. «Wahre» Freiwilligkeit kann natürlich nur auf dem Boden der grundlegenden Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit der Wehrpflicht gedeihen. Wer diese Einsicht nicht hat, hat auch gar nicht die Grundlage zur freiwilligen Entscheidung und muss zunächst einmal gezwungen werden. So kann man Begriffen, wie hier dem Begriff «Freiwilligkeit», ihre ursprüngliche Bedeutung mit der Zeit gänzlich nehmen, ja sogar in ihr Gegenteil verkehren. Man lese dazu George Orwells Roman «Neunzehnhundertvierundachtzig» mit seiner bitteren Satire auf «New Speak».
okay, here is the DeepL translation of it:
In one of these experiments, a subject found herself in a situation in which she felt threatened by foreign policy on the one hand and had to cope with the problems of large-scale unemployment on the other. The remedy she came up with to solve both problems was, «I’ll introduce universal conscription!»
At the moment when this idea came to her, however, the subject also remembered that just a few hours earlier she had loudly proclaimed to her fellow government officials that, if possible, nothing should be done to strengthen the military, certainly not compulsorily. Thus the conflict of goals was there. What did the subject do? She introduced voluntary conscription, with the comment, «They’ll have to see that!» (The incident was reported to me by one of the experimenters at the time, Tim Tisdale).
The motivation that may lie behind such verbal conflations of the incompatible seems clear to me: one wants one without wanting to let the other go. And verbally, after all, the two go together. Perhaps one no longer even notices in the formulation that it is a matter of incompatibles.
Such verbal integrations of the incompatible can, it should be noted in passing, lead in the long run to a change in the meaning of the terms. Let us briefly demonstrate how this can happen, using the example of «voluntary military service»; we leave the search for historical or current parallels to the reader. Those who do not want to see that they have to submit to «voluntary conscription» simply do not have the right concept of voluntariness. «True» voluntarism can, of course, only flourish on the ground of fundamental insight into the necessity of conscription. Those who do not have this insight do not even have the basis for a voluntary decision and must first be forced. In this way, concepts such as the term «voluntariness» can be completely deprived of their original meaning over time, and can even be turned into their opposite. One reads George Orwell’s novel «Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Four» with its bitter satire on «New Speak».
Dörner (2015), translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
#4 Totalitarian regimes don’t necessarily wear jackboots (in the beginning)
I think many comparisons to totalitarian regimes fall flat because most people associate them with people in black uniforms, boots, and skull insignia. But there is soft totalitarianism. Again not sure who said it, but that’s a very good point.
Government doesn’t need to imprison you, or shoot you. It just has to stress you out each and every day until you comply. Or make it hard to impossible to do your job, so you become unemployed. And maybe get denied unemployment benefits (which you payed for in Germany while you worked), because you did not get vaccinated.
That is no less totalitarian. With the state controlling who you met, when and where you work, how you can travel, where you can shop, etc. pp. And with many willing block wardens to lend support to control these regulations.
Well, it could be worse, after stressing you out and perhaps making you ill (alcoholism and the like have likely skyrocketed) they might deny you treatment — or put you at the end of the waiting line.
#5 Unethical Strategies that were used: Leapfrogging, Waves, Divide and Conquer
It was strange to see how measures got stricter during the last year, despite vaccinations being available and the virus getting less virulent.
What was even worse to see how measures were made stricter by using a kind of leapfrog strategy. For example, first students had to get tested, not lecturers (as employees of the university their medical data could not be legally checked). Then lecturers had to be checked as well. Then unvaccinated students had to get a stamp into a Covid pass every day. Then the test validity was reduced from two days to one day, requiring lecturers to get tested each day. Then students had to be controlled with an app. Then lecturers had their test checked by another employee of the same institute. I might misremember a few steps, but overall, it was an increase for the first group, then the measures for the second group were increased beyond the point of the first group, then the measures of the first group were increased beyond the point of the second group.
A different strategy was the wave-strategy. Well, a wave that is directed upwards in a 45° angle. Increase something, then reduce it slightly, then increase it again beyond the first increase, then reduce it slightly, then increase it beyond the second increase, etc. Or to put it differently, two steps forward, one step back.
Both lead to little steps, all not that grave, until you end up in a place you don’t want to be.
I think divide and conquer will be used for mandatory vaccinations. Make vaccinations mandatory for some groups (e.g., health care worker, those over a certain age), a group that is too small to defend itself and for which you could see a reason for vaccinations. Then make the vaccinations mandatory and claim that it’s only fair, given those groups already have to get vaccinated.
#6 That surveillance infrastructure to «contract-trace» Covid was a mistake
Covid saw the development of contact tracing apps, including functions integrated into mobile operating systems. Personally, I’d question whether contact tracing makes sense with a respiratory virus (in contrast to, e.g., sexually transmitted infections, where contract tracing is helpful). But even worse, we did develop — and many did install — software that tracks their movements, including which people they met.
And yeah, yeah, it’s all protected and will only be used for Covid contract tracing. Except it’s not.
There have been cases in Germany in which this information was used in criminal investigations. And yup, I also want murderers and rapists to be punished, but if they use it for these crimes (after saying the data would not be used), it’s only a question of time when it will be used for lesser crimes as well.
If a person or institution lies about one thing, they will likely lie about another.
Not to mention what you can do with this movement data. After all, if all would use it, you could trace the whole population. Who meets whom for how long, who shops where, who does what. As a researcher that would be a dream. As a citizen that would be a nightmare.
The danger is not how the technology is used now, but how it can be used if the political wind changes. Can you imagine what the Gestapo would have done with that information? Or closer to now, the German Democratic Republic’s secret police?
There are data that should not exist.
#7 Let’s stop the social credit system trial
We might look despairingly (or longingly, depending whether you’re a citizen or politician) on China’s social credit system. But in a way, it’s already here. It’s not as sophisticated, but with 2G, we have a two-tired society.
Those who are vaccinated/recovered vs. those who are unvaccinated. A simply, 1:0 social credit system.
Not that it makes any sense, considering the vaccinated can still transmit Covid (but do not get tested) and the unvaccinated can get tested. Or that the vaccinated likely show more «risky» (i.e., pre-2020 «normal») behavior.
Personally, I think that is unacceptable for a free society and dividing people in different classes is a recipe for future atrocities.
We are better than that.
#8 Safeguards failed
Given the many unethical decisions … where the fuck were the safeguards? We had an ethics commission in Germany, but that had a rather utilitarian view on things (whatever happened to «first do no harm»?). We had a constitutional court, but that did little more than give a carte blanche to politicians.
If we get out of this situation, it pays to invest in better, i.e. independent, safeguards.
#9 We cannot deal with infection numbers
Covid was new in the sense that we had up-to-date (well, more or less in Germany, where fax machines are still a thing) infection numbers. And yeah, in general, more information is better. But as a society, we cannot deal with these numbers. They are without context. We do not see how many people get infected with other diseases. A simple flu season comparison would have been helpful to see the numbers in context, but no such … luck?
Even the death numbers (ignoring for a moment the «died of» vs. «died with» Covid issue) are hard to handle. Seeing each day how many people die? Without information about the age and comorbidities, which would put the numbers in context? That’s a really bad idea. that breeds fear. And yes, that the mean age is somewhere in the eighties does not make it okay that people die, but it puts the numbers in context. Including if you see that most of those who died had at least one other illness.
But we did not get that information. And how was it? A half-truth is a whole lie?
#10 Assessment of Covid (mandates, vaccinations, etc.) strongly depend on underlying assumptions
It was interesting to see just how far views differ regarding Covid, how dangerous it is and how to treat it. I think these underlying assumptions strongly determine an individuals position and ability to see a different point of view.
- How dangerous is Covid?
- How dangerous are the vaccines?
- How effective are the vaccines in preventing transmission?
- How effective are the vaccines in preventing illness?
My answers would be (depending on the particular strain and «vaccine»):
- Strongly depends on age and comorbidities (and strain). Rarely dangerous for the young and healthy, can be devastating for older and infirm. It’s a very politically incorrect virus that discriminates heavily.
- While many complain about short-term side-effects, long-term or major negative effects are rare (more likely for men than for women). However, there is no telling how much signal is in the noise which will only become clearer over time. For some, the vaccine is literally life-ending as they die from it (very, very rare but still, it happens).
- Effectiveness decreases strongly over time, mostly ineffective after a few months/current strains.
- Likely still reduced likelihood of serious illness, but fading fast.
However, an accurate assessment is extremely difficult, as there are many factors to take into account. Not only the strain, but also the person’s age, comorbidities, sex, etc. Also there are selection effects — people who get vaccinated differ from those who don’t, e.g., regarding their health behavior. Which is why the decision to get vaccinated (or not) should be a personal decision.
Overall, I think Covid is overrated — if you are not old/infirm. And yeah, I could die of it, it’s just very unlikely. It’s much more likely that I get hit by a car, given how I ignore my environment while walking. I also think the so-called «vaccines» are overrated, or as someone put it, there’s a certain «vaccine hubris». We think we can do with Covid what we failed to do with the flu for decades.
#11 Many people cannot deal with the possibility of death
I’m not talking about the low probability for death, but with the fact that any person could die at any moment. It’s possible, just (for many people) not very likely.
But the reporting put the idea to many people that they (or the people they love) might die of Covid. And that is very aversive. Yeah, no shit. So there is this extreme desire for safety, instead of living with the possibility of death.
Of course, if the news media would put the same attention on other, even likelier causes of death for certain age groups, people would freak out about that instead.
#12 Why people do not get vaccinated against Covid
A few (non-)reasons:
#12.1 No, it’s not a lack of knowledge or being ignorant
We had a debate in the Federal parliament, regarding possible options. One was to have mandatory consultations regarding Covid vaccinations. If you are not vaccinated, you have to talk to a physician. Apparently, because if you do not get vaccinated, you lack information.
Yeah, that will work out well. Great for that trust between physician and patient.
But it actually points to a deeper problem. The mistaken believe that it is lack of knowledge (of the so-called «facts»), or on the other side, adherence to so-called fake news, that makes someone skeptical of the Covid-vaccinations.
No, it’s not about that.
Sure, there is likely a bimodal distribution. Some who reject anything new out of principle. But also those who had a look at the data — published in peer-reviewed journals — and did not like what they saw. Who looked at the messages from politicians, who found the strange close relationships between politics and science … unseemly. Those who looked what wasn’t there and noticed a disturbing lack of viewpoint diversity which usually goes with any new findings.
Politicians and mainstream media can call these people ignorant, «Covidiots», or what ever else they can come up with. But most of these people — including me — don’t care. Politicians and mainstream media, and including so-called celebrities or sports stars, are simply not important enough to be take seriously on their own. If they had arguments that would be a different story. But mostly they only have vage accusations. And even being called right-wing (a death sentence in Germany due to its history) has no effect on me anymore. I know what I am (libertarian mostly, as freedom is my highest moral value), I don’t care about the assessment of a person that does not know me and thinks in categories.
So, yeah, giving all unvaccinated mandatory consultations, like little boys being called to the headmasters office, oh, fuck off. It’s going to be interpreted as «if they did not change their minds, they did not listen».
Yeah, some politicians do have a real problem with free choice. It seems they want drones, or slaves.
#12.2 No, it’s not being «anti-vax»
One of the worst — and perhaps long-term — negative effects of how Covid was handled is that more people are critical of vaccines. Even the good ones. Most people who do not get vaccinated against Covid are not anti-vaccinations per se. They are against that specific vaccination.
But claiming those who do not want to get vaccinated against Covid are «anti-vax» will only turn them into anti-vaxxers. Personally, so far I regularly got a flu shot each season, including end of last year. But in the future, I guess I will be more hesitant.
That’s what bad communication (it’s safe and effective when it isn’t) does to otherwise good treatments.
#12.3 What’s it for me
At least for me, there are two pillars that hold my decision not to get vaccinated against Covid. It’s 1) distrust of the vaccines due to the quick development combined with the knowledge of how science works and which incentives are toxic and 2) the governments lack of integrity in handling the pandemic.
Both reasons would have to be removed before I would get vaccinated.
Gaining trust in the vaccines is highly unlikely. The side-effects are there and some are devastating. I don’t care how rare they are, I only have one life (read «Homo Faber» to understand that argument). And given that the so-called vaccines don’t stop transmission and — if at all — perhaps reduce severity, but not the illness itself, and its effectiveness decreases more and more as the virus mutates, nah. Not to mention how the so-called «effectiveness» was artificially raised by not counting test-positive vaccinated people without symptoms or counting ICU patients with unknown vaccination status as unvaccinated. No chance.
The second might even be less likely. Regarding the political handling of Covid, we heard to many assertions that were wrong, too many promises that were broken, too much incompetence, too much corruption. And giving the state license to decide for my body? Nope. Especially considering the measures which were less for combatting Covid and more for punishing those who are not vaccinated. And no, saying we have to get people vaccinated in order to combat Covid is not a good argument. Bret Weinstein put it nicely with: «Not these vaccines, not these public health authorities, not this pathogen. The vaccines are not effective. The public health authorities are not free of corruption. And the pathogen is not universally dangerous enough.»
#13 Bubbles are a problem
Looking back at conversations I had about Covid, I think bubbles are a serious problem. Not only at «my» university, but at other universities as well. A former colleague mentioned to me that at her university, almost all are vaccinated.
And that is a problem.
If you do not know how life is for those who are unvaccinated, it’s hard to «appreciate». Yeah, that’s a feature, not a bug, with universities whose goal it is to make life «uncomfortable» for the unvaccinated (actual assertion by someone responsible for the students). But even with that stated goal, I guess, they do not realize just how much damage they cause. It’s akin to a person unable to feel pain (sounds great, but is a pain in the ass … and other parts of the body) trying to inflict pain on another person.
Just not a good idea.
Doing a test each day sounds easy, if you are doing — e.g. — a test for your children at home each day. But walking to a university office, waiting in the cold because you did not want to be late, doing a test while those vaccinated — who can still get and transmit the disease — do not have to do it, and then walking in the cold for the test to finish, and showing it to a colleague to prove that you are not lying about a test result … do these people have any idea what this does to a person? At the very least, at least for me, it resulted in a big [censored] and a switch to the home office.
So yeah, judging from «my» university, most if not all of the people deciding on measures are vaccinated and unable to see the other side, because they know they are the rational, enlightened ones. So much for «diversity».
(And yeah, so-called diversity is much easier if people look different but think the same, then if people look the same but think different. But it’s the later that has a better view on things.)
#14 The side and far-reaching effects are going to kill us
One consequence of two years of Covid regulations, especially the irrational ones in Germany, is that many creative people will simply drop out.
After all, the regulations are insane. Getting tested to take part in a university class? Only to have classes being moved to online, when we have a variant which is almost like a vaccination in itself? (And yeah, the «almost» is crucial here. Omicron is highly transmissible but rather easy to deal with. And yeah, with exceptions. People die of the flu after all. The risk with omicron is that it is not a vaccine, it’s a virus that can mutate. It might get worse. But at the moment Omicron is a … blessing, not a curse.)
So yeah, given the stupid regulations (including wearing FFP2 masks, when what you want is infections) it would be no wonder if the capable and creative people would just drop out. You can go Galt, you can also simply go into business for yourself (I’d recommend a country outside of Germany, the tax rates will kill you — and your creativity — otherwise.)
And I wonder whether some people don’t want just such a «purge». Just remove the critical thinkers. The ones who see things differently. The ones that matter, but make things more complicated. After all, Covid was a great litmus test to find those who think differently, who do not follow instructions immediately. And as I did write in another posting, the (absolutely scary sci-fi level) scenario would be another pandemic following Covid-19, designed to kill all those people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19.
After all, if you want to rule your country in peace for a while, these are the people you’d have to remove for some quiet.
But that’s sci-fi. More likely (I don’t have numbers) is that some people left the university because they were fed up with the paternalism. And besides students this includes employees.
And that purge could get pretty expensive, at least, if you want anything but slow tiny incremental improvements in science. And yeah, they are safe and easy to deal with — no companies will lose their businesses due to small incremental changes.
But creativity can do better. And should do better. Well, at least if there is still room for so-called «disruptive innovation».
#15 Since when did «Big Pharma» become «Big Savior»?
I don’t think it’s a good idea to leap from «Big Pharma» to «Big Placebo». But fuck, since when are big pharmaceutical companies the good guys? Does anyone remember Thalidomide? I do. I’ve seen adults with the typical effects of that drug. No to mention other … rather questionable practices. Just look at Pfizer’s legal history. If Pfizer was a person, would you trust her?
So, why don’t we consider these companies for what they are — money-making institutions for their shareholders. Sure, they are willing to be seen as saviors, it’s good for the sales figures. But trust them — never.
So why did we? And why do we think it’s a good idea to let them remove the control group via mandatory/compulsory vaccinations?
And that’s actually a major issue. To see whether any drug has side effects, you need people who didn’t take it. If all people have to take a drug, this «control group» vanishes. And any comparison can no longer be done. More heart problems? Well, you can’t say it’s the vaccines, after all, all people have it. So it might just be some strange environmental factor.
Seriously, I have no proof, but I am pretty sure that at least some politicians are deep into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. Corruption would explain a lot. The drug «testing» procedure does not.
#16 Even Universities are compromised
Normally I would have considered universities as independent organizations that are dedicated to the search for truth. Ah, sweet summer child. Unfortunately, economical pressures are at play as well. Research money is important, so there is dependence on government goodwill. And with some universities, there is even dependence on industrial money.
I am pretty sure some papers were written just to ingratiate themselves to politicians. There was one about unvaccinated being the major spreaders of Covid in Germany which was … very well written. If you want to shape public opinion. The main point was in the title (unvaccinated are the main spreaders in Germany), a «vaccinations will lead us out of the Covid pandemic» creed was in abstract and introduction, which also included the main «conclusions». Then came some scary formulas (must be science) followed by some easy to understand visualizations. Somewhen later came the assumptions and limitations. I found it highly manipulative and pretty doubtful, given that it was solely a mathematical model (GIGO applies here, and Covid models were mostly scare models). But I am pretty sure that this non-peer-reviewed paper made the researchers pretty popular with some politicians. And that’s important if you want research money.
And I guess that might be a reason why some universities are rather in line with government regulations and do not like it if individual scientists promote a different view. A person I know rather well (I am anonymizing a personal letter here) received a stern letter from his university administration signed by the president, chancellor, and student committee leaders. The content? Some vague accusations that his private blog does not correspond to the world view of the university, makes some status groups unhappy (whatever those are), and with the university (and the student committee leaders) distancing themselves from his private blog.
Well, they can do whatever they like, they are not the authors nor editors, not will they ever have editorial control over that blog. But the last part is interesting:
Which roughly translates to:
In these special times, the responsibility for the community includes limits on personal freedom for the protection of the health of all. Loyalty towards your employer means, among others, that measures which are taken by the university [redacted] based on scientific findings and valid laws have to be accepted by you as lecturer. This is also required given your duty to the scientific education of students.
(Sorry, bureaucracy German does not translate well.)
And that is … an interesting assertion. A lecturer has to accept so-called «scientific findings» and «valid laws»? Since when can’t science be questioned? And since when are laws automatically just? Whatever happened to sapere aude?
Unfortunately, this seems to be a general problem with universities. At least I haven’t heard about any push-back to speak off from any university in Germany. And yeah, some are worse than other, but how was it, bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem [It is not goodness to be better than the worst.] Seneca.
The way many universities treat their students and their employees, especially if they are unvaccinated, dang, I am reminded of this beautiful quotation:
«I don’t care about your negotiations and I don’t care about your treaty. All I care about is my patient and at the moment he needs more treatment and less politics. Now, you can either leave her willingly, or I’ll call security and have you thrown out!»
«I will not forget how you have spoken to me today!»
«Neither will I.»
Dr. Bashir and Kai Winn in Star Trek DS9: «Life Support»
And yup, Dr. Bashir perfectly captures how I feel regarding universities who try to pressure students into taking a medical treatment — by using organizational, social, or financial pressures.
That is hard to forgive.
BTW, the whole letter is here (redacted, as the recipient is fine with displaying it here, but I am rather doubtful that the senders agree with it):
#17 Some people want comfort and security, some people want freedom
In earlier times, people submitted themselves to the church, now they are willing to follow regulations just to feel safe. And yeah, it got a huge attraction. Feeling safe. Listening to others. Delegating one’s responsibility. It’s very comfortable, and that’s something that is very powerful these days. Questioning makes things uncomfortable — for you and for others. Why do it?
But for a democracy — that’s a one-way ticked to a technocracy, and then straight on to a totalitarian system. After all, what happens if «follow the science» does not align with what you already think or have already done?
How was it … the magic happens outside your comfort zone.
#18 Bureaucracy got stronger — unfortunately
Personally I think management exists to remove the obstacles from people who are producing. And bureaucracy should be the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. And I don’t mean this deprecatingly, on the contrary. There are things in any organization that have to run on time. Payments for example. If those are late, people do get in really dire straights. Especially in academia, where many (non-tenured) employees live paycheck to paycheck.
But during Covid, these bureaucrats suddenly had a huge amount of power. And they loath to give it up. And looking at universities — yeah, a similar process is happening here. Many duodecimo principalities, way to weak to resist the bureaucracy — and a lack of mid-level faculty to be a counterweight to the bureaucracy — it all left the university bureaucracy with too much power. And that’s even before all the DIE (diversity-inclusion-equity) regulations.
While I cherish the parts of the university infrastructure that make sure the student assistants can be hired on time, that the wages are paid on time, and that we can do our jobs, I think the ones who try to reform the university from administration offices are a problem. And they will kill the university. Not now, not within 10 years, but within the next couple of decades. Unfortunately, most will already be in retirement by then.
But then, at least, the market will take over. There is a niche for private universities and courses to step into that gap. The gap left by universities concerned with procedure and not with outcomes.
#19 Many people are willing to follow and pass the buck
It’s interesting how many people follow authoritarian regulations. A bit like V for Vendetta’s: «We all did what we had to do. And in those circumstances, we did the best we could.»
And how many people, who should have been in positions of leadership (e.g., politicians, CEOs, chancellors of universities) turned into managers instead of leaders. They followed regulations and did not challenge it.
It was an interesting reminder that speaking up and resisting isn’t something you do suddenly. As someone said, you don’t suddenly decide to step into the way of a tank. That takes some … cultivating.
You even saw this trend with some politicians who followed polls. I have never understood the saying «There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.» I guess it was meant differently, but for politicians following public opinion it makes sense. Find out what «the people», or rather, the majority-based-on-polling wants, and argue for it. I guess cowardice and lack of a spine is a political strategy for those who want to become the figurehead of a mob.
And yeah, normally, I like polls, but I would not simply accept the results. If the majority thinks a certain way, you don’t have to accept it. You can try to change minds. Especially if these people have misconceptions.
#20 «Follow the science» is stupid
Yeah, some politicians use the abysmally stupid slogan «Follow the science.» It’s stupid, because science is (almost) never 100%. There are always dissidents. That’s the strength of Science. Science is not a democracy. One person with the right idea is enough to change science, even if all others think a certain way. Beautifully put in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcq8v5CfeEA):
So it’s very concerning when scientists act like bad prostitutes (I say this with respect to honest sex work, but I dislike dishonest prostitutes). Or when universities try to exert pressure on differing opinions.
#21 The media failed
Oh, poor media. After all, their old business model has collapsed. And they have to find different models. So Covid was a blessing for them, a way to get people come back each and every day for the current — scary — developments. Fear porn galore.
I wonder what would have happened if the Covid regulations had applied to media as well, but hey, some were too equal for it to apply.
So they fanned the fire, gave up their job of checking politicians. It was a perfect storm, and we are paying for it.
Thankfully, there are independent news sources. For now.
#22 It’s not our job to protect the health system … long-term
In the beginning, two weeks to flatten the curve made sense. After all, Covid was new, a out-of-the-blue pandemic, well, there were rather specific plans for it in Germany, but no preparation. Still, people agreed to curb their freedoms to protect the health system. And that made sense.
But as a general condition, that’s a really bad idea.
The health system is always under stress. People are overworked and badly paid. But we don’t lock down society during a bad flu season. If the amount of cases cannot be adapted for, at least over time (two years!), you can be pretty sure that other incentives demanded a different solution. After all, why spend money on a health system when you can limit what the population can do?
So, protecting the health system long-term is a bad idea, because then it will constantly need to be protected. Even worse when the number of ICU beds get reduced — during a pandemic — as it happened in Germany. So, no, I’m not sacrificing my freedom and bodily autonomy to prop up government mismanagement.
Instead, the system should have been improved, with more and better paid people specifically trained for the job at hand. Otherwise, I want my — not insignificant amount of — money back. The money I pay each and every month for a health system that is obviously not able to function.
But there’s a fat chance for that happening. And even worse, I wonder how many people will go into the health sector, especially if mandatory vaccinations are actually coming for nurses and doctors. Why work in a field in which politicians can demand you get a medical treatment if you want to continue working in it (after investing many years into it)?
#23 More and more gets controlled, i.e., forbidden
Once laws are on the books they are very hard to remove, and with many politicians, the hammer for each problem is the law. Covid saw some rather ugly ones, including lockdowns and other interventions into the private lives of citizens.
And unfortunately, these laws include things that were not relevant for Covid. For example, a lot of politicians (esp. from the Green party) wanted to prohibit fireworks during the end of the year celebrations. And with Covid they could, for (now) two years. Just by claiming it was to protect the hospitals. And yeah, people get injured, but that’s during one night of the year. A good health system could plan for it, and usually did. But that’s not the issue — it was a mere cudgel to remove loud and chaotic street celebrations and replace it with a centralized government controlled sanitized show (if at all).
While some regulations are removed the effect will be that politicians know they can do these measures in the future. And they will. Not for Covid, but for other «emergencies».
#24 We are moving towards a collectivist society
Overall, Covid pushed the country towards a more collectivist society. There was much talk about protecting society, doing things for others. Heck, even accusations to unvaccinated that if they don’t get vaccinated, the vaccinations of those who got vaccinated will not work (they put it differently, but that was the gist).
As someone who cherishes freedom and sees people as individuals … that is a rather ugly development. I think Ayn Rand was right when she spoke of the smallest minority being the individual. And yeah, that individual has to be the unit we should consider. Using groups for decisions is … easier, but will lead to atrocities.
#25 Fear/Moral Panic is a thing
Given the media reports, the Covid dashboards, the fear porn, it’s no wonder many people are scared of Covid. After all, it can be dangerous. And it’s hard to argue against that fear without sounding like an asshole. After all, for the affected person that fear is very real. And the personal freedom to swing your fist ends when the other person’s face begins.
But the personal freedom to swing your fist does not end where that other person’s fear begins.
I got the impression that some people reacted to this fear by requiring others … well, they wanted to control others, decide what they may and may not do. Bind those hands behind the person’s back. Or just jab them.
If only these people would simply concentrate on themselves. Even if they don’t want to deal with their fear, nobody stops them from running around in a full-body condom. They can do whatever they like for themselves. Heck, during the high-time of Covid, I saw someone walking around in a Zentai suit. Looks … «interesting», but is hardly virus stopping. But no matter what, others have the right to live like they themselves like as well.
It will be interesting to see how long that fear will last in society. And whether «fear» will become a more used strategy in politics. How was it …
«Do you know how to unite the people behind you, Child Carridin? The quickest way? Loose a lion – a rabid lion – in the streets. And when panic grips the people, once it has turned their bowels to water, calmly tell them you will deal with it. Then you kill it, and order them to hang the carcass up where everyone can see. Before they have time to think, you give another order, and it will be obeyed. And if you continue to give orders, they will continue to obey, for you will be the one who saved them, and who better to lead?»
Pedron Niall in «The Wheel of Time» by Robert Jordan
or to go really dark:
«Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.»
Hermann Goering, a Nazi leader, during the Nürnberg Trials after World War II
#26 Saving Face is an issue
It’s interesting to see how many people have played themselves into a corner. I’m not only looking at Canada here, where the so-called Prime Minister will find it hard to save his face when dealing with the truckers. But also those people who have made strong public commitments pro or against vaccinations. And yeah, I’m not free of that either. But on the plus side, Covid did show me what I believe, and my actions showed me (despite the pushback) that I am able to stand true to my convictions.
#27 Technology will make the next pandemics even scarier
Given the willingness to vaccinate people against their will, I am concerned that technological progress will make treatments against the will of (some parts of) the population very easy. After all, the willingness is there, so there is a pressure (research money!) to find a solution. And yeah, first with the best intention.
Just think of a really serious pandemic — wouldn’t it be great if you could vaccinate the whole population of a country, heck, perhaps even the world, within hours or days?
Sci-Fi (Resident Evil, Firefly — Serenity)? Perhaps, but also possible. Akin to putting florid into the drinking water. Might be airborne, might be put into food (unlikely, too slow), might be put into drinking water. And yeah, making sure that everyone gets the right dose is an issue, but those can be solved. I believe in science and engineering. Unfortunately, I also know humans, and they will use that technology.
That will be a dark day.
#28 You can’t really have some conversations when it comes to issues with irreversible consequences
I like conversations, especially about issues that matter. After all, no issues is too important to challenge it or to debate it. Even if you only play «devils advocate» to make sure that you are not wrong (if you take it seriously). Akin to the 10th man:
«How did Israel know?»
«We intercepted a communique from an Indian general saying they were fighting the Rakshasha. Translation, zombies. Technically undead.»
«Jurgen Warmbrunn. High-ranking official in the Mossad. Described as sober, efficient, not terribly imaginative. And yet you build a wall because you read a communique that mentions the word ‘Zombie’?»
«Well, when put like that, I’d be skeptical as well. In the ’30s, Jews refused to believe they could be sent to concentration camps. In ’72, we refused to fathom we’d be massacred in the Olympics. In the months before October 1973, we saw Arab troop movements, and we unanimously agreed they didn’t pose a threat. Well, a month later, the Arab attack almost drove us into the sea. So we decided to make a change.»
«The Tenth Man. If nine of us look at the same information and arrive at the exact same conclusion, it’s the duty of the tenth man to disagree. No matter how improbable it may seem, the tenth man has to start digging, on the assumption that the other nine are wrong.»
«And you were that tenth man.»
World War Z
However, there are some issues with some irreversible consequences that just do not make sense to discuss with some people. (Note the «some’s».) For example, a person I … like very much … is in favor of Covid vaccinations. He is highly invested in it. Given his public commitment to it, it’s highly unlikely that he would change his mind (nor that I would change my mind, for that matter). Unlikely, but still possible. But what makes the chance of changing his mind vanishingly small is that no matter what I doubt (almost anything), I would not doubt that he loves his teenage daughter.
And he did have her vaccinated.
The chances that he would see that it might not have been a good decision due to the risk/reward-ratio, when he agreed to an irreversible medical treatment on her, is … yeah, nil. It would mean him admitting that he endangered his only daughter. I am pretty sure I would have a hard time doing that as well. Of course, he could say that he was duped, and channel the resulting anger in a certain way, but that would be bad as well.
These are «interesting times», aren’t they?
#29 Wishes for the future
To end positively after all these (pretty long-winded) thoughts …
Personally, I would wish for the future that we remove the fear-thinking, the scare-porn, the scare models, the focus on infection numbers. After all, fear is a really bad advisor. And that we stop confusing the possibility of something happening with a low probability of something happening.
#30 Final Words
These are just a few of the jumbled thoughts that go through my mind at the moment. These are interesting times, I only wish I would have used them better. But still, it’s interesting.
Well, as long as we do not forget our humanity.
P.S. (2022-02-19): One other thought — I wonder when the first calls will come to simply make the vaccinations mandatory, put those who are not willing to pay the fine for two weeks in coercive detention, and make vaccinations as a condition for being in prison (many people, little space, etc.). One which is enforced by force. Akin to (IIRC) how the measles vaccination for children was handled. Require children in group institutions like kindergarten or school to be vaccinated, and make schooling compulsory. Two laws that work together to make the vaccinations mandatory. Hmm, there are lots of opportunities for dark creativity here.