Using past Mistakes to Learn for the Future

Wer A sagt muss nicht B sagen — er kann auch erkennen, dass A falsch war.
Bertolt Brecht

(roughly translated)

Anyone who says «A» does not need to say «B» — he can also recognize that «A» was wrong.
Bertolt Brecht

It is interesting that the events during the Covid-Pandemic are not discussed anymore. It is not discussed in the German mainstream media, or in everyday conversations. It was also very rarely a topic in the US primary. I mean, there were some highly unethical measures even in Western societies. People were forced to wear masks despite questionable effectiveness, society was split into a two class system with vaccinated vs unvaccinated, people were even put under massive pressure to get vaccinated.

Even worse, these violations of human agency and dignity were also done by institutions that should know better. Universities, which stand for the search for truth, knowing that they can never be sure to have found it, acted like state enforcers. Heck, at one university I know of, it was policy to make life «uncomfortable» for unvaccinated students in order to get them to be vaccinated. A policy that was actually enforced. The same university claims to be for «diversity» and «human dignity». For shame. And, unless I have missed something, it is not that this university has admitted that what it did was wrong. Or apologized to the unvaccinated students. Or to their unvaccinated employees who were put under similar pressure.

But despite this societal amnesia, it doesn’t have to be all bad. Sure, dealing with the failures during Covid — including whether people agree they were failures — would be helpful to prevent a repetition in the future. After all, the next pandemic or emergency will come. They are just to useful to increase governments power and push through ideological agendas.

Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.
F. A. Hayek

But even without this public acknowledgement, there is at least the hope that people will see just how far government — and their «fellow citizens» — are willing to go.

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied during 1930s Germany, now you know.

And while many went along, some might have recognized that it was a mistake to do so. Especially when compared with the ones who did not go along.


While there is a strong human need for consistency (also a persuasion technique, look at «Persuasion» by Cialdini for more information), I agree with the quotation in the beginning of this posting. Just because people went along in 2020-2023, does not mean they have to go along with the next «emergency».

Of course, there is a risk here, the next emergency might be an actual one. Covid wasn’t «Contagion» (the movie), but another pandemic might be. Personally, if young people are dying (like during the Spanish flu), I would be concerned. In a way, Covid was the opposite of the Spanish flu. Sure, every death is a tragedy — I lost my father in 2020 — but there are crucial differences.

But if the next «emergency» is another overblown state action, yeah, people can learn from the Covid-Pandemic. They can recognize that the government (and many «fellow citizens») did go too far, did intervene way too far into the private lives and bodily autonomy of its citizens. And the reaction against it can start much faster and earlier.

In a sense, Covid was an overreaction by the government. And akin to an immune system, we can learn from it. We can stop these developments the moment they start. The moment our individual rights are curtailed in a so-called attempt to protect a collectivistic «society». The moment our freedom ares curtailed, in a so-called attempt to protect our freedoms (the Orwellian language was something else). And in the moment the state wants to treat the citizens as cattle by deciding their medical treatment.

After all, it doesn’t matter if people have made mistakes in the past. It matters to learn from them and act better in the future. You don’t have to be consistent with bad behavior — you can learn and grow.

Hmm, reminds me of the time I was mobbed in school, I was completely unable to effectively deal with it. I was a child, or at least a teenager and could not even decide not to go to school (mandatory in Germany). But I learned from it and when some asshole mobbed me during my PhD thesis, I was able to nail that bastard to the wall («document, document, document», then inform the authorities about it — if they had not reacted, I would have used legal means).

It’s the same with these emergencies — now we know the game, or at least part of it. The fear porn, the attention to case numbers, the selective reporting, the incremental approach of forcing small groups first (e.g., students, health professionals), then expanding it to everyone (after all, they did not protest when it was only these small groups).

And there is also the realization that the belief that others are basically like us, basically nice/good people, might be wrong in some cases. Some people aren’t good, or at least, they do not have our best interests in mind. It is not even that they want to hurt us intentionally, they simple do not care. They have their own interests — power, influence, ideology — and they do not care if other get hurt. It is «for the greater good» after all. But in a way, they are predators and they have to be stopped. Quickly.


And that is the hope I have when looking back at the pandemic and the reactions to it afterwards. Yeah, people who did wrong might not want to admit it. People who have treated others like second-class citizens, ostracized the unvaccinated, made themselves the executors of oppressive government policy and felt good, righteous, about it. And it was depressive to see who went along. Be it fellow scientists who should have known better (considering the data, the selective reporting, the claims, etc.) or family members whose loyalty should be to the family, not to the state.

But people can learn from it. And the future does not have to be like the past.