The officials in charge of running the nation’s public schools had all summer—and $122 billion in Covid relief funds from Congress—to plan for the first day of school, so naturally chaos has ensued as students begin heading back to the classroom.
The Rand Corp. has released the results of a nationwide parent survey on school hesitancy taken in July. Although Delta was already spreading by then, 89% of parents, including more than 80% of typically more hesitant black and Hispanic respondents, said they would opt for in-person learning for their children this year. Parents apparently understand the health risks, and they’re weighing them against the harm of another year of horribly substandard instruction via Zoom.
Personally, I only find masks marginally uncomfortable. But I hate wearing them, and I dislike being around people who wear them. Why? Because a big part of being human is showing other people our faces – and seeing their faces in return. Smiling at a stranger. Seeing your child laugh. Pretending to be angry. Seeing another person’s puzzlement. Masks take most of those experiences away. At the same time, they moderately reduce audibility. Which further dehumanizes us. How many times during Covid have you struggled to understand another person? To be heard? Indeed, how many times have you simply abandoned a conversation because of masks? I say the dehumanization is at least five times as bad as the mere discomfort. And if you reply, “Want to see other people’s faces and hear other people’s voices? Just Zoom!,” I will shake my head in sorrow that you’re dehumanized enough to say such a thing.
Am I just being a big baby about this? I think not. Suppose humanity could eliminate all disease by wearing bags over our heads forever. Would you be willing to go through life not seeing the faces of your children? Would you want your child to go through life not seeing the faces of their friends? Well, during Covid we’ve moved at least 25% in that dystopian direction. The word “hellscape” is not out of place. I’ve never been a fan of the veiling of women, but I had to live through Covid to realize how horribly dehumanizing the custom really is.
Assuming that mask mandates in schools do make a difference, the benefits are likely to be small. Adults and older students can more effectively protect themselves by getting vaccinated, and life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms are extremely rare in children and teenagers: The CDC’s “current best estimate” of the infection fatality rate among people younger than 18 is 0.002 percent.
Instead of digging for the facts, the media have become bullhorns for state actors and political proxies. Instead of ‘speaking truth to power,’ most now think their job is to serve power. Their favored experts, whose expertise is unassailable, are just agents masquerading as sources of truth. The very idea of science as an ongoing process has been corrupted. And the media now view their favorite politicians as would-be angels ready to bring about Heaven on Earth (well, if they didn’t have to contend with the opposition’s monsters.) As they see it, a journalist’s job is to propagate and amplify narratives that keep the public compliant and otherwise lost in a Hall of Mirrors. Let our vaunted leaders do their jobs, which is apparently to shore up architectures of behavioral control. Sometimes that means repeating talking points ad nauseum or telling noble lies.
Tyler Cowen (!):
You will note that some segments of the American intelligentsia are so invested in criticizing the U.S. “red state” approach, and so warm toward collectivist mandates, that they won’t raise a peep about what is going on [in Australia].
The madness toggles between sinister and comical. Especially hilarious are the comedy stylings of the bullying dolt who is turning Victoria into a post-apocalyptic wasteland: it’s acceptable to remove your useless mask to drink coffee on the street, he declares, but an offence to do so to drink alcohol. It must be excruciating for black-clad Melburnians, paralysed indecision warming their espresso martinis.
Victoria’s Health Minister, not to be outdone as a stand-up comedian, alerted citizens to a prostitute’s positive test. “If you have employed a sex worker in the St Kilda area,” he said on Wednesday, “you need to come forward and get tested.” Employed? What, to do some gardening? Imagine the negotiation: “I don’t mind mowing, but it’ll be an extra $50 if you want full weeding.”
Instead, we’re punished as though we were still in the classroom (unlike our schoolchildren), all in detention because one of the naughty pupils broke the rules; or worse, thanked and praised for “doing the right thing”, as though these idiots are capable of determining the difference between right and wrong. Just because they or their intellectually challenged health bureaucrats say something’s true, or (even less credibly) morally correct, doesn’t make it so.
Where do these buffoons find the audacity to tell us they’re “angry”, “disgusted” or “disappointed” with the citizens of their state, or country? If you think, premiers, that it’s appropriate to address your paymasters with that kind of supercilious, patronising language you have a profoundly flawed understanding of your relationship to the electorate.
The simple story about protecting people and saving lives is hard to dislodge, even if it is extremely damaging and no longer achievable. This results in politicians grasping, out of desperation, for ever-crazier, unscientific and authoritarian policies. It’s like a Chinese finger trap, the more you try to pull out to escape Covid, the more locked in and angrier you become.