An Oregon high school ordered all 2,680 of its students to stay home for a week and a half in September—two days of complete shutdown, followed by a week of online classes. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the district sent a “flash alert message” to parents at Reynolds High at 5:35 a.m. informing them that their children wouldn’t be allowed in school that day.
It’s not hard to guess why. OPB reports that in the first two weeks of school “875 high school students and staff members … had to quarantine” before the shutdown. All that was in response to a mere four positive tests for Covid-19. Oregon is following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the disease’s low risk to young people and the widespread vaccination of adults, the CDC continues to recommend seven- to 14-day quarantines for schoolchildren who are suspected of having been exposed to the virus.
Even if quarantine policies were applied evenly, they would pose a heavier educational burden on low-income children, whose parents are less likely to have the resources to monitor their participation in remote learning or to hire tutors to make up for educational deficits.
No matter which euphemism governments employ for their permission slips, they are nothing less than slave passes. Coercive medical procedures to regain a scintilla of joy in your life is not freedom. Paternalistic privileges, granted temporarily in return for compliance, is not freedom. If you need the permission of powerful people to enter a cinema, pub or restaurant, you do not live in a free society. If a Health Secretary tells you that you must roll up your sleeve and get jabbed ‘to keep your freedoms’, you have none. If said Health Secretary holds your liberty like a pawn ticket, redeemable only by slavish obedience, your liberty is lost.
Likewise in the Antebellum South passes (also known as tickets or permits) allowed slaves to leave the plantation for a specific purpose and a designated timeframe, and had to be shown to any white person on demand.
It is highly unlikely that any slaves considered themselves to be free whilst in the possession of such a document. Indeed the pass was tangible proof of one’s bondage. If your freedom depends on the whims of another human being, you are not free. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, freedom ‘is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature’. Yet today we are witnessing the mass acceptance of politicians’ right to bestow and remove freedoms at will. Indeed there is celebration at being granted a morsel of ‘freedom’ demonstrated by the viral video of a Sydney woman overcome with emotion at being allowed to enjoy a drink in a pub. Despite this joy, it is hardly freedom day in New South Wales when mandatory masking still remains in place, residents cannot leave the state, numbers remain capped for weddings and funerals and at neither type of event may food or drink be consumed whilst standing.
For those in the state of Victoria, who believed they were close to being free again, the odious Premier Dan Andrews has moved the goalposts once more. Boosters are now the only route to liberty. Andrews nonchalantly warned Victorians that he will be keeping reins on their freedom probably until well into 2022: ‘It won’t be your first and second dose, it will be, “have you had your third?”’ Still feel like celebrating that freedom your government has so generously granted?
SIR – In my GP surgery I have dealt with barely any Covid cases in the past month but large numbers of patients, especially children and babies, with other respiratory infections, largely caused by low natural immunity due to prolonged lockdowns last winter. I have also been visited by suicidal and despairing teenagers who see no future, and patients whose conditions are deteriorating as they languish on interminable hospital waiting lists.
The Government was warned of all these issues months ago but seems to have done nothing to prepare the NHS to cope. Instead we have thousands fewer hospital beds than last year, and one of the lowest number of beds per 100,000 people in Europe.
More restrictions are not the answer. Nor is more money unless it goes on more beds and medical staff rather than overpaid managers.
Dr Fiona Underhill
Woodford Green, Essex
Many of us already see that the mainstream narrative about Covid-19 is flawed and implausible and that the threat it poses, while not insignificant, has been exaggerated. Despite this, our response to Covid-19 has been to fundamentally change our way of life in such a way that threatens our freedom, bodily autonomy, and dignity, by implementing radical measures that had been previously discouraged by the known science and which may very well cause much more harm than good.
The global response to Covid-19 has been influenced by a kind of utopianism that was borne out of early Christian mythology and which has resurfaced over and over again throughout the history of the modern West. There are many avenues for detailed research and investigation into how this has played out specifically, but for now, we can at least say that the changes we have made in response to Covid-19 have normalised things that will enable better compliance with ongoing and future ‘utopian’ projects.
First, and most obviously, severe restrictions on space and movement have been normalised, and there’s already talk of using lockdowns for other purposes, such as to combat climate change. Second, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in our stance towards medical interventionism and bodily autonomy. While Covid-19 vaccines might be safe, the stance that many are increasingly taking towards those who don’t want one seems unreasonably hostile and forceful, given the short duration of their clinical trials and the open questions surrounding their safety and effectiveness. Gray tells us that “the theory that guides the construction of Utopia is taken to be infallible; any deviation from it is treated as error or treason”, and we’re now seeing that those who don’t want the Covid-19 vaccine are increasingly being treated as treasonous. And if the path to utopia is one of absolute good vs. evil, they might increasingly be treated as evil. Third, we’ve witnessed the normalisation of constant state surveillance, tracking, and identification, even for partaking in normal day-to-day activities. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in society’s reverence of chosen experts and their scientific proclamations. The phrase ‘the science’ is now commonplace, despite the fact that science is not absolute and is debatable, contestable, and rarely ever settled, especially when it comes to what is new, like Covid-19 and our response to it.
This last point is worth focusing on because our post-Covid view of science isn’t so different from the way that Comte and Saint-Simon said that things would be in a future technocratic and scientistic utopia. Our reverence for ideologically correct science – utopian science – is such that we now allow scientists of the WHO or experts of government-picked SAGE to structure our way of life. Our Pontiffs are the chosen scientists, our commandments are lockdowns, booster vaccines, and distancing, and our sacred garb is the mask, or, in some places and perhaps soon in more, the immunity passport. Anyone who disagrees with the commandments, takes off their garb, or challenges the Pontiffs – even if they’re qualified experts themselves – is treasonous and should be treated accordingly.
I agree with the recommendation. I watched the video a couple days ago. It is an excellent one-hour summary of the path we have taken from the perspective of a doctor and economist.
It is astonishing where we are now. If you had presented the characteristics of disease from SARS-CoV-2 at the same conferences and conventions that put out 2019 pandemic response plans across the globe, there is no way they would have changed those plans to what we have experienced over the last 19 months. Public health authorities and governments first reacted out of fear of (a) another Spanish flu and (b) an overwhelmed health care system. But after the general populace ate the restrictions up, seemingly delighted by the excitement and shared struggle, it did not stop. The strategy shifted from the stated and intentional protection of the health care system while the virus runs through the healthy population to the outright eradication of the virus, which was obviously impossible by April 2020.
The best case is that we have sleepwalked into disaster. The worst case is that we have been led into disaster by interests that are taking advantage of a crisis to gain more control over society.