Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Of viruses and convenience

Lately occupying my thoughts is how the infamous comfort zone interconnects with soul growth and viruses. I touched on this idea in my last post but want to expand on it here. As such, this article functions somewhat as a companion piece to that post.

Civilisation can be understood in a variety of different ways; it is a highly complex concept. For this small article, however, I want to bring into particular relief our reflexive expectation that it deliver us with endless “conveniences”, that the ‘wild and untamed’ world Out There is messily devoid thereof and thus needs taming, controlling, perfecting and ordering until transformed into a machine that produces more and more of this most prized good. Certainly convenience’s tentacled roots reach deep into Safety, but it is likely civilisation emerged as a slowly evolving set of unintended consequences of our ancestors’ innocent experimentation with seed planting and fixed dwellings; though some expectation of convenience will have played its part, civilisation was not begun in fear. Nevertheless, safety is critical to all living beings; modern civilised humans, however, have succeeded in making a fetish of it, and thus of its far shinier distant relative, convenience.

This is not an issue most people discern. The SARS-CoV-2 phenomenon – one of mass hysteria in my view – is a stampede to safety in visceral fear of something ordinary and regular that has been amplified into a vaudevillian bogeyman for a variety of nefarious reasons. We have been finagled into a panicked stampede because we are susceptible – and now wilfully blind – to the manipulations that artfully brought it about. (The felt experience of those on board with the lockdowns, it should be said, would for the most part be rational decision making in the face of grave danger. I spy something else at play.)

What makes us so susceptible? My short answer: our unexamined and unattended fears. What follows is a brief explication thereof.

Freud gets a bad rap nowadays, but I think it is uncontroversial that we hide much of our feeling world from ourselves. We prefer the familiarity, comfort and convenience of tamed emotions: civil, polite, pleasant, convivial. Those that don’t suit our day-to-day world get suppressed. Fears of rejection, exposure, failure, etc., stay hidden – and thus unexamined – for years, decades, lifetimes. Because we do not know them, have not confronted them, are largely blind to them, they are obvious buttons and levers to those who understand how they operate us from within. Psychologists, public relations experts, propagandists, behavioural programmers, etc., know what they’re doing; humanity has been developing these dark arts for millennia. Indeed, their skills are pivotal in keeping society cohesive (see the Dunbar number). As Edward Bernays – one of Freud’s nephews – put it: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” 

An acceptable devil’s bargain? For a while, yes. But change is the only constant. We reap what we sow. Patterns repeat with merciless regularity. Pema Chodron: “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” 

In fear, we tighten defensively against threats, keep them at bay, refuse them entry into our lives; we all know we shouldn’t invite in the charming vampire. But what if he has something to teach us? What if the emptiness that haunts our every ‘success’, that turns to ash every societally ordained milestone we check off our todo list is there because we choose safety and convenience over threat and danger? What if that emptiness is a siren song to fate summoning the very danger we so fearfully avoid?

All great stories are great precisely because danger and threat break through somehow, turn lives on their heads, force change on ‘innocent’ heroes and effect real soul growth. And we love heroes for overcoming those challenges, for winning some new, mature composure. But no one can grow vicariously; if these convenient growth fixes in novels and movies are all we’ve got, we’re treading water in our lives, building emotional-psychological debt as the felt presence of that dread emptiness looms larger and larger.

This goes for all of us, always, individually and collectively, in groups of every size; society, being about safety and convenience, tends to seal us off, perpetually tempts us away from challenge and hard work. As modern technologies become ever more pervasive, deliver ever more convenience, automate more and more labour, they become a network of powerful attractors seducing us into ‘safe’ isolation. But we are barely needed any more, barely noticed, barely there at all. All we have to do is consume. How convenient.

Lost to the swirl of this extreme, everything Out There becomes a virus. Everything that threatens to expose us to our own immaturity, our fragility, our incompetence, our fear, our emptiness … is a virus that must be defended against. It feels like life and death, but it’s just life doing what it must do; drive change. Change has been recast as virus. Or is it that virus has been recast as danger, or fear of change? In our growing fear, we form fractious alliances, groupings passionately engaged in making sure the threats stay Out There, or are eradicated; there’s safety in numbers. But our friends tend to be unreliable. Groups dissolve, things don’t work out as expected; people see things so differently. Lines are drawn. We scream across them, red in the face, certain in our fearful convictions, certain our enemy is wrong. There can be no compromise!

Our desperation for order, for safety, for being on the right side of whatever war, produces more and more chaos, hatred and fear. Everything is a virus now, and we are alone, vulnerable, spent. Stop and look around. We are destroying diversity, crushing open exchange, sealing ourselves off from the messy richness of life. But life will not be mocked; it will shed its tail and begin again. Every 20 minutes a species goes extinct.

What way out but back? But back is not our way. The challenge is to grow up, to leave our comfort zones ever forwards into life, just as always. Too much convenience has hidden this truth too well from view.

Humans are genius at ignoring the obvious, genius at adding too much of their noisy mind-clutter to the mix, then experiencing their buried fears reflected back at them as Monsters Out There. If we know this pattern describes us to some degree, if we feel that emptiness trailing in its wake, it is the old wisdoms that offer the way out. 

Be mindful. Notice how you are, how your triggers operate you. Be willing to be wrong. Discern the impact of your behaviours on your world. Clear your mind of all ideologies and beliefs so that you can learn humbly from life. Life is feedback, rich and true: viruses, bacteria, ‘enemies’, ‘bad luck’, ‘failure’, ‘success’ … all of it. If we want the healthier route out of this civilisational impasse, we must prioritise growing up: confronting and overcoming our fears. And each of us needs the support of others as we take this work on, even though the real work can only be done by us as individuals. 

This is the nature of the bifurcation point that confronts us, that presents us in intensified form the choice that confronts us every second of our lives: retreat into our comfort zones and earn inwardly collapsing disease, or strike out courageously into life’s challenges, earning wisdom and building health as we go. The former is the fear path, the latter that of love.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Only the intensity has changed. Nothing will ever be the same again.

“There is no question that there will be a challenge to the coming [Trump] administration in the arena of infectious diseases [ … T]here will be a surprise outbreak.”
Dr Anthony Fauci at Georgetown University in 2017. (Apparently, Trump has initiated an investigation into Fauci’s 2015 decision to send $3.7m funding from NIH coffers to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, for studies into the corona virus, in violation of a moratorium on such research.)
“Eventually, what we’ll have to have is certificates of who’s a recovered person, who’s a vaccinated person, because you don’t want people moving around the world where you’ll have some countries that won’t have it under control, sadly. You don’t want to completely block off the ability for those people to go there and come back and move around. So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.”
Bill Gates, TedTalk interview, April 2020. The last sentence has since been edited out.
Anti-vaxxers are a scourge and a strong argument for re-education camps, the immediate seizure of their property, and putting their children into protective custody.  
Tweet by Republican Rick Wilson, December 2019.
Both Public Health England (PHE) and the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) were satisfied that COVID-19 (C19) presented a “low risk” of mortality and downgraded it from the status of a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) on March 19th. [… snip …] C19 is the first disease in history from which you can officially die without any firm evidence that you actually had it.
Iain Davis, Off-Guardian, 29 April 2020

We are staring down the barrel of a momentous bifurcation point. Should we have seen it coming? It’s been gathering for years, decades, perhaps since civilisation began. Now here it ‘suddenly’ is, right in front of our eyes. But can we actually make it out, bring all its details into focus? Do we want to? Do we have the courage, the will? After all, it’s us we’re gazing at, mesmerised by the image in the mirror of our just deserts. We are Narcissus undone at last, too panicked to admit the truth: the self-love affair is over.

When I first skimmed the headlines from Wuhan, I thought, Meh … another epidemic to sell a new vaccine. Then I watched reports on peakprosperity.com, and that meh became, Wow, this really IS big! Some 14 days later, draconian measures bloomed across the planet as global lockdowns were rolled out. The straws that broke the back of my growing uncertainty about what was really happening were Denmark’s hastily (long prepared?) new laws permitting forced testing, vaccination and treatment of their citizens using either their police, military or private security firms. The other was the UK’s Corona Virus Act. 
I started to listen more closely to critical expert voices, mostly German, and analyse the official data. (For those interested: articles and official data on Covid-19 (C19) can be found at: Off-Guardian, rubikon.news (German), kenfm.de (German, with some English translations), and Swiss Propaganda Research (22 languages).) But in the end, the charts below on C19’s R0 figure – the number used to determine governmental response –, combined with the growing convergence from several studies that C19’s global IFR is around 0.1% - 0.3%, placing it in the same danger zone as a bad seasonal flu, should be sufficient to give pause. 

But the purpose of this article is not to crunch numbers. Others are doing a sterling job of that important work. My focus is how those of us for and those of us against the lockdown appear incapable of constructive communication across the gulf that divides us, even though we both hold health dear in our reasoning. We all want healthier outcomes, and yet the gulf is deep and wide. We are polarised, afraid, angry. It is this division I find most troubling. The only chance each of us has of bridging it is to humbly, openly share our perspectives in a non-sensational way, and so invite discussion and correction.
As I see it, those wholly opposed to the idea that “powerful people plan stuff” – aka conspire – believe C19 data either justifies the lockdown, or exposes governmental incompetence. There are no other possible explanations. Besides, global plots require so much secrecy they are impossible to pull off. And why, exactly, would governments across the world, of every political colour, do something so drastic as to destroy their economies, unless they deemed it absolutely necessary? 
Why indeed.
What follows is an exploration of why a group of (perhaps well-intentioned) people might seek to deliberately set in motion a controlled sequence of global “creative destruction”. Perhaps you already think I’m crazy. But what chance do I have of discovering how wrong I am if I do not publicly share my best case, to have it either disproven or reinforced by subsequent discussion?
We will approach the task in two main sections. The first develops plausible ‘globalist’ motives, and looks at how such a group might be capable of controlling the narrative and thus executing their plans. We’ll also tease out our complicity in co-generating and sustaining those motives. Section 2 looks at how shaky the narrative justifying both the lockdown and the much touted vaccination of the planet’s population is. 

1. Motivation and complicity

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.
Edward Bernays, creator of “public relations”, the term he coined for propaganda.

Humans are social animals: we fare better in groups than as lone operators. Hence, the vast majority of us belong to any number of groups. Each of these groups has some kind of (evolving) identity to which we subscribe with varying degrees of conviction. If we do not commit sufficiently to a particular group, we are warned in some way, and perhaps eventually expelled if we refuse to cooperate. Expulsion has all sorts of different consequences, up to and including death. This is an uncontroversial fact of social life, and also a source of eternal tension between the needs/desires of the individual as these conflict with the needs/desires of the group.
For groups – and thus humanity itself – to prosper across generational time, effective stories/narratives are required that bind their members into an evolving whole (see the Dunbar number). This is as true of hunter-gatherer bands as it is of nuclear and extended families, tribes, religions, political parties, businesses, nation states, multi-national corporations, football clubs, etc. As stated, humans fare far better in groups than solo. Consequently, groups have a kind of survival instinct: when threatened, they seek to expel or negate the perceived threat. Threats come in many forms, one of which is criticism of the binding story. Narrative control (control of the binding story) is thus essential to group survival. In other words, control of the narrative is a matter of life and death.
These are my basic operating assumptions. They can be extrapolated into a foundational observation: Intergroup trust – and with it honest, transparent and sincere communication between groups – is both very difficult to establish and decays over time as groups diverge culturally.
Focussing on today’s world, we can state quite broadly that the overwhelming majority of groups extant across the globe are hierarchical. By definition, hierarchies must be composed of rulers and ruled. The necessary antipathy between these groupings is by now a tired cliche, but their tendency to culturally diverge bears repeating. By way of example, the lives experienced by Britain’s working people and the British Royal Family could hardly be more different. Across what channels do they communicate? How do they keep their interests aligned? Well, each is a subset of a larger-order group that binds them: Great Britain. “Great Britain” is an evolving story or narrative, a complex set of ideas. But the living narrative that defines any nation – unites its citizens into One People – is primarily created and tended by that nation’s rulers via the tools they use to disseminate that narrative, whoever these rulers may be. Thus, for any (national) group to survive across time, its binding story must somehow sufficiently mitigate the unavoidable antipathy between its ever-diverging subgroups.
So, just as we have tension between group and individual needs, so we have tension between groups that survive across great tracts of time, diverging culturally while being bound – symbiotically?, co-creatively? – into a fractious whole upon which they depend for their survival. It is a natural, repeating pattern we might call The Mother of Invention, a perpetual ‘divine itch’ that forces us into continuous creativity, no matter how noble or cynical, foolish or wise our creativity is. And it must bring both tragedy and wonder in its wake.
More broadly then, intergroup antipathy – divergent interests – encourages strategic communications that, generally speaking, are designed to advance in-group interests – typically and perhaps preferably at the expense of out-group interests – by withholding pertinent information, by deception and lies, and any other effective manipulation. Political manifestos are hardly renowned for being accurate predictors of subsequent political action. Negotiations between unions and big businesses are fraught with mistrust and strategic deceptions. Commerce is ruled by the advice, “buyer beware!” Etc., etc., etc. These sorts of continuing tussles between antithetical groups of all types have a cumulatively corrosive effect on the trustworthiness and health of our information ecology.
This tendency is well known: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. At the scale of nation states, for example, complex checks and balances have been very carefully established, developed and protected over the centuries to mitigate this tension. Sustaining these checks and balances is a continuing struggle to ensure no single grouping attains total power. Tyranny, we are rightly told, is an ever-present risk against which we must be ever vigilant. There is much power to be had and many who are drawn to that power for their own ends.
But what if those responsible for propagating the stories that bind a nation together – government, media and academia/science – are both actively corrupted by e.g., lobbyists, and passively corrupted by historical tendencies of decadence and moral decay? What if judicial systems that protect hard-won rights also become corrupted via, e.g., corruption of sufficient numbers of politicians, particularly of those who hold ministerial office? How then are we to sustain the readiness and ability to be effectively vigilant? From where is the true and complete information to assist that vigilance supposed to come? And vigilance would be doubly difficult should the impulse to be vigilant become a minority impulse, such that all critical questioning of the nation’s – now corrupted – binding stories is experienced, reflexively, as a threat to the group’s survival. How might such a sorry state of affairs arise in which all such criticism is dismissed as “conspiracy theory”?
In a state of war?
Are we now in a state of war? If yes, for how long has this been the case? There was/is the Cold War, the War on Drugs, the War on AIDS, the War on Cancer, the War on Terror, the War on the Corona Virus, and others besides. What do we accept and even deem necessary in times of war that we would otherwise experience as an attack on our liberties? How much are we prepared to relinquish once a state of war has infected our thinking and we become volatile, hyper-alert, fearful, bewildered? How open are we to new information while deeply opposed to some other group that (apparently) threatens our existence?
And who has more control of the narrative, the rulers or the ruled? Who benefits from this ability to adapt the narrative by setting the group on a war footing, rulers or ruled? If both, how?
Consider our general information environment: How honest is a culture shot through with phrases like “to be honest”, “if I’m honest”, “to tell the truth” and “wanna know what I really think?” A culture is unlikely to be fundamentally honest if its people must signal they are being honest. Are politicians honest? Is the media honest? Are advertisements honest? Is product packaging honest? Are scientific journals honest? Is Big Pharma honest? Powerful multinational corporations? Remember, all groups require control of their narrative to survive over time, feel threatened by out groups, and so use strategic – not honest – communications to survive and prosper. Yes, even that group we call “scientists” that tells us what is and is not science. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Are my arguments here ‘pseudoscience’? Would that pejorative condemn them as irrelevant, irretrievably wrong? Is only ‘clean’ data the ‘truth’? Or is the ‘consensus’ or ‘settled’ interpretation of that ‘clean’ data invariably the ‘truth’? Someone somewhere has to decide.
Perhaps we should let the leading (ruling?) experts do that. But are all experts beyond corruption, beyond error, or always in agreement?

It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.
(Dr. Marcia Angell, NY Review of Books, January 15, 2009, “Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption)
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness…
The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of ‘significance’ pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale…Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent…

(Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief, The Lancet, in The Lancet, 11 April, 2015, Vol 385, “Offline: What is medicine’s 5 sigma?”)

So an essential quality or characteristic of the narrative about ruling groups – such as politics, science and media: those that control the narrative that defines the superset group – is that they are honest. How effective would their narratives be otherwise? Another is that they serve the ruled. But how often is either assertion true, especially in times of war when defence against the enemy is more important than truth? “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” For how long now have we been in a state of war? Decades? As a competitive endeavour, isn’t business a form of war? And how many of us experience life itself – that “survival of the fittest” – as a kind of perpetual war? Doesn’t war corrupt our information ecology, that dynamic and living exchange of information across all channels that helps or harms our ability to be vigilant against creeping tyranny? How honest are we when surrounded by enemies on all sides?
As I have suggested, this challenge is as old as humanity. It is also intractable; as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail, detail that is all too often diabolical. Indeed, the etymology of “diabolical” has Indo-European roots encompassing “to throw”, “reach” and “division”; divide and conquer via propagation (“throwing”) of divisive, deceptive information. Ruling groups’ perhaps most infamous strategy is to continually sow deception among the ruled and thereby create new antithetical groupings that become so occupied with their (manufactured) antipathies, they have neither time nor desire to expose the techniques that keep them divided. This helps rulers stay rulers, which further means they are more effective at keeping the fractious whole whole. It’s an extremely difficult balancing act. History’s many revolutions and collapsed empires attest to how difficult it is to keep large groups of people together ‘as one’. Logically, those that survive must be very good at it. So good that hardly anyone would notice. After all, we’re too busy violently disagreeing with each other.
What if, while we’re distracted by our violent disagreements, a group of rulers, or if you like ‘globalist elites’, took it upon themselves to rescue humanity from itself? They know full well, for example, that omelettes can only be made by breaking eggs. They believe, fervently, there are just too many of us, that humanity is by and large a virus on this beautiful planet they love, and know too that most of the ruled cannot handle this bitter truth… Perhaps, over recent decades, sufficient control of, e.g., the WHO, the UN, Big Pharma, key governments such as those of the US, UK, France, Germany, Belgium and others, has been attained, an amount of control sufficient for them to be suitably confident that a crisis they set in motion would act as a smokescreen, behind which urgently needed structural changes could be made to switch us from ‘free market capitalism’ – perpetual-growth economics – towards some new variant of fascism – their preferred (hierarchical) version of steady-state economics. Is that an unreasonable set of suppositions? Could it explain the data and governmental/media/science behaviours we see surrounding the C19 ‘pandemic’? Section 2 will look at this in closer detail.
In sum, can we ever be sure that any of our sources of information are reliable? Isn’t open-minded scepticism – vigilance – always the right posture to adopt? Without it, we have been divided into the peoples of Lockdown Good and Lockdown Bad. The tension causes us to hunker at the banks of our mighty data rivers, plotting against a virus that will surely mutate before we can prime our vaccine guns. Isn’t our sense of what a virus is part of the problem? Are we not, each of us, the other’s virus? Are we not each deathly afraid of change, of being wrong? Is it not the sense of our opponents as potentially life-threatening viruses carrying deadly information that drives us (mad)?
We are all co-contributors to The Way Things Are. We all play a role. All our choices, combined, open out continually into the next moment, on and on: a river of endless nows. What is it we want, how are our desires and fears shaping the future? What is the healthiest way of changing course, and how conscious are we of how our choices continually create the world we inhabit?
Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: “Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?” For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together – on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot – though they call it “planning” and “strategizing” – and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people. 
Yet there are individuals who ask with patronising, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups. 
The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world.
Michael Parenti, 1996, Dirty Truths

2 Critique of the reasoning in support of the lockdown

Before we critique the specific justifications for the current lockdown, I want to address a larger-order question about how we might justify lockdowns generally as a protection measure against epidemics. 
Life is often tough and ‘unfair’ for the vital and unavoidable reason that it is fundamentally out of our control. Overcoming challenges is how we mature, become stronger, and by growing up, profoundly enjoy a life rich with accomplishment. A life without challenge is a life not worth living.
For example, we might reasonably compare lockdowns to teaching babies to walk using robotic exoskeletons designed to protect them from all injury. The measure would certainly keep our children safe from harm, but would also gravely impair their development. These two opposing outcomes make it difficult to judge the wisdom of the measure: how do we value each objectively?
How wise is it to shield ourselves from as many dangers as possible? Isn’t it healthier in the long run to deal with life as it is? Obviously, we can be reckless, which is unwise, but we can also be too cautious, too timid, too controlled by our fears. Worse than recklessness, fearful caution can quickly become a positive feedback loop where we become ever more afraid of life, stay hidden away from all perceived dangers, and become progressively less able to deal with life as it is: a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, an accelerating tailspin of fragility and weakness. The very success of the measures guarantee their cumulative failure; we become perpetual children easily controlled by authority of whatever intent: good or evil, competent or incompetent.
Which sounds wiser to you: taking ever more drugs to suppress the symptoms of various illnesses and the growing ‘side effects’ of those drugs – with all those illnesses likely the result of poor choices in diet and lifestyle –, or living a life oriented around staying strong and fit, by eating only whole foods; tending wisely to your career, family and relationships; exercising regularly; and being mindful about your ecological footprint? Does this fundamental decision scale up to state governance and kicking cans down roads? I detect a devil’s pact between an increasingly dependant and volatile People and an overly controlling Government symbiotically dependant on the compliance of its People: a vicious circle centuries in the making, growing ever more intense, reaching fever pitch right about now.
When wolves keep a forest’s deer population under control, deer, wolves and forest benefit equally – even though the deer don’t thank the wolves for their service to the whole. With no predators to hold them in check, deer over-populate until their numbers crash and the bio-diversity and carrying capacity of their environment is greatly reduced. Viruses – whether exosomes or exogenous – may well play a similar role in the form of epidemics, somewhat like forest fires. So even if we were to escape them, would such a pharmaceutical ‘success’ be good for us, for the planet? Besides, viruses are as vital to life’s functioning as bacteria. Rather than seek to escape them, should we instead view viral and bacterial activity as a kind of report card from Mother Nature on how healthy our way of life is? Is it wise to glare fearfully at such richly informative feedback, then declare war against the messengers?
How might we execute such a combative strategy? Instigate preemptive lockdowns every time scientists conclude a virus just mutated, or that conditions are just right for an imminent mutation, or perhaps just after there’s been an outbreak of 10 (20? 100?) deaths somewhere in the world? What if there were three weeks between those deaths and when the infections started? How much international travel might have happened during those weeks? 
In other words, now that we’ve locked down once, how do we prevent ourselves from locking down too often, or too late, or too soon, in the future? Had the UK and the rest of the world locked down in unison far earlier, say in January, how would we come out of it? How costly would such a long lockdown be? And if a second wave is indeed possible – because of the lockdown? – should we ever end the lockdown if almost no level of risk is permissible? If a second wave is due, if we then lockdown again, do we ensure a third, a fourth? Rinse and repeat until we have a vaccine, for as long as it takes to be certain it works: maybe for three to five years.
To be really confident this were the safer strategy, we would have to know in advance that a vaccine can be 100% effective against the novel virus as well as safe, be clear about the financial and health costs of the lockdown, and the length of time required to develop the vaccine. But what if we have no infected people to test due to preemptive lockdown (assuming lockdowns work)? What data would we have on the virus in that case? How could we test the vaccine if everyone everywhere has been locked down for months on end? There’s no second Earth we can use as a laboratory. Would testing on monkeys and other non-human animals in laboratory conditions be sufficient to be certain of the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety? Would vaccine modelling be good enough? 
Lockdowns are very costly. Can society afford lockdowns every few years, every decade? How do we know lockdowns work, and what does “work” even mean in such a complex case? You can’t fight the same virus twice, in the same country, under the same conditions, once with and once without lockdown. All we have are comparison countries like Sweden, Japan, and Belarus with very mild or no containment measures, and the UK, France, and Germany who instigated lockdowns. The results strongly favour the former group’s more relaxed approach, an interpretation dismissed by many because, e.g., “Sweden is different.” But if countries cannot be meaningfully compared, we can never scientifically prove that lockdowns work. We just have to believe or disbelieve those who say they do, or those who say they do not. An experiment with no meaningful control group is not scientific. As such, we can only remain in the dark about the effectiveness and perhaps even the costs of lockdowns. They are subjective, group-think, political decisions, motivated by an extremely complex and dynamic mix of collective emotions.
All in all, this is not an obviously easy circle to square. This is not a situation in which certainty about the options presented is easily achieved.
And yet this lockdown is needed. It must be: despite the facts that hospitals are under no threat, replication numbers are down around 1, the risk group is known so protecting them in a targeted manner would be easy, and data on HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) administered in the right dosages in combination with zinc is very encouraging, the lockdown is extended and extended. The need was never entirely – it seems to me – grounded in the official data, in science, or in common-sense reasoning. Considering all we have covered, how could it be? In my view, some other political considerations or motivation makes lockdown, and extending the lockdown until we have a vaccine, ‘necessary’ or propitious. Logic dictates that the deeper reason must be some strategy that benefits the deciding in group by advancing their interests. The logic-based rhetoric I have developed thus far is my attempt at demonstrating the plausibility of this interpretation, an interpretation we now examine by critiquing the justifications for the lockdown advanced by governments across the planet.
Essentially, lockdowns are said to “flatten the curve” and so “save lives” by protecting hospitals’ capacity to tend to the sick. I just reasoned above that, even if this were demonstrably effective for some period of time, the long-term consequences of this approach risk being (far?) worse than any short-term success. But let’s leave that aside, for now, and proceed.
First of all, the imperative to “save lives” rather than the economy does not withstand scrutiny. Vilifying those who argue otherwise is evidence this is so. No politician or even teenager capable of basic deductive reasoning can sincerely claim otherwise. Constant repetition of this assertion does not make it true; it is instead strongly suggestive of deliberate mass manipulation along the lines of behavioural programming. Why present it as an either/or choice? Wellbeing emerges from a flourishing economy; it does not float wholly disconnected from it. In early to mid March, data supporting a more nuanced approach than a blanket lockdown was there from Italy and China, and is certainly available now as various lockdown regulations are, nevertheless, extended and extended in countries across the globe.
It is anodyne to observe that the more affluent a country is, the more effective the health-care infrastructure it can afford. This is an easy concept to grasp and yet the UK is bitterly divided across this line: heartless people are for the economy, decent people are for saving lives. And yet, social distancing, rising unemployment, bankrupted businesses, millions of postponed operations and destroyed futures – all obvious and direct consequences of lockdowns – are huge stresses on our physical, psychological and emotional health. It is uncontroversial that extreme stress severely compromises our immune system. Suicide numbers are rising, as is consumption of anti-depressants. Tens of thousands of people in the UK, New York, Sweden and elsewhere have died at home or in care homes, too poor and too afraid to go to hospital, or because care homes are not equipped to treat the old and vulnerable in the numbers they were asked to; tens of thousands were moved from hospitals into care home to “save lives”. 
At a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre on 12 May [David Spiegelhalter] explained that, over the past five weeks, care homes and other community settings had had to deal with a “staggering burden” of 30,000 more deaths than would normally be expected, as patients were moved out of hospitals that were anticipating high demand for beds.
Of those 30,
000, only 10,000 have had covid-19 specified on the death certificate. While Spiegelhalter acknowledged that some of these “excess deaths” might be the result of underdiagnosis, “the huge number of unexplained extra deaths in homes and care homes is extraordinary. When we look back … this rise in non-covid extra deaths outside the hospital is something I hope will be given really severe attention.”
Shaun Griffin, British Medical Journal 

Screenshot from a now-deleted YouTube presentation by Professor Knut Wittkowski, June 2020

Currently, official data on co-morbidities in the UK suggests a figure of around 90% – though Off-Guardian calculates 95% from NHS figures – of deaths recorded with C19 as the underlying cause included one or more co-morbidities, which is in line with data from Italy and elsewhere. As of 8 June 2020, total UK deaths for people who tested positive are just above 40,000, which represents 0.063% of the population. As of 5 June 2020, total deaths in Japan – no lockdown – are 907, which represents 0.0007% of the population. Total deaths in Germany as of 8 June 2020 are 8,763, which represents 0.01% of the population. These wildly differing death rates in three countries, only two of which executed lockdowns, strongly suggests that factors other than the virus itself are co-causal, and thus that the virus’ lethality may well be far lower than 0.1%. Serology tests support a similar conclusion.
To repeat, how can we ever know for certain that lockdowns “save lives”? At a maximum we might argue, narrowly, it prolongs some lives by a few months, but this observation doesn’t account for the damage caused by, and lives lost due to, the lockdown. And what about quality of life … must quantity trump quality? Are six months of lonely, sterilised isolation better than one final month accompanied by loved ones? Finally, to what degree are we risking future lives to “save” those now close to death – the C19 risk group –, those we might better protect by not destroying the economy? And how does a lockdown protect care homes? Looking forward, how does wrecking the economy protect the near future’s old and vulnerable people? Do health-care systems, including care homes, fare well in times of austerity? Results in England strongly suggest otherwise.
We all die, without exception. It is not in our power, at the collective level, to dictate how and when this inevitability happens, just as King Knut could not hold back the tide. That, in our folly, we try anyway – and with such fearful fervour we wilfully turn a blind eye to the consequences of that fervour – is a kind of collective sickness humanity knows too well. But what right do we have to advocate and pursue such a lopsided policy: every death is one death too many (except those caused by the lockdown)?
To the degree that counter-information is in any way helpful in this divided environment, data from Sweden, Belarus, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, eight states in the US and elsewhere demonstrates the wisdom of trusting the population to make its own common-sense decisions based on sound information, rather than ordering everyone to hide away in their homes, sowing fear, and switching off a large proportion of the economy in so doing. Their less draconian approaches downplay fear, prevent panic, and keep their economies ticking over. This hindsight knowledge doesn’t make these incredibly difficult decisions easier, but does help us adjust current strategy and learn lessons for the future. 
Neil Ferguson, who became known as “professor lockdown” after convincing Boris Johnson to radically curtail everyday freedoms, acknowledged that, despite relying on “quite similar science”, the Swedish authorities had “got a long way to the same effect” without a full lockdown.
Henry Bodkin, The Telegraph, 2 June 2020
Or should help us. The UK seems curiously reluctant to embrace the good news. The same is true in Germany where the death rates are far less intimidating, and yet several lockdown measures that are very damaging to the economy are kept in place, while the awaited vaccine is touted as the only route out. A global, live presentation by GAVI – the global vaccine alliance – involved multiple heads of state announcing how vital a vaccine is for ending the lockdown across the planet, even though SARS-CoV-2 has proved itself to be harmless to the vast majority of the population. Even in the UK where the figures are certainly unusual, are they really justification for a lockdown that will likely cause more deaths that the virus, and is clearly responsible for a significant proportion of those already endured?
As we know, by the time lockdowns were implemented, the R0 figure was at or below 1. The virus had therefore already spread throughout much of the affected populations and immunity had begun to develop. (According to Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, corona viruses are typically thwarted when roughly 20% of a population has immunity.) So the lockdowns came too late, making any attempts to “flatten the curve” redundant. This information was either known or available to governments at the time, or shortly thereafter. The subsequent explosion in case numbers reported by the mass media was thus more the consequence of late (and misleading) RT-PCR testing for infections, rather than the sudden, dramatic onset of the virus. Norway’s lockdown came a couple of weeks earlier than the UK’s, for example, but even they have begun to question the wisdom of locking down:
[W]as lockdown necessary? What did it achieve that could not have been achieved by voluntary social distancing? Camilla Stoltenberg, director of Norway’s public health agency, has given an interview where she is candid about the implications of this discovery. ‘Our assessment now, and I find that there is a broad consensus in relation to the reopening, was that one could probably achieve the same effect – and avoid part of the unfortunate repercussions – by not closing. But, instead, staying open with precautions to stop the spread.’ This is important to admit, she says, because if the infection levels rise again – or a second wave hits in the winter – you need to be brutally honest about whether lockdown proved effective.
Fraser Nelson, The Spectator, 27 May 2020
The deeper we drill, the harder it is to prove lockdowns save lives and flatten curves. It is an economic fact that everything comes with a price. Expressed differently, every decision brings consequences in its wake. When confronted with an epidemic, and deciding between general lockdown on the one hand and finely targeted measures protecting vulnerable groups on the other, either path will lead to an unknowable number of deaths. Some decisions, thankfully very few, are like that. And while it’s as clear as day that we all die, the multiple, complex causes that lead to each individual’s unique death are impossible to track. In other words, we will never be able to control or fully understand all outcomes, nor do I want to live in a reality where we could. Uncertainty makes life worth living, but is at times hard to handle.
Along similar lines, the best autopsy in the world can never explain the precise reason a person died at which exact nanosecond. Even if the victim is shot in the head, we can never know precisely when what exact amount of damage caused death, nor how much of the damage occurred after death, nor exactly why, in full detail, the trigger was pulled. This set of trivial uncertainties becomes a significant black box when conducting autopsies of people who die from a combination of viral infections and other co-morbidities. Determining cause of death is harder still when no autopsy is performed. 
Without autopsy data, can we ever know how deadly SARS-CoV-2 is, what its actual IFR is? Understanding SARS-CoV-2’s lethality by looking only at its purported death toll – without examining the details that figure conceals – is like examining a photograph of a human silhouette to understand humanity. What we have currently as our data pool is a combination of hastily completed death certificates, a set of symptoms – dry cough, fever, dizziness, loss of taste and smell – that is far from distinguishing, and unreliable test results, all of which are subject to considerable error.
The NHS issued guidance to assist doctors to comply with the new legislation [the Corona Virus Act 2020]. Any doctor can sign the MCCD [Medical Certificate of Cause of Death]. There is no need for the scrutiny of a second Medical Examiner. The Medical Examiner, or any other doctor, can sign the MCCD alone. The safeguards introduced in 2016 were removed, but only in the case of COVID 19.
Iain Davies, Off-Guardian, 5 May 2020
For example, if before death the patient had symptoms typical of COVID19 infection, but the test result has not been received, it would be satisfactory to give ‘COVID-19’ as the cause of death, tick Box B and then share the test result when it becomes available. In the circumstances of there being no swab, it is satisfactory to apply clinical judgement.
Office for National Statistics, Guidance for doctors completing Medical Certificates of Cause of Death in England and Wales
Even if, for compelling evidence, we look at the data on deaths in excess of five-year averages revealed in figures from the UK, Italy, Spain, New York, etc. – although these figures are in fact unremarkable if we look at average data over 25 years – we are still forced to conclude they are, as we have established, the result of multiple factors, including: prescribed hospital protocols favouring and remunerating intubation, fear’s negative impact on the immune system, mass hysteria, the state of each nation’s health-care facilities, air pollution, Do Not Resuscitate agreements, demographics and the health conditions of relevant populations, care homes not being able to cope with the very sick, etc. In other words, it is far from clear these excess deaths are the direct result of the virus. And more importantly, why are there no excess deaths in Germany, Finland, Norway, Japan, and many other countries exposed to this global ‘pandemic’? We are all exposed to the same virus, I assume. It cannot possess wildly differing lethality according to its longitude and latitude alone.
How can we answer these vital questions when regulatory changes stipulated in the UK’s Corona Virus Act, and NHS guidelines, have made these details almost impossible to determine. Why muddy the data? Surely early exit from lockdown would be the best thing for the economy and thus the people, a difficult decision made far easier by good data? Surely to properly ascertain the best strategy for defeating the virus, we need the cleanest data possible? The only explanation I can think of that would make muddy data beneficial, is if the motivation for the lockdown is not rooted in the science, but in some ulterior intention.
All in all, the facts we do have, such as they are, paint an ugly picture whose eruption in collective consciousness these last few months, which reveals so much about us as a species, needs explication. The reason I favour as an explanation for the chaos, fear mongering, and economic destruction is the need for an economic reset and new economic system. And, as if on cue, organisations such as The World Economics Forum and the IMF have just started casting this crisis as an opportunity for a much needed reset, with even Prince Charles voicing the same message. 
We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis. Its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change.
Prince Charles, The Guardian, 3 June 2020
The best time to implement radical change is when people are confused and afraid; we are less critical, more malleable and more eager to be rescued in that emotional state. The question is, will the new boss be any better than the old boss, or will things get much worse?
My contention is that The Powers That Be, the ‘elites’, the ‘globalists’, or whatever label we choose, know full well that perpetual economic growth is impossible. The ‘free market’ model has served its purpose in that it was ‘right’ for humanity, in their view, for a while. But not any more. This is not to say the whole thing is a master plan centuries old, far from it. It’s more that those in a position to do so nudge history in such a way that it continues to proceed more or less in their favour … with mixed results; they are not omnipotent, nor or they an homogenous hive-mind. The process is, generally speaking, probably characterised by a combination of opportunism; very long-term global strategising; patiently establishing sufficient control of key societal infrastructure such as the money system, mass media, and governmental systems of pivotal world powers; and insatiable ambition. Another critical element, it must be said, is our – the ruled – complicity in the process. We are the ones who allow it, who choose to bury our heads in the sand, who prefer the numbing conveniences of modern technology and entertainment over “eternal vigilance”, who want quiet lives, or perhaps fun-filled lives that rock no boats and upset no apple carts. And this is easy to understand. Who wants to believe that the state, our very own protective Big Brother, is the enemy?
But it is simply unimaginable that the great historical dynamics that generate ever mightier hierarchical systems – from chieftaincies to kingdoms to nation states to multinational corporations – are suddenly no longer driven by ambition and greed, and that the intergroup tensions that must bedevil culturally diverging groups have just disappeared. These powerful historical momenta are still in force; where could they have gone? The checks and balances inhibiting tyranny have eroded, as they always do, because eternal vigilance is hard work; today, people have to hold down two or more jobs to pay the rent, are educated poorly and very selectively, with the important stuff kept well out of sight, and are nicely distracted by things like Netflix and pizza, modernity’s bread and circuses.
Also of relevance is the lower-order fact that Big Pharma’s survival depends on vaccinations as their main revenue stream – as set out in detail in e.g. “The Truth About Vaccines 2020” –, add in the fact that “anti-vaxxer” has somehow become such a hate-filled pejorative its usage is as hotly felt as “antisemite”, and we discern another piece of the puzzle. Surely there is a strong connection between this manufactured hatred and the fact we are now instructed to wait for a vaccine before we may again enjoy what is inalienably ours: our freedom. How can it be reasonable that demanding informed consent on vaccinations is equated with being a child or granny killer? And all this despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are neither safe nor effective, despite the existence of the “Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System” in the US, and despite the US Supreme Court ruling of March 2011 that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe”. Despite all this, and much more, vaccinating all of humanity against a relatively harmless virus – which can be treated effectively with cheap drugs – is pushed by all major nations as the only way out of this crisis, which is a crisis only because governments, media and global health organisations have created it as such, in wilfully blinkered defiance of their own data.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll briefly add that there is likely a loose alliance of various power groups, including Google, Apple, Microsoft (ID2020), and financial corporations, whose interests currently align around the Fourth Industrial Revolution they favour, whose advent requires a rapid and radical restructuring of society. Today’s world also happens to be powered by a financial system that is broken far beyond repair. It too needs a radical overhaul. This sort of revolutionary change either happens in bloody chaos of uncertain outcome, or can be stage managed in an attempt to ensure a preferred outcome. For the ‘elites’, therefore, theirs is no evil plan. It is history itself, it is needed and inevitable progress, and they are its shepherds. Their obvious success and lofty status qualify them, and only them, for this role. We, The People are so fearful of change that almost any means justify the noble ends their vision promises.
We are staring down the barrel of a momentous bifurcation point. How should we react? Allow ourselves to be expertly shepherded into pens devised by those who do not have our best interests at heart, with walls, windows, doors and locks built out of “digital immunity proofs”, compulsory vaccinations against whatever Big Pharma / the WHO categorises as dangerous pathogens, food manufactured by Big Ag, information controlled by Big Data, and law by Big Government? 
Or do we fight for a say in how this historical moment unfolds?
Whatever we choose, we will get what we earn, fair or unfair.


Only the intensity has changed. The heat has been raised and tensions brought to a boil, but history’s vector is undisturbed. We have crossed a pivotal juncture, a modern Rubicon. Whether we asked to play this game or not, we are partners in this process simply because we are alive. 
What do you want your contribution be?
Entrenched divisions are the root problem, and yet diversity remains a key value to protect and cherish. We should not seek some pulpy fusion of our varied perspectives, nor attempt compromise so deep no one can commit to anything. The best way through is as it has always been: dispassionate assessment of impartially agreed facts. But this process easily leads astray unless tempered by sensitive and sympathetic subjectivity when dealing with the endless interpretations of those facts.
To choose this way, we have to want to do the work. Wanting to do the work means wanting to become adults. Currently, we are emotional children – confused, frightened, uncertain of our authority and power –, kept this way by the education system, social and mass media, and relentless propaganda. Adults are hard to rule. The rulers-ruled dynamic requires perpetual children: easy to manipulate, easy to control. If we want a society oriented around honesty and transparency, that part has to change.
Whether I’m right or wrong in my analysis here, the mere existence of this unprecedented situation changes everything. But my heartfelt conviction is that we all want healthy outcomes; this common ground should be our centre. Ensuring healthy outcomes requires healthy diets, staying fit, establishing and sustaining good relationships, developing skills needed by our communities, treating the environment mindfully and intelligently, and staying emotionally honest, humble and courageous both with self and other.
Prevention, not cure, should be the focus. Health is far more than just taking your meds. It is a highly complex homeostasis that requires constant adjustment to constant change. It has nothing to do with control freakery; true health wisely accepts that tragedy and beauty are two sides of the same coin. We actively tend to it, just as a gardener tends a garden. In other words, health is our responsibility, not something we can buy from someone else, something we can fix quickly and get on with other things. And it can never emerge from fear of death and disease. Only love engenders health. Love is gladly embracing the countless interconnections between self and the rest of reality.
How much money-profit can a truly healthy world produce? This would be a radical change indeed, a new direction of travel that cannot have total control as its guiding light. Health is the emergent property of right living; there is no way to mechanically automate the process, lean back, and watch the health coins pour in. It is precisely uncertainty and endless change that guarantee life’s impossible beauty. Accepting this helps us see and appreciate that beauty, and respond wisely to tragedy. But while there’s no such thing as total control, we must be aware of our power at all times. We can harm others and so have responsibility for our free will.
I find these constraints to be liberty’s true soil. They are the friction needed to attain purchase on our personal growth, and so become mature co-creators of our world.

My deep thanks to Rupert for his unstinting support, Annette for that and her ferocious editing – so generous in the face of my tetchy responses –, and Grant for his invaluable feedback.