Dostoyevsky’s key insight in “Notes from Underground”: only a spiritually and aesthetically impoverished society would encourage the state to police it, tame it, watch it, measure it, average it out. The individual, if they wish to remain an individual, must go ‘underground’—must give up their place in society.
To look at America through the pages of a Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, and Kafka is to realize that this growing obsession with cleanliness, predictability, and control will not go away after Covid-19 is gone: it will perpetuate itself in new and frightening ways.
Our extremely sensitive PCR tests can detect the virus at levels exponentially lower than what an infectious person carries; this is not a conspiracy, but a widely documented statistical reality. A 40-cycle PCR test might give you a positive reading 60 days after you’ve been infected (or lead a doctor to think Covid-19 was the primary cause of your death).
We have a testing system that essentially guarantees panic and underwrites a permanent state of emergency by conflating a positive test with infectious status…
Why doesn’t the media contextualize testing data? The answer is that contextualized data is less sensational and less scary; good reporting makes for bad ratings; sane policy making is bad politics.
Essentially, sensitive tests fuel a cancerous government-media complex; poorly interpreted PCR tests are carcinogenic—feeding the tumor of passive, surveillance-oriented authoritarianism.
An absurdity: none of the control measures that “successful” nations have employed—those wonderful control measures that Trump ought to have rolled out here—have worked (in the sense that they don’t reduce the rate of infection faster or more permanently than places with fewer restrictions).
The bottom fact is that the virus cannot be controlled; the virus defeats model after model, mandate after mandate.
All that government-media complex has controlled is our perceptions…
Florida and Georgia have lower infection rates than Michigan and Illinois; Scandinavia has lower death rates than locked-down Western Europe… but no one notices or cares.
It’s as if measurable results simply don’t matter.
We may have as little understanding of the algorithms that largely govern our lives as medieval peasants had of kings in their castles.
There’s no longer any bulwark against the industrialization of the mind: no poetry; no scripture; no musical ability; no folk song; no myth… Virtual reality happens gradually — not all of a sudden. Reality gradually becomes more virtual; the virtual gradually begins to condition the realities of experience…
He is responsible for the shameful backwardness of Soviet biology and of genetics in particular, for the dissemination of pseudo-scientific views, for adventurism, for the degradation of learning, and for the defamation, firing, arrest, even death, of many genuine scientists.
—physicist Andrei Sakharov speaking against Lysenko in the General Assembly of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Military experts promoted war in 1914; agriculture experts advised Stalin on feeding the Soviet people; dietary experts told Americans sugar was ok and fat was bad; experts planners built highways through cities; experts pumped the earth full of pollutants…. There’s no dystopia or modern horror of any kind without experts and their scientized ‘facts.’
Science is skeptical of itself. ‘The Science’, conversely, is quite confident of what it sees in the mirror.
No philosopher of science, no empiricist, would accept the nest of speculations surrounding the issue of masks as ‘science’—in the sense that the claims made about masks are not only unfalsifiable and largely untestable, but enmeshed in political and social discourse.
Is it ‘science’ that wearing a mask while standing up at a restaurant protects you… but becomes can be discarded after sitting down? Is it science that a 10pm curfew stops the virus in its tracks? Is it science that children will be safer at home than school? Is it science that a piece of cloth over your face stops airborne viruses? Is it science that staying home for a year of your life is the healthiest option at your disposal?
True knowledge cannot be reduced to science or The Science; the virtue of knowledge is that it can’t be sacrificed to convenience or power.
A reason must let itself be reasoned with.
The justifications for masks are rhetorical rather than evidentiary. Though the public and political consensus around masks formed independently of any scientific discovery—there was no new information in March that supported the hypothesis that masks work—we act as if the science itself changed. In the absence of a scientific solution to Covid, a fictional solution had to be invented.
“Justice? -You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.”
―William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own
Ill-liberalism: the utmost contempt for bodily health and freedom. A state where The State hoovers up the sovereignty we discard—where state power feeds on the voluntary surrender of self-reliance and self-respect.
A tendency arises to separate from the ego everything that can become a source of such unpleasure, to throw it outside and to create a pure pleasure-ego which is confronted by a strange and threatening ‘outside'. —Freud
This is a golden age for control freaks. Carefully observe people who actively reject new information about things like masks and lockdowns. Do they really want this to end? Are they secretly happy with this new state of affairs? I suspect that many, if not all, of those who haven’t adapted since March, don’t want to give up the power they enjoyed (this could be a parent, sibling, friend, teacher, governor, prime minister, journalist, celebrity). Ask yourself: why would someone who enjoys control, enjoys policing—and correcting and scolding and molding—return to a world in which their worst, but most pleasurable, impulses are held in check?
All good things laugh.
A disturbing conclusion: life before Covid was not interesting enough to fight for.