There are always more layers that can be added to filter out more risk of the virus and to make it even less likely that someone might die from it.
If anyone ever thinks that there are enough layers, or opposes any particular layer, then they can be accused of murder, because not doing more means choosing to let people die–and it never stops.
We can never make it impossible for people to die, so we can always make it less likely. We can never make the risk go down to zero, so there’s always the possibility that we can do something more to reduce the risk.
We can spend more money (borrowed from an ever-growing international banking system), we can tread on more human dignity, we can give up more personal choice and power, we can impose more inconvenience, we can sacrifice more culture and arts, and so on.
Regardless of how marginal the improvement would be, or even of how certain we are that there would be an improvement, there’s always more we can do.
But there is such a thing as too much cheese.
In the Swiss cheese model, each extra slice is good because it filters more; that’s all there is to the Swiss cheese model. This works well enough for this one dimension of risk, for this single aspect of life.
But if you don’t have anything other than the Swiss cheese model, if you don’t value or focus on anything other than the threat of this virus, then you’re onboard for a never ending Babylonian tower of cheese.
Most people advocating for wearing masks now would be denying their effectiveness if that’s what they were told by the authorities they respect. How do we know? Because that’s exactly what they were doing half a year ago when the authorities were telling them that surgical and cloth masks weren’t effective.
Science is commonly conceived as a somewhat mechanical or deterministic process that inevitably produces truth, or at least better approximations of the truth. The feeling is that since it’s associated with rationality as opposed to intuition or emotion that it’s therefore better able, or even uniquely able, to discover objective truth.
In reality, scientific research is done by people, and people are fallible, dishonest, and rarely motivated by the desire to discover truth. No process or system can make up for dishonest, unintelligent, or inattentive people, not peer review, and not academic testing. The only way to verify if some scientific research is true is to understand it yourself. Scientific authorities, like heads of scientific organisations or pop science celebrities, are shortcuts that add a layer through which the truth must pass, and it only survives if the authority is honest, intelligent, paying attention, and so on.
Currently we have politically appointed bureaucrats informing the public on medical science. They seem to be trusted because they are cloaked in the sense of credibility and objectivity that people associate with science.
But these people are the result of yet another layer, another truth filter: they were appointed by politicians or others in power. Most people accept, at least in the abstract, that politicians are dishonest and are not motivated by the pursuit of truth. The idea of an honest politician is more of a punchline than a reality. But in practice people ignore this, and take for granted that medical authorities appointed by politicians must be trustworthy, even though, as we can see, such a position is one from which power can be wielded (by altering public perception of whether governmental dictates are reasonable and in the interests of public health), and so if we take seriously the idea that politicians and those in power are motivated by self-interest, then we should expect that their appointments to these positions are corrupt.
Given that most peoples’ understanding of science is extremely limited and wrong, when someone says that they want everyone to wear masks because science has shown that they’re effective, this should be translated to mean that they have heard from mass media and governmental authorities that masks are effective. And again, most people probably have an abstract sense that things like mass news media are not motivated by the desire to spread the truth, but instead exist to entertain, sensationalize, and propagandize, and again this abstract sense is rarely put into practice.
One of the things mass media have told people about masks is that it’s not a big deal to wear one, and that doing so is a courtesy to others. But we are not being politely asked to wear masks–we are being told to do so by government mandate. If someone asks you to please pass the salt while they’re pointing a gun at you, they are not being polite.
But regardless of all that, aren’t masks actually effective? At least a bit? Maybe they do slightly slow the transmission of some viruses–but I don’t know, and neither do you. What I do know is that ignorance of one’s own ignorance is dangerous and is a mental state ripe for exploitation. I also know that people who are susceptible to respiratory illnesses tend to be already unhealthy due to their own choices, or are near the end of their lives and more susceptible nearly all forms of death–stairs for example.
Sedentary people who stuff their obese faces with anti-nutritious food want to tell you to wear an annoying mask in order to slightly, possibly, reduce their chances of becoming seriously ill, a reduction in risk that is much less than what they would see from changing their own behaviours and lifestyle. They want to force you to change your behaviour to protect them when they are unwilling to change their own behaviour to protect themselves. And they do this with manipulative language telling you that if you don’t like it, you’re the asshole.
Of course, there are people with conditions that are out of their control that make them more susceptible to this current Coronavirus. But that’s nothing new for them–many other Coronaviruses and Adenoviruses and Rhinoviruses that have come and gone were a similar risk to them.
What masks are effective at is being a nuisance to breathing, making communication more difficult by blocking facial cues and muffling speech, giving people a small sense of anonymity that can remove inhibitions against antisocial behaviour, and dehumanising and further atomising us so that we feel more isolated and disconnected from the world around us.
There had been no lock-down, no mandatory masks, no threats of mandatory vaccinations, no censorship of criticism, no CERB. The viruses that caused these deaths came and went and most people didn’t get sick. Nothing special was done to stop them from spreading.
But if we had tracked one of those viruses (pick an exceptional example, with above average mortality) and watched the daily case counts, and had political and medical authority figures give stern and sober daily reports about both the minutia of its spread and the official responses to it while telling us we’ll be OK (in order to give us the feeling that there’s a reason why we might not be OK), it would have seemed like a dire threat that warranted massive, unprecedented action.
And if we had taken some massive action to combat the virus (whatever action), and then watched as the cases counts dropped and the virus went away, it would have looked like the action that we took (whatever it was) was responsible for saving us, especially if it was something that seems like it would work to people with no epidemiological knowledge (and even less awareness of their lack of knowledge). Rapid door-to door deployment of vitamin C and zinc lozenges? Daily group-led immunity-boosting breathing exercises in all workplaces and schools? Full-body alcohol spray booths installed at every building entrance? Might sound crazy now, but… if it works then you’re a dangerous ignoramus for being sceptical!
And who could work up the energy to question whether the leviathan state was acting in good faith, that what its mouthpieces said was true (all true, and nothing but true), and that its interests were aligned with theirs? Far too depressing to even think about as a possibility. The idea that this metastasizing undefeatable all-powerful behemoth could be insincere in its promises to do everything to protect us and pursue our well-being is just too much anxiety to face. Besides, these vitamin C and zinc lozenges have a really nice grape flavour.
Every year, in some parts of the world, there are a few seasonal flu viruses that show up, kill a bunch of mostly old people, then go away a few weeks later. There is no generally accepted explanation for why it comes and goes seasonally.
I went out to close up the coop just too late. When I looked inside, she was missing from the spot where she always sleeps, and usually is sitting when I check in the evening. So I quickly went to see if she was still in the outer enclosure that we leave open during the day. She wasn’t but I found one patch of feathers, and then nearer to the bush (but farther from the entrance to the enclosure) another, and seconds after seeing that I heard a rustle in the bush and looked to see branches moving.
I bolted out of the enclosure, jumped the fence, ran back to the bushes, and quickly scanned below the branches to see if I could find what it was. I walked along the whole stretch, then went into the bushes a bit, carefully stepping between poison ivy with my bare legs, thinking of how much attention I wasn’t giving to the bush around me. I stepped onto a rock two feet high to get a better vantage, and was about to give up the search when I had an idea that I should take a step down in one spot that seemed less obstructed by brush.
Immediately after my foot pressed the long grass onto the ground, I saw a raccoon-ish blur, then as it reached the nearest tree, a clear raccoon climbing up.
At this point I hadn’t yet found the chicken carcass, but it would have been within ten feet ahead of me, about half way between me and the raccoon tree. I didn’t know if the hen was still alive and had just been scared off somewhere. I didn’t know if she would come back, and I didn’t know if the raccoon would have been there when she did.
I could have killed him.
I could have called Kim and got her to watch the bastard while I got the shotgun, and I could have blasted him out of the tree, but I didn’t because he and the other wildlife around me were here first, this is their home too. If I moved in, then killed him for what he considers fair game because he doesn’t have the capability to consider it anything else, that would be reckless and cruel. And it would be even worse given that such a large percentage of the world that used to be theirs has already been taken away, and if I act as though I can do whatever I want to this land, that I can kill or mess it up however I want, then that’s a further loss for nature. I want to minimize my effect on the natural environment and preserve as much wilderness as possible, because so much of it has already been lost.
That scarcity makes wilderness more valuable, and makes it a greater transgression to damage it.
I am Man, not Animal, I am capable of considering other life as more than fair game. I can consider some to be off limits, at least to some extent. I know that there’s something bad about killing, and because of that I have a responsibility to minimize it.
And also because I am Man, I am able to protect the life that is in my charge. I am able to make an enclosure that protects our chickens from raccoons, and I’m able to ensure that during the times when raccoons roam, the chickens are safe in the enclosure. The hen isn’t dead because the raccoon is bad and needs to die, she’s dead because I’m a lazy idiot. And if I shot the raccoon, then it would have been because I was a lazy idiot.
I could try to justify killing it with that fact that an attack on my family’s food source is an attack on my family, and I’m justified in defending my family, but no, I am capable of preventing this attack in a way that doesn’t require killing the raccoon, and it’s my responsibility to do that (and we have other readily available sources of food).
I had to attend to something else for a few minutes (which required running through the crow-mute skunk-scented forest at dusk), so I got Kim to stand in the yard while I was away, so that the raccoon wouldn’t come back just in case the hen had escaped and might return. When I got back I once again scanned the bushes–this time with less urgency and a flashlight because it had become dark–realizing that if the raccoon *had* killed the hen, he probably didn’t have enough time to eat the whole thing, and he may not have come back to get the rest while I was gone (but not everyone is afraid of Kim, unfortunately). Once again, just as I was thinking of giving up, I looked through the bush from one more perspective, and saw a hennish-reddish-blur, and when I stooped to look closer, the headless carcass of the last hen.
She was the one who had watched all her friends get taken out in front of her eyes by wild beast after wild beast. Finally, after multiple losses, we had her in an enclosure that had been built to withstand the forces of the Manitoba summer wilderness. She would now get to live out her long life in peace and quiet, occasionally playing with a child and his colorful balls. Or so we thought.
But at least we can keep this meal from the bastard, and give her a decent burial. And of course if he had been more directly threatening my family, if we had been depending on the hen for food and didn’t have a ready alternative, we’d be eating roast raccoon tomorrow. Life demands balance. I also kill mosquitoes and ticks on site: they literally want my blood.
We want to avoid interfering with the natural environment (for its sake and for ours), so we create our own separate, natural environment. We want to separate these environments, and part of what we want is to minimize the barrier between them, so that we don’t lose touch with the natural world and get lost in unrealistic dreams, but another part of what we want is to maximize the barrier between them, in order to maximize our safety and theirs.
The homestead farm is at least a symbol of this–a few people, deep in nature, but with fences and domesticated life–but with a higher level of conscientiousness it could also be manifested in urban form. We are responsible for the things we do, and we are responsible for the place where we live, so it would be delinquent to fail to achieve this conscientiousness in some form.
When I go shooting with friends and family, I’m not afraid that they will shoot me. It doesn’t bother me at all that they have guns, because I think they’re competent, generally sane, and on the same side as me.
If I were to be around people who were either not competent, not sane, or not on the same side as me, and they were armed, then I would be worried. If they’re not competent, they might shoot me by accident. If they’re not sane, they might chose to shoot me for a crazy reason. If they’re not on the same side as me, they might just want to shoot me.
So I wouldn’t want them to have guns. But if they were far away from me, much farther than the range of the weapon, then I wouldn’t worry about it.
If people want gun control, it means that they feel like the people around them are not competent, not sane, or not on their side. The more strongly that people feel this way, the more strongly they’ll want gun control. If gun control is popular, it means a large number of people don’t trust the other members of their community.
We can reduce the issue of gun control down to a matter of statistically analysing the risk of death in a free society versus the negative effects of the totalitarian enforcement required to ensure that no civilian can get a gun, and while that’s useful and shows a clear choice to me, it also indicates something more significant: this is a low-trust society.
Urbanisation means that people are increasingly socially atomised, living in smaller spaces, more densely surrounded by strangers, and have access to conveniences that let them minimize contact and dependence on those around them.
Diversity means that we not only have different outwardly visible features like clothing and cuisine, but that even if we all spoke the same language we would still be divided by differences in values, abilities, preferences, and fundamental assumptions about the world.
Hundreds of years of the material wealth of industrial society and the agricultural revolution means that we have for many generations allowed the survival of the less competent and mentally healthy who in harsher conditions would not have reproduced.
It’s not a surprise that someone surrounded by faceless unknowable strangers who are often at least slightly emotionally unstable would be eager to have their guns taken away. It’s a way to take the trust that would in ideal conditions be place in members of their community and transfer it to an idea of a powerful system that treats everyone equally, and forces everyone to be unarmed and powerless.
When you can’t trust the people around you, it’s tempting to want to replace the interpersonal with the impersonal withdraw into the illusion of safety in the cold, sterile, controlled it creates. Is that really what we want? Isn’t it better to try to find a way to live more freely with people we can trust because they are competent, sound minded, and known to be on our side?
Why do people believe silly stuff like that a man can be a woman just by saying so?
Or that marriage doesn’t have anything to do with reproduction, and that we can call any arrangement, regardless of its reproductive potential, marriage? And ignore the blatantly obvious place that marriage has at the nexus of reproduction and civilization?
Why does everyone act as though they see no potential problem whatsoever with importing highly nepotistic groups with incompatible cultures and oppositional values into a society whose most prominent characteristics are extreme tolerance and sub-fertility reproduction?
Why do so many European people hate their ancestors and why have so many decided, consciously or otherwise, to surrender to the onslaught of comfort, luxury, and entertainment, and give up their continued existence?
Why are people just going along with taking children away from their parents for witholding from them gender-mutilating drugs and sugery?
Why are Internet corporations and governmental bodies openly collaborating to impose political censorship in public discussion spaces?
Why are massively powerful corporations exhaustively burning up millions of years worth of built-up organic energy in the span of a few 100 years, why are governments allowing nearly every square mile of the planet to be disturbed by humans, if not outright genocided into a monoculture for humans?
Why is there so little resistance to all this? These are all things that don’t have to be that way. They could easily change if people changed their behaviours; it’s not like it would be some monumental task like going to the moon.
Because everyone thinks it’s not easy, they think it’s impossible. Everyone thinks the system is unstoppable like a runnaway train. If they have the modicum of an attention span it takes to realize what’s going on, then they simultaneously realize the futility of a single person’s actions.
Eveyone knows that if they even speak up, they’ll achieve nothing but misery.
The entire herd is out of its mind, it’s just running, sprinting, mindlessly charging in whatever direction each human thinks the herd is travelling towards.
Some people think this is going somewhere, or fleeing from something, so they constantly make frantic guesses about what will be ideologically stylish in the next moment so they can get there first.
It’s not hard to recognize a stampede, but it is hard to stop. If every animal just stopped running, the stampede would instantly end, but every animal knows that if they stop, they’ll get trampled. And everyone else will think they’re a moron.
For humans, that’s the worst part. Yeah, getting trampled is bad, but the worst would be eveyone thinking you’re an idiot for getting trampled.
And so the whole herd continues the stampede, charging over the cliff into the void.
If European peoples decided they wanted to continue to exist in the future, would there be a way for them to do that without being hated? Or if, when they become a minority everywhere (globally and in each of their countries), would they be able to work together to try to prevent bad things from happening to them, like other groups do, without being hated?
Seems like they’ll be less able to prevent bad things from happening to them (like others taking their stuff, or killing or raping them) if they’re a minority that can’t defend themselves, and, looking at history, it seems pretty naive to think others wouldn’t take advantage of them like that. Assuming things would be fine in that scenario is a pretty big gamble.
Panicking is almost always a bad idea, and stuff like “racial pride” or “superiority” just doesn’t make sense to me, and feel like a weird waste of time. I think it’s a good idea to not get distracted by that kooky stuff, and think about current conditions and future trends with a clear, calm, open, honest mind.
Back in the day people knew what was real because they could walk on it, they could see it, everything about their world was understandable in the context of their physical surroundings. Concepts in their head were like the kinds of things that were right around them, things they could directly interact with. A motive like hunger could be directly connected to the physical world in basic steps through things like hunting or foraging.
To hunt, they might need a spear, which is made of tree and stone, just like their environment; their tools were recognizable in their source materials, and those were a regular component of their environment. The relation between a tool and its raw material was a process done with their own hands, right in front of their faces. Hunting itself is something they could readily spot in their environment: many fellow animals can be observed to hunt. The connections between the concepts in their head nicely mirrored the connections between the objects in their world. Forming that correspondence didn’t have to be a conscious process–mere observation produced it.
Now we have concepts in our head that don’t correspond to anything physical or concrete. We have things like the Internet or vaccines, where our understanding of how they work is very different from the way we interact with them. What does getting poked in the arm have to do with antigens and possibly dying 10 years from now? What does poking a bright screen to talk to a friend have to do with TCP/IP packets, RISC processors, or rare earth elements? Even many of our labels, our tokens for communication are acronyms, which are an extra layer of abstraction.
And that’s just consumer technology; the same is true with politics, for example. How, if at all, does marking a paper beside someone’s name relate to changes in wealth received from work, or to changes in what will be demanded of us in the future?
If we get hungry, we go to the store to get food, which is a processed product, which means the ingredients and their source are unknown except as abstract classification (made from apple, not any specific apple, not even any specific cultivar, and definitely not an apple that was in this hand, picked from a known, specific tree) and means we get it by giving currency (which can take many forms, made from many different materials, somehow, issued by some organization running in some unknown way, controlled by people who want to remain unknown).
Everything we interact with is just the surface layer and beneath it are layers upon layers of abstraction, and the vast majority of people, if not everyone, don’t know all the layers between the concepts we have in our heads that let us interact with it and the physical reality around us that we can see and touch. There are entire fields of knowledge, entire communities of individuals, complete layers of reality that mostly everyone is unaware of.
There is no ground to our reality. We know some tips and tricks that let us get by in this world (until new technology changes it), but without knowing all the sub-surface layers (which is probably impossible now), we can only make guesses about what’s real. We’re not even sure of what kind of things are possible.
We don’t know what’s underneath the surface, and so we have no way of knowing if or when the surface will give out or fail, so every step we make feels like a risk, as if we’re walking on thin ice, except that there’s no water underneath: we have no idea what’s underneath.
On some level, we know that at any give time, in the next moment we may be falling into an abyss, and so we have an ever-present subconscious sense of vertigo.
One attempt to adapt to this situation is to just pretend it’s not a problem, to not worry about what’s beneath the surface, to only take things at face value, and to unthinkingly accept any absurdities that this inevitably results in.
Maybe that’s what most people are doing right now–it would explain a lot.
Opening your heart to someone new is scary. Allowing yourself to love someone is dangerous because it brings with it the possibility of pain from rejection, betrayal, and loss. Love can be kept secret, and that can protect oneself from some harm, but love is more fully manifested when it’s mutual, and truly loving someone means wanting to protect them, which means taking some possibility of harm upon oneself, removing it from the loved one.
Love is inherently dangerous, it’s unavoidably a risk.
Opening your mind to new ideas is scary. Allowing yourself to question your assumptions and consider new ones is dangerous because it brings with it the possibility of pain from uncertainty, confusion, and thinking differently from those around you. Different thoughts can be kept secret, but even hidden uncertainty and confusion is stressful, and progressing beyond that state to new assumptions may lead to new conclusions and convictions that compel the public defense of newly discovered truth.
Open mindedness is inherently dangerous, it’s unavoidably a risk.
We can decide to not care about uncertainty and confusion, but that’s essentially the same as not caring about truth, which is unacceptable and unworkable to those with an internally-arising motivation for honesty.
We can boldly declare that we don’t care what others think of us, but it’s difficult to overstate how much most people value social approval. Many put it above love, some put it above life itself and kill themselves when opinion turns against them.
Open mindedness requires courage. It’s easy to dismiss this as braggadocio, but dishonesty is often easy, and we could just as easily dismiss that dismissal as cowardice.
In Nevada, which should have been the hottest and driest stretch of the trip, or so I thought, ignorantly assuming north was the same as south, after brief periods of minor showers we made our way to the western half of the state. Cruising along in calm air, a sudden change of wind hit us head-on, bringing a cold ominous foreboding that physically slowed our progress, and mentally assaulted my resolve, so that, in confusion, I stopped at a barren rest stop, void of even a single wall as shelter. But there was nothing to do, nothing but go on right into the thick of the menacing storm heralded by the bitter relentless gale. My resolve would be tested yet further as the wind pierced deeper, driving cold wet closer to our souls. Not heat and aridness would we find, but winding roads littered with fog, snow, and mud–and of course a most beautiful sunset. Other bikers turned around. We shrugged as they passed and turned our faces forward, the throttle open, and the handlebars naught.
On the other side of it, tired and shaking uncontrollably and rattling frozen bones, I proposed an early stop–why not right here? It was not too far till sundown. Kim was unreceptive and indomitably undeterred, thankfully dragging me out of my momentary weakness. We’ll say the back seat is shielded, more pleasant, less draining. That’s what we’ll say. Knowingly into the dark trap, then. We let the sun duck under the hills and spring an ambush, catching us on the road with a falling shroud of darkness. Groping blindly along the highway, occasionally accompanied by one of the shrugged-at bikers who’d apparently decided to turn around a second time, we snaked westward. At the hotel, we booked the last room and received free cookies.
A grim glorious day that was, but perhaps not as grim as the escape from San Francisco. The transportation networks were choked with traffic; a plethorous mass of human flesh clogging the roads out of San Francisco, slowing the flow to fully stationary, punctuated by brief rolls forward half the length of a car. Even outside the city, the swelling hominid profusity pressed out and filled all spaces, not sparing the “in and out burger” we stopped at. Living talking ape meat spread its teeming overabundance into every seat and table so that we were forced out when we eventually received our order, and we ate outside. The masticating mass was repulsively nauseating. As repulsively nauseating as the pink centre of my burger, which I pushed down my throat in a clinically calculating decision to gain nourishment to counter sleepiness without needing to stop at another restaurant. A cheery employee walked by and asked how the food was. I gave him a cold, dead, “it’s pink”. As dead and cold as the centre of my burger. “What?” “The burger is pink.” “So… that’s good?” “No. It’s bad.” “Oh… sorry.” And he walked away.
Later we rolled into Mark and Shannon’s driveway with the relief of Atlas at the apocalypse.