15 August 2021

Making the pandemic political

 I've been seeing a lot of "why would?" remarks about attacks on health care workers.  (Mostly threats so far.)

The "culture war" isn't about culture; it's about where authority comes from.  If authority derives from facts, the consent of the governed, and the greatest good for the greatest number, a lot of powerful things go away. (Patriarchy.  Fixed hierarchical systems.  Fossil carbon extractive industries.)

How do you keep your authority -- the "it's true because I say so" authority of a fixed hierarchy -- in the presence of a pandemic and facts?  You don't change your mind; changing your mind runs you into the Iron Law of Bureaucracy (every organization acts to keep existing before it does anything else) and you stop being relevant to anything.  You come up with reasons to ignore the facts, and (since the pandemic is a fact, and the deaths are facts, and the insisting that it's not, it can't be, makes everything worse) you need something with a lot of emotional pull.  So you create increasingly outre stories about how the pandemic (or climate change, or the negative health consequences of air pollution, or...) isn't real.  And since you have to be relatively detached from reality -- to already have a considerable disdain for facts -- to start to believe the stories, you get a self-reinforcing spiral.  People commit their entire identities to falsifiable axioms.

Reality doesn't bend.  This creates a temptation to think "Surely people will see sense".

From the historical examples -- particularly cults predicting the end of the world -- no, people will not see sense.  Anything is emotionally cheaper than admitting your identity axioms are wrong.

The next step is to recognize that the construction of civil power inside a nation-state was invented to deal with this problem.  Which is why so much propaganda effort has gone into an effort to make people accept religious conviction as an excuse for flouting the law; if they can create that acceptance, they've broken the rule of law and the civil power.  It's pretty close to winning the fight, from the viewpoint of someone who wants to go back to control of women, cattle, and slaves as the core organizing principle of society.

This is one reason to be in favour of truly mandatory COVID vaccinations. (The other, stronger, reason is that it might work; a fully vaccinated population and some additional infection control gets us closer to extirpation.)

It's also a reason to recognize that there isn't a nice way forward.  There isn't a way to tactfully urge the people threatening nurses and doctors with death to reconsider their pandemic stance.  Some exercise of the civil power will be required.  It'll be better if that exercise addresses root causes; the lack of an upper bound on wealth is prominent among them.  The lack of a clear general awareness that a functioning society must be about bounds and not norms is another.


Kai Jones said...

We quarantined Mary Mallon.

arborman said...

Much as I despise the use of objective fact as a wedge issue, I think the current election is going to be fought on that basis.

JT has decided that the Conservatives won't risk alienating their fact-hostile base, and so is has planted vaccine passports and air flight mandates as a land mine for the Conservatives to step on. Good, necessary policies but utter catnip* for the people who find wearing a mask to be an intolerable infringement on their freedoms but willfully infecting others to be their holy right.

* Catnip - irresistable but makes them behave erratically

Graydon said...

I really hope le dauphine has correctly gauged the number of fact-despising people. (Though I have been enjoying watching Dougie struggle with his caucus about vaccination, so maybe.)

arborman said...

+Graydon I think the number of people who are DONE with the pandemic and all its challenges far outstrip the number who have lost touch with reality. I find myself well within that population myself, more for the lost opportunities my children have experienced and may yet have to endure.

One can only expect so much from the LPC and le dauphine, but in a context of pandemic and ongoing climate issues I do think they have chosen to fight the election on those two topics - on both of which the 'Loyal' Opposition are utterly hamstrung by the reality deniers in their caucus and base.

Of course when/if they win their actions will only move us partially towards improvement - they are the carpenter's bubble of political action after all - but at least they won't move us rapidly and actively away from it.

heron61 said...

I don't trust the various US agencies charged with insuring "national security", but one mildly hopeful thing is the fact that the January 6 terrorists didn't just draw the attention of law enforcement, they drew the attention of the security state, and that could easily put a serious crimp in the ability of the death cult's foot soldiers to cause trouble, so that may help some

JReynolds said...

I've been closely watching the CBC Poll Tracker [1] for the past week. Today (2021-08-28) was the first day where the CPC were polling ahead of the Libs nationally. LPC votes are evaporating, NDP & Grn aren't changing much.

Due to voter distribution, as of now this still leaves JT ahead in the seat count. However, if the trends continue, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the CPC cruises to a majority government in a major upset.

Not the result I'd prefer, and I could well be wrong. You heard it here first.


[1] https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/elections/poll-tracker/canada/