Flowers of the Mind 12

Flowers of the Mind 12

Will the Omicron variant make people sicker (unlikely) or will it break the spell of the mass formation hypnosis, as described by Matthias Desmet, Robert Malone and Piers Robinson? During the week, Piers Robinson, who studies propaganda, commented thread on the stresses, deception and acceleration of the regime propaganda.

I doubt the facts will sustain the panic for long, or at least more people will break away and keep their distance from the collapsing new buildings of the COVID nomenklatura. Or at least they will treat the regime of ineffective, fear-based, mistaken rules in a way adapted from the old Soviet-era joke about wages and work: they pretend to inform us, and we pretend to conform. The fear is that equilibrium could last a long time.

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Jay Bhattacharya wrote an important article on the catastrophic application of the precautionary principle in public health that reminded me of some of my earlier commentary on Public Health Rulez OK and the institutional and ideological heritage of public health that contributed to the responses of the last two years..

Under these assumptions motivated by the precautionary principle, influential scientists and public health authorities everywhere banished all uncertainty and enacted lockdown policies that continue to this day. The tragedy is that as the worst suppositions about the virus turned out to be wrong, lockdown policies have still been enforced worldwide with ever greater rigour. As certainly as night follows day, schools and playgrounds needed to close, restaurants forced out of business, churches, synagogues, and mosques shuttered, plexiglass installed, music and song silenced, people told not to hug their grandchildren, and so much else, or else millions would die from COVID. And as the rationale for precaution has evaporated, the costs have been summarily ignored.

Jay Bhattacharya, Global Collateral, “On the catastrophic misapplication of the precautionary principle”

I tweeted a response, expressing the distress of watching from within a health bureaucracy these disastrous misapplications of vague universal principles. He liked my reply, and, in some ways, the exchange symbolised a conscious practice on my part on social media: to speak highly selectively, with gratitude and/or with reasonable questions.

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The historian, Stuart Macintyre, died. I noticed his obituary in the Saturday paper and saw later during the week a brief speech by a Victorian Government Minister, Richard Wynne, that honoured Stuart in part as Chair of the Heritage Council here in this minor outer province of the decaying American Empire.

Stuart never taught me directly, and more significantly was an examiner for both my honours thesis and PhD. I did learn from him, while never cloying to him. Still I have read most of his books, from the fiery articles excoriating bourgeois historians in his youth in the language of Althusser and Gramsci to his more tempered yet still Marxist heritage works of later years. While I will never read his history of the Communist Party of Australia, his book on A Colonial Liberalism: the lost world of three Victorian Visionaries (1991) trawled the same ocean depths of nineteenth century Victorian political culture that I whaled in, but less productively.

There he wrote of the legacy of three Victorian liberal intellectuals who were genuine creators in a sense – David Syme (the founding editor of The Age), Charles Pearson (the architect of public education in the 1870s, and a significant intellectual in the British world) and George Higginbotham (politician, then Supreme Court justice, whose statue stands neglected and forgotten outside the Department of Premier and Cabinet building in Melbourne). Stuart sketched the ideological contours of the heritage – “the persistence of liberal forms” – of these liberal intellectuals to the national political culture:

“The Australia nation, like the separate colonies from which the nation sprang, constituted its members as free and equal individuals…. Politics continued to mark off a sphere of public life from the private; the citizen was still expected to give primary allegiance to the State, the State to guide and assist the citizen to self-fulfilment. So many of the programmes for change that have been mobilized in twentieth-century Australia – labourism, welfarism, the market-based neoliberalism of the new right, consensual nationalism and perhaps even multiculturalism as well – employ arguments that are conducted within the terms of liberal discourse.”

Macintyre, A Colonial Liberalism, p. 214 (1991).

If Stuart’s prose never sang, it might his writing tended to categorize with concepts, not care for the metaphors and individuals discovered in the fragile archive. Yet though this flaw affected his writing, it did not dominate his character. He was for the most part collegial and kind. Though he was not patron, nor mentor, nor friend to me, I still knew his kindness, not only when at the university but in my later failing career as a bureaucrat. Around 2002 or so, for some opportunistic reason, the Victorian Government set up a history website, which I facilitated with Stuart’s help. And then around 2016 Stuart supported me in a late and futile attempt to reenter the academy though surely he must have known I would be rejected. Stuart was a representative of the old university that I now mourn as an institution, an idea, and as this individual.

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From Wislawa Szymborska’s “No title required”:

When I see such things, I'm no longer sure
that what's important
is more important than what's not.

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The Irish or British writer Paul Kingsnorth – who practices a life separated from modern madness has witten an important piece, How fear fuels the vaccine wars on his substack, Abbey of MisRule, that has been republished on unherd. He has also appeared on the unherd youtube channel, and spoken against fear and segregation that is dominating among the mass formation hypnosis He writes that: “Most of all, though, what the Covid apocalypse has revealed to me is that when people are frightened, they can be very easily controlled”. This statement echoes Desmet, Robinson and Malone, as noted in my opening flower.

Of all the stories we are watching play out right now, this is the biggest one: the manipulation of public fear to impose unprecedented levels of control on populations. The ongoing nature of the Covid threat — the endless boosters, the endless variants — means there is no end in sight to this “new normal”. Like the War on Terror before it, the control and monitoring of citizens in the name of “public health”, the segregation of the virtuous vaxxed (or, any day now, boosted) from the antisocial unvaxxed, the internet-wide censorship of whatever Silicon Valley labels “disinformation”, and the widespread obedience of the once-mainstream press to an agreed story towards which they clumsily try to nudge their readers — none of this has any sell-by date.

Paul Kingsnorth, Abbey of Misrule, 2021

He writes powerfully of the terror that is being introduced to our societies by the new Committees for Public Safety.

This is the story of the times. Across the world we are seeing an unprecedented claim to control staked by the forces of the state, in alliance with the forces of corporate capital, over your life and mine. All of it converges on the revealed symbol of our age: the smartphone-enabled QR code that has, with frightening speed and in near-silence, become the new passport to a full human life. As ever, our tools have turned on us. We are being herded into a future in which scanning a code to prove you are a safe and obedient member of society may become a permanent feature of life, as unquestioned as credit cards and driver’s licences. We are moving towards enforced mandatory vaccination of entire populations — including children — with potential prison sentences for those who refuse.

Kingsnorth

The new Saint-Justs and Robespierres have taken us quickly to a terror we regret but struggle to resist. Kingsnorth notes the thoughts of another writer, Limberg of the Stoa blog, who posits the possibility of some synthesis of counterposing positions of lockdown (Thesis) and open up (anthithesis).

The Thesis, if left unchecked, leads straight to tyranny. But the danger of cleaving entirely to the Antithesis is a Limberg puts his hope in the possibility of forging a Synthesis of the two positions. But in order to get there, he says, both sides must discover and inhabit the fears of the other: something which looks less likely by the day. As someone who began this pandemic journey cautiously cleaving to the Thesis, but who has tipped towards Antithesis as the Narrative has unspooled and the dishonesty of its proponents has become clear, I can explain my own fears easily enough.

Klingsworth, How fear fuels the vaccine wars (2021)

Limberg writes

When you only ontologically bracket one side you can easily dismiss them as overextending their fears. However, when you engage in ontological flooding and feel into their fear their position can become real in a surprisingly integrative way.

Now on the other side of the flooding, I do not want myself or others to suffer or die from a respiratory disease, nor do I want to throw away freedoms and entrust my well-being to a corruptible biopolitical technocracy. While the hardened versions of the two narratives disallow easy coexistence, the concerns of either side can co-exist, and it is wise for them to co-exist.

A COVID synthesis can emerge from the narrative warfare currently happening, but only if we in turn have the courage to feel deeply into our own fear, and empathically feel deeply into the fear of others.

Stoa

Is wonder though if a synthesis is possible, or actionable outside the world of ideas and writing? How can it not be and yet we have confronted similar problems. I feel like a Eastern European in the late 1940s fearing I will never know the society I grew up in again. There may be a long wait till better times.

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And perhaps survival of the long Great Seclusion we may all suffer will require a certain kind of enigmatic lyric poetry. Hope came to me this week in Elena Shvarts, “A short ode to hopelessness”

Mozart's bones roam in the earth,
Flutes sing under greenhouse grass.
They have never learnt submission.
They have never lived on earth.

Here I stand, listening to the calling pipes. I can do no other.

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