As we look at the effects of covid-19, we may be forgiven for thinking the data was real, the science was sealed, and the government is right.
Rather than delve into the question on whether the government is right. I would rather point you in the direction of a couple of books from the 1940s. If we think back to the late 1940s and early 50's, we can imagine the time to be one of immense hope despite the recent tragedies of war. A lot of new technology had been created, the evil banished, and mankind could now start to create his own prosperity.
Repeatedly, we see so-called modern geniuses who are increasingly exposing their profound wisdom upon us, only to understand their ideas are recycled from Plato to present day.
Eric Fromm's - Man for himself
Am pretty certain, I purchased this book in my late 20's. When I read it, what struck me was how we had a new beast - the marketing orientation. If you remember the film The Business and the line "You cardboard cut out cunt, and did someone order a cunt because one just turned up?"
The marketing orientation centers around the idea that we supress what makes us individual and unique to conform for the purpose of getting on. The minute we wear a suit, or double a tie, get that professional photo for LinkedIn we are on that path towards conformity. Fromm's observations are more than simply about conforming - it strikes at the heart of liberty, the idea we were at a fork - we can keep our identity and be successful as individuals or allow ourselves to the marketing orientation and dictum of government and conformity.
As a technologist, I keep up with new tech. Understanding trends is important, many enhancements are useful and socially good - others only serve to enslave us further. One such example is outsourcing software development. If I am working for a client, you can be safe in the knowledge I won't be spending all day on Facebook. Yet, there are an increasing number of outsourcing platforms which promises to let you watch the developer's desktop in real time to check they are doing work? I will save the audience and simply explain that good software developers are more concerned with taking away than adding more.
Right now, in the UK, laws are being created every day. Apparently you can get fined for using public transport without a face mask. Professor Dolores J Cahill can explain better than me why face masks are useless in preventing the spread of coronaviruses. Yet many will conform, bow down to more and more assaults on our way of life. What seems to be happening is well-mannered and "good citizens" are being asked to perform ever-increasingly Orwellian feats of obedience bearing no resemblance to any improvement in our well-being.
When reading Fromm's book, which I am doing again now, it just reads like a nightmare. So much optimism and hope for humankind, yet so much willing to become exactly what the system wants them to become. Fromm shaped my own system to be one which uniqueness is to be celebrated and cooperation trumps obedience. Totalitarian Hierarchical power structures are to be destroyed, but trusted authorities - information based power should be celebrated. (At the end of this post, I am quoting Fromm).
Economics in one lesson - Henry Hazlitt
In what is a little over 200 pages, I was put onto this by Jeff Berwick of the Dollar Vigilante notoriety. A classic conspiracy theorist to anybody other than those of us who have looked deeper into the monetary system. Peter Schiff mentions Henry Hazlitt frequently too. The one thing to rattle off straight away is everybody needs to go deeper into understanding the financial system. If this system evolves, the basic principles of its goods and negatives needs to be present. It is exactly the same as burning all history and knowledge on communism - doing so would run the risk of somebody creating communism again and repeating the same mistakes.
So, we are supposed to learn from smart people. We are not supposed to reinvent the wheel, yet we see the repeated mistakes being made. Hazlitt discusses the many economic fallacies found through intervention in the economic system. A really simple example has already been seen in the US.
This coronavirus covid-19 pandemic has financially incentivised medical professionals to classify patients with covid-19 versus the flu. Please do your own research, but many medical professionals have highlighted this. One of the obvious outcomes in a system where a significant proportion of US healthcare is paid for privately, is if money is funnelled away from certain conditions towards coronavirus is those certain conditions are no longer needing treating. This is the market. If though, the market is falsely overstating the significance of covid-19 for financial gain - then the original conditions will no longer receive money and close.
We have seen numerous departments close in the US, we have seen the many health departments idle in the UK also.
Equally, we have seen small businesses close whilst larger chains have seen their profits grow. Will this lead to an increase in the economy - doubtful.
Learning the lesson?
We have the weapons at our disposal - knowledge. Smart people spent an inordinate amount of time solving problems so we won't have to and yet the very mistakes we were warned of happen continuously. Concerningly, no shortage of individuals stand-up to defend untenable positions. It is inconceivable to see a person admit they were wrong and retract what they said. Have I heard somebody say, okay, so maybe the lockdown is excessive and I was afraid but now understand it more clearly.
Quote from Fromm's - A man for himself
"Authoritarian ethics can be distinguished from humanistic
ethics by two criteria, one formal, the other material. Formally, authoritarian ethics denies man’s capacity to know
what is good or bad; the norm giver is always an authority
transcending the individual. Such a system is based not on
reason and knowledge but on awe of the authority and on
the subject’s feeling of weakness and dependence; the sur- render of decision making to the authority results from the
latter’s magic power; its decisions can not and must not be
questioned. Materially, or according to content, authoritarian ethics answers the question of what is good or bad
primarily in terms of the interests of the authority, not the
interests of the subject; it is exploitative, although the subject may derive considerable benefits, psychic or material,
from it. Both the formal and the material aspects of authoritarian
ethics are apparent in the genesis of ethical judgment of
the child and of unreflective value judgment in the average
adult. 'The foundations of our ability to differentiate between good and evil are laid in childhood; first with regard
to physiological functions and then with regard to more
complex matters of behavior. 'The child acquires a sense
of distinguishing between good and bad before he learns
the difference by reasoning. His value judgments are formed as a result of the friendly or unfriendly reactions^
of the significant people in his life. In view of his complete dependence on the care and love of the adult, it is not surprising that an approving or disapproving expression on the mother’s face is sufficient to “teach” the child
the difference between good and bad. In school and in
society similar factors operate. “Good” is that for which one is praised; “bad,” that for which one is frowned upon
or punished by social authorities or by the majority of
one’s fellow men. Indeed, the fear of disapproval and the
need for approval seem to be the most powerful and al- most exclusive motivation for ethical judgment. This in- tense emotional pressure prevents the child, and later the
adult, from asking critically whether “good” in a judgment means good for him or for the authority. The alternatives in this respect become obvious if we consider
value judgments with reference to things. If I say that one
car is “better” than another, it is self-evident that one car
is called “better” because it serves me better than another
car; good or bad refers to the usefulness the thing has for me. If the owner of a dog considers the dog to be “good,”
he refers to certain qualities of the dog which to him are
useful; as, for instance, that he fulfils the owner’s need for a watch dog, a hunting dog, or an affectionate pet. A thing
is called good it, is good for the person who uses it. With
reference to man, the same criterion of value can be used.
The employer considers an employee to be good if he is of
advantage to him. The teacher may call a pupil good if he
is obedient, does not cause trouble, and is a credit to him.
In much the same way a child may be called good if he
is docile and obedient. The “good” child may be frightened,
and insecure, wanting only to please his parents by submitting to their will, while the “bad” child may have a will of his own and genuine interests but ones which do
not please the parents."