Covid was a killer. The evidence is clear. SARS-CoV-2 was a scientifically devised virus designed to kill. Its victims were many. The science in question here, though, is social science. And the intended victim was common sense.
Covid expanded our daily vocabulary. “Distancing,” “tracking,” and “masking” – above the nose – all became common parlance. As did “lockdown,” one of the most ominous additions to our vernacular. Its meaning was both clear and unreal at once. You could stroll on the sidewalk but not in the park. Because of Covid. You could shop at box stores but not at small businesses. Because of Covid. You could congregate to protest structural opinions, but not to worship, even outside isolated in cars. Because of Covid.
Criticizing the Covid experts is not novel. It’s been an ongoing endeavor. It should and must continue. The effort to expose the devastation wrought by the entwined industries of media, government, and pharmaceuticals must not fade or lose steam. The health of our society and its people is at stake. The criticism, though, must be purposed. For there’s a deeper issue at play than just the deceptions, lies, and idiocies of this generation of apparatchiks.
That issue concerns status in our society, what counts as status and why. The credentialed and titled used “public health” during Covid to try to kill common sense. Their approach was less about science than social science. It had less to do with health than self-elevation – not just in wealth and power but in moral understanding and being.
The credentialed elevated their sense of themselves and their status by trying to make the rest of us feel small, by reducing each of our innate abilities to reason, read, and reflect to the level of a menacing danger. How dare you do your own research! Thinking and decision-making are not your specialty. You don’t have degrees in that subject.
But these social-science issues of moral status and common sense are not just about Covid. The battle between our systems of credentialing, governing, and medicating on the one hand, and the innate ability to read, reason, and reflect on the other, predate 2020. Covid, in this sense, was an attempted kill shot. It was an attempt to end the battle once and for all, on the side of the financially bloated systems of credentialing and their self-serving relationships with governing agencies and corporate America.
So many Covid policies were irrational so as to be out of the reach of common sense. The policies’ authors thereby denied the moral standing of common citizens in the public arena before debate even began. Self-governance wasn’t possible here. You don’t have a federal research grant for that.
Consider how the battle over status which manifested during Covid had been evident before 2020. Consider, for example, Tucker Carlson. Carlson is less a political commentator than a cultural critic. He is part comedian in the best sense of that term – using humor to mock the pretenses and self-preening of public figures who make themselves worthy of mockery. When set free to address a live audience of thousands, his scathing humor approaches the manic. A glimmer of the late Robin Williams shines through, in proportion to the maniacal policies of the governing class.
All of this is to one notable effect – the affirmation of common sense. Carlson acquired an eight o’clock time slot on television in November 2016. His broadcasts from then on were a prime-time series in the credentialing of common reasoning. If it smells bad, it probably is. Use your noggins, ladies and gentlemen!
Carlson elevated ordinary people by affirming their non-post doc understanding of events. He confirmed their moral standing in the public square. He posited their common-sense cognition as a more reasonable guide to social life than the constant reimagining of things occurring among the upper-echeloned.
November 2016 also marked the election of Donald Trump. Trump did in the political arena what Carlson did in the cultural arena, though in raw, unrefined form. This is not advocacy or endorsement. Far from it. It’s an attempt to step back from those beclouding lenses to understand the cultural and political landscape as clearly as possible. Trump ascended in 2015 and ’16 by hammering two themes. One was that countries have borders. The other, in his words, was that “We are led by stupid people.”
Both themes elevated ordinary men and women. Both affirmed the moral standing of common sense in public affairs. If it seems from a non-credentialed perspective that countries actually have respected borders, then perhaps they really do. And if it seems that the people with titles, microphones, and big paychecks are not as smart as they purport to be, then perhaps they really are not.
Both of these themes had the opposite effect of what later Covid policy would do. Both made ordinary people feel big, not small. Both raised, not lowered, common sense as a measure of politics. Graduate degrees were not prerequisites to participate in “national conversations.”
The irony, or tragedy, or failure – pick your term – was that the Covid kill shot also began under Trump. Covid irrationality undermined common sense, belittled it, and prepared to drive it from the public square. Covid policy was the attempted kill shot, even before the surge of pharmaceutical stock.
Trump’s role in undermining the moral status of common sense included serious misjudgments. Ceding far too much power to task forces and bureaucracies was among them. As was blowing up the federal budget. And obviously pimping the injections.
We’re now left trying to build on what was bubbling up in our culture and politics before Covid. We might consider this task the building of a counterculture of affirmation. Not the “affirmation” of more pharmacology. That is but another form of dehumanization, aimed to reduce and belittle us still further, especially our status as parents in the protection of our children.
Our task is to build a counter to that dehumanization. That means affirming the moral status of the common capacity to reason and to speak – to consent – as the centerpiece of our social life, the foundation of our republic.
Equal moral status derives from our shared human nature. Humans are by nature a being which reasons. We are born with the natural capacity for reasoning. It is built into our nature. We are also by nature a being which speaks, born with the natural capacity for language, and thus the sharing of our reasoning with each other.
These natural capacities for reasoning and speech mean that politics should be based on persuasion, not censorship, and that government should be based on consent, not coercion. That’s why the Declaration of Independence follows its assertion of the unalienable rights of the individual with its description of governments as deriving “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Who, then, in our culture affirms the equal moral status of our shared human capacities? Who in our politics cultivates this most genuine sense of equality? Who seeks to spread and deepen its influence in our society – our laws, institutions, and norms? Who seeks to nurture awareness of this natural and moral equality in the consciousness of the people, so that it is familiar to all, revered by all, constantly looked to and constantly labored for, to borrow from a former president? That awareness, reverence, labor is the essential foundation of a self-governing republic. Without it, politics is mere perversion.
So what’s before us is not just a matter of good policies or ideas. And it’s not just a matter of possessing the skills of effective governance, as necessary as all those are. It’s a matter of elevating the status of our common human capacities for reasoning and speech in our public life.
For make no mistake, the age of equity seeks to destroy our equal moral status. It seeks to deny our common humanity and its common capacities. That denial has a history and a name. It’s called nihilism. It rests on the assertion of pure will. That’s why so many of our political, cultural, and corporate leaders seek to belittle and reduce us through their sophistic conceptions of health and social science. It’s simply a matter of will, to deny our standing; to coerce our submission; to diminish our sense of ourselves.
Ultimately, the Covid kill shot failed to achieve its objective. As did the mRNA. Though both did big damage. That’s settled science. The task before us now is one of building the counterculture of equal moral status in the face of the sophistry which will most surely continue.