“men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses more slowly, and one by one.” MacKay, 1841.
Right now, London and much of Europe are in peak covid-mania, entering another two months of lockdowns on top of the ineffectual lockdowns of 2020. Whilst not credibly leading to any reduced number of covid-deaths, the UK government’s action have so far cost over five million happy years of life just by reducing the quality of life some 10% for a population of 70 million for nearly a year. The roughly one billion pounds of extra borrowing needed per day to buy off dissent and hide the forced collapse of productivity will down the line cost about 1 million happy years of life per month of lockdowns via reduced future government services. Even if they would save 0.2% of the population via the most vulnerable (which they clearly don’t), the lockdowns destroy the equivalent of that ‘promised gain’ in terms of happy years of life every single week of lockdowns. This frankly insane state of play was summed up well by a conservative politician who openly said in parliament (the only place that cant be censored) that “This is a situation of state capture. Government is completely enthralled by a lobby pushing the failed policy of lockdown. Despite the arrival of vaccines, the lobby has signalled that social control won’t end, some restrictions will remain & measures may be reimposed next winter”
To date, the UK government has abandoned its duty to educate children by closing schools, abandoned its duty towards public health by neglecting non-covid health problems, abandoned its duty to ensure the population maintains its livelihood by preventing ‘non-essential workers’ from doing their job, and has demoted the majority of the population to virus risk vectors. Births are now expected to plummet and future deaths of non-covid health problems are assured to be much higher in the coming years. The choice to destroy health, joy, life, and liberty on this massive scale fits the dictionary definition of insanity, ie irrational self-harm. The main thing that obscures the insanity of the situation is that the vast majority of the population has gone along with it, abandoning their own responsibility towards their children, their family, their own futures, and their country. The situation in the UK is repeated in much of sub-Scandinavian Europe and in most states of the US.
The weirdness of the situation is reflected in the contradictions of the policies. The UK covid death cult urges the population to come to a social standstill to prevent infections, but millions of ‘essential workers’ are running around the country as normal. ‘Inessential’ market activities are supposedly shut down, but viewing and selling houses is strongly encouraged with tax-breaks and travel-exemptions, which is because the groups in charge own property and are looking after themselves. Gathering and hugging are depicted as lethal when the general population does it, whilst the police and health workers huddle together. Those who run almost no risk are prevented from gathering in groups (children) whilst those who run the most risks are packed together with many others who are sick in nursing homes and hospitals. State propaganda is seen and heard everywhere, from posters on the street to commercials on radio, whilst censorship of dissenting voices is widespread. After their failed predictions cost them nothing, some medical advisers are already advocating that even if everyone is vaccinated the whole country should lock down next winter anyway, bemoaned only by the odd brave member of parliament. Much of the novel 1984 is thus now reality.
Let us go over several possible historical analogies one can think of for the current situation to try and expand our ideas on what might happen next. I want to discuss the analogies with the Dreyfus affair, the US Prohibition and the Vietnam war, medieval feudal Catholicism, medieval feudal Christian Orthodoxy, and the communist/Nazi crowds of central Europe in the 1920s-1940s.
The analogy with the Dreyfus affair of 1895-1906.
I have made the argument before, but I should repeat that the intellectual battle of the Covistance against the insanity of covid-mania is most reminiscent of that of the Dreyfusards who needed 10 years to acquit an obviously innocent man who had become the scapegoat of an incompetent state institution (the army), a mistake that was backed up by the vast majority of the French politicians and population. The intensity with which the Dreyfusards were hounded by public opinion, and the gradual recognition in elite circles that they were actually right, feels very similar to the current public ‘debates’ about covid. The composition of the Covistance and its inability to get anywhere fast are also very similar to the experiences of the Dreyfusards.
The main lesson from that period was how easy it is for state institutions to ignore truth and keep going with nonsense for years, no matter how obvious the case to any outsider. It thus tells one the current situation might easily last years and that state institutions do not by themselves see the light but have to be forced into it. Another lesson is that to win the battle one needs money, prestige, and its own outlets. The Covistance has the last two, but not much of the first.
The analogy breaks down when we consider the nature of the victim: now it is whole populations that are suffering, not a single outsider like Dreyfus sent to a far-away island. Also, the suffering now is largely self-inflicted rather than other-inflicted, so in terms of the crowd characteristics of the situation, the Dreyfus affair is a very poor fit for the current predicament.
The analogy with the US Prohibition 1920-1930
In terms of the widespread popularity of an obvious act of self-harm that quickly became ignored by the elites and yet took years to become widely opposed, the US prohibition period fits today well. In that period, the production and sale of alcohol were banned throughout the US. Then too, lots of minor scientists were falling over themselves to ‘prove’ how harmful alcohol was and ‘thus’ that Prohibition was the thing to do. Then too, there was a whole population movement that saw the Prohibition as a moral thing, keen to signal how much they were all in favour of it. Then too, the restrictions were unworkable and against human nature, so the elites quickly found ways around them via lots of illegal venues, as they have today during lockdowns (private jets are doing brisk business! Lockdowns are for the masses).
In terms of the general delusion inflicted upon and maintained by the population, the Prohibition fits the covid-mania. Yet, the damage of current policies is much worse and the mania is not confined to one country, as the Prohibition was, but has enveloped half the world. More self-destructive and dispersed movements fall apart quicker. Relevantly, the Prohibition lost mass support after about 5 years, taking a few more years for its regulations to be repealed in law. We should expect covid-mania to last less long than that.
The analogy with the US experience of the Vietnam war
In terms of the bunker mentality of the advisers to politicians, the disinformation by the government, the gullibility of the population, the irrelevance of the collateral damage, and the vitriol against those talking about the victims, the Vietnam war experience seems very apt for today. Also, like the Vietnam war, covid-mania comes with a promise of ‘victory’ after which all is supposedly well.
Another important similarity is that the state then, as now, cannot suppress information and force unity because different countries and states go their own way, meaning that state propaganda and media controls simply cannot be fully effective. There are leaks in the control system and the nagging realisation that other places are making better choices.
The main difference is that the victims are now not millions of poor ‘others’ living far away, but that there are so many victims nearby: the children, the vulnerable, the poor, the alone, etc. So one would expect the unravelling of the state propaganda to be much quicker than it was in the Vietnam war era. Also, the essential falsehood of the promise of a total victory is more obvious this time because we are talking about an endemic disease that mutates and has already dispatched many of those most vulnerable to it. Vaccines don’t change that reality.
The analogy with feudal medieval Catholicism
In terms of crowd madness, covid-mania does not look like the centuries of stable medieval Catholicism at all. And yet, some of the basic patterns to emerge the last 10 months are highly reminiscent of feudal medieval Catholicism.
For one, in feudal medieval Catholicism, the basic message of the church was that the population was innately sinful and should submit to the representatives of the church for salvation. Whilst they subjugated the masses with stories of how they should atone for their original sin, the church was in a pragmatic alliance with local rulers, taxing the vast majority of the population (the peasants) who were kept dumb and without agency. Propaganda and signs of subjugation were normal fare then, as they are now.
This basic philosophy of sinfulness and subjugation to the ideology and earthly power of the day is very much the package that has won out the last 10 months: people are now treated as viral vectors who should follow the prescripts of their betters and whose most basic social urges are depicted as sinful. Relevantly, the economic reality of today is more feudal than in previous decades, something that has gotten much worse due to the covid policies: our economies have become much more unequal the last 30 years and work-life has become much more top-down, with fewer and fewer workers having significant autonomy. Being bossed around and told to comply with lots of ideological regulations is now a normal way of life for many employees in big organisations, just like medieval feudal society in which the vast majority lived in stagnant villages whilst a small elite of barons and clergy bossed them around and encouraged them to debase and flagellate.
It has been normal for many in the last few years to be told they are sinners who have to repent, such as for instigating the patriarchy or profiting from slavery. What has happened the last 10 months is that the basic notion of innate sinfulness has found a big new story in that we are all viral vectors and that our breath, our body, and our proximity are a danger to others, as others are to us. Our breaths and our social proclivities are our new identified innate sins for which we are now asked to be ashamed and atone.
Big differences are that the information levers available to the church and local rulers were more absolute in the middle ages, and that the church was more organised than today’s wannabe new ideologues. The power reality is also different: now state bureaucracies are the biggest fish in the pond, not churches or ideologues. Also, the alternative ways to live are much more visible and skilled people can move round more easily now than then, at least in Europe and the US (and migration streams towards more liberal areas is increasing rapidly!).
What this means is that the current situation is not as sustainable as medieval feudal Catholicism was. The idea that we will see the strong growth of a new Catholic church in the form of a united ideological organisation (such as an expanded WHO) seems highly unlikely.
The main take-away from the analogy is that the pattern we have seen the last 10 months of elites belittling the population and making them feel insignificant sinners, is an almost perfect carbon copy of the story peddled in feudal societies by the Catholic church. Some sin-story is likely to remain.
The analogy with feudal Christian Orthodoxy
Whilst the Catholic church was unified and in many ways in competition with local rulers, the Orthodox churches looked more like the medical ideologues we see today. Like Catholicism, they also pushed the sin story, also invited bullies and snitches to enforce their will on the rest, and also inflicted massive propaganda. But, unlike the Catholic church, Orthodox churches are more innately local (there are more than a dozen ones) and tied to particular earthly powers: Orthodox clergy are employed by local rulers and thus do their bidding, whilst the Catholic church is an independent international organisation. This means Orthodox churches respect that power resides in local rulers much more than the Catholic church.
So what we have seen emerge the last 12 months resembles feudal Christian Orthodoxy more than Catholicism: a growth of lots of local religious organisations complete with rituals, sinfulness, propaganda, sacred formulas, and self-flagellations. This also suggest a natural path for the covid-institutions: to form national ideological organisations that assemble a story of the innate sinfulness of the population and the necessity of a new priesthood to save them from themselves. This indeed seems the trajectory we are following at the moment.
Yet, the analogy is not perfect and hence it is not clear we should expect this path to be followed for long. Importantly, unlike Christian Orthodoxy, the covid-orthodoxy is innately inefficient and self-destructive in that it is a death-cult. Taken to its logical conclusion, covid-mania would banish all normal social interaction to the point that our societies cease having children or much of an economy. The ideology is thus purely weakening the societies in which it has nestled, not strengthening them. In contrast, there were positive things about Christian Orthodoxy. It advocated having children and extended families, as well as work and glorious achievements. In contrast, covid-mania is purely destructive, a path that simply cannot be followed to its logical conclusion without imploding way before it reaches its natural goal.
Another major issue is that today’s international economy cannot be constrained in the way the economies of feudal Orthodox countries were: workers cannot be imprisoned and kept ignorant to that extent as they can move to other states, at least within Europe and the US. Mobility undermined stagnant places before: lots of the population of Eastern Europe ran away to the more optimistic and growing places in the 18th to 20th centuries, like the Americas or Western Europe. Optimism and growth attract talent, whilst miserly self-destruction does not. So whilst one can see lots of changes the last 10 months that are very reminiscent of the imposition of a new Orthodox faith structure, it is just not sustainable. The rapid impoverishment and puritan kill-joy attitudes that comes with covid-mania makes it unsustainable.
The Nazi/communist crowds of the 1920s-1940s
Part of the covid-mania is highly reminiscent of the stories about the Nazis and communists of the 1930s till 1940s. The similarities include the extent of the propaganda, the intolerance, the idea that the national body had elements in it that need to be excised, the power lust of the hangers-on, the war imagery, the meekness of the population, the virtue signalling, the abuse of social science to justify political decisions, the idea of wonder weapons, the widespread snitching on non-compliant neighbours, and the notion of a total war requiring all to put in an effort.
What fits poorly though is that covid-mania is basically only destructive and not constructive. Nazism and communism did not merely entail a story of enemies that needed to be destroyed, but also contained visions of how the populations could live happily and gloriously. They thus allowed whole populations to join in productively to build the promised land. So they lead to a huge outpouring of new art, new economic projects, and new celebrations. They spawned youth organisations and reading clubs, mass rallies and exhibitions. That creativity and enthousiasm made them so dangerous to others. In contrast, covid-mania is a far less energetic and less creative affair, with the population treated as meek lambs needing protection, essentially downgrading the population to not being quite human anymore.
Indeed, the most unique element of covid-mania is how it infantilises the majority of the population and robs them of any role: their work is unimportant, their procreation is unimportant, their health is unimportant (unless its covid), and their social needs are unimportant. Within covid-mania, the majority is reduced to being voters who might get covid. Those are the only two attributes that are still prominent during covid-mania: as potential victims of one particular disease and as voters who need to be kept on board.
History does not provide us with a period in which whole populations were so diminished, so reduced to almost nothing. At least, I cannot think of any period in which we humans inflicted upon ourselves what is being done now in much of Europe and the US. Even in Christian orthodoxy and during the Prohibition, the whole system still wanted the majority to be productive and enjoy family life: the production and procreation of the population still mattered. Right now, neither production nor procreation is deemed even remotely important by the covid-maniacs, an almost unique situation in human history; the kind of situation that applied to conquered populations minutes before they were slaughtered.
What also fits poorly with the crowds of the Nazi/communist period is that the covid cult has no obvious set of future enemies to morph into something more energetic: covid-mania naturally runs out of fuel if all the vulnerable have died or if vaccines lead to less infections. It can try to re-assemble with new infectious diseases or new variants (and you can see many attempts in that direction), but its inherently a weak ploy that can easily unravel. The communists and the Nazis had much more obvious enemies to find, namely those humans not yet ‘with the program’.
Institutionally, covid-mania is also much less secure than the Nazi ideologues or the communists were because the adoption of covid-mania has not required the removal of the old regime: the old regime could just temporarily adopt covid-mania, making it much easier to be shed again than if the new ideology had swept its most ardent fanatics into the seats of power. That makes covid-mania more like the Prohibition: a set of beliefs and prescripts any politician can clothe themselves with, but nothing more fundamental from a political point of view than a few rituals and policies that simply happen to have the unfortunate side-effect of enormous damage to the population.
So I don’t think that we should take seriously the idea that the covid-mania can last as long as the Nazis and the communists did. The attraction of covid-mania is much less, its political footing is much weaker, there are fewer growth opportunities, and the losses are too obvious.
What the analogies tell us.
Different aspects of covid-mania fit different examples from history of crowd behaviour or run-away ideologies.
The bunker-mentality of the advisers and governments during covid-mania is most reminiscent of the Vietnam war era. The moralising, abuse of science, and general popularity of a self-destructive ideology is most reminiscent of the Prohibition. The covid-story by the elites of how the general population is innately poorly behaved and every form of joy is a risk, is most reminiscent of the original sin story of the medieval Catholic church. The formation of new medical ideological groups around the politicians and the state bureaucracy is most reminiscent of the Christian Orthodox churches. The struggles and difficulties of the intellectual opposition to the covid-mania is most reminiscent of the labours of the Dreyfusards. The basic philosophy of an enemy-within (the virus) that needs to be destroyed by a massive collective effort is most reminiscent of the Nazi and communist crowds.
None of these analogies is perfect, but they do suggest a few lessons for what to expect. One lesson is that the natural course of the mania is measured in years, not decades: the pressures to unravel are stronger now than the pressures during the Prohibition and the Vietnam war, which unravelled in terms of popular support after about 5 years, another 5 years to unwind completely. I currently personally expect most of the unravelling of covid-mania to happen in 2021, though that does not mean the end of madness, only the end of the covid-madness. The pressures built up by covid-mania may manifest themselves in new crowd phenomena.
A second lesson I take from these analogies is that there is unlikely to be a reckoning for those who have damaged their own societies so hugely, just as there was no reckoning for the Vietnam war, the Prohibition, Communism, etc.. Only if a new crowd forms that sees the covid-maniacs as the enemy will there be a reckoning, which is the dark scenario I have talked about in a previous post but still see as unlikely. Hence, (un)fortunately, the covid-maniacs will likely get away with what they have done: in none of the historical analogies above did the population want there to be a reckoning because they had gone along with it all and preferred to just not see the damage they had been party to. Reckonings are done by rival groups, not groups that change their minds.
A third lesson is that the basic pattern of an elite pushing a sin-story upon the general population, in the vein of the original sin-story of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, is likely to remain relevant because our societies are again that unequal. Until optimistic nationalism re-asserts itself and the populations hence resume being truly relevant again, we should expect to see some feudal sin-ideology dominant in the years to come in many Western countries. Maybe a new enlightenment drive emerges as a counter-force to that.
A fourth lesson is the realisation of what is unique about covid-mania: an ideology that almost completely dehumanises the majority of the population. Unlike any time in history I can think of, even the productivity and pro-creation of the population have become irrelevant. Western populations have thus been stripped, with their own consent, of human dignity and joy, reduced to voters and virus vectors. This unique feature is also why we don’t even need to talk about the analogy with the second world war when populations pulled together and emerged more united and with empowered populations: in the second world war the populations were needed to win and actively build up the war machinery, whilst populations today are officially branded the problem by the covid-maniacs and are told to keep out of the way. The populations are thus not being empowered and involved in the covid-wars, exactly the contrary, though many fail to see how irrelevant they have become.
A big existential question going forward is then whether the current Western elites have any real use for the ‘inessential’ parts of their populations and what they will do when they discover their own answers to that question.