An honest and sincere contemplation of the past year. Have we lost the plot?
…. A stranger whom I had a brief encounter with in January 2022, said to me (without any previous exchange of ideas);
«I can’t just go back and pretend the things people said to my face, and publicly about me and the rest of us who were hesitant didn’t happen. It did happen – and I don’t forget it.»
Less than a year ago we operated in a public climate where people felt exceedingly justified in scapegoating and shunning people who made a medical decision that was deemed “selfish”, “dumb” and not willing to “take one for the team”. It culminated in an abundance of pride and self-righteousness with plenty of statements like; “we are so tired of these people, we have little or no patience left”…
Now, less than a year later, nobody in their right mind proclaims these kinds of statements, on this particular topic. Many people legitimize the change in beliefs with a natural evolvement of more information and knowledge. But where did the genuine change of perspectives through proper conversations and debate actually take place? If you thoughtfully and honorably change your perspective, on really important issues, it will, indispensably, lead to sober scrutiny and honest recognition of failure. It does not however occur by happenstance, or by a scramble of rhetorical moves and PR tactics. Organic, emergent altering of one’s perspective, regarding complex issues, does not look like a coin flip. Hubris and arrogance, fear and panic, however, can often look like a coin flip, and there is no question that these attitudes have been ubiquitous. Which in turn has caused a lot of needless harm and suffering in the last few years.
Let’s take one specific example; what if the lockdowns caused more harm than good? What if lockdowns ultimately led to the protection of the laptop class instead of the actual vulnerable risk groups? Could this have been prevented if rigorous, honest conversations had taken place? Yet, how were these types of conversations even possible when highly educated medical professors like #JayBhattacharya continuously and thoroughly argued this from the very beginning – but as we now know, he was “blacklisted” for doing so on Twitter (see Bari Weiss #TwitterFiles, Part Two).
What about the claim that Covid-vaccines stop transmission of the virus? Which meant that you could neither get the disease nor spread it to others. As of Monday, October 10th, 2022, one of the Pfizer directors admitted in a Covid hearing (timestamp; 01:01:32) in the European Parlament, that the Covid vaccine, at the time of introduction, had never been tested for stopping transmission of the virus. This completely removes the legal basis and justification for a global mandate, which has led to massive discrimination. Also, millions of people felt forced to get vaccinated because of the rhetoric about solidarity – “get vaccinated to protect others” and “do it for your country” – which now turns out to be a lie.
Where is the public’s desire and willingness to learn from the major mistakes in the last years? What we got wrong, and more importantly, how we got it so very wrong. You can act with the best intentions and try to do good in the world, but end up causing profound harm and suffering. If we don’t allow proper investigation and disclosure of failure – for fear of repercussions and backlash – and continually brush over and silence the evidence, we will do the exact same failures the next time.
Blocking the natural flow of decent arguments and perspectives because they are dissenting, like in the case of lockdowns, is not good enough. Dissent is crucial when faced with ill-defined questions, if not for anything but self-correction. Also, the utter silence and timidity of mainstream media and well-established journalists, and the failure to report on the fact that the premise of a mass vaccination campaign was fallacious, is not acceptable. We should demand better. Sober scrutiny and careful, rigorous examinations are essential if we wish to not make the same mistakes again. Frankly, it should be welcomed by all who would like to reduce harm, suffering, and death in the face of crisis.
What have we actually learned in the last almost 3 years?
What astonishes me the most, is the plain fact that so many people have shown to be unable, and most of all unwilling, to think for themselves. We have witnessed an eager mass who, without a blink of an eye, outsource every bit of thinking to authorities and experts. Furthermore, people wish to see regulations and rules enforced on people who do not comply or go along with the accepted narrative. The browbeating and shunning of people who actually try to think, instead of groupthink, has widely demonstrated its pervasiveness. This, in turn, points to the serious fact that you will never bring about a genuine conversation, discussion, or debate if the participants solely partake in groupthink or driven-by-conclusion.
As if that was not enough, a prevalent and crippling existential indifference has also become evident in society. Intelligent, bright people look away and close their eyes to what is apparent and visible around them. Even though they seem to sense that something is existentially unsound and grim, in need of attention and scrutiny, they don’t appear ready (yet) to face up to it. This fuels a persistent interest in the status quo. It is too easy to say, “yes, but why bother?”
The phenomenon of existential indifference was noticed way back in the 90s by the deceased #PerFugelli, one of Norway’s most prominent social doctors. In his book “Pasienten Norge” from 1994 he wrote;
“We have to fight the collective *apathy* in the North. The #TitanicSyndrom is too common. An inevitable global collapse is approaching, so why not enjoy the last moments on 1st class?” (Transl., p. 101)
From April 2020 until this day, I’ve tried to think by writing. It’s a great way to track thoughts, arguments, and ways of framing problems. It affords me to trace fallacies, assumptions, and frame problems in both my own and others’ thinking, in real-time. A more strenuous process indeed, than outsourcing thinking on every complex situation and problem that arises. The latter lets you off the hook, it allows you to purchase the current talking points, and appear smart and logical in front of your peers. When the current talking points tremble and no longer seem fit for purpose, you throw them out, like a bag of garbage. No actual thinking has taken place, and you’ve now started an addictive process. You buy today’s so-called rationality to shield your fear of being a social pariah.
Thinking critically will put you in an unpleasant position in our climate. It will not make you favored among the many people who have shown their willingness to embrace compelled speech and self-censorship. We’ve been told numerous times that people who are not *relevant* scientists and experts should sit neatly and keep quiet, and let the people with the right credentials do the talking and thinking for everyone. How is democracy supposed to work if lay people adopt and urge such type of #credentialism?
In a free and open society, you should be allowed and encouraged to think critically. Moreover, an educated society should be perfectly capable of handling bad arguments, separating the wheat from the chaff, and give rise to rational debates openly without panic and fear of dissenting views. If you think bad argumentations and “wrong” conclusions are mind viruses that the public must be kept away from –from on high – it seems to indicate a belief, on your part, of a fundamental irrationality in human beings. If you instead believe that humans should be free to think and speak because every human being is capable of being rational if empowered, embolden, and encouraged to aspire to that – it’s not logically consistent to deviate from that principle when faced with uncertainty and disquietude. In that case, you are driven more by fear than rational argumentation, and that fear is, as we’ve seen multiple times in the last years, often accompanied by cowardice.
To me, there is an existential reason why you should care about all of this. I aspire to live in a society, and a world at large, that encourages critical thinking, free expression of ideas, and open, honest conversations and debate. What I absolutely do not want to see brought forth, and what frightens me to my bones, is the encouragement of fear, bullshit, bullies, and cowardice.
If that does not strike you as an essential difference, if that does not light a fire inside of you –there is a plausible chance that the pervasive existential indifference in society has captured you.
For 2,5 years I’ve been involved in a project that seeks to change the course of this grim and impairing indifference, and take back the primary human capacity for genuine conversations. I love the connections afforded by real conversations more than I hate people with opposite beliefs and opinions. There is a fundamental difference, the former *should* always lead the way – and I think we have lost the plot.
Here are 8 of my essays from the last almost 3 years. The melody and the thread through all of them is thorough contemplation and scrutiny of what it means to have real conversations, and how that plays a vital role in the predicaments of our time.