Biggest Casualty of COVID? Personal Freedoms.
- While the casualties of government-imposed COVID-19 countermeasures are manifold, the biggest and most tragic of them all is the loss of individual freedoms.
- We either choose freedom, or we choose to live under authoritarian rule. Even if restrictions are lifted, public attitude can place freedom on shaky ground, as public acceptance of overreach will allow for the same to occur again and again at a moment’s notice.
- The freedom to interact with other human beings is a crucial, most basic human need.
- The inevitabilities of life — which include uncertainty, moment-to-moment risk and the surety of death — demand that we not require people to cease living in order to “save” others from the ramifications of ill health.
- The answer, if we really want to protect the masses, is to educate and promote healthy living at all stages of life. Improving your health through a healthy lifestyle, sunshine, fresh air and real food, is the best way to protect the most people.
While the casualties of government-imposed COVID-19 countermeasures are manifold, the biggest and most tragic of them all is the loss of individual freedoms. As noted by Jonathan Sumption in his February 15, 2021, Telegraph commentary:
“What makes us a free society is that, although the state has vast powers, there are conventional limits on what it can do with them. The limits are conventional because they do not depend on our laws but on our attitudes.
“There are islands of human life which are our own, a personal space into which the state should not intrude without some altogether exceptional justification.
“Liberal democracy breaks down when frightened majorities demand mass coercion of their fellow citizens, and call for our personal spaces to be invaded. These demands are invariably based on what people conceive to be the public good. They all assert that despotism is in the public interest.”
A fragile freedom
As Sumption points out, “We cannot switch in and out of totalitarianism at will.” We either choose freedom, or we choose to live under authoritarian rule. Even if (and that’s a big if, at this point) restrictions are lifted, public attitude can place freedom on shaky ground, as public acceptance of overreach will allow for the same to occur again and again at a moment’s notice.
This is a serious problem, as there will always be other epidemics and pandemics. There is always the threat of terrorism and climate change. There will always be a public health calamity, be it obesity or diabetes, that can be used as justification for government intrusion into our private lives.
“A threshold has now been crossed,” Sumption writes. “A big taboo has gone. Other governments will say that the only question that matters is whether it works and whether they can ‘get away with it’ … We already have a striking example. The vaccine, which was supposed to make the lockdown unnecessary, has become a reason for keeping it in force …
“Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are plunging, but millions who are at virtually no risk are being kept in house imprisonment. This is being done mainly because a selective regime of controls would be too difficult for the state to enforce. Coercion quickly becomes an object in itself.”
Personal liberty is worth fighting for
Personal liberty, as Sumption points out, is critically important, and perhaps most important of all, for our mental and physical health, is the freedom to interact with other human beings. It is an absolutely crucial and most basic of human needs. Infants robbed of physical interaction fail to thrive and are at increased risk of death.
But children, adolescents, adults and the elderly have no lesser need for it. We may tolerate it for longer without marked ill effect, but over time, it takes its toll on health, emotional stability and longevity. The fact that we’re allowing government to ban human interaction is a dire sign of a society at the brink of self-destruction.
“I do not doubt that there are extreme situations in which oppressive controls over our daily lives may be necessary and justified,” Sumption writes.
An epidemic of Ebola, with a death rate of 50%, for example, might qualify. However, COVID-19 is nowhere near that serious a threat. As noted by Sumption, COVID-19 “is well within the range of perils which we have always had to live with, and always will.”
Data show the overall noninstitutionalized infection fatality ratio is 0.26%. People under the age of 40 have a mere 0.01% risk of dying from the infection. The vast majority that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 have no symptoms at all, and most do not get seriously ill.
We must relearn to accept the inevitabilities of life
Either way, this is right around the average age of death from any cause anyway, and therefore not an outrageous threat to public health. Yet, the public willingly relinquishes the freedom to live a normal life, somehow oddly convinced that by trading in their freedom, people at the end of their life will be spared the pain of death. They won’t. None of us will.
The inevitabilities of life — which include uncertainty, moment-to-moment risk and the surety of death — demand that we not require people to cease living in order to “save” others from the ramifications of ill health, regardless of their age. It’s as inhumane as it is illogical.
Rather, the answer, if we really want to protect the masses, is to educate and promote healthy living at all stages of life. Improving your health through a healthy lifestyle, sunshine, fresh air and real food, is the best way to protect the most people. Quarantining and shunning human interaction are probably the worst things you can do for yourself and society at large.
And let’s not go down the road of all the psychological devastation caused by teaching children to fear their own hands, other people, the air they breathe, and that their very presence poses a lethal threat to others.
The press has become an instrument of control
Historically, the press has been viewed as a crucial instrument for a well-informed public, and thus supportive of a free and democratically-run society. Indeed, this is why journalists and news outlets were known as “the Fourth Estate.” It was an acknowledgement of their societal influence. To be effective, the press had to develop a certain amount of public trust. Today, trust in mainstream media has dramatically eroded, and for good reason.
Time and again, reporters and entire news outlets have been caught peddling fake news, and when the press misleads rather than informs the public of the facts, they become tools for tyranny. Their viewers become more ignorant by the day rather than more informed, and thus more easily controlled and manipulated.
In a recent substack article, independent journalist Matt Taibbi addresses the attempt by UCLA professor and co-leader of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, Sarah Roberts, to shame readers away from substack. “Substack is a dangerous direct threat to traditional news media,” Roberts tweeted.
According to her half-baked reasoning, journalists who leave mainstream newsrooms for substack and other independent portals are taking unfair advantage of the trust they earned while gainfully employed within the Fourth Estate. Then, once on their own, they can print whatever they want without having to go through the onerous chore of fact checking and other standard checks and balances.
“To imply that trust is a thing that can only be conferred by a mainstream newsroom is beyond insulting, especially since mainstream news organizations already long ago started to become infamous for betraying exactly those hallowed ‘norms’ to which Roberts refers,” Taibbi writes.
“Why did a source like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden choose to come forward to Glenn Greenwald in particular? He surely wasn’t bothered by the fact that Glenn didn’t come up through the ranks of a paper like the New York Times or Washington Post.
“The answer connects to one of the primary reasons audiences are moving to places like Substack: the perception that traditional news outlets have become tools of the very corporate and political interests they’re supposed to be overseeing.
“Roberts complains about lines between opinion and reporting being blurred at Substack (an absurd comment on its own, but that’s a separate issue), but the ‘blurring’ problem at those other organizations is far more severe. Are newspapers like the New York Times checks on power, or agents of it?”