For a New Enlightenment

I write from the point of view of living in France, and refrain from criticising policies in the UK or anywhere else. I get sick and tired of hearing demagogues like Florian Philippot complaining about the erosion of individual freedoms in France through the imposition of a health pass (obtained by full vaccination, a test or proof of having contracted Covid within the last six months), when he would impose an authoritarian regime were he to be elected to the Presidency.

I have tried to give them a fair hearing, as those who speak for the thousands of people militantly demonstrating in cities like Paris, Lyons and Marseilles. The slogans are all about individual freedom. One thing that is missing is a viable alternative to combat the pandemic and relieve the pressure on hospitals. The minority of conspiracy theorists would deny the existence of the virus and claim that people are dying of other illnesses like flu, and that the pandemic is a fiction intended to bring about a New World Order or a New Reset, a universal world regime something like Communist China. I am afraid that such an idea, like most other conspiracy theories like shape-shifting reptiles disguised as the Queen of England, has no credibility.

What is the alternative to something that admittedly would be extremely difficult to implement and enforce? President Macron recently said:

Si nous n’avions pas le pass sanitaire aujourd’hui, on serait obligé de refermer, c’est-à-dire de faire porter la contrainte sur tout le monde. Avec le pass sanitaire, on la fait porter uniquement sur celles et ceux qui ne se sont pas encore fait vacciner.

If we had no health pass now, we would have to close down again, make everyone suffer from the constraint. With the health pass, we impose it only on those who have not yet been vaccinated.

It seems rather clear. The alternative is to go back to the lockdowns of last year. He did attract our attention to the limit of our individual freedoms, the responsibility we assume for other people is the classical social contract. We have to take our reasoning to its logical conclusion to be a part of an adult democracy. It is quite alarming to see the extent of the “anti” demonstrations, and the moral condition of this world. Oddly, the extreme-right populists are at one with the insoumis of the extreme-left. The emerging fanaticism is really quite worrying. I have the impression that it is merely a part of a new nihilist revolution leading to something very, very, ugly – just a hundred years after the Europe of the Dictators.

The freedom to refuse medical treatment is an old established ethic in Europe. A person suffering from cancer has the right to ask for palliative treatment against pain and let the inevitable happen rather than go on with chemotherapy. There is a limit to what medicine can do in relation to the quality of life. What about the health of a society? This is the worst pandemic we have has since the Spanish Flu of a hundred years ago which claimed twenty to fifty million lives. What we decide for ourselves is one thing. What about our families, work colleagues, friends and the people next to us on a train going to work?

The real issue is the capacity of hospitals to treat the victims of Covid compared with their patients suffering from other conditions, including those that are life-threatening. Where is our altruism? Many of our society just have no care for others. They are nihilists and live only for their own pleasure.

I am not a medical expert, but I have read points of view of epidemiologists and doctors, trying to compare them lest any points of view be politically-motivated. What seems most objective is that we are faced with the Delta variant (which seems to be slowing down and even diminishing like in the UK) and other vaccine-resistant variants and new viruses in the near future. There are two strategies: vaccinate all vulnerable persons and / or vaccinate as many of the general population as possible to obtain herd immunity. Either would relieve the pressure on hospitals.

If some people think that they can demolish this vaccinial strategy and return immediately to normal life, they are deluded. They mention no alternatives, but there are several:

  • return to general lockdown when the hospitals are overloaded, just like in March 2020 and November of the same year. Would we who are vaccinated accept this constraint placed upon us by those who refuse to be vaccinated? Natural justice would seem to call for a “targeted” lockdown. If the spoilt brat won’t eat his vegetables, he won’t get his ice cream!
  • a programme of general compulsory vaccination. Just how would that be implemented? Troops of Waffen-SS rounding up people from their homes and carrying them away in vans and trains? The simplest answer would be to consult social security files (what happens to the medical secret?). Just think of the bureaucracy needed for that in a system that works like the engine of a very old car.
  • “let rip”. Simply remove all restrictions and leave the hospitals to assume the overload. Sick people would have to be “sorted” between those who are younger, more “viable” and have more chance of recovery. This presents a serious moral / ethical problem for doctors. Could we stand by and accept such a situation as has been seen in countries like India where so many died because of shortages of oxygen?
  • refuse to reimburse the medical expenses of those who refuse vaccination, contract Covid and fall seriously sick. An alternative would be to hike their social security contributions.

Consequences of any decision have to be assumed to the logical limit.

Just today, anti-vaxxers are appealing to the Constitutional Council to have constitutional law oppose the Government. This introduces an element of incertitude. If this blockage of the Government is successful, then it is confinement or “let rip” as I mentioned above.

The Health Pass seems to amount to a “targeted” lockdown that allows vaccinated people to live normally. It is intended to nudge less decided people to go and get vaccinated. This strategy worked because when M. Macron announced the Health Pass, large numbers of people went and got vaccinated. There are ethical principles of individual freedom (as we are not in Communist China or in North Korea), and how such a system could be prevented from being abused by a future dictator or unscrupulous demagogue.

How do we become adults? This is both a challenge to and an epitaph of our society. I have personally been vaccinated, not only to escape possible death from pneumonia but also to protect others with whom I come into contact. I have very little social life and I follow the masking rules in shops and other public buildings. Most of us here in France do so without constraint.

I am brought to think of Psalm 32 in the Book of Common Prayer:

Be ye not like to horse and mule, which have no understanding: whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, lest they fall upon thee.

Great plagues remain for the ungodly: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, mercy embraceth him on every side.

Be glad, O ye righteous, and rejoice in the Lord: and be joyful, all ye that are true of heart.

A noisy minority is trying to cancel what can be done to help the situation without admitting the alternative (because they would not accept a new lockdown either). Are the bit and bridle the only way? If so, our world is a very sad place that can “work” only with a Hitler or Stalin in charge!

We of the majority who have taken this threat seriously from the beginning need to make our voices heard. That is why I am writing this little piece. We need to become mature and responsible adults. The vaccinations are far from perfect, and the decision of Pfizer and Moderna to hike their prices is revolting, crisis capitalism at its very worst. I hope the European Union will have the gut to appropriate the vaccines and strip away the proprietary patents.

Maybe the virus will just fizzle away. It seems to be doing so in the UK and it has flattened in France. Can we be sure that another variant even worse (with seven other demons) will not come and take its place? This is not the first time that I have compared viruses with evil spirits! We have vaccines, and we also have fasting and prayer. May the holy Mother of God deliver us from this plague, that we may return to holiness and virtue!

Being opposed to something is just no enough. We have to assume the consequences of the alternative (assuming that the pandemic is far from being over). Other than spiritual and theological considerations, I am just an “ordinary guy” who reads different sources and hears the sound of different bells in order to form a politically-free idea of what is going on. That wearing a mask or not takes on a political meaning is both pathetic and indicative that our contemporaries are spoilt brats in need of punishment and / or education.

Increasing numbers of thinking people are taking refuge in the countryside. I did so many years ago, because I know what can happen in France with their radicalised and mindless reactions. It can happen in any country as it happened in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1930’s. If we abdicate our own intelligence, responsibility and spiritual life, then someone will take over and decide on whether or not we are worthy of life! The true Romantic upholds Reason as much as he extols Imagination and Idealism. May this leaven bring forth fruit in our sick world!

* * *

I have just received a private e-mail, which I will reproduce in such a way as to hide the identity of its author. The tone is moderate and represents attitudes in many sincere people.

This is just a quick email to say I think Covid has done more to divide people and destroy the social trust fabric etc than anything that springs to mind in my own experience. But I blame Covid only as a kind of material cause, because the efficient cause is squarely on leaders and their policies and the sustained alarmist character of much media reporting.

There is unfortunately a new orthodoxy, and we know what happens with orthodoxies: “heretics” get burnt. Whilst I don’t dispute about the whole phenomenon, I would disagree with the accusation that those who do not wish to receive injections are selfish. The compulsion over injections is ostensibly to combat the virus but is more immediately or directly aimed at helping political leaders and invested bureaucrats get out and beyond their own various policy approaches and initial assessments as they must know – although not admitting it – that on statistical fatality grounds the virus has not been able to land a glove on pandemics of the past. A more globally self-imposed disintegration I can’t think of.

A question people have to ask themselves, I suppose, is what type and degree of divisions and classes of people and movement does one think good for a tolerant free society, and whether public policies should be constructed from the more generous idea than the narrower idea. Here is where John Rawls’ theory of justice might inform our approach; i.e. whereby we choose the minimum criteria consistent with what we would want if we assumed we would be incarnated into the lowest rung or situation.

I responded:

It is hard to come up with a hard and fast solution. I have had the two jabs and I have little social life. That gives no absolute guarantee against catching it while shopping even though we are all wearing masks!

The problem with the French situation (…) is that Macron is playing a very delicate game to prevent an all-out revolution by a kind of “coalition” between extreme-right and extreme-left. Many of the protesters are “gilets jaunes” led by Florian Philippot who is much further to the Right than Marine Le Pen. Elect that lot and it would be like the regimes of Franco and Pinochet!

Perhaps the pandemic is a hoax and a conspiracy. I have not seen evidence that would convince me. Prudence forces me to assume the threat is real. The alternative to it being a hoax (with the justification for a revolution) is vaccination, “targeted” lockdown or lockdown decided by the usual indicators. The hype by the media is criminal. I chose the title For a New Enlightenment because of the need for information, evidence and knowledge. I am far from sure of the rational basis of the revolutionaries, and they would be more tyrannical than the present regime.

I fear that society is going to disintegrate, and the way is the catacombs in the practical form of remote country places and a form of work that makes such a life possible. Those who live in cities will relive 1789 to 1799, guillotine or no guillotine. There are lots of ways to kill people!!! I don’t think a tolerant and free society is possible any more, which breaks my heart. If people will not seek to think critically, then they have to be ruled by people like Hitler or Robespierre. Macron is no superman, but he seems to have the most balanced and pragmatic attitude in a political scene that has collapsed. If the only alternatives are Fascism and dinosaur Communism, then I would consider voting for him next year.

Perhaps it is time to “let rip” as they have done in the UK. Vaccinate the vulnerable and let the young catch the virus. Those young people who would suffer serious symptoms would be “collateral damage” and it takes about 90% to get herd immunity. Perhaps that is the way, but it doesn’t seem to be very ethical in terms of human life.

The mass of people unfortunately doesn’t have the intelligence to take the normal precautions we take as individuals. Perhaps the future is Chinese-style Communism and totalitarianism. We could hold out for a time, and then there is only death to look forward to. Perhaps it is check-mate. Orwell or Huxley?

Will the Mother of God help us? It isn’t automatic, but there are miracles in history.

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9 Responses to For a New Enlightenment

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Have you encountered detailed explanations of the rationale of “proof of having contracted Covid within the last six months”? If the novel corona virus indeed started to spread in September 2019, that is ‘only’ – but also ‘already’ – some 23 months ago. How accurately has evidence of natural immunity following infection been monitored, for how long? I think it is already a number of months ago that I read the results of a study suggesting very robust immunity after 8 months… As many accurately reported cases of infection from which people have recovered would suggest that many people with natural immunty. I do not know what the implications are for the curiously named ‘ herd’ immunity, but there seems good prima facie evidence for a great number of people enjoying natural immunity for longer than 8 months, so, I wonder, what’s with “within the last six”?

    • It’s quite baffling. I suppose that the only people who could have such “proof” would have seen their doctor and got a medical certificate. I too get annoyed with this floating robust/fleeting immunity acquired from having contracted the virus. Either the scientists are uncertain or politically (or financially) influenced. There is without a doubt an element of fear pressure, otherwise we would all get complacent before we really have reached herd immunity.

      We have had 2,000 to 40,000 people contracting the virus per day over the past 18 months. Let’s call that an average of 21,000. I want to keep this simple. 18 months is about 547 days. Do the multiplication: 11.5 million. We are about 36.5 million vaccinated. 48 million. The population in France is a bit over 67.5 million. We must be getting close to herd immunity, which some scientists say is 90%, but others give a much lower percentage.

      The Delta variant? Is it SARS CoVid2 / Covid19 or a completely new epidemic? Too many unknowns – or things they are not telling the media.

    • Michael says:

      We have had 2,000 to 40,000 people contracting the virus per day over the past 18 months.

      Contracting the virus is not the critical issue. It’s who, and how many of them, die from or with it when they would otherwise not have died, and who died with it who would otherwise have died anyway shortly. Not enough people are dying on either count to justify the panic and paranoia and suffering caused by the panic and paranoia. We have had viruses before and we will have them forever.

      My prayer in these times is: – Domine, da mihi equinamitatem acceptare quas non possum commutare, fortitudo commutare quas possum, et sapientiam discernere differentiam

      • I agree that the only reason why anyone other than doctors or the sick themselves should care would be the virus making someone sick enough to need hospital treatment or even intensive care. If it’s like flu or a common cold, then there is no need for concern, and it is dealt with by the person staying at home and getting better.

        I mentioned the estimated numbers because of the question of herd immunity. If we are vaccinated or have had the disease (whether in the form of a common cold or full-blown pneumonia) and make up nearly all the population, then we are scot free. The pandemic is over unless we get a new variant (or a new virus from Frankenstein Ching-Chong Labs, Inc.) that blows away all our antibodies and T-cells. Then we are back to last year. “Lockdown! Lockdown! Let’s have another lockdown! Ha! Ha!

        Something encouraging I see is the downturn of cases, which will affect the hospital admissions within a week or so. Then we are back to the beginning of July and health passes would be superfluous. If my aunt had wheels, she would be a bicycle…

      • One thing I would add after having read a few articles. It seems that the real issue is that this is something like a common cold virus – BUT – one that has been tampered with for the purposes of research into vaccines for diseases like HIV / AIDS. The stuff about wet markets, bats and pangolins seems to be a load of bull. Two things can happen: the micro-organism becomes de-stabilised and completely unpredictable, becoming more dangerous or losing the man-made modifications. It takes advantage of the slightest weakness in a person’s immune resistance and other pathologies. If I was some kind of “Hitler” in the position of a President or Prime Minister concerned about the costs of national health care, why not get rid of the sickest part of the population? Then no one will complain about health service costs being axed. I doubt that any of our leaders was really as diabolical as that. Suppose the virus gets rid of a lot of old and sick people, and a lot of them get vaccinated, then “we” (as the virus would say if it is conscious) have to adapt and evolve to get round the defences. Perhaps “we” can’t and “we” are defeated.

        There must be some really advanced scientific research papers, which none of us could understand because we are not the egg-head boffins they are. We have the scientists. Then we have the media braying for blood and sensation and the state authorities that have no control over the press (except China!!!). We ordinary people are floundering in our ignorance.

        Indeed “Give me the patience to accept what I can’t change, the strength to change what I can and the wisdom to discern the difference“.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      It’s quite baffling, indeed!

      I just encountered these quotations from an article by Professor Todd Zywicki, who is suing his university on the grounds that there is no “compelling governmental interest in overriding Professor Zywicki’s personal autonomy and constitutional rights by forcing him, in essence, to either be vaccinated or to suffer adverse professional consequences”:

      “Clinical studies from Israel, the Cleveland Clinic, England and elsewhere have demonstrated beyond a doubt that natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 provides robust and durable protection against reinfection comparable to or better than that provided by the most effective vaccines. Examining the evidence this May, the World Health Organization concluded: ‘Current evidence points to most individuals developing strong protective immune responses following natural infection with SARS-CoV-2.’

      “Protection from natural immunity may even exceed that of the less effective Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which according to the CDC demonstrated only 66.3% effectiveness at preventing infection in clinical trials.

      “The onslaught of the Delta variant in recent weeks has reinforced the lessons about the robust protection afforded by natural immunity. Unlike the current vaccines, which are designed to target the spike protein of the virus, natural immunity recognizes the entire complement of SARS-CoV-2 proteins and thus protects against a greater array of variants.

      “Thus even as vaccine breakthrough infections multiply around the world, natural immunity is robust to the Delta and other variants. With respect to the Gamma variant, a recent analysis of an outbreak among a small group of mine workers in French Guiana found that 60% of fully vaccinated miners suffered breakthrough infections compared with zero among those with natural immunity.

      “And whereas the vaccine’s protection may wane faster than expected, the latest estimates on the durability of natural immunity stretch to at least 11 months, the duration of most follow-up studies. Some 16 months after contracting Covid I am still testing positive for antibodies. In fact, researchers have discovered that the antibodies produced by natural infection continue to evolve to generate ‘increasingly broad and potent antibodies that are resistant to mutations’ compared with the more static ‘antibodies elicited by vaccination.'”

      The (retired-)lawyer blogger who quoted this, also quotes an occasional correspondent who is a neurosurgeon:

      “There are a fair amount of good clinical studies now published that support the idea that natural immunity is at least equivalent (and better in some instances) than vaccinated immunity. Nonetheless, private and public enterprises are enforcing the mandate without regard to immune status. At least one very good study performed in the UK (www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34216472/), and specific to the Delta variant, found that previously infected health care workers who subsequently got vaccinated, were 3.5x more likely to get a symptomatic breakthrough infection with Delta, than if they were not vaccinated at all. This highlights a possible harm to individuals who were previously infected, who are coerced into receiving the vaccine.

      “A separate, very large study at the Cleveland Clinic of over 50,000 individuals found that no (0%) of individuals previously infected with COVID, were re-infected regardless of vaccination. (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176v2) However, the CDC guidelines do not address these studies — and rely on the intuition that the benefit of vaccines outweigh the risks, even in previously infected individuals. … The slippery slope resulting from these vaccine mandates needs to be resisted as much as possible, and we need to inject scientific equipoise back into the discussion.”

      • I don’t have any scientific intuitions, and the anti-vaxxers might be right.

        1.) The curves of infections, hospitalisations and intubations are going down – then we can go back to normal and there’s nothing to worry about.

        2.) The curves of infections, hospitalisations and intubations are going up:

        a) Mass vaccination is the only way, though there are risks.
        b) Lockdown Chinese style is the way, coupled with an Australian style zero-Covid strategy.
        c) Let rip and hope that herd immunity will kick in once enough people are dead or maimed for life, and the young can go back to normal life.

        The politicians and media can get away with a certain level of mendacity, but they all seem to be saying the same thing. Pressure is mounting in the hospitals. Yes, the medical sector should have have been better financed, perhaps by having self-employed people paying 75% of their earnings in social security contributions. The real issue is the numbers in hospitals and treatment for other diseases and conditions being postponed.

        Hospitalisations are up by 25% in 3 weeks.

        Immunity to Covid:
        – 11 million who have had the virus and recovered,
        – 37 million who are fully vaccinated,
        – 45 million who have had the first jab,
        – 67 million population of France,
        – 19 million naturally immune or at risk of contracting Covid and becoming seriously ill. More if the Delta variant is breaking through the vaccination.

        Has anyone thought of testing people for natural immunity? Imperial College suggests that 40 million would have died if the pandemic had been left unchecked. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/196496/coronavirus-pandemic-could-have-caused-40/ At least the depopulation conspiracy theory is debunked!

        Perhaps things like the health pass are taking us towards an Orwellian dystopia. What kind of dystopia would men like Florian Philippot take us to? Would it all be rosy with excited extreme right-wing demagogues? Well, we “haven’t had it so good” since 1945. There is the old saying that is more or less “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times”. We seem to be at the end of the cycle, at the end of the “Weimar Republic” of our own times.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        “Has anyone thought of testing people for natural immunity?” That’s what I’ve been wondering – and/or bewildered by the (apparent) absence of…

        Somebody has been studiously testing some people, e.g., to find certain useful “sorts of antibodies, the researchers examined certain memory B cells from COVID-19 convalescent donors” – I read in this popular scientific presentation of 6 August, though I have not yet attempted the link paper it is discussing…

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Oops – and then I did not give the popular presentation link (!):

        https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-08-antibody-ideas-pan-coronavirus-vaccine.html

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