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!
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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.
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.