Debating Doubling Down

Are we still permitted to question and debate the mask and lockdowns, or is the new inquisition muzzling us in more than a figurative way? For all the anti-bullying rhetoric going around, people can sure bully when they feel their cause is just. We all might want to take a deep breath.

Many – including physicians and health-care workers of all stripes – have been skeptical of the universal masking mandates, as well as the curfews and ‘stay at home’ orders, and their prophylactic efficacy: but many also scared to speak out. They have wondered more than once what layers of fabric might do to stop a virus that is so small it almost obeys the rules of the quantum world People speak of ‘particularates’ and ‘expectoration’ in solemn and grave tones, as though viruses could vector no other way, when in fact there are any number of ‘other ways’. Anthony Fauci was doubtful of the masks at first – in fact, with all his decades in virology, he claimed masks ineffective, as did just about everyone else, but you could wear them if you want, if doing so made you feel better. Then, he changed his tune, claiming that he only said that because there weren’t enough masks to go around, and, behold, now there are, so ignore what he just said.

As far as we know, Fauci has not repented of his deceit – but, then, who does in our world of doublespeak, where lying is now as facile as breathing, or at least as breathing used to be? But he is doubling down on masks, now claiming we should double – soon, perhaps even triple! – our masks, reasoning that if one works so well, two are ‘likely’ (the adverb is his own) to work even better, even if those who have difficulty breathing in one, might feel more suffocated in two.

‘Likely’. Hmm. Not a term that inspires confidence. The skepticism of many is corroborated, for it is far from conclusive that masks even work, with some evidence that they may even be counter-productive. A common sense perspective (and never discount the value of common sense) leads one to wonder – even ‘feel’ – what happens when the masks themselves get contaminated from constant fiddling, moisture, bacteria, saliva, mucous. Why would they not become vectors for viruses and other nasty critters?

Fresh and sterile masks seem to provide some protective value in fresh and sterile environments, such as surgical and critical care wards, which the ‘world’ most definitely is not, and never can be. Review these words from a surgeon dismantling the wearied analogy ‘if they work for operating theatres, why not grocery stores?’.

Should we not pause and at least ponder the universal masking mandate from our newly-appointed medical mandarins, now enforced by police officers with batons and guns, and even our fellow citizens with threats and abuse, with families and loved ones divided, and people barred from churches, and from worshiping God according to their own conscience? Might not this be giving us a false sense of security, not much different from the soldiers going over the trenches with their ‘lucky’ piece of equipment, which will be sure to protect them from the bullets flying from all directions?

There seems little in the way of a ‘middle ground’ in this debate, whether masks, lockdowns and permanent ‘social distancing’ – you’re either ‘killing people’, or ‘killing life as we know it’. In what I have read of the pro-universal-mask side, and my few conversations with adherents thereof, there is in some a sense of primal fear, coupled with an indignation, that makes any rational dialogue difficult, if not impossible.

The philosopher of science, David Foster, wrote that ‘great is the power of steady misrepresentation‘, which is why so many pseudo-scientific theories, past and present, were accepted for so long. Or, if you like, change that last word to ‘representation’, to make it more palatable; either way, the narrative – whether true or false – of the one with the greatest audience, the most widespread and long-term influence, will inevitably win the day. Those whose minds and senses are daily awash in the warm, hypnotic glow and alternating soothing and stentorian voices of CNN and CBC will only hear one side, even one aspect of one side, repeated over and over; and this says nothing of public service announcements at airports, libraries, public transit, schools, universities, billboards, advertisements, while any alternative narrative, as the term goes, is instantly censored, de-platformed, ridiculed, abused…Well, you get the idea. We’re all in Plato’s cave, and could do with a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

Yes, there are lurid tales of deaths by and dangers of Covid, and I’m all for protecting the vulnerable, even if only a small percentage of the population is actually at risk, and even fewer have died, on scale with annual flu deaths (which have mysteriously disappeared). Yet how many fearful grandparents have not seen their grandchildren for a year, and perhaps never will; people, old and young, entombing themselves in their apartments, disinfecting every item that passes the threshold, seeing no one, their only company perhaps a cat, or a dog if more fortunate (do not dogs return affection more affectionately – and you can break the curfews – see below – to walk your dog, but not, apparently, to walk a human). Then there’s always the flickering light of phantoms on the ubiquitous screens.

Public policy seems driven more by fear than reason (or, perhaps, by more sinister motives), disproportionate to whatever good may be sought: The curfew in France at present is from 6 to 6, twelve full hours, half the entire day, which is five hours more than the Nazis imposed in the Vichy regime. And people in Ireland cannot travel more than a five kilometres – three miles – from their home, with roadblocks for those who might just dare to go where no man can now go. ‘Vaxx-passes’, once the stuff of conspiracy theory, are soon to be de rigeur in the European Union. While here in Canada, we are either in lockdown, or in perpetual fear thereof.

For how long, one wonders? Until Armageddon, either the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it version, or our own personal meeting with our Maker? Or is the end-point a salvific vaccine, itself laden with controversy and doubt, the Pfizer version of which, India, with a billion people, has already rejected? And is this to be foisted on everyone, as Trudeau now promises – or threatens – depending on your perspective?

Laws should be proportionate, limited, rational, freed from the obscuring effects of the emotions, oft caused by anecdotal cases. They should also be consistent, and ordered to a given end and purpose. They cannot trample constitutional and God-given rights, at least, not for the long term (and by any definition, a year is ‘long term’).

And does it not strike the reader as odd that Trudeau and Tam, now so pro-masking (like Fauci, they weren’t always so) and all about protecting the vulnerable and elderly (or so they say), are also ramming free-for-all euthanasia on the land, even on the mentally disabled, which will not stay voluntary for long? Already, physicians may soon be forced to offer the option of murder-suicide to all their moribund patients. And which of us in not, in some sense, ‘moribund’?

Lex credendi, lex agendi: The law of believing, is the law of acting; our deeds follow our thoughts. It seems clearer with each passing day that this is not so much about the masks and other ‘protocols’, but about one’s metaphysics, how one sees the world, life, death, eternity.

We here at Catholic Insight take as our starting point a broader theological and obviously Catholic perspective, so those readers who do not share such a worldview, might at least ponder what we say next in that light: The mask signifies a loss of personal identity with the perpetual obscuring of the face, and even the voice; the social distancing and never-ending lockdowns are a recipe for mental, societal and economic collapse (our nation’s debts are beyond insupportable); and what of the denial of the sacraments, not least the Holy Mass and Confession, which has wrought untold spiritual harm (for some of which, we may hope, God may make good in other ways).

I’m not sure many are fully aware of the long-term consequences of what we are undergoing – the doubling down on the lockdowns, a nightmarish Kafkian loop, with no apparent end in sight. If they didn’t work the first time, try and try again, which is rather near the definition of insanity. Shops, businesses, offices are being boarded up across our land – ‘plywood over glass’ as someone recently put it to me, describing his own downtown, with cavernous skyscrapers left empty, and perhaps now to rack and ruin. Who’s going to pay all those rents?

For a more light-hearted, but still tragic, take on some of Covid’s effects – or, rather, the effects of our response to Covid – see Terry O’Reilly’s podcast. Lipstick sales are way down, while plastic surgery is way up. The reader may figure out why before listening.

But, more to the point, we are witnessing an inversion of the societal order, with the instantiation of a police, and even military, state, the intimations of which are already in place, with – to take but one example amongst many in our own land – Trudeau’s draconian forced quarantining for returning travelers in ‘secret locations’, at $2000 a pop, locked up in hotel rooms with fifteen minutes outdoor time each day. Even the SuperMax inmates get a full hour in the sunshine. What does one expect from our Prime Minister, steeped in socialism, who sees communist China as a shining social model of how to govern? Oh, the glories of the efficient and dictatorial one-party state with plenipotentiary power!

There goes our right to freedom of movement and travel, along with the right to free speech, freedom to dissent and protest; freedom of assembly; freedom to work and make a living; freedom from government intrusion into our private properties, homes and lives; freedom to make our own decisions. And all-too-many of us sit back and take it, like we took so much from Trudeau senior.

Was not ‘freedom’ the concept for which millions upon millions of our best and brightest died in two world wars? Should not our laws therefore leave much room for this glorious and God-given right? But freedom requires responsibility, hard work, prudence, providence, taking proper care of one’s own self and one’s loved ones, the choice and capacity to take proper and proportionate risks; and, ultimately, the wherewithal to face the inevitability of suffering and death with equanimity of soul, trusting in the good God and His providential care.

Without a transcendent purpose to life, there can be no real freedom, for, like some hellish Truman show, we would find ourselves trapped within the horizons of this transitory world, clinging to our temporal and biological life, even as it slips inexorably away; gladly giving away our liberty so that we might, just maybe, live just one more day, week, month… At some point, we have to let go, for we are made for far greater things, and far broader – even infinite – horizons.

We will leave you for now with a Lenten thought, besides offering up all the suffering this is causing. In the Office of Readings we pilgrimage with Moses and the Israelites through the desert in their flight from Egypt. Perhaps, in that light, we should see Covid, as a kind of sign, a minor angel of death, if you will, a prelude in C-minor for the main event in A-pocalypse major, prompting us to flee the ‘fleshpots’ of our paganism and hedonism, to put our trust in the living God, in the blood of the Lamb over our lintels, in the Holy Sacrifice, in the sacraments and sacramentals, Holy Communion, Confession, the Rosary – all of which are truly efficacious ‘signs’ – before it is too late?

In the end, we are all called to make that final exodus through the desert of this life to the true ‘promised land’, and that requires we accept the kind of death God so wills for each of us. To try to run or hide from that, semper et ubique, by fair means but mostly foul, is a fool’s errand, and leads nowhere good, in this life or the next.

Carpe diem, carpe libertatem, carpe vitam, carpe veritatem, and a whole host of other ‘carpes‘. Whatever path you choose through the maelstrom of these times, be sure to live, dear reader, as you are able, and, with Saint Paul, submit not to the yoke of slavery, not least to that of an all-too-literal smothering fear and despair. We were made for freedom, for which Christ has set us free.