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October 19th, 2021
A COVID culture war is taking place, with two warring narratives - the COVID thesis and COVID antithesis. When you embody each of these views, each has fear, with a different directionality. Those on the side of the thesis fear dying and never going back to normal. Those on the side of the antithesis fear losing their freedom and entering an Orwellian new normal.
That was the argument of my second-most read journal entry here, Ontological Flooding Towards a COVID Synthesis. The framing of that piece obviously struck a chord, as it was shared around by many, even by Jordan Peterson. David Fuller recently mentioned the piece on Rebel Wisdom and used its framing as a prompt for his conversation with Zubin Damania. Watching that conversation inspired me to write a follow-up.
I’ll summarize the thesis and antithesis positions, while adding some further details, taking in some of Zubin’s feedback to the piece from his Rebel Wisdom interview...
The COVID thesis is supportive of the response measures to COVID-19: lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccine advocacy, and vaccine passports. It sees people who are against these response measures as being massively misled by disinformation on the internet. The vaccines are safe and they are the best method to individually and collectively address COVID-19, while alternative treatments such as Ivermectin lack evidence, and natural immunity should not be seen as a replacement to vaccination. Vaccine mandates are necessary to persuade those who are resisting the vaccines and must be implemented. The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that the above-mentioned positions are needed and during a pandemic we should trust the science.
The COVID antithesis is not supportive of the above-mentioned response measures. Responses like lockdowns and mask mandates do more harm than they do good. It sees people who are supportive of the response measures falling prey to massive propaganda by the media, big pharma, and supranational organizations that are under undue influence by a power elite. Vaccine safety and efficacy are being oversold, while alternative responses to vaccines like Ivermectin should be explored more and natural immunity should not be dismissed. Vaccine mandates are unethical and will dangerously erode our civil liberties. The perceived consensus of the scientific community is misleading and deferring to “the science” is not scientific.
It is fair to say there is a conspiratorial (or “parapolitical”) narrative running parallel with the antithesis position. This is understandable: if one’s belief space has a view that most mainstream media and politicians have gotten things so wrong, then something has to account for why. The two broad conspiratorial schools are what I call the “emergent conspiracy” and “engineered conspiracy.” Anarchist Darren Allen refers to these as “soft strategy” and “hard conspiracy.” From Darren:
As the lockdown left slowly come round to realising that they’ve helped create an imprisoned techno-fascist world of unprecedented scope, a few of them will start to approach a critical attitude, coming in with the idea that bungling governments, motivated by their usual venality, put together biofascism more or less by accident. This I call the ‘soft strategy’ thesis.
The “soft strategy” thesis sees a confluence of corruption, regulatory capture, and bureaucratic incompetence that lacks the capacity to address real complexity (responding to the complex via “complicated” ways to reference Dave Snowden’s Cyefin Framework). This leads to draconian top-down control measures.
In contrast, the “hard conspiracy” thesis sees this as well but adds the addition that the trajectory of control is being engineered by the power elites who are implementing their plans towards a “great reset” that ultimately benefits their interests and not ours. More from Darren: At the other end of the spectrum is the ‘hard conspiracy’ thesis, that the entire thing was meticulously planned from the start by the WEF and a cabal of techno-fascist billionaires.
Luckily for my sanity, most of my first-principled thinking friends do not fall cleanly on either the thesis or antithesis side, and while they may temperamentally lean toward one side, they are oriented towards discovering what I call a COVID synthesis position, a position where we are collectively concerned about effectively addressing this virus, while safeguarding our freedoms.
However, there are many who are memetically militant on the thesis and antithesis side, carrying with them strong “epistemic closure,” along with zero interest or capacity to engage in dialogue towards a synthesis position. As expected in situations like this, dehumanizing terms emerge, which both sides use. Those on the thesis side call their opposites “Covidiots,” while those on the antithesis side call their opposites “Covidians.” Some definitions...
Covidiots. Simply defined by Macmillian Dictionary as “someone who ignores health advice about Covid-19.” When the pandemic first started, this was somebody who was hoarding toilet paper, now the phrase is extended to anybody not following official public health advice, such as social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.
Covidians. I believe this was coined by the playwright CJ Hopkins in his piece The Covidian Cult. The argument is that the majority of the world has fallen into a collective psychosis, brainwashed into a cultish adherence to the thesis position, being broadcasted in a repetitive fashion, invoking fear that shuts down thinking.
Basically, Covidiots are too stupid not to fall prey to misinformation and disinformation, while Covidians are too weak-minded not to fall prey to propaganda and brainwashing. While I do not like either of these terms, I do think they are pointing to real tendencies occurring. There are people who lack “information hygiene,” swallowing anything that confirms their bias. There are also people who outsource their sensemaking wholesale to authorities, on topics they have no real understanding of.
For the rest of this entry, I will repurpose the Covidiot and Covidian terms to refer to people militantly falling on either the thesis or antithesis side, having epistemic closure, conducting themselves in ways that do not afford a synthesis position to emerge.
I do think a COVID synthesis is needed. It seems obvious to me for all of us to be mutually concerned with eliminating or at least reducing the harm of COVID-19, while ensuring we expand, not reduce, our sense of freedom, along with our personal sovereignty. The latter is a deep concern of mine, as I made clear in the entry, The Most Hellish Scenario of the Meta-Crisis, referring to the “world in chains” scenario as the most hellish.
This scenario was introduced by existential risk scholars detailing the emergence of a worldwide governance system that uses advanced technologies of control to permanently imprison the world’s populace. If this sounds like science fiction to you, perhaps you have not been paying attention to what technologies are already here, and how intellectuals like Yuval Harari are warning (and perhaps giving ideas to) the power elite. From Harai’s speech at Davos:
If you know enough biology and have enough computing power and data, you can hack my body and my brain and my life, and you can understand me better than I understand myself. You can know my personality type, my political views, my sexual preferences, my mental weaknesses, my deepest fears and hopes. You know more about me than I know about myself. And you can do that not just to me, but to everyone.
There will be no personal sovereignty in a world in chains, as our thinking and actions will be at the mercy of who or what steers this technology. As Harari says: A system that understands us better than we understand ourselves can predict our feelings and decisions, can manipulate our feelings and decisions, and can ultimately make decisions for us. In short, consciousness will not have a home if this scenario manifests.
The cool thing about The Stoa is that it affords me a meta-view of the noosphere. I get to see how various “memetic tribes” are shaking out in the COVID culture war. Interesting patterns start to show themselves to me. Of course, I am not sure if I am accurately grokking these patterns, but there is one possible pattern I am picking up on that I think is worth mentioning. Those who have an expansive sense of consciousness, aka have strong spiritual sensitivities, are feeling a restriction of consciousness coming online.
I am hearing this from intellectually sophisticated post-progressive Integralites, Californian spiritual types, and spiritual traditionalists like Eastern Orthodox Christians. My working theory is that those who are plugged into the spirit are feeling an extremely strong push towards the restriction of consciousness rather than an expansion of consciousness. Their memetic borders obviously influence how they understand what is happening, but their sense of the spirit is conveying the same thing: consciousness is under threat like it has never been before in our lifetime.
I feel this as well. The world in chains scenario, aka hell on earth, is a “possibility tunnel” in front of us, one we can consciously choose not to move towards. Many are unconsciously moving towards this, including the Covidiots and Covidians. Both of them are operating from fear in an unexamined way and moving from fear is not the way towards heaven on earth.
Covidiots fear being controlled, desiring freedom out of fear. Covidians fear dying, desiring control out of fear. Both are enmeshed, unconsciously casting a spell together, towards a world of control. One from the fear of being controlled, the other from the fear-based desire to control. This is what my good friend Lubomir Arsov calls the “polarity spell.”
The polarity spell has hijacked the clearnet, with platforms like Twitter serving as a summoning spot for a hellish world that is antithetical to our collective well-being, personal sovereignty, and a “beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” The cool thing is that all we need to do is make a simple move here and say the following:
No thanks, that possibility tunnel is not for me.
If one knows how to befriend fear, not go to war with it, the option to be courageous presents itself, affording other possibility tunnels to open up. And there are many possible tunnels in front of us, some are much more beautiful than others. I can feel them now. What one should I choose? What one should we choose? When one starts to become a person who has optionality, it is wise to be moved by the words of Forrest Landry:
The most effective choice will always be the one made from a basis which is the most enabling of all other choices. In that the deeper emotions are the more affecting ones, they are also the most enabling ones. Ultimately, love is more enabling of choice than any other emotion.
Yes. Choose the possibility tunnel from the most effective choice. I sense this choice will not tunnel us to a hellish world, but to a heavenly one. A world where beauty is not something we occasion on, but something that is a part of the daily fabric of our existence.
This is the spell I will be casting. I welcome you to join me.
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