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Coming Out as Injection Nonconforming 


War, disease, and inflation, book bans, wrong puberties, and misinformation – it feels like the world out there is in turmoil. I have a friend who feels that way inside himself, too. My friend’s been struggling with his identity of late. He’s recently realized something important about himself. He’s come out as injection nonconforming. I’m not sure, but I think he might be non-Hispanic white fragility fluid as well. His therapist tells him that he’s oppressor-oppressed non-binary. The whole thing is confusing – him, the free speechers, etc.

Nonsense? I don’t think so. Sarcastic? Not so much. This is serious. It’s a serious attempt to take the ideas of our intellectual trendsetters seriously. Interesting things happen when you do that, when you enter their worldview and use their ideas to reason through the consensus views of the day. Distinct perceptions emerge. Arguments previously dismissed begin to appear different, even insightful. It leaves one pondering the possibilities. What would happen if our trendsetters took their own ideas more seriously and used them to reason beyond the bounds of permitted discernment? 

It might look something like this. It might problematize injection normativity. I’ve been hanging around higher education for some time now. And I’ve heard a lot about “normativity.” Some of it good, some bad. Normativity refers to what a society perceives as normal. It is bad when it is practiced, when society favors some behaviors or views as normal over others. Favoring heterosexuality yields heteronormativity; fancying biology begets cisnormativity, etc.

But normativity is good when it’s a tool of social scientific analysis. That’s when it dissects society’s perceptions of scare-quoted “normal.” It digs into those perceptions and reveals them to be the hegemonic assertions of social groups who privilege themselves by popularizing their preferences as “normal.” Such privilege creates power dynamics and hierarchy. It creates social structures which, Gayle Rubin warns, “coerce everyone toward normativity.” The unsavory upshot is “compulsory heterosexuality” and “forced puberty.” 

Compulsory normativity marginalizes. It creates the “other.” It then stigmatizes the other as non-normal or aberrant. The marginalized know the system best. They know the coercion at its heart. It is their “lived experience.” They may not have social science degrees or read professional journals. But they have other ways of knowing – “marginalized knowledge formations.” Their epistemology is not formal or degreed, but lived, what Eve Sedgwick calls an “epistemology of the closet.”

My friend has this kind of epistemology. It’s born of his lived experience of injection normativity. Shots are so “normal” they’re near free with each fill up. They’ve been pushed in urban areas with burgers and fries, a kind of “happy meal” prize. They’ve been pushed with donuts and illusions of lottery fortunes. Drug stores advertise them like candy. 

The Covid epoch was injection normativity on anabolic steroids. Injection makers and mandators asserted hegemony by popularizing their preferences as “normal.” They created power dynamics and hierarchy, social structures pressuring everyone toward compulsory protein production. They thereby stigmatized the “other” – the injection questioning and injection nonconforming. 

This was serious for my friend. His livelihood was at stake, his career and his mortgage. His relationships were at stake, with family and friends. His health was at stake, with excessive stress accompanying vaccine misinformation and commotio cordis on Monday Night Football. Life itself, for many, was at stake. The power of the injection industrial complex was enveloping. The lived experience of that power was profound, and intentionally so. 

So why can’t my friend problematize injection normativity? Why can’t he be injection nonconforming? Why can’t he forgo the structural oppression binaries popularized by the injection-passport privileged?

I’ve encouraged him to do all that. I’ve explained to him the worldview of the intellectual trendsetters and how their ideas can help him reason through his lived experience. 

We met for coffee to explore the roots of those ideas. We dwelled at some length on self-proclaimed liberators like Herbert Marcuse. We read his Essay on Liberation (1969) and found that Marcuse said about “corporate capitalism” that “its mass media have adjusted the rational and emotional faculties to its market.” We substituted Pfizer for corporate capitalism and found that insightful.

We noted that Marcuse mistook corporatism, the entwining of state and corporate power, for capitalism. But still, we were enthralled. 

Marcuse told of how corporate profits require the “stimulation” of “ever larger” demand for their products. In his words: “Profit would thus require the stimulation of demand on an ever larger scale.” This time, we inserted Moderna rather than Pfizer. And at this we marveled. How did Marcuse know in advance about the Covid stimulation of an ever larger demand for the products of Warp Speed? Pure genius!

With another cup of joe, we next tackled the trend setters of the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” Here, too, we beamed as we perused Matthew Desmond’s offering, “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation” (2019). 

We were, at first, a bit taken aback in reading about a capitalism bereft of choice and cooperation, shorn of voluntary decisions about production and consumption. We encountered, instead, a system of mass data surveillance. In modern corporations, Desmond reports, “everything is tracked, recorded and analyzed, via vertical reporting systems, double-entry record-keeping and precise quantification.” This may feel “cutting-edge,” he continues, but – trigger warning! – “many of these techniques that we now take for granted were developed by and for large plantations.”

My friend and I continued with curiosities piqued. We took particular interest in Desmond’s correlations between past and present, as in this reference to Microsoft and slave labor: When today’s corporate “accountant” or “mid-level manager” fill “in rows and columns on an Excel spreadsheet, they are repeating business procedures whose roots twist back to slave-labor camps.”

This got us thinking. Desmond could not have anticipated the Covid escalation of injection normativity while writing in 2019. So we decided to use his own logic and reasoning to update his insights. 

We found his concerns about Microsoft’s “business procedures” compelling. Before the pseudouridine flowed in mass, Microsoft helped form the Vaccination Credential Initiative which sought to track and record human data via a “digital Covid vaccination passport.” The initiative’s rationale was “that governments, airlines, and other firms will soon start asking people for proof that they have been inoculated.” The initiative’s goal was “to empower individuals” by ensuring everyone “digital access to their vaccination records.” The race toward subjugated digital equity had begun! 

As we searched for the historical “roots” of this penchant for tracking and tracing, we preferred a more tangible one to Desmond’s “twisty, historical tie. That search led us back in time to mass murder, and then forward again to more Covid passports, with clear and definitive ties to identifiable corporate endeavors. 

International Business Machines used its data surveillance and collection capabilities to help plan all six phases of the Holocaust. The scale of the genocide was impossible without IBM’s collaboration with the National Socialist regime. The corporation’s ability to track, record, and report data was central in identifying Jews, expelling them from society, confiscating their assets, ghettoizing them, deporting them to camps, and eventually exterminating millions. All the while, one scholar explains, “the New York Times failed in its coverage of the fate of European Jews from 1939 to 1945.”

Covid injection normativity took the very practices Desmond decries to new levels – the capacity and readiness to track, record, analyze, report, and quantify human data. The scale of the project was impossibly short of the collaboration of corporations like the New York Times and International Business Machines. The Times incessantly tracked, recorded, and quantified the data with little objection from Desmond. And IBM launched the first Vax Pass in the US, New York’s Excelsior Pass. “Digital papers, please?” read one headline from March 2021. Public radio throughout the country touted the IBM rollout. 

The most tangible “roots” of our experience today lie in the construction of corporate power in the 20th century, and the entwining of that power with state authority. American corporations and their university allies had funded the tracking and tracing of human data for the eugenics programs which guided “public health” for generations. Many of those corporations, besides IBM, also collaborated with the National Socialists in enhancing their war-making machine, the Carnegie Institute and Rockefeller Foundation among them. 

Postwar, Harry Truman warned “about the way the CIA has been functioning,” long before the agency had a venture capital arm which, in collaboration with DARPA, invested in Moderna and its RNA vaccine development. 

These tangible roots of our experience have less to do with capitalism than corporatism – the public-private partnerships which share personnel and subsidize the well-off and connected. 

Corporatism is the most imperious “normal” of the day. It’s the most pronounced normativity warranting deconstruction. Yet our “critical” thinkers seem apathetic in its presence. Their critical theories appear to enclose consciousness more than raise it, encompass reason more than free it. It’s as if they replicate their theories more than reason with them. 

Or perhaps that’s the point. Maybe the critical thinkers do see corporatism clearly and simply support it. Maybe that’s why they say they’re “suspicious” of individual rights. Maybe they conceive corporatism as a means of personal and ideological advancement. 

That’s a sobering thought, as is counseling a corporatism booster bonanza. 

For now, I think I’ll simply take solace in the presence of my friend. I’m proud of him for coming out injection nonconforming. He tells me he feels better. Though he’s now worried about his neighbor’s global boiling dysphoria.  

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