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A Freudian Critique of the Pandemic Response

A Freudian Critique of the Pandemic Response


Goethe famously remarked that ‘Nothing is harder to bear than a succession of fair days.’ On reflection this puzzling statement alludes to something recognisable in one’s own life: when things have been going smoothly for ‘too long,’ one succumbs to wondering, quasi-superstitiously, when the next disaster will strike. Under current circumstances – after almost three years of unprecedented events in human history – one might be forgiven if ‘a succession of fair days’ seems exceedingly appealing, however.

I was reminded of Goethe’s adage while re-reading Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents (1930), where the founder of psychoanalysis – who quotes Goethe’s epigram – turns his considerable knowledge and insight on civilization (or ‘culture;’ ‘civilization’ is the translation of the German ‘Kultur’), to what must have been the chagrin of progressivists since that time. 

The reason for this is that Freud’s argument in Civilization and its Discontents, supported by decades of clinical work in psychoanalysis, combined with sustained theorising on the forces that animate the human psyche, states uncompromisingly that – far from cultural history being subject to laws of ineluctable progress – the drama of human civilization will forever enact itself in the fraught space between the life instinct (Eros) and the death instinct (also known as Thanatos).

Considering that Freud associates the life instinct (Eros) with the aggregation of families and communities, and with the panoply of creative endeavours comprising culture, and its antithesis, the death instinct (Thanatos), with decomposition, diverse kinds of destruction, and with aggressiveness, the current predominance of the latter – Thanatos – in the world should be obvious, if not conspicuous.

Since the advent of the pandemic, destruction has manifested itself in various guises, including death and physical as well as economic suffering, to say the least. This has been succeeded by more economic hardship and by military conflict (in Ukraine), and only those who depend blindly on the legacy media would believe the official narrative, that inflation and the ‘war in Ukraine’ are to blame for the former. 

Thanks to the investigative work of alternative media such as The Epoch Times and The Exposé, and to courageous individuals such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Naomi Wolf, and Joseph Mercola, there can be little doubt about the sources of the ongoing destruction. Sustained research into these destructive events and the actors behind them on the part of such indefatigable investigators has demonstrated that, unless one perceives the world through the ideological fog of deliberate misinformation, a relatively small group of billionaire globalist neo-fascists is responsible for the unfolding mayhem in the world. Freud’s work on the death instinct proves to be extraordinarily relevant for understanding the ‘controlled collapse’ we witness around us. 

To be able to grasp the pertinence of Freud’s claims regarding civilisation for the time in which we live, a brief reconstruction of the crux of his work in the philosophy of culture is invaluable. I shall focus on a few important passages only. In Freud’s Complete Psychological Works (the Standard Edition, edited by James Strachey, p. 4511), he writes:  

The name ‘libido’ can…be used to denote the manifestations of the power of Eros in order to distinguish them from the energy of the death instinct. It must be confessed that we have much greater difficulty in grasping that instinct; we can only suspect it, as it were, as something in the background behind Eros, and it escapes detection unless its presence is betrayed by its being alloyed with Eros. It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros. 

It is not difficult to grasp Freud’s account of sadism as the admixture of the libido (sexual energy) with the death instinct, which one never encounters on its own, but always in a fusion of some kind with another force. What strikes one about the present time is that, on occasion, there are hints of sadistic pleasure on the part of some of the dubious characters associated with the group of globalists questing after world domination mentioned earlier. It need not be in the sense of sexual gratification through cruelty, as Freud explains where he proceeds: 

But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinarily high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfilment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence. 

The key word in this excerpt is ‘omnipotence,’ which resonates with a perceptive observation by Naomi Wolf on the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. Alluding to Schwab’s peremptory call for a world-transforming ‘Great Reset’ of economies, working conditions, education and ‘social contracts’ in her recent book, The Bodies of Others (2022; p. 16), Wolf remarks: “I remember reading this and thinking, ‘What? Why?’ and also noting the megalomaniacal, dictatorial tone: ‘We must . . .’” 

Her perspicacity does not end there, however. To drive her point home about the true target of the globalists, she paves the way by providing a clear-sighted characterisation of the global elites’ stated intentions for the rest of humanity, as these have emerged during their annual meetings at Davos, Switzerland, including preparations for new ‘pandemics’ and limitless social control, if not outright ‘subjugation’ of people to machines (pp. 17, 22-23). Against this backdrop, Wolf homes in on the clearest sign of Schwab and his cohorts being under the spell of the destructive death drive, alloyed with a kind of sadism – the cruel enjoyment of robbing humans of what makes them human (pp. 175-176):

It was as if the world had been redesigned by Klaus Schwab in promotion of ‘The Great Reset.’ Culture is the great source of strength and fortitude of the human species. But after a year of no worship, no Passover, no Christmas, no school, no Boy Scouts or Girls Scouts, no prom, no Neapolitan chitchat with pizza vendors, no New York chitchat with hot dog vendors, no new openings on Broadway, no galas, no jazz groups improvising, no humans actually meeting unexpectedly, there was nothing to write or sing about, nothing to remember, no history to tell our kids; and the kids hardly even knew there was a world outside their rooms. Culture requires human contact to replicate and develop, and when you isolate humans and don’t educate or socialize kids, then culture dies, to be readily replaced by online or CDC (or CCP) directives.

That it is not a matter of Schwab, Dr Fauci, the American government and the CDC not realising what they were doing with the enforced regulations during the Covid lockdowns, is evident from the former’s declaration, around mid-2020, that one would soon “see a lot of anger” in the world (quoted by Wolf, p. 17). But they have been pressing on regardless – relentlessly, and destructively. If Eros is the power behind burgeoning life, growth, cultural creativity and the formation of new bonds with friends and associates, it is abundantly clear from Wolf’s interpretation of the events spanning the last couple of years that the globalist neo-fascists are hellbent on sadistically undermining this life force in the name of the death drive. 

And in hindsight, Freud’s allusion to the wish for ‘omnipotence’ raising its head where entropic Thanatos prevails, constitutes a sinister augury of what may be in store for the world. With the globalists’ penchant for technology (particularly Artificial Intelligence) in mind – as noted by Wolf (pp. 22-23) – compare Freud’s statement (p. 4511):  

The instinct of destruction, moderated and tamed, and, as it were, inhibited in its aim, must, when it is directed towards objects, provide the ego with the satisfaction of its vital needs and with control over nature. 

Wolf’s literarily articulate, yet passionate, evocation of the gravity of the Thanatic onslaught against the very humanity of people since the beginning of the ‘pandemic’ is not the only instance of a book publication that effectively disabuses the slumberers among us of their ignorance, or worse, misguided beliefs concerning the putative beneficence of the powers that be. There are several others that fall into this category – needless to say, with differing approaches – but one that may be singled out for its comprehensiveness and thorough documentation is Robert Kennedy Jr’s The Real Anthony Fauci – Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health (2021), which I shall comment on briefly in light of Freud’s continuing observations regarding the life and death instincts vis-á-vis civilisation (p. 4512):

In all that follows I adopt the standpoint…that the inclination to aggression is an original, self-subsisting instinctual disposition in man, and I return to my view that it constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization. At one point in the course of this enquiry I was led to the idea that civilization was a special process which mankind undergoes, and I am still under the influence of that idea. I may now add that civilization is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind. Why this has to happen, we do not know; the work of Eros is precisely this. These collections of men are to be libidinally bound to one another. Necessity alone, the advantages of work in common, will not hold them together. But man’s natural aggressive instinct, the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this programme of civilization. This aggressive instinct is the derivative and the main representative of the death instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion with it. 

Evidence that this ‘aggressive instinct’ is at it again in an organised manner is found in Kennedy’s book (pp. 76-105; 105-145) where he goes to extraordinary lengths to provide a thorough account of the relentless efforts of Dr Anthony Fauci and his sidekick, self-styled vaccine ‘expert,’ Bill Gates, after the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 to discredit any early medical treatment of infected, ill patients with ‘repurposed drugs’ like Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. 

This was done, despite both of these drugs having been found to be extremely effective against Covid-19 by the likes of Drs Peter McCullough, Pierre Kory, and Joseph Mercola. Instead, Fauci and Gates chose to go out of their way to promote a “miraculous vaccine” that would supposedly defeat Covid and rescue humanity in early 2020 (p. 157). It is redundant to remind anyone today that, given a growing body of evidence, these “miraculous vaccines” are the exact opposite of a cure for Covid-19, namely a means of committing genocide, or perhaps rather democide, on an unprecedented scale. 

Kennedy (pp. 158-168) lists a number of indicators of malevolent intent on Fauci’s (and Gates’s) part, which are virtually impossible to construe as anything other than his attempt to maximise the (desired) level of mortality among those who, in their foolish trust of the ‘authorities,’ decided to take the jab. These include the question of “leaky vaccines,” of “antibody-dependent enhancement,” refusing to repair the (Voluntary) Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in the United States, persuading social media companies like Google and Facebook, as well as mainstream television networks and newspapers such as CNN and the New York Times, (and even science journals) to censor reports of adverse events, including deaths, that could be linked to the Covid-injections, and directing the CDC to discourage autopsies of people suspected to have succumbed to the ‘vaccines.’ 

It is impossible to do justice to everything that Kennedy covers in the form of evidence – such as the significant metric of “all-cause mortality” – demonstrating the lethal and otherwise injurious consequences, specifically of the Pfizer jab. Suffice to conclude my discussion of Kennedy’s book with a citation that elaborates on increasing evidence that “vaccinated Americans began dying in droves” (p. 172). Kennedy writes (pp. 176-177):

By August 2021, Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and White House officials were reluctantly conceding that vaccination would neither stop illness nor transmission, but nevertheless, they told Americans that the jab would, in any case, protect them against severe forms of the disease or death. (It’s worth mentioning that HCQ and ivermectin could have accomplished this same objective at a tiny fraction of its price.) Dr. Fauci and President Biden, presumably with Dr. Fauci’s prompting, told Americans that 98 percent of serious cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were among the unvaccinated. This was a lie. Real-world data from nations with high COVID jab rates show the complete converse of this narrative; the resumption of infections in all those countries accompanied an explosion of hospitalizations, severe cases and deaths among the vaccinated! [Bold in original; B.O.] Mortalities across the globe, in fact, have tracked Pfizer’s deadly clinical trial results, with the vaccinated dying in higher numbers than the non-vaccinated. These data cemented suspicions that the feared phenomenon of pathogenic priming has arrived, and is now wreaking havoc. 

It should be emphasised, again, that these statements on Kennedy’s part are validated by extraordinarily thorough documentation, for example concerning the rates of infection and mortality in highly ‘vaccinated’ countries, of which he pays particular attention to Gibraltar (p. 174) – the most ‘vaccinated’ nation globally, where the death rate increased 19-fold after everyone was fully jabbed. In the light of all this, it is safe to claim that Freud is right where he avers (p. 4512):

And now, I think, the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of, and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species. And it is this battle of the giants that our nurse-maids try to appease with their lullaby about Heaven.

It should further be apparent that, in the current situation globally, destruction and Death may seem to have the upper hand, but that may be to underestimate the resilience of the human spirit – quite apart from the evidence that people are ‘waking up’ incrementally. As someone who works in the field of complexity, I am acutely aware of the impossibility of predicting with accuracy what humans – probably the most complex creatures alive – will do in the future. Hence, the globalist neo-fascists would be mistaken if they were to start counting their chickens already. No one possesses a criterion to gauge with certainty what its future will be.

To conclude on a Freudian note, it is instructive to note the Austrian sage’s brief observation on Goethe’s Mephistopheles in relation to evil and Eros. “In Goethe’s Mephistopheles we have a quite exceptionally convincing identification of the principle of evil with the destructive instinct…,” Freud writes; “The Devil himself names as his adversary, not what is holy and good, but Nature’s power to create, to multiply life – that is, Eros.” If anyone should perhaps doubt that evil is something real, let them cast a glance at the proliferation of destructive actions surrounding one today; that is where evil flourishes. It is time to reassert the power of Eros.

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  • Bert Olivier

    Bert Olivier works at the Department of Philosophy, University of the Free State. Bert does research in Psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, ecological philosophy and the philosophy of technology, Literature, cinema, architecture and Aesthetics. His current project is 'Understanding the subject in relation to the hegemony of neoliberalism.'

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