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Journey through an Exposed America

Journey through an Exposed America

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Human societies naturally divide into groups or tribes. Human tribes rely on a shared pride of belonging, and a sense of otherness toward non-members. This provides their members with a cause or meaning, such as jointly building a better life, and a feeling of superiority or victimhood based on comparison with, denigration of, and exclusion of outsiders. A sense of shared superiority or victimhood builds comradeship, which most humans naturally seek.

Superiority, victimhood, and the denigration of others seem intertwined in modern society, and probably always were. They rely on prejudice. Prejudice that ‘our’ side is morally superior to those others, who in turn are best described as stupid and prejudiced themselves against what we hold to be right. Their position in the hierarchy of power does not matter so much as their otherness – they can be our servants or our enslavers, but they are morally inferior. 

We express their moral inferiority in terms like racist, something-phobic, something-denier, anti-something, far-something, or ’extremist.’ The extremist is someone who disagrees with a rational, correct position held by our tribe. It is, of course, hard to see the splinter in your own eye when the logs in those of others seem so blindingly obvious.

Early in the Covid outbreak, it became increasingly apparent that my tribe, a moderate, compassionate grouping somewhat ‘left’-of-center and always ready to proclaim support for human rights and equality, had a problem with fascism. It was not that they disliked fascism, though they proclaimed loudly that they did; rather they seemed disconcertingly comfortable in encompassing it. 

Being wealthy, college-educated, and more progressive than others, they were very clear that marching up and down in jackboots was a bad look. This for them was fascism, and they had seen the black and white newsreels and the raised fists that proved it. But beyond that, it rapidly became clear that they could not actually distinguish fascism from a vase of roses. They saw something commendable in keeping in check those unable to embrace their superior point of view, considering the exclusion of dissenting views a virtue. Best that I explain.

When People Face a Trial

A bunch of wealthy corporate authoritarians, and politicians who had dinners with them, decreed that emergency rule was the preferred form of governance. All my progressive friends fell in line. The ‘greater good’ was a cause worth fighting for, and progressivism meant siding with the corporate masters who were, obviously, working for the same. Freedom was a luxury in a “global pandemic” and only deplorables and the ‘far-right’ believed in “freedumb” now. There was, after all, a global emergency to deal with, and wiser people could see this. 

Becoming an outcast of a tribe is not fun, especially when you are then considered to be allied with an enemy; an enemy inferior in morality and intelligence. It was at first depressing watching fellow admirers of Nelson Mandela now admiring home detention on a governor’s orders.

But refuge can be found among fellow refuseniks; a strange collection of those who, mistakenly or not, put truth over compliance. Unwilling to comply with stupidity for appearance’s sake. People who would not put on a mask to walk 10 feet from restaurant door to a table, because signaling conformity with authority as a virtue in itself (fascism) was not an acceptable life choice. People who asked questions when those sponsored by a drugmaker told them to be injected. These were people who simply believed that each person had a right to make his own decisions concerning their body and health; bodily autonomy that went beyond correcting a misfortune to include suffering for the principle.

The Politics of Keeping the Right People on Top

My experience of this was in King County, Washington State, USA, a center of world progressivism. King County’s population is overwhelmingly descended from European and Asian migrants. It is home to the wealthiest suburb in America, and some of the wealthiest individuals. A relatively small population descended from those forcibly brought to America as slaves is concentrated in its lower-income neighborhoods. The county and city governments compensate for this by further emphasizing morphological differences between people. Frequent references to skin pigmentation, ethnic history, and income-defined community events, providing the more fortunate with an ability to feel, and project, virtue. 

There are reasons for this ethnic-economic divide. The end of US slavery did not include land reparations, but it did include continued discrimination. As a result, a large and readily identifiable segment of the population remains generally poorer. This is reinforced by an education system dependent on local land taxes, ensuring that wealthy kids in Greater Seattle retained far better opportunities than their less-wealthy counterparts. Coupled with the cost of a college education, this system ensures continued disparity, to the advantage of the wealthy (or progressive) class.

Covid-19 brought 2.5 years of emergency powers, with rule by decree, whether legal or not, forcing the closure of small businesses and their replacement by a delivery system benefiting their larger corporate rivals. A move from in-person offices (supporting janitors and food stalls) to work online did the same. Online schooling compounded the advantage of kids with their own screens in their own bedrooms, further reinforcing this advantageous post-slavery inequality. 

While low-income people became even lower-income, King County’s progressive class had a really good pandemic whilst magnanimously reminding the unemployed that “We are all in this together.”

In time, the governor added vaccine mandates to sort the wheat from the chaff. That the descendants of slaves and other low-income people were overrepresented amongst those refusing was apparently lost on the masked warriors engaged in anti-fascist rhetoric or painting rainbows on pedestrian crossings. They didn’t need jackboots. And neither, in reality, did the same progressive class of 90 years earlier. All that is required is a sense of superiority and a greater good.

Both Mussolini and Hitler arose from the left, both were considered progressive, and both had strong support from the health establishment, the wealthy, the Economist, and the New York Times. We need to face this and understand why someone a few thousand years ago wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. Having always considered myself ‘left’ (still do) but thinking fascism stinks, recent years have felt a bit like waking up and finding your village had moved on without you, but you really didn’t want to follow.

Not All Farce is Funny

Fascism is always accompanied by insanity because it requires the negation of truth. So for all its unpleasantness, it can be quite funny watching the lengths to which adherents go once they agree to give up their minds. Try walking the mountain paths high in the Cascades forests and encountering grown masked adults in fresh air, or hiding behind trees in fear of unmasked people. Or watch some heroic defender of society walking down a mountain path poking others with a 4-foot stick to keep them at least 6 feet distanced.

Listen to a father screaming at his children to have “situational awareness” in a playground because unmasked kids were coming too close, or watch council workers dutifully graveling a skate park and cordoning off slides to stop children playing. Then recall that this was orchestrated by people who actually paid their own money for the college education that unraveled their common sense. However, while funny as individual incidents, such stupidity stinks when on a mass scale. And mass child abuse to assuage the insecurities of adults stinks even more.

Migration

After 2 years of living with obvious tyranny and orchestrated impoverishment of the less well-off in the name of the local ultra-wealthy, we left with some regrets for leaving a strong minority standing against the tide that we had the privilege to get to know. We migrated a couple of thousand miles southeast through some of the most spectacular, diverse, and beautiful country on earth seeking a new tribe, to southeast Texas. A long enough drive to understand that, in the midst of this shallow and dismissive era, the beauty of God’s earth is still paramount.

Rural Texas is populated by people that the Progressive folks of the Northwest call rednecks and racists. We found ourselves in a very ethnically diverse town. It does not hold marches calling for inclusivity, plant meaningful billboards in the front lawn yards stating “Science is real,” and “Love is love,” or seek to find differences to divide us. It is tribal, but this seems more connected with the locale, rather than education, money, or skin color. It is also particularly distinguished by a shared desire to ignore those who dictate. This is its most distinguishing feature, and what used to be called “enlightenment.” 

Circuses still have their place rather than orchestrated ‘celebrations of diversity,’ and (fully inclusive) county fairs and rodeos take precedence over pride marches. People express an independent spirit without denigrating others, and delivery drivers actually stop on a doorstep to chat. Most importantly, people seem less willing to live a lie. Time will tell whether this persists when pressure is increased.

Facing a Future

There seems a growing dichotomy between Americans who consider themselves superior and righteous in imposing their views on others and those who accept that all should primarily control their own lives. History tells us that this dichotomy is not new. It also tells us where each direction leads. One positive arising from the Covid mess was to throw this in greater contrast, laying bare how devoid of truth and reason some dominant narratives are.

We have entered a time when the values we once thought fundamental to our societies are widely derided, as are those who hold them. We see this in the media mouthpieces of those who seek power for its own sake. 

The dominant tribe in much of America, and much of the Western world, is a band of supplicants to their cause. They wish to censor, restrict, control, and mandate because they have chosen a path of compliance and resent those who did not. There is nothing new in this, in historic terms, and the response is similarly established. Choosing humanity over rhetoric is the best way to prepare for whatever comes next. 



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Author

  • David Bell

    David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

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