The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated.
Fools Day of the lock down
So here we are…day 8 of the lock down, i have just driven past 2 banners hung in windows “Stay Safe” “Stay at Home, Save Lives”…I’m starting to find this mass civil obedience operation very unnerving. Not because i don’t support the potential strain we could cause on the NHS if the worst of the worst might happen but that is its becoming taboo to talk about the effectiveness and challenge some of the facts that are being delivered by the press. These are highly traumatic times, which will wreak considerable damage on the population. Making what we experience meaningful, getting information, daring to ask questions not only an inalienable right but also a vital necessity…this must not lead to a ban on thinking or speaking which has inspired me to write my 2nd blog entry
The former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption, QC, Lord Sumption recently said on BBC Radio 4 World at One (Audio at the bottom of the post) “Anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria,”
Lord Sumption – “The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. ”
I hear reports of my friends being sneered at whilst out on bike rides with their children, probably by people going to a supermarket for the 8th time that day. A whats app group of a local surfing club where a member asked “Whats the thoughts on going surfing” met with the reply “I cant believe you’ve asked that question! STAY AT HOME!!!” and “Shit’s got real don’t be ridiculous!”…Jogging, Cycling, DIY at home all still permitted….think
Hysteria is what we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. These are classic symptoms of collective hysteria. Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.
Jean-Dominique a Medical Anthropologist, from Switzerland – Most of the projections aimed at imagining the number of possible deaths are nothing short of madness. Many rest on an artificial, maximal “forcing” of all values and coefficients. They are established by people who work in offices, in front of computers, and do not have the slightest idea of the real world of field work or of clinical infection, resulting in absurd fictions. We might credit them with being creative and producing science fiction, but unfortunately their projections are literally psychotic – cause massive damage.
We should strictly avoid ready-made expressions such as “schizophrenia” or “psychosis”, which are almost always misused in a way that is derogatory to the people concerned. Medically speaking, psychosis is characterized by cognitive, perceptual and emotional distortions that lead to a loss of contact with reality. Here, unfortunately, the term is fully indicated.
Is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all, like the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister.
What I say to them is I am not a scientist but it is the right and duty of every citizen to look and see what the scientists have said and to analyse it for themselves and to draw common sense conclusions. We are all perfectly capable of doing that and there’s no particular reason why the scientific nature of the problem should mean we have to resign our liberty into the hands of scientists. We all have critical faculties and it’s rather important, in a moment of national panic, that we should maintain them.
But mostly the press has, I think, echoed and indeed amplified the general panic. We can certainly give credit to our leaders for envisaging the worst of the worst of the worst on the basis of these fantasies so as not to take the slightest risk of it happening. In the meantime, we are constructing a (collective) hallucination on the basis of figures that mean nothing. The reality, once again, is that this epidemic is far less problematic and dangerous than what is claimed. It is the lack of an accurate policy that is hazardous.
Jean-Dominique continued “I have said it before, and I will say it again: the same political or journalistic treatment applied to any episode of seasonal flu would terrify us just as much as the current epidemic. Just as the staging (with real-time counts of victims) of any major health problem, be it cardiovascular disease, cancer, or the effects of air pollution, would make us shudder with fright just as much, if not infinitely more!
I have read quite a few ironic comments about the sudden number of amateur virologists or epidemiologists speaking out on social networks, which I can understand. But I think, on the other hand, that the more citizens take an interest in what is happening to us, the more they look for information or even documentation, the better it will help us to engage in a dialogue about what we are experiencing, which is essential both for our individual mental health and our collective resilience”
Till the next time…