Friday, 31 December 2021

2021: Things predictably got stupider

Back in March 2020 I said publicly that unprecedented and totally unproven NPIs such as lockdowns would cause more harm than they saved. I was immediately shouted down by self-righteous “friends” saying that I was arguing for “the economy rather than lives”.

However, as anybody with any knowledge of economics will tell you, physical and economic wellbeing are pretty intertwined. And the Legatum Institute last week announced that nearly one million people in the UK have been plunged into poverty because of government restrictions.

Note: because of government restrictions. Not “because of COVID”. No. Because of government restrictions. (Currently being rebranded not as “restrictions” but “protections”! Orwell would have had so much to say about the last two years…)

I think my prediction from March 2020 has been vindicated.

I also have said throughout that I believed this manufactured “crisis” would last for at least two years. When I said that in 2020, even the most pro-restriction people would scoff and say I was being pessimistic. Again, my prediction about that has been proved correct. And unfortunately, despite finally some pushback against the mad scientists of doom, I think most of the restrictions that have become part of our “new normal” will be here for years to come. (See: all the pointless security theatre that was brought in after 9/11 etc. It’s all still here, and as pointless and theatrical as ever.)

I have thus far managed to avoid poverty, but I did lose my business. Partly directly because of government restrictions, but I’m not na├»ve enough to think that taking a public stand against those restrictions didn’t sour me in the eyes of many people: we now live in a world where to have a rational and functioning scepticism is to be seen as some kind of monstrous, selfish, neo-Nazi, anti-vaxxer, conspiracy theorist.

As strange as it might seem, I don’t identify as any of those things. I am unwilling to blindly follow a herd mentality however, even when it is being forced on people as the sole morally virtuous path to follow.

One of those self-righteous friends shaming me in March 2020 for allegedly caring more about the economy than lives was a doctor. Her husband is a nursing lecturer. (Now doing his PhD: art therapy for treating COVID19 trauma in healthcare workers. Yes, we now have colouring in PhDs. The brilliance of a British education.) He said I should listen to the wise sage Neil Ferguson and his entirely sensible predictions. Me, having experience in data analysis while working for a $10 billion US hedge fund, preferred to not accept the pronouncements of Neil Ferguson at face value, not least because he has never been right about anything in his career.

Neil Ferguson recently predicted up to 6,000 deaths a day in the UK from omicron. He made similarly ridiculous pronouncements in late 2020. The media lapped it up then, and they lapped it up this time, entirely uncritically: without the media we would have had no pandemic. The disconnect between propaganda and reality has been reaching astonishing levels in recent days. As others have pointed out, the harm that has been done to the reputation of science is going to take a long time to shake off. Too many scientists have been crying wolf for far too long now, and no doubt a lot of people don’t believe a word any of them say anymore.

I am also utterly sick of “protecting the NHS”. I am not religious, and the NHS is not my cult. The NHS has had winter crises for at least the last decade. Whether or not this is due to being historically underfunded is irrelevant at this point: in the last two years the NHS has had money thrown at it, and yet apparently still can’t cope. Therefore one can only conclude that it is unfit for purpose. Possibly due to people like my old friend, who instead of teaching nurses how to nurse is busy doing his on-message colouring in PhD in order to further his own career and salary: expect to hear him at some point on Radio 4, talking reverently about his traumatised colleagues who he is planning to treat with his colouring in books. Or perhaps it is due to incompetent and overpaid management, such as the chief exec who clearly does not have any hesitation about blatantly lying to the public? (This is not to be taken as a criticism generally of NHS staff: like everywhere, you will find the brilliant, the awful, and the large middle of plain old average.)

Hero worship is always a dangerous thing. Perhaps it is time for people to remember that the NHS is there to protect people’s health, rather than for society to sacrifice itself entirely in order to stop the NHS’s wheels from falling off. Instead, a new “Our NHS” cult has formed, and it has hypochondria and obsessive compulsive disorder as desirable traits in its acolytes.

Another word that has been used as some kind of insult to those who are sceptical is “libertarian”. Well, for those too stupid to realise, the opposite of libertarian is authoritarian. And while the extremes of anything can be dangerous, I know which side of the libertarian/authoritarian fulcrum I want to be sitting on.

The world has changed unrecognisably from 2019. Authoritarianism of a very severe form has sprung up in large parts of what we used to consider “Western liberal democracies”, with seemingly widespread popular support. This spring we are seeing the first countries start implementing universal mandatory vaccination – those who do not comply will face punitive fines and potentially jail time. There is no medical justification for such actions (let’s not mention the growing pile of studies showing the superiority of natural immunity, eh?). The political landscape has changed. I think it could be decades before we return to our senses.

Even in the UK where such measures are (for now) not being implemented, there seems to be widespread public support for similar policies, including denying NHS care to those who choose not to be vaccinated. This sickeningly divisive rhetoric is not only morally repugnant, but totally illogical (and quite a political u-turn for those who consider themselves to be progressive). To be clear, I don’t think anybody should be arbitrarily denied access to NHS services, but if some people believe that those who are unvaccinated are “irresponsible” and uncaring for their health, then those same people should also be calling for anybody who is overweight, or smokes, or drinks to be barred from NHS services. According to the data, that would mean the NHS is only obligated to serve less than a quarter of the UK population. That might relieve some pressure on it, no?

I am quite happy with my health and fitness currently (touch wood). I get daily exercise, I eat a good diet, I have never smoked, never used illegal drugs, and I rarely drink alcohol. Why should people like me subsidise the poor health choices of others who do not make the same choices as me?

I don’t think like that. I have more compassion than that, and a moral compass.

And the ability to still think rationally – something that has seemingly vanished from most people, even those I previously considered intelligent.

Little good any of that has done me.

As I said, my business has been shredded, and quite honestly my personal life is much the same: many people who I used to consider friends somehow decided in the last two years that I had overnight become a morally abhorrent monster and they had to distance themselves from me in order to maintain their own moral standing – and to those who weren’t that stupid, then I’m not really the same person I was two years ago, having had the world kick me down continuously. There isn’t much left for anybody to identify as “me” anymore.

What is not shown in these photos are the dozens of places I have visited during 2020 that are economically on their knees. Towns and cities that are falling apart. And if the places are falling apart, I guarantee that the people are falling apart too.

The world has fallen.

I am sure it still has further to fall, as we head into the third year of our cowardly brave new world.

“Three weeks to flatten the curve.”

(See my post from 2020 here.)