1519 Reading the Covid landscape
Words from the Dead: Relevant Readings in the Covid Age
by Sean Arthur (Art) Joyce
Victoria: Ekstasis Editions, 2022
$25.95 / 9781771714587
Reviewed by Christopher A. Shaw
Capturing the “Landscape of the Imagination” in the Age of Covid
No matter where one stands on the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccines, and who’s responsible, the events of the last two and a half years have marked us all for life. At the very least, we’ve all borne witness to the fractures in society that Covid sparked: Marriages destroyed along with family ties, friendships sundered. For many it seems as if trust — the very glue that holds society together — has been seriously damaged.
That’s just the butcher’s bill for adults in the “Age of Covid.” How it will play out in the futures of our children remains to be seen, but the prognosis is not good.
If you are old enough, it’s possible to remember what you were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It’s a little harder to remember the next 10 years in any particular sequence, the Vietnam War rapidly pushing every social illusion to the breaking point, not least the actuality of American civil rights. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy simply adding more soundtrack to the demise of the American dream. Thirty years later, we got blindsided by another turning point in modern history: the fall of the twin towers on 9-11. Twenty years after that, we are beset yet again, this time, we are told, by an invisible enemy.
Can the long-term impact on American society and the world be measured by knowing the ballistics of the rifle used to slaughter Kennedy? Can we really comprehend the disaster that befell Iraq and Syria solely by calculating the temperature of burning jet fuel on “I” beams? The clear answer is “no”, such things only tell us how something was done, not why. Nor can we really put such events into perspective until they are comfortably in our past. If the full impacts of the JFK assassination and 9-11 on society still elude our grasp, how much more so do the events leading to the onset of Covid-19 and the aftermath bewilder us?
The answer is that a simple accounting of facts and figures alone will not do it, no matter how comprehensive. Indeed, the only way is through knowing history, by understanding the societal interactions that make up our daily lives, and by accepting that society both shapes and, in return, is shaped by events that we participate in. In other words, to understand Covid-19, one has to look to at how our art, literature and culture, have changed. It is not enough — it never was — to try to navigate our future path with mere scatterplots and statistics. What we need, and have always needed, is a way to pierce through the fear and mental fog that Covid has engendered.
This is precisely what poet and former journalist Sean Arthur Joyce has accomplished here with his collection of essays, Words from the Dead, Relevant Readings in the Covid Age. Sixteen essays, including a preface and an afterword, have exposed the pandemic from a host of levels, first and foremost, history. What forces were at play in past epidemics and how did people and their governments respond? Can we understand our current apprehension of social collapse in context to the to Brave New World or 1984? Indeed, we can, and in his analysis Joyce demonstrates what a lot of us have intuited from the beginning of Covid: It’s less about an actual health threat than part of an age-old struggle for human freedom over “faceless technology.” As Joyce writes, “The Covid “pandemic” is as much a moral as a health crisis.” (p. 61, footnote).
To arrive at this conclusion, Joyce had to look at the dystopian literature of the mid 20th Century, but also cast back further in time to the never-ending question about how we should be governed. In so doing, Joyce considered the thoughts of Socrates and Plato, Hegel and Mill on freedom. He also takes us into popular culture using the themes drawn from the 1960s television series The Prisoner and Star Trek with the Borg to illustrate just how tenuous human freedom often is.
For Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, the battle was against an authoritarian State and the State’s insatiable need to suppress human freedom. Joyce, and many others, find the same today with the Covid-19 narrative: What’s been presented as a series of measures for the health of all, has become a mad scramble by governments of all stripes to consolidate greater power. Whether Covid-19 was the health apocalypse or not, it would be difficult to imagine that anyone, on any side of this, could fail to see that something more complex may be involved. The massive upwards transfer of wealth and the widespread restrictions on ostensibly free people should serve as clues to the presence of forces beyond a virus at play.
Joyce writes about many State measures being outside of law –and indeed they are-, but isn’t this precisely the nature of any government in assuming more power than it was delegated through application of a “State of Exception?” And with Covid, we have an endless state of exception. (footnote: State of Exception, Giorgio Agamben). Or, as Joyce points out, this is what happens when the narrative of a “dominant minority” controlling the levers of power begins to collapse. Joyce calls it “soft fascism”, as apt a descriptor of Canada and much of the world in 2022 as one is likely to find.
The actual initial health dimensions of the pandemic and response are slowly coming into focus. The impacts have not only included those who were made ill or died from to the virus, but also those who suffered adverse effects or died from the various fast-tracked Covid-19 vaccines. The latter deaths are typically denied as vaccine-related by much of the mainstream medical community and most of the media as coincidences. After all, to cite the endless pronouncements, all Covid vaccines are “safe and effective” for all people under virtually all circumstances. The “science is settled” to use a threadbare phrase often proclaimed by public health officers.
Would that either statement were true.
In reality, the vaccines are largely unable to protect those vaccinated from catching Covid-19 or its variants or, perhaps worse, from transmitting it to others. Nor, as the emerging scientific literature amply demonstrates, are these experimental vaccines safe for all people. Combined with the rapid levels of secondary failure and the clear examples of fraud by the key companies involved, much of the official narrative is in shambles.
All of the above should matter if we were simply debating the issues of Covid-19 morbidity and lethality, the potential and actual negative impacts of the vaccines, and the control measures instituted by various health agencies and health officers such as BC’s own Dr Bonnie Henry.
The reality is that we are not having this discussion, for the most part because those who proclaim the official narrative simply refuse to have it. Rather than putting up their own actual data against those who disagree, it is far easier to castigate dissident scientists and physicians as “anti-vaxxers” or “pseudo scientists” who peddle “disinformation”, techniques that largely have been successful with much of the population. Why, for example, debate anti-vaxxers when all that will be accomplished is to confuse the laity and possibly kill someone’s grandma? The science is settled, the vaccines are safe and effective, but take your booster shots anyway, the latter as clear an aporia as one could possibly imagine.
The battle, for that is what it is, has been defined by Canada’s prime minister as one in which “science” (or his version of it) must prevail against the forces of ignorance, outright racism and the misogyny of a “fringe minority.”
Against such election-style rhetoric and the frankly sloppy “science” promoted by Justin Trudeau, most appeals to reason and re-evaluation are simply lost in the drumbeat of calls to believe, conform, and obey. Much of the public, in Canada and in mostly western societies, is simply not interested in any alternative to the mainstream view. In part, that’s what advertising is for: endless repetitions of simple messages. Combine those with a campaign of fear and the result is pre-ordained: A population that complies without asking too many embarrassing questions.
In such circumstances, rigorous science and medical enquiry has no chance to change opinions in those already lost in what Belgian clinical psychologist Dr Mattias Desmet has termed “mass psychosis formation.”
According to Desmet, society has largely defaulted into three separate positions: First, those who believe and will vociferously defend the official narrative. Then there are those who reject it in part or in whole. Finally, there are a large number in the middle who went along with official pronouncements and orders for most of the pandemic because the powers that be had made good on their promises to make life miserable for the unvaxxed. It is the middle fraction who now face apparently endless Covid-19 “boosters” and the likely loss of the privileges they thought they had purchased by getting jabbed in the first place.
Were the years of Covid simply the result of accidents and mistakes that “were made”, never, of course, actually accusing the guilty? Or was there a larger agenda at play, one in which once again human freedom has become the target of those who seek greater power?
The latter is the case and the battle we are in is not a simple one based on dominant weapons systems, but rather what writer Julius Ruechel has termed, “a battle for the landscape of the imagination.” The most powerful force at present is that of the World Economic Forum and its octogenarian director, Dr Klaus Schwab. In brief, Schwab and his supporters contemplate a 4th Reich controlled from the top by a fraction of the one percent. This new elite will lead the world to a future run for the benefit of the very same ubermensch who fly into Davos every year to discuss ways to further their control. “Build back better” has been their slogan, and the Covid-19 pandemic the way to achieve it. Against this goal are those who still believe in a world based on small ‘l’ democratic principles in which the power of the State cannot be used to enforce any agenda against its own people and take away their sovereign rights in the process.
In Words from the Dead, Joyce has chosen to fight the battle for humanity’s soul using the tools of the poet and investigative journalist. It’s not that Joyce does not know the actual science — he clearly does — but the actual versus imagined science is not the issue, rather all the things that contribute to human culture and the question that has been with humans as long as they have been human: How do we want to live, how do we want to be governed?
One could probably use Desmet’s “mass formation” categorization to predict how readers will react to Joyce’s essays: Those who drank the Kool Aid and begged for more lockdowns and mandates, will be the those who will feel most threatened by Joyce’s work and hence most likely to dismiss it out of hand. Those on the other end of the spectrum who already share much of Joyce’s worldview about Covid and the WEF should welcome the book. The crucial audience, however, will be the grouping in the middle, that is, those who trusted governments of all types to tell them the truth and went along out of a sincere desire to “do the right thing”, little dreaming that doing so uncritically would condemn them and their fellow citizens to dwell in Klaus Schwab’s dystopian nightmare.
Rebutting the scientific nonsense coming from the mainstream media and medical establishment has not been enough to move those in the middle to a more rational appreciation of all that has transpired. Nor does it really address the future misery still to be imposed if Schwab et al. have their way. Rather, the hinge to moving people to fight for freedom perhaps lies in asking people to decide how they want to live. The choice between those two futures is what hangs in the balance.
It has been Joyce’s contribution to bring this choice into focus in the battles that lie before us. And it will be this same question that will be relevant in the future if we hope to see our children and grandchildren live as free human beings.
Christopher A. Shaw is a Canadian neuroscientist whose research focuses on Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) using several models of the disease to explore the possible environmental or genetic triggers of the disease, the various stages in disease development and emerging treatment options. A second main theme, related to the first, is to examine the role of aluminum in various neurological diseases, including autism spectrum disorder. Chris did his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, a M.Sc. in Medical Physiology at the Hebrew University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at the same institution. He is the author of over 150 peer-reviewed articles, numerous book chapters and edited books, and has authored two books on neurological diseases and one on vaccine controversies. Chris is the father of 5 children ranging in age from 2 to 31. He lives in Cowichan Bay , British Columbia.
The British Columbia Review
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
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