Fear is an opportunity for tyranny

And ’twas ever thus.

One of the many lessons of the COVID-19 response is how easily public official embrace tyranny, and how many people accept it because of fear.

I’m afraid of COVID-19. I’m in a relatively high-risk group, and I’m laying very low. I’ll probably lay low for longer than my state tells me to, but that’s my decision. I didn’t like the initial 2-week shutdown, but I thought I understood the reasons – flatten the curve and keep the health care system from being totally overwhelmed – and I knew it would buy us time to learn more about the illness.

Mission accomplished. It’s been far more than two weeks, and the damage from the shutdown itself has gotten to the point that it becomes crystal clear it needs to be removed. The benefits have been less clear, too. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that shutdowns mattered all that much in the curve of the COVID-19 toll in various states and various countries. We understand more than we did, but although we don’t understand enough, we have to take a few leaps because one thing we do understand (and was clear from the start, actually) is that the shutdown itself is causing tremendous damage. And that damage is not limited to economics; it involves mental and physical health as well.

Almost six weeks ago I wrote this:

So here’s my question for all you epidemiologists and infectious disease experts out there –

Wouldn’t it be better to have only high-risk people stay home? People over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions? That way, if all those at low risk kept mingling, a lot of them would get a mild flu and herd immunity will be achieved fairly quickly, to the benefit of all, without overwhelming the health care system.

I’m not suggesting this as an actual policy right now, but I’m just wondering if my logic is flawed. I suppose the question is how long would it take for it to run its course and achieve sufficient herd immunity, and when would it be safe for us old folks to finally emerge. Also, would there be a lot of deaths among the younger ones in the meantime?

I just don’t see the end game for the current mitigation strategies.

It wasn’t rocket science to question what was happening back then. And that was before the worst of the draconian measures were put in place by governors such as Michigan’s Whitmer, which are not only startlingly strict but seemingly unrelated to any public health goal or logic involving such goals.

What’s going on? People in power like more power, particularly people on the left. Tyrants of all stripes have long used emergency powers to increase their control over the people. Sometimes those emergency powers become semi-permanent or even permanent. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that some governors are trying to stretch it out for as long as possible.

I believe that’s one of the reasons the MSM is trying to stoke fear, and has been doing so from the start. There’s plenty of fear to be had, of course, just from the basic facts of the matter without trying to increase it further. But the MSM is strongly motivated in various ways to do just that: in order to get Trump, to give petty tyrants like Whitmer more reasons to clamp down, and to increase traffic because “if it bleeds it leads.”

The real wild card in all this is how long the people are going to take it. Spring is stirring even in northern climes, and it’s fully flowering further south, and people are ready to burst forth from their own enforced isolation. Some people’s livelihoods depend on it, and a lot people feel their sanity does as well.

And some people are just tired of being told what to do without seeing sufficient reason to obey, when all they’re asking for is the freedom to go about their normal lives – or as near normal as possible, taking precautions to protect the most vulnerable.