July 12, 2020
It's been over four months since Pennsylvania first launched a disaster emergency and mitigation efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19. While these efforts were launched in the spirit of protecting public health and safety, the long-term results will be anything but. In the name of caring for others, some have fully bought into a regimen which is destructive to human well-being.
How did we get here? First, let's review the early prediction which initially sounded the worldwide alarm. The study which hyped the COVID-19 danger was authored by Neil Ferguson, of the Imperial College of London. It predicted deaths in the millions. Politicians and the media ran with it. But Ferguson himself later walked back his own predictions by a whopping 96 percent. In other words, he overestimated the danger by 2500 percent.
Ferguson no longer advises government, as his personal choice to go against social distancing put him at odds with his government's hardline policy, which was based on his initial overstated threat of COVID-19. It is natural for scientists to revise early findings. That's how science works. But for politicians to do so is unnatural, especially when those politicians have discovered a new avenue of sweeping power and control. That's how political science works.
Next let's examine social distancing, which is merely a benign sounding euphemism for social isolation. The mental math you're doing every time you're measuring how many feet exist between you and another human being takes a toll on your psychological well-being, as it reinforces a notion of being in a constant state of danger. One cannot adequately function as a human being if one's guard is always up.
Anyone who knows anything about addiction can tell you how social isolation contributes to such dysfunction. Those who don't only need to learn about the work of Dr. Bruce Alexander and his "rat park" experiments.
Interviews with captives during the Iran hostage crisis and former POWs further highlight the devastating psychological impacts of social isolation. Sen. John McCain was physically brutalized during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, but of the social isolation he experienced during the same captivity he said in his book Ovecoming Adversity, "It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment."
Human beings thrive on being close to one another and touching one another, but social distancing has even effectively banished the age-old custom of handshaking as a customary greeting, which is said to have originated to alleviate suspicion among ancient Greeks and to encourage an egalitarian attitude by American Quakers.
Now let's consider the psychological impacts of universal masking. Our human interactions are differentiated from that of animals by our extraordinary use of verbal communication. However, words alone are not the whole of communication. Cues taken from facial expression are a key component of communication, as is tone of voice. Anyone who notices the differences in communicating in person versus communicating via text message can attest to this. By donning masks and concealing facial expressions, communication suffers and we push each other even further into isolation.
For those cursed with hearing problems such as tinnitus, the muffled words uttered by others behind a mask only further degrades the ability to communicate with fellow human beings. According to the American Tinnitus Association and the CDC, some 50 million Americans suffer from some type of tinnitus.
So far I've been discussing this in terms of detrimental effects in interactions between adults, but with recent chatter about how these mitigation efforts may be employed in our schools, we need to discuss how social distancing and universal masking will impact children.
I shutter at the thought of children having to participate in these dehumanizing efforts during their formative years. I started thinking about this after a mother of a very young child relayed how unsettled her youngster became after masks began to be used regularly and her son could no longer read the facial expressions of others.
Children are not among the high-risk demographics for COVID-19. Certainly, there is the possibility of a child potentially carrying the virus home and spreading it to a more at-risk demographic, but is that alone reason enough to employ social distancing and universal masking, with all their detrimental psychological impacts, among children in their formative years in a school setting? While the concern seems to be over the immediate threat of a virus, we as a society need to consider what long-term psychological impacts this will have on children.
And practically speaking, how on earth does anyone think this will work? How many children will actually wear a mask properly, not fiddle with it constantly, and not inadvertently touch their face while doing so? Does your school even have enough room to perpetually maintain six feet of distance between each student? What happens when the first child tests positive for COVID-19? Will the entire class, including the teacher, be quarantined? What about the busses? Who's going to pay for the extensive disinfection which will surely be demanded after a single child in a large school tests positive?
My own experience with being contact traced and self-quarantining, despite my personal opinion that I was never in any danger, led to a witch hunt and misplaced popular outrage. We followed and exceeded all the CDC and Department of Health guidelines and recommendations, yet we were still pilloried. I am still called a liar, and presumed to have knowingly spread COVID-19 to my colleagues in Harrisburg, even though I was not the person who tested positive. I cannot imagine how that effect will be multiplied when parents learn that COVID-19 has been discovered in their child's school.
I am even more disturbed when I see parents and others discussing how they might "condition" their children to accept being masked and abiding by these new "rules" of human engagement. To cover a child's mouth and nose, to employ stuffed animals to normalize it, and to suggest using gum or candy to mollify a more difficult child just strike me as creepy and wrong. To generally instill the notion in children that human contact is dangerous strikes me as psychologically damaging to their maturation.
I recently tweeted a meme which generated a bit of outrage. I tweeted it intentionally to someone who already dislikes me because I knew he would distribute it to try to get others to dislike me. But here's the thing – by distributing it he served exactly the purpose I wanted him to serve. A lot more people have seen the meme. Despite all the vile and vicious comments I'm receiving regarding that meme, I know most parents who've seen it are now privately considering its proposition and weighing it against their parental instincts and loyalties to the political figures pushing these edicts. Thanks dude - at least you were useful for something. I think.
In a world already heavily divided by politics, and now by racial division as well, the last things we need are mitigation efforts which serve to diminish our abilities to communicate and interact as normal human beings. This is especially true when those mitigation efforts were predicated on extremely overstated COVID-19 predictions to begin with.
To subject or condition children to these mitigation efforts during their formative years is doubly cruel and inhumane. We may not see the negative impacts immediately, but we will certainly witness them in the future. One only needs to look to social media to see how cruel and inhumane some adults have already become.
My objections to these efforts and edicts are not political. I just know they are wrong and will be more detrimental to our society than any virus could be. I can feel it in my gut.