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Fear & Parasitic Stress

A question arises from my Public Health Doctor perspective:

“What do Fear, Vaccine-Hysteria and the War on Drugs, have in Common?” 

And the answer is “Stress.” 

Yes, that’s right … Stress.

Parasitic Stress to be exact… 

For those unfamiliar with the term — it relates to the correlation between countries which are afflicted by society-wide fear, over a parasite or a pathogen, and the way their politics shifts towards a more authoritarian model of politics. 

Put simply, the population begins to yearn for a strong authority to allay their fears and make them feel safe. And there is a definite correlation- which appears to be stronger in larger societies than smaller tight-knit societies. Here is an analysis comparing and contrasting two separate studies exploring the relationship between parasite stress and authoritarianism. 

Of particular interest is this line from the discussion section: ‘If indeed parasite stress has unique causal implications for authoritarian governance, then disease-eradication programs may not only have direct consequences for human health, they may also have indirect consequences for individual rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms. (Thornhill and colleagues [7] noted that the democratic transitions in North America and Europe were preceded by dramatic reductions in the prevalence of infectious disease.)’

Most of us are familiar with the case for increased authoritarianism during the pandemic. We’ve witnessed it. We’ve all seen various countries around the world try to use government force and coercion to try and compel citizens to get vaccinated by varying degrees- ranging from discriminatory and unfair legislation governing employees to government mandates and passports meant to curtail any form of social life, and with some countries even going so far as to set-up internment camps, such as Australia. 

In many countries, unvaccinated citizens have become virtual lock-ins, unable to leave their house under any circumstances other than for very specific purposes.The real tragedy of this situation is that although vaccines have proven extraordinarily effective at reducing personal risks from Covid, with some sources citing a reduced risk of death or hospitalization from Covid by a factor of ten — since the arrival of the Delta variant, the vaccines have proven to be really quite ineffective at limiting the spread of the virus. 

Recently, the World Health Organisation issued an advisory stating that with the advent of the Delta mutation — Covid vaccinations only reduced the chances of catching or spreading Covid by around 40%. The fear was that vaccinations had lulled people into a false sense of security, and that the vulnerable in particular should continue to exercise caution in their daily routines. 

Meanwhile, a recent study in the UK concluded that if someone in a household contracts Delta, their housemates have a 25% of contracting Covid if double vaccinated, which rises to 38% if unvaccinated. For anyone familiar with network theory, this shows that whilst vaccines may be great at protecting oneself personally, they will at best prevent infection in a small minority of cases and in all probability only slow the rate of spread in any region, until the virus exhausts its currently available “food supply.” 

But what does all this have to do with the War on Drugs? 

Well, it’s all about the societally induced fear, which both of these crises instilled. Because, the prevailing corporate media ecosystem which thrives on panic-porn and lives off stoking fear – back then, same as now – and in particular the way it incentivizes politicians to appear strong and indomitable in the face of the crisis – in other words, increasingly leaning towards authoritarianism, fascism and despotism. 

Of course, many of you will be too young to remember the eighties and nineties — but it is fair to say that increasingly, and as time progressed, anyone who didn’t have a ‘Tough on Crime’ message was committing political career suicide. 

Many young people simply don’t understand, nor remember the nightly perp-walks of young Black and Latino men being frogmarched into a Police Station. The ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ mentality which was particular prevalent in the visual medium – with nightly news similarly cutting to camera shots of police lights and ambulances at night gathered at the site of a shooting, with hefty bonuses conferred to anyone who get a shot of an injured man or woman on a gurney, rolled into the back of an ambulance.

Even the previous Civil Rights leaders of beleaguered communities adopted the mantra of ‘Tough on Crime’- a position which many have now come to deeply regret. And, of course, the culmination of this particular period in media terms was Hillary Clinton’s famous speech on Super Predators: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/j0uCrA7ePno?start=2s&rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0 

Were there Super Predators? 
Of course.

In any population there will be the psychopaths, or Dark Triad types, and they will be drawn to violence and mayhem like moths to the flame. But it is equally certain that huge numbers of poor young Black and Latino teenagers, who were in many ways simply going the period of youthful rebellion and vandalous aggression which is common to many, had this label unfairly applied to them. 

It ruined lives unnecessarily- sending many young men prematurely into the carceral state, and probably making many of them more dangerous in the long-run- through the corrosive influence of prison societies. For a large proportion, the shock, sharp shock of a little Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion paired with community resourcing would have been infinitely more appropriate and substantially less extravagant with the taxpayers money, in terms of court and prison costs. It worked wonders in Scotland – where the troubled youth in question was 99% ethnically white, and the issue of race didn’t stand like a forty foot wall across the divide of political competition. 

Such emotive banners as Race, inevitably kill off the cool emotionally detached problem-solving required to empirically solve such thorny problems- this emotional detachment was singularly absent in America at the time, just as media hysteria has forced both sides of the political spectrum to make emotionally motivated unforced errors.Back then, we didn’t even know that violence was a social contagion. 

It was only the seminal work of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin who had studied epidemics in Africa, who recognised the startling comparisons between disease outbreaks and the way in which violence at the city level can spread from area to area within a city, transforming previously safe communities into neighbourhoods where people fear to walk the streets at night. 

His work was pivotal to Scotland’s Public Health approach- which saw community resourcing paired with proactive policing, making the police officer an agent of transformative early interventional change, where previously punitive deterrence was the only option. It worked. Murder rates in Glasgow fell by 60%. Scotland went from being one of the most violent countries in Europe to one of the least.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/CZNrOzgNWf4?start=1s&rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0 

And we didn’t even know that parasite stress was the key factor in this period of American decision until very recently. And because I’ve only realized it recently — I’m telling you right now. The resemblance is striking — just how easily we can be gulled into surrendering liberty. But the truly awful thing is that it is never our own liberty that we want to surrender, but rather the liberty of others — a searing indictment of the safe, complacent and comfortable, when they are confronted by fear.

The media stand as the true culprits in this charade of the morally bankrupt. They are the ones who are the marionette puppeteers, pulling our strings like accomplished masters, cynically playing to our worst fears, anxieties and inevitable anger at those who seem so recalcitrant that we can’t even be bothered to try to understand them or walk a mile in their shoes. God Damn them! They’ve inflicted unspeakable damage and suffering upon our countries for far too long, creating fault lines down the middle of families, destroying friendships and dividing great nations. Most ordinary folks are decent and forgiving of those with whom they happen to disagree — but release what is perceived to be existential threat into the water, and things can quickly turn ugly. 

The fact that the media are themselves victims of their own propaganda is no excuse. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the vaccines have saved lives in huge numbers and reduce individual risk increasingly for anyone over a certain age, they simply couldn’t abandon the notion that with the arrival of the Delta mutation — all vaccines have become largely ineffective at protecting them from catching the virus. Such was the state of terror into which they had worked themselves.

You see, when one cedes oneself to the illusion of incremental and overstated safety, whether the authoritarian comes in the form of a strongman or in the collectivist faith in institutions, it becomes all but impossible to pry oneself away from the blanket which affords oneself comfort. It may only be an illusion of safety in both of the two cases I’ve highlighted — a tiny incremental level of reduced risk in statistical terms (provided in the latter case that they themselves have been vaccinated). 

Even the supposedly smart people who man and run the media cannot allow themselves to abandon their anchor biases because it would mean abandoning the illusion of safety they have come to rely upon. The increased risk may be tiny but the fear is not, because during periods of fear and hysteria, they sacrifice the liberty of others on the altar of superstition — like a phantasm or a spectre from our primitive past. 

Yours,

Dr Churchill 

PS: 

In such ways liberty dies, as does so much of what we have long held dear and cherished in the West. 

All it takes is fear and anger at one another, and we let the petty authoritarian within us reign supreme, and then in quick succession — we dissolve our Western liberal Democracies into the awfulness of fascist states with intolerable leaders and few if any civil liberties remaining. 

Next comes the real terror …

The terror of concentration camps and death squads.

But that best be left unsaid lest we provoke the evil doers to hurry up and get us all done in.

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