When will we have the courage to write the epilogue on Covid-19?
Days go by and the debate does not evolve. We are stucked. After the two first waves, we go straight to the third one and our governements have not been able to learn how to surf. They continue to fear to take the ride, to take any risk but to promote fear, inaction and let the society and the economy be swallowed by it again. Most of the population continues to be held hostage because of a problem that concerns them only indirectly. Covid affects people with co-morbidities in the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths. It is benign for healthy people. We keep being told that the solution to the problem is mass confinement befor mass vaccination and that the Covid issue is a general public health issue. But locking up healthy people to protect those at risk cannot be a sustainable solution, let alone an ethical one. At the expense of intergenerational non-discrimination, the majority of the population is discriminated against in favour of those suffering from co-morbidity. Indeed the current situation raises four problems that corrode the very foundations of our democratic societies.
1. A reversed ethic
We are not equal in the face of death and illness, and to affirm it, represents a real ethical problem and a totalitarian excess. To assert that all lives are equal before death is an aberration, it is a preposterous concept. Safeguarding vulnerable people cannot prejudice the fundamental rights of healthy people, let alone their physical, moral, economic health and social wellbeing. The life of a person who is at its twilight cannot be worth the same of the one of a person who is at its zenith by depriving him/her of liberty and even less of the one of a person who is at its dawn by depriving him/her of education, socialization, leisure, etc. In the United States, the population over 65 years of age represents 16% of the total population and 81% of Covid deaths (based on the numbers indicated on CDC website). In Switzerland, the population over 65 years of age represents 22% of the total population and 95% of Covid deaths (as stated by OFSP daily Covid numbers on their website). In the emerging countries the situation is the same, in Colombia for example, where the population over 60 years old represents 13% of the population, it concentrates 78% of the deaths due to Covid (as stated on the Colombian Health Ministry webpage). Affirming the equality of all in the face of the disease is a reversal of ethics and in particular in the face of the obvious figures of Covid-19. Such equality imposes an idea of a levelling down, which is absolutely against nature and our inevitable decay. Each age has its activities, its rights, its freedoms. To imagine a world where being young and in good health would be an offence to the elderly is absurd. Nevertheless, this idea has become obvious to most of us. In the name of the idea that everyone’s life is equal, we have been sold the idea that the lives of the most vulnerable are worth more than those of healthy people. In the name of non-discrimination we were made to believe that we are all equal in the face of illness and death, we have been imprisoned in fear, deprived of our freedoms, our work, our social life and our leisure activities.
2. The imposition of a mutilating idea of solidarity
From the beginning of the health crisis and when it was quickly discovered that the disease was not serious for a large part of the population, the question of inter-generational solidarity arose and then that inter-generational solidarity arose and then that of solidarity with health workers who were struggling under the overload of work and sometimes stress generated by the duty to choose who was to be treated first. Solidarity is a matter for the collective conscience, but it must come from a voluntary act agreed by all on the basis of a well-established social contract. On the contrary, in the Covid-19 crisis, the executive governments imposed measures contrary to the social contract, which is to maintain living conditions and see them improve for the great majority. Solidarity can become counterproductive if it implies a social, economic and moral sacrifice for the majority. Sharing its success through taxes or social security systems are societal choices, where the cost/benefit ratio is an important factor for both sides. Solidarity must be established on a democratic basis and is irrational if it destroys economic value, it becomes unconstitutional when it involves the flouting of the basic principles of individual freedom. Moreover, lifting the measures that restrict us in our freedoms does not mean a death sentence for the most vulnerable: in Switzerland, for example, only 19% of over 70 year olds who catch the Covid end up in hospital, and only 11% of them die.
Solidarity becomes a sacrifice, when it involves more suffering than the joy it creates: like a war, for example. This is no longer solidarity but masochism. Self-mutilation to save others cannot be a moral obligation, but it shall always remain an individual choice. A majority cannot impose an unnatural sacrifice on a minority, and much less a minority on a majority. This solidarity towards a minority affected by Covid-19 has an exorbitant price for society that nothing justifies in terms of cost. Solidarity is governed by ethics, it must be at most proportional when it is imposed on the majority. In Latin America, what are the 30M people who entered into poverty because of the sanitary measures think about solidarity, and the 15M people who entered extreme poverty? And what about the approximate 150M children that have been deprived of their education for one year. The cost of the measures goes far beyond what is acceptable for a society, especially given its relatively low price.
3. The inversion of democracy
To establish equality between the majority of the population and a group of vulnerable people and above all to impose confinement on all, to prevent them from living their normal life in the name of the latter is the opposite of any idea of democracy: the government of the majority.
Some have welcomed the great return of the Public Authorities, and their oportunity to return in their role of shaping the world, they progessively lost after the fall of the cold war. Some have welcomed the “new normality” and other have painted the poeple claiming the debate as anti-system or right-wing opponent. But if we look at it, we have just fallen in the worst totalitarian state, where the society is ruled by one single obesession, the single idea of saving life at all cost. Fear of decay and death has been the sledgehammer argument which put an end to our freedoms. Democratic debate is stifled by fear.
Imposing a state of emergency an annihilating any form of debate is the worse attack the democracy can receive. Reducing the public good to the health of a minority is absolutely anti-democratic. The proposed policies have been purely reactive, inscribed in the urgency, in the political coup. They have been most often taken with a view to international comparison and without consideration of their true long-term consequences. It remains patently obvious that for most human beings this disease is benign; and in the name of this single truth, the response to Covid-19 by stealing our liberties is an absolute and inadmissible crime of lèse-majesté.
The use of the democratic apparatus to annihilate the freedom of the majority, to reduce their most fundamental rights to nothing is a total attack on the foundation of the social contract, an unacceptable abuse of power. The defence of the vulnerable does not justify the privations endured and their future consequences.
4. The discredit of the experts
Finally, the authorities and their battery of experts seem incapable of defining targeted and proportionate measures, even though the disease has perfectly defined its victims. Suddenly, with Covid-19, doctors were given the floor and the brouhaha of truths and untruths that came out was simply a disgrace. Doctors were propelled to the front of the media stage to speak on our behalf, to take the place of our democratic representatives, to condemn us to imprisonment, to tear us away from our own, to destroy our jobs, our moral and physical health.
With numerous advice of experts, we are told anything and everything, some experts tell us that statistics lie, that the figures do not reflect reality. We have been told that reality is too complicated for ordinary people to understand, the stakes are beyond comprehension, life is a higher good, doctors are overwhelmed, all beds are felt etc. We don’t know anymore if we fight to save lifes, to avoid doing investments in sanitary infrastructures or to train people or to avoid having doctors and nurses overstressed. They say the loss in our life expectancy goes from 6 months to eleven years, depending on the source and the way they calculated it. The discussion about the post-covid effects are also caricatural, we are told about cases but a systematic, comparable study do not seem to exists a year after the pandemia was declared and after 100M cases have been accounted for. We still hear about mass vaccination, about the disappearance of the virus, about collective immunity. Why is this? The disease is there, its different existing and future strains. We know that collective immunity will not be possible because evidence shows, that the individual capacity to fight the disease does not prevent us from having it and spreading it without it affecting us at all. This disease will be with us for centuries to come and we must learn to live with it. Each new strain teaches us this. Then as in the article of The Lancet Public Health of February 18, 2021, we ask what will become of our lives in this new world where the life is sacrificed by the idea of a universal fight for the life of a few.
The worse error as we see it, has been to give to experts the possibility to rule. The credibility of the experts and their contradictory opinions, is lower than ever as the one of the media are providing information without filters, without critical distance or sources inquiry. That the debate exist among experts is certainly a must, but that some of their conclusions have an direct incidence on decisions, leads directly to the current political cacophony and huge amount of absurd decision making. Politicians have to rule for the majority in consideration with reality; they should not be dazzled by the narrow visions of specialists (narrow because of their very nature).
The Covid will be remembered as a mind-boggling story as a story of collective psychosis that the numbers fail to corroborate. Some tragedies are giving depth to the fear of covid, but they are sparse and are common stories of life itself. Of the approx. 280M annual deaths worldwide, what do the 2.6M deaths from Covid represent? Certainly too much but they shouldn’t lead to the psychosis which has prevailed over any idea of proportionality. The governements are defending a single and grotesque idea of life, eternal and which illness and death would never come to tarnish. But in its name, they tarnished a broader idea of life by their foolish measures and for the decades to come.
The working population and children are not seriously affected by the disease, they are the first victims of the measures taken by governments, when they should be the ones whose interests are being preserved. The older population needs to protect itself because it is more vulnerable. They must be protected by younger people in their contact with them or choose isolation for those who fear they will be affected. The initial models of Imperial College and the dictatorial policies of China are not the solutions to the Covid problem or perhaps only on isolated or remote islands like New Zealand. But for how long? Are the hospitals overcrowded? In the state of knowledge of the disease, we know by whom they are. In Switzerland, 78% of the people hospitalized due to Covid are over 60 years old and 59% of them are over 80 years old. And one may wonder if in normal times there is not anyway an over-representation of old and sick people in hospital? We are unequal when it comes to health, it is a sad lesson that our rulers seem to have forgotten, but it has been a fact since life appeared on earth, for every living species, since millions of years. We must remember that life is framed by death. “Memento mori, memento vivere”. We shall not forget that we will die and remember to live. Our governments have turned themselves into the Great Priests of this idea of a Life above all and to be preserved at all cost. They shall remember life ends inevitably by death and let the citizens of the world come back into reality and live happily their lives.
It is time to establish clear rules on how to reduce this overload: vaccinate populations at risk, continue the prevention by targeting the latter and the rest of the population that are in contact with them. It is also time to go back to reason and to deal with things in the right way and with common sense: the most vulnerable must be careful with their health and remain alert to all kinds of threats that put it at risk. The others, the majority, will strive to preserve their good health, as they have always done and to enjoy their life, their freedom of movement, their freedom to work and to travel and to live, their freedom of speech, and their youth. Life is short, joyful, beautiful. It must be lived to the full, whether politicians and their health experts like it or not.