Depending on the state, this month marked the anniversary of the 15-day shelter-in-place mandates and the closing of all non-essential businesses that various governors enacted last year to slow the spread of the novel Corona virus. While some states like South Dakota never shut down or Florida which only partially did, that 15 days turned into anywhere from six weeks (such is in my home state of Minnesota) to a seemingly endless mandate for people to watch the world around them waste away, and which only recently have those mandates been eased up.
During that period, we were somewhat able to experience what many a prepper has warned us about, as well as to put to the test the Joker’s words in The Dark Knight about whether society’s morals were a “bad joke” that would be “dropped at the first sign of trouble.” Well, the results were certainly a mixed bag, as we saw the best and worst come out in people as they struggled to adapt to a situation that very few of us had ever experienced. We saw how people (especially a lot of young people) took time away from playing video games to help the needy, the homebound, and the vulnerable get the things they needed. We saw neighbors look out for each other and keep in touch with them over the internet to alleviate the isolation and loneliness. And we even saw a lot of families, whose frenetic and exhausting lives came to a virtual standstill, finally spend more time with each other at a more leisurely pace.
On the flip side, we also saw a lot of greed, opportunism, and other forms of dysfunction as people panicked or let their anxieties get the best of them as we witnessed the "bucket of crabs" syndrome played out in real life. We observed people hoarding or price gouging essential items and outright stealing from one another, but worst of all were the mad-maskers and Covid vigilantes who harassed, shamed, and snitched on their neighbors for any and all infractions of the “rules” or any other glimmer of independence which they perceived as putting other’s (by which they meant themselves) lives in danger.
The most bitter part of the “bad joke” though was the handling of the pandemic by the political class, both at the local and federal level. To be fair, because the virus and the pandemic it created were both “novel” for our generation, and because China had been less than forthcoming about what they knew about it, there was not a lot of solid data a year ago to make any well-informed and workable plans. However, as time went on and more information and experience became available on how to effectively deal with the virus, the pandemic, just like everything else in our culture, became politicized. Trump Derangement Syndrome gave way to Truth Discrimination Syndrome, as our elected officials became ossified in their policies and unabashedly gaslit and censored anyone who mentioned or posted any information that ran counter to or interfered with the narrative they were using to justify their power grab.
Nevertheless, despite the new administration’s desire to squeeze every last ounce of power out of the pandemic, so they can finish Obama’s failed attempt to “fundamentally change America,” the pandemic is essentially over. As Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins University has stated that through a combination of vaccinations and pre-existing immunities in the populace, we should reach herd immunity by late April. And, as for the fear of the variants or other strains drummed up by the media, researcher and CEO of Sound Choice Pharmaceuticals Institute Dr. Theresa Deisher has astutely pointed out that while it is true that as a virus burns through a population it become more transmissible, it is also true that it becomes less lethal.
Thus, we have reached a point were we can comfortably look back over the last year, and examine some of the lessons we might’ve learned during the Covid pandemic and how, as Christians, we ought to proceed in a post-pandemic world. And while there are certainly more insights than I have space to describe here, they all seem to follow the same pattern best described by science fiction author Jeremey Pournelle as his Iron Law of Bureaucracy. His law states that “in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself” but that in all cases “the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.” As you will see, this “law” above all else, was at the root of virtually all of the political machinations of the past year.
1. Put Not Your Trust in Politicians...
Although falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, the quote that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have” proved to be true as we watched political leaders at all levels use fear and force to push the limits of Constitutionality and traditional American sensibilities on freedom to control the pandemic. Thus we read about everything from local police ridiculously enforcing petty rules against a lone paddle boarder who was fined for being on an empty beach in California, to politicians like Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi and other Nob-Hill-type Nabobs breaking the very lockdown policies they demanded we follow.
However, as Dr. William M. Briggs demonstrated in his book The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe, as time went on, both the accumulated data and just common sense proved how colossally wrong the infection models were, how the evidence didn’t always support what we were being told to do, and thus how arbitrary all of the one-size-fits-all solutions being pushed were. Meanwhile, they ignored or downplayed all of the data that proved that the lockdowns were a cure worse than the disease, as domestic abuse, suicides, depression, substance abuse, and other maladies brought on by the isolation went through the roof over the last year. To say nothing of how indifferent some of our politicians could be in the face of all the economic hardships endured by those who lost their jobs or businesses, and received little or none of the promised financial support from the government. It would be too naïve to simply say we should stop voting for these people, but realistically we should stop seeing them as the first people we turn to in a crisis situation. Yes, leadership is important, but we need leaders who are beholden to the Constitution, Natural Law, and the common good, not Pournelle’s Law
2. ...Or their “Expert” Advisors.
If the last year taught us anything, it’s that in our monetized and click-bait social media news cycles, “experts” are as plentiful as sand on the beach. Moreover, having a degree or a professional title does not magically prevent these experts from having prejudices or pre-existing first principles that shape their opinions. This is why we saw the Dunning-Kruger Effect played out over and over again, as epidemiologists and other virus experts rolled with the ebb and flow of the news cycle and either flipped-flopped in their pronouncements or weighed in on areas outside their expertise.
No other person exemplified this reality more than Dr. Anthony Fauci, as he dithered on masks, his vagueness on social distancing, school openings, the effectiveness of vaccines, or how long we would have to endure this pandemic. It often seemed that he was making things up as he went along based on the polls he read, but more likely he just said whatever he needed to say to kept him in the good graces of those who allowed him to get on the cover of magazines, throw the first pitch at a baseball game, or to visit the North Pole to vaccinate Santa.
Somehow it never dawned on people that maybe, just maybe, these people were not as certain as they thought they were in all areas of life. That maybe life entails a fair amount of risk that you just have to deal with, learn from your mistakes, and move on.
3. Time to Re-Examine Social Media
Which leads to the next point, it is high time that Americans either demand something be done about the hulking social media gorillas in the room or begin to take matters into our own hands to build alternative infrastructures. It is no exaggeration to say that these companies are near-monopolies who made sure that one and only one version of the pandemic was heard over the internet, such as when they quashed the videos of the much maligned “White Coat Summit” or the Emergency Room physicians who simply wished to offer some counter-balance to the narrative we were being sold. Furthermore, when a CEO, who is the poster child for all those “this is your brain on drugs” PSA’s of yesteryear, is so removed from the lives of ordinary Americans that he sees nothing wrong with banning the President of the United States from his site, they have too much power.
And for those who are right now reflexively yammering about how private businesses can do as they please, understand that that argument is yet another ideological psittacism that people have been conned into believing. After all, the same people who proffer that argument are usually the same ones who would say the exact opposite when it comes to photographers, florists, or bakers like the Masterpiece Cakeshop (who once again is in the sights of LGBT activists) who want to live out their faith in their businesses as they see fit. There either has to be one standard when it comes to free speech or no standard at all, and it is time for those companies to choose what they are--platform or a publisher--and to be held accountable accordingly.
4. While Others "Build Back"(but not Better), We Need to Build Up.
In the event that the Sili-Commie Valley tech giants cannot be reigned in, it is time for Americans to start putting their money and material where there mouths are, and to build their own platforms. Yes it would be a monumental task and yes they would still find a way to oppose or stop it from happening, but it still must be done.
In a recent article by Joy Pullman over at the Federalist, she wrote that “It is past time for Americans to begin building a parallel polis, or private infrastructure, to solve the problems that inept government bureaucracies are failing to solve.” Top among these, according Pullman, are education and economics. I have never been a fan of developing parallel economies, as it always seemed that it would devolve into utter ridiculousness. After all, as someone who used to deliver pizza for Domino’s, whose founder Tom Monagham is pro-life and has financially supported the cause, I used to laugh when I heard people say that they wouldn’t eat “pro-life pizza” as though it would make them unclean or something.
Nevertheless, given the momentum of our culture, there is no real alternative if we are to safeguard our interests and freedoms. In the future we need to become more self-sufficient, and at the very least to have a side-hustle to bring in extra cash to build up our savings, invest in startups, and to aid in the legal defense of those who will be attacked for their beliefs. Moreover, we need to stop raising our kids to conflate education and credentialing, and encourage them to certainly get all the education they want, but to do it over time while starting a business of their own. We need a new manufacturing and merchant class of people in this country that uses the infrastructure of the 1% against them to fund own own independence.
For in the end, even though the pandemic is over, the current administration is doing all it can to put into place burdensome (i.e. punitive) regulations, higher taxes, and ensuring inflation with the creation of all the recent money, to make sure their pandemic powers will live on. After all, to the Left freedom itself is the virus and you are the host- and right now it's running a high fever.
5. Getting Education Right
The abysmal results of distance learning over the last year proved what most of us already knew about public education for a long time, but were unwilling to accept because so many parents are indentured to the schools to feed and babysit their kids. Parents who were at home during the pandemic and monitored their children’s school work, saw first hand how little education actually takes place based on the amount of busy-work that was routinely given to students .
More importantly, it highlighted another fact that we all knew but dared not say out loud, which is how much the teacher’s unions run the roost in public education and how much the PTA (at the local and federal levels) have given in to partisan politics and abdicated any semblance of duty in looking after the education of children. The endless whining and goal post moving about returning to the classroom by the teacher’s unions, as well as their nonchalance attitude towards the setbacks in children’s education, the isolation, and even abuse that kids have suffered while distance learning proves that these people do not in any meaningful way care about your kids or their education. They just don’t.
Moreover, as The Everyman’s own Gerhard Thielman has written at length about, these educational elites and organizations not only don’t care about your children’s education, they also despise you as a parent. So please stop believing these people are on your side, and either homeschool your kids or send them to smaller private schools (such as I do) where there is more accountability in how your kids are taught.
6. Be the Sheep Dog to Our Flocks
Just as the education of our children is one of the primary functions as parents, so to is the spiritual upbringing and safeguarding of our families. And once again, the pandemic brought out the best and the worst in people when it came to going to church. Again, to be fair, we didn’t know much about the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, so it should not have been a surprise that the churches were shut down- even if it was during Holy Week and Easter. As I wrote last year, the Church is no stranger to plagues and her shepherds and faithful have lived through and handed on the faith throughout them all.
However, what many of the faithful found unacceptable about the past year was to see how many of our religious leaders were, like our political class, beholden to Pournelle’s law, as they all rendered a little too fast to Caesar. We saw as they shut down churches, limited church attendance to an arbitrary number no matter how big the church was, and in one Minnesota church, allowed holy communion to be placed in little baggies for “safety sake.” However, it is one thing to close down church buildings, it is another thing entirely to close down the sacraments or the mission of the church to those who are in need of it. If someone didn’t want to go to church for safety reasons, fine, but that shouldn’t have meant that priests and pastors should've been derelict in their duty to administer the sacraments or other pastoral care. It was certainly saddening to hear about people dying alone, let alone without spiritual comfort, and being denied funerals or burial- unless of course you were a Democratic senator.
On the flip side, we should praise and support those priests and pastors who made the best of a difficult situation, such as a local priest friend of mine who held a eucharistic processions with people following in their cars, having drive-up confessions, and a local priest (whose parish we now attend) who rented a U haul and travelled around to hold masses in parking lots. God-willing these men will be the models for a more virile priesthood and clergy that will be lead us into an era of a stronger faith, which as Catholic commentator Taylor Marshall has pointed out will be far different than it has been in the past. Thus if we find that our local religious leaders are busy lollygagging in the chanceries or chasing rainbows in some lavender field, we as parents, have to step up and become the sheep dog that works for The Shepherd and run patrols and keep discipline among our own flocks.
7. Make Americans Great, as We Always Have Been
If we have learned anything from the last year, it’s that our culture has devolved into a juvenile frame of mind that wants all the freedoms (with some spending cash to boot!) of someone who expects to be taken care of, but with none of the responsibilities of being an adult citizen of what is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. While I am in no way arguing that the WuFlu was not real and it took thousands of lives, it was the pandemic, the policies surrounding it, and even the number of people who died from it, that are all open to debate in terms of effectiveness and legality.
Moreover, the amount of people who let their fears get the best of them, and allowed all of this to happen with little or no protest was astounding. Time and again I would ask those who were so afraid of the pandemic and people not wearing masks (even outdoors) why they didn’t just stay at home and order everything. To which I would usually get the response, “Well I need to get things, I need to live.” And there it is, the need to live. We have become a society of people who are so entitled that they think by saying, “I shouldn’t have to deal with...(insert unpleasant reality of life here)” that somewhere, somehow, someone has the power and an Elizabeth Warren-like plan to make their problems disappear.
This is why the teacher’s unions response to the pandemic and their unwillingness to go back to work infuriates me so much. As someone who’s primary job is in retail, after a six week shut down, I have been working full-time (and a lot of overtime) over the last year. I have had to put up with all the stressed out, cranky, entitled, and clueless people who would yell at anyone not wearing a mask but would routinely ignore the six feet social distancing rules while shopping. I put up with it all because I too had to live, had kids to support, and their schooling to pay for. I kept my distance and my cool the best that I could and I got sick only once- a minor cold brought on by exhaustion from working too much.
To hear teachers or anyone else complain that they didn’t feel safe going back to work gave the impression that they thought their lives were more valuable than those of the unwashed masses who worked in the grocery stores, gas stations, and other stores these teachers no-doubt visited. But it brought to light what I thought has been the biggest problem throughout this whole WuFlu muddle, and that is that people have become so afraid of dying, that they have not only forgotten how to live but also how to let others live in peace.
With that in mind, in addition to the ubiquity of Pournell's Law, if we have learned anything from last year, I would sum it up with what I have always told my kids, “Freedom demands responsibility, and responsibility demands discipline.” At the end of the day, life is full of risks that we all weigh on a daily basis, and we, and we alone, are responsible for making our own informed choices about ourselves and those under our care. No matter what troubles come down the line in the future, we have to have the courage and resolve to act, not just to be stable and secure in our lives but also to be successful. If you haven’t figured that out by now, then considered yourself informed.
Photo Credit- mecurynews.com- the photo is of a billboard advertising a Huntington Beach, CA restaurant whose owner, Tony Roman, successfully and legally defied governor Gavin Newsom's mask mandates. A very inspiring story!