Category Archives: reason

The Final Dark Truth

 

In his novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad tried to show us what he thought was a dark truth. It is not just a truth about European society, he showed it was a truth about all of us. You and I too.

Bu how can a person face this horrifying darkness?  Marlow has some advice. Clearly pious phrases are not the answer. Nor noble truths.

“Let the fool gape and shudder—the man knows, and can look without a wink. But he must at least be as much of man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true self—with his own inborn strength. Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags,–rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.”

 

You need deep inner strength to face such horror. It takes strength of character and courage. It reminds me of the person Leslie Fiedler, an American literary critic described in his bookLove and Death in the American Novel—the person who had the courage to go the end of the dark cave with a torch to see the tragic.  Fiedler like Conrad, realized that “The final horrors, as the modern society has come to realize, are neither gods nor demons, but intimate aspects of our own minds,” Fiedler said in his book.  We are the final horror! What an awful truth to face.

Fiedler saw this as the final consequence of the age of reason. I disagree. I think it is the final consequence of the abandonment of reason. Racism, white privilege and exploitation on an insane scale,  were the result of reason being forsaken in favour monstrous desires. The age of reason Fielder said, dissolved in sentimentalism, “in a debauch of tearfulness; sensibility, seduction, and suicide.”  Fiedler noted how the French philosopher Diderot wrote about Richardson the author of that classic novel, Clarissa: “It is he who carries the torch to the back of the cave… He blows upon the glorious phantom who presents himself at the entrance to the cave; and the hideous Moor whom he was masking reveals himself.”  Surely, “the hideous Moor” is a striking symbol of the demonic in ourselves, which the Enlightenment inadvertently discovered in its quest for light.”  Not that dissimilar from Kurtz who found that demon in his pursuit of noble ideals in the deepest jungle of Africa. We have created that image of the hideous Moor.  He is not real except in our own minds.

 The racial component here is not accidental either. The hideous Moor is, of course, black. He is at the heart of darkness. It is the black Moor that we fear the most and will do anything to stamp out. But that Moor is Us! He is the product of our original sin!

Kurtz found that demon when he looked at those shrunken shriveled heads on poles.  Heads that showed shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of teeth grinning horribly and “continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.”  Those heads “only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.”

From that came the understanding only at the last that “the wilderness had found him out early and had taken him on a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it whispered to him things which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude—and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.”

As I said earlier, the horrors perpetrated by Kurtz in the jungle were never described by Marlow. That was because he did not know what they were. He just knew that they would be even worse than the heads on spikes. Marlow had the feeling that

“such details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz’s window.  After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief.”

 

The heart of darkness within the human mind was much, much worse. That was what Marlow could not bear.  He could not carry the torch into the back of the cave and confront that horror, as Kurtz had done. He did not want to know. He did not want to know the truth about himself. Do we want to know truth either?

 

Facts over Fear

 

Fear is a powerful emotion and it can be a force for good as well as force for bad. . We all need some fears. Young children learn to fear hot stoves thanks often to their mothers who instil that fear in them. That is a healthy fear. We could be seriously hurt if we did not have that fear. There are many positive fears like that which help us to avoid danger or harm. That is all for the good.

Other fears can be completely disarming. An example I often use is the United States. It is a country dominated by fear. They spend more money on arms and weapons than the next 8 or so countries behind them combined. That is what fear drives them to do. Everyone knows they would be much better spending the money on other things, many of which could actually make some of those fears go away. For example, Americans have a great fear of crime. As a result they spend vast sums on policing or weapons and that does little to drive away the fear. Fear can make us do stupid things.

There is plenty of fear going around these days. Recently, I attended an anti-vaccination rally in Steinbach and the leader of the rally as far as I could determine was a woman called Sheena Friesen. She spoke a lot about fear. She claimed fear of Covid-19 was making us do stupid things.

One person held a sign that read, “Facts over Fear.” I agree entirely with that sentiment, yet I think he and I have a very different conception of what we should fear. It seems he thought we were mistaken in fearing the virus that causes Covid-19. I think our fear of that virus is healthy, but we should not let it get out of control.

The difference is this. I believe that fears are valid and a force for good so long as they are kept under control and are rationally based on evidence of harm which the disease can cause. In other words, some fears are reasonable others are unreasonable. By definition, an unreasonable fear is called paranoia. Such fears are always a force for evil since they are not based on evidence.

American philosopher, Martha C. Nussbaum had important things to say about fear in her fine little book, The Monarchy of Fear. The title itself says a lot, suggesting we should not be controlled by fear. We should never let fear be our boss or king. Here is what she said,

“There’s a lot of fear around in the U.S. today, and this fear is often mingled with anger, blame, and envy. Fear all too often blocks rational deliberation, poisons hope, and impedes constructive cooperation for a better future.”

 

This is precisely right. The real problem with fear is that it can and often does interfere with rational decisions making. For example, I admit that I have an unreasonable fear of heights. It is not a rational fear. If I get to the edge of a tall building or structure I start getting scared even when there is nothing to fear. After all, I am not going to pitch myself off the building. I am not going to fall over the edge. There is nothing to fear, but I can’t stop being scared. I even get scared when I see total strangers getting what I think is uncomfortably close to the edge, when they have no such fears. My fear is unreasonable. Therefore, it is an irrational fear and I should learn to control it and not allow it to control me. That is easier said than done however. Nussbaum says fear can disrupt rational deliberation, leading to unwise choices. I think we can all think of many examples of exactly this.

Beyond making us suffer, irrational fears can lead us to make bad decision for our community and our country. From a public policy perspective we should not allow fears to lead us to faulty decision making. It can be dangerous. For example, Nussbaum said,

“What is today’s fear about? Many Americans themselves powerless, out of control of their own lives. They fear for their own future and that of loved ones. They fear that the American Dream–that hope that your children will flourish and do even better than you have done–has died, and everything has slipped away from them. These feelings have their basis in real problems: among others, income stagnation in the lower middle class, alarming declines in the health and longevity of members of this group, especially men, and the escalating costs of higher education at the very time that a college degree is increasingly required for employment. But real problems are difficult to solve, and their solution takes long, hard study and cooperative work toward an uncertain future. It can consequently seem all too attractive to convert that sense of panic and impotence into blame and the “othering” of outsider groups such as immigrants, racial minorities, and women. “They” have taken our jobs. Or: wealthy elites have stolen our country.”

 

Fear drives us to make unreasonable decisions. For example, if people have an unreasonable fear of government or authority they can refuse to listen to them when they give us good advice such, advising us to take vaccines that mountains of research and by now millions of actual experiences such irresistibly that our vaccine are safe and beneficial.

I think fear of others led Americans to make a disastrous decision in electing Donald Trump as president in 2016. It was a disastrous choice and led to near catastrophic results. Americans irrationally feared others such as Muslims, Mexicans, and elites. The last of those might have been a rational fear. Certainly more rational than the first two.

As Nussbaum said,

“The problems that globalization and automation create for working-class Americans are real, deep, and seemingly intractable. Rather than face those difficulties and uncertainties, people who sense their living standard declining can instead grasp after villains, and fantasy takes shape: if “we” can keep “them” out (build a wall) or keep them in “their place” (in subservient positions), “we” can regain our pride and for men, their masculinity Fear leads, then, to aggressive “othering” strategies rather than to useful analysis.”

 

The most effective means of dealing with such “othering” is to rely on our sense of fellow feeling. Empathy can chill many a pervasive fear. In fact, fellow feeling is the opposite of “us” vs. “them.”

According to Anti-vaxxers like Steinbach’s Sheena Friesen we are overly scared of Covid-19 and as a result we impose irrational restrictions on others like forcing people to wear masks or take vaccines that are dangerous.

In my opinion, fear of Covid-19 so long as it is held in check is an entirely reasonable fear. Millions of people have already died from it. Millions more have got sick, often with permanent damage. Millions more again, have had important medical treatments such as life-saving surgeries dangerously delayed. These are not unreasonable fears. These are completely reasonable fears which lead us to take reasonable precautions such as wearing a mask or getting vaccinated. Hundreds of millions of people have already taken the vaccines with remarkably few serious side effects. Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s Chief Medical Officer of health recently said he and his team have so far found no deaths in Manitoba that could properly be attributed to taking the vaccine and very few cases of serious illness resulting from the vaccines. At the same time, they have saved thousands of lives in Manitoba.

I think the antivaxxers, not the rest of us, have been dominated by unreasonable fears of the vaccine. They are ruled by unreasonable fears, not those who are taking reasonable precautions at very little cost.

 

Science and the hobgoblins of fear

 

This photo was taken by me yesterday at an anti-vaccine rally in Steinbach where the message was that we should not give in to fear.

A reliance on reason, evidence, analysis and critical thinking is the hallmark of Enlightenment thinking and its progeny—science. Science is reason refined.  Science is not perfect nor is it the only way to understand the world,  but it is certainly the best. That does not detract from the arts and other disciplines. It adds to it.

 

The historian David Wooton reminded us how much the thinking of people has changed since 1600, the approximate time when the Enlightenment began.  He said that in 1600 the educated Englishman believed the following:

“He believes witches can summon up storms that sink ships.

He believes in werewolves, although there happen not to be any in England—he knows they are found in Belgium…He believes Circe really did turn Odysseus’s crew into pigs.  He believes mice are spontaneously generated in piles of straw. He believes in contemporary magicians…He has seen a unicorn’s horn, but not a unicorn.

He believes that a murdered body will bleed in the presence of the murderer. He believes that there is an ointment which, if rubbed on a dagger which caused a wound, will cure the wound. He believes that the shape, colour and texture of a plant can be a clue to how it will work as a medicine because God designed nature to be interpreted by mankind. He believes that it is possible to turn base metal into gold, although he doubts that anyone nows how to do it. He believes that nature abhors a vacuum. He believes the rainbow is a sign from God and that comets portend evil. He believes that dreams predict the future, if we now how to interpret them. He believes, of course, that the earth stands still and the sun and stars turn around the earth once every twenty-four hours.”

 

Steven Pinker in his book Enlightenment Now pointed out that within 150 years of the Enlightenment starting the ordinary educated Englishman no longer believed any of those things. That, when you think about it, is an astonishing achievement in a remarkably short period of time. That really is a revolution. And that is what the Enlightenment and science brought to us, and that is not an insignificant achievement. Pinker goes farther when he says, “It was an escape not just from ignorance, but from terror.” That is an achievement we should shout about. We should celebrate it. It is a magnificent accomplishment. This achievement allowed the world to escape from unreason. As Robert Scott a sociologist said, until then “the belief that an external force controlled daily life contributed a kind of collective paranoia.” Escaping the forces of unreasonable fears is vastly important, and we don’t think about that often enough. We have not escaped all unreasonable fears, and that is regrettable, but to escape so many, is magnificent. Science allowed us to escape what R.A. Scott called  “the hobgoblins of fear.”

Everywhere until then people were paralyzed by those hobgoblins of fear that were ushered in by superstition and irrational thinking. So, people thought the sea was filled with monsters, forests with scary predators, thieves, ogres demons, and witches. Everyday activities were governed by the belief in omens, portents of danger, and scary thoughts. It was difficult to carry on ordinary life under such circumstances.

The vaccine rebels keep harping that we should not be controlled by fear. I agree entirely with them on this point.  But their way is not the way to do that. In fact, I would suggest, they are actually giving in to fear.  If we listen to them they will bring us back to those hobgoblins. More on that later.

In times of pandemic we need science more than ever to escape the hobgoblins of fear. We need to turn from paranoia to the light. That is what enlightenment is all about. That is exactly what the anti-vaxxers don’t understand.

When Ideology Swallows Sense

 

I have been struggling to understand this amazing phenomenon that regions with a high prevalence of Christians and conservatives, such as southern Manitoba where I live, also have a high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy. Why is that the case?  What unites these two ideologies with nonsense? I think this is a very important question.

 

I have been surprised by the number of people that won’t take the Covid-19 vaccines because they don’t trust the government. To me that seems ludicrous. I have managed to dodge the prevailing political wisdom that assumes anything the government does is bad while anything the private sector does is good. I hear it all the time.  It is particularly prevalent here. That has been the prevailing political belief since at least the time of Saint Ronald Regan. Even left wingers are subject to this ideology; it is so common and so pervasive.

Some people blame the internet for this problem, and it is a partial cause.  But it does not explain enough. One of my favorite political commentators in my favorite newspaper (now a magazine), Nesrine Malik of The Guardian, pointed out something very interesting when she said,

“People with the wildest theories about the pandemic can be found in countries even where most people don’t have access to the internet, cable TV or the shock jocks of commercial radio. A common impulse is to write off those espousing conspiracies, consigning them to the casualties claimed by WhatsApp groups, disinformation or silent mental health issues. These things may be true – but vaccine hesitancy is a symptom of broader failures. What all people wary of vaccines have in common, from Khartoum to Kansas is their trust in the state has been eroded. Without understanding this, we will be fated to keep channeling our frustrations towards individuals without grasping why they have lost trust in the first place.”

 

Malik emphasizes that governments around the world, particularly in the developing world, have earned this distrust. Endemic corruption breeds justifiable distrust. I agree entirely with that. But what about countries like Canada with governments that are not as corrupt? Why is distrust of governments so common here? Not that our governments are perfect, but they have at least a modicum of integrity.

As Malik said,

“Vaccine rejection doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s easier to dismiss hesitancy and conspiracies as unhinged behaviour; it makes us feel less unnerved by displays of unreason from those who we think are, or should be, rational people. Sure, among vaccine-hesitant people are those who are simply stubborn, misanthropic or selfish. But, just as the pandemic exploited the weaknesses of our economic and public health systems, vaccine hesitancy has exposed the weaknesses of states’ bond with their citizens. There are no easy answers for how to deal with those who repeat conspiracy theories and falsehoods, but scrutinising the systems that lost their trust is perhaps a good place to start.”

 

I also want to point out that in the west since the 1980s during the reigns of Saint Ronny, Princess Maggie, and Prince Brian in the US. UK and Canada respectively, people have been fed a steady diet that the state is unreliable and predatory.  As Saint Ronald Reagan said, the most scary 11 words in the English language are, ‘I am from the government and I am here to help.’

 This is all part of neo-liberal dogma/propaganda that the government can’t be trusted only the private sector is worth our trust. Of course, this ideology has for decades served the interests of the wealthy who care more about minimizing their personal or corporate taxes than the plight of the less advantaged. As a result many of them  have used their wealth to convince us of its truth because it is in their interest to do so. This ideology is now so prevalent that even people whose best interests would be served by government are reluctant to accept its help. Vaccines are a case in point. Governments provide many things of enormous value that the private sector is unwilling or unsuited to provide including hospitals, roads, libraries, universities, parks, environmental regulations, health and safety standards to name only a few. For decades we have been taught and many of us believed that governments are bad and private enterprise is good.

Now we are paying a heavy price for blindly following that ideology.

Vaccine Unreason in Southern Health Region (Again)

 

I live in the Southern Health Region of Manitoba. While our region is very diverse, it also has many conservative Christians and conservative right wing people as well. I know I have been going on and on about these people and everyday I want to switch to another topic and then something else comes up. This happened again.

Our region also has the lowest rate of Covid-19 vaccinations in the province. Is that a coincidence? Or did that happen for a reason?

Last week, one day there were 56 new Covid-19 cases in Manitoba. Of those 22 were in the Southern Health region even though it only has a population of 211,986 people. Winnipeg, on the other hand, has a population of 791,284 people and it had only 18 new Covid-19 cases. The next day Southern Health had 41 new cases and Winnipeg had 29 new cases.

I think these numbers tell a significant story. What do you think?

At the same time, many people in our region complain how “my rights” are being trampled on by government health restrictions. Really, Winnipeg should complain about the alt-right Christians. Some people no doubt think I have been too hard on the Christian right in southern Manitoba. I think I have been too easy on them.

Since then our region has seen rallies by the Christian alt-right in Winkler and Steinbach. Both were similar with people saying their rights have been trampled on by health restrictions imposed by our government. It is interesting that our government is in fact a conservative government elected be these same people. Imagine how the people would protest if a heathen left-wing government did this to them.

 

One of the Winkler protesters said this: “mask use reduces oxygen levels, that she doesn’t believe in vaccinations and that, as a Christian, she trusts God to protect her from illness.”

The protesters include people of strong faith. The suggest that if they get a vaccine they don’t trust God anymore. They say they trust in God to heal them. That is all the protection they need. Vaccines can’t save them only God can do that. This makes me wonder if they have a tooth ache do they wait for God to heal them or go to a dentist? If they have a broken leg do they go to a doctor? What about if they have sever abdominal pains? Do they not have faith in God that he can heal them? Do they lock their doors when they go away on a holiday or let God protect them? How do they pick and choose what God can heal and what requires expertise? I really would like to know. Perhaps one of my faithful readers can enlighten me.

Hate Club

 

Canadians often think they are immune to the craziness of American politics and life. Not so. Lately, we have experienced American style polarization fuelled by hate. In the past it is has led to serious violence in Canada and it might happen again.

In the 2021 Canadian federal election there has been a spike in hate. Most of it has been focused on the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who seems to be a lightning rod for hate. Recently in Bolton Ontario he was forced to avoid scheduled stops because the RCMP has said it was unable to guarantee the safety of the people attending his rallies. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported,

“Trudeau has been dogged by protesters throughout the campaign, most of them voicing angry opposition to mandatory vaccinations, masks and lockdowns that have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

 

Some of these protesters have got down right nasty. According to the Free Press this was caused by

“Conservative campaign workers were spotted among a crowd of raucous protesters who forced the cancellation of a Liberal event featuring Justin Trudeau in Bolton, Ont. At least four volunteers for local Conservative MP Kyle Seeback were photographed among the angry, obscenity spewing crowd, wearing blue “Team Seeback” T-shirts.”

 

The protesters are tweeting with the hash tag” #hateclub.” I think this tells you all you need to know about them. The last thing Canada needs, yet what is getting, are haters.

Showing their allegiance to right wing nonsense the Free Press reported,

“At least some of the protesters appear to share views with supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump, seemingly importing many of the conspiracy theories prevalent among his followers that led to last January’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol.

In a live videostream of the Bolton event, protesters can be heard calling Trudeau a criminal, a communist, a murderer and a pedophile and berating police for being “pedophile protectors.”

In the video, posted on Facebook by a self-identified American woman, a woman can be heard saying that if Trudeau wins the election, it will be because it was “rigged.”

 

 

Trudeau responded by saying,

“I think this is something that Canadians, all of us, need to reflect on, because it’s not who we are,” he said, adding that everyone has had a difficult year and that “we need to meet anger with compassion.”

 

How do comments like that trigger such hate? I am not so sure that Trudeau is right about such conduct being un-Canadian. It seems to be more and more prevalent in Canadian society but he did hit the right tone. The other political leaders were also quick to denounce the antics of the protesters and that was good to see as well.

 I am still worried about the rise of hate in Canada. We don’t need vaccine unreason spiced with conspiracy theories and right wing lies. Is Canada ready for the storm? That’s what Qanon calls the return of Trump.

 

Facebook, Vaccines and the Truth

 

Recently the American President Joe Biden, echoing what many pundits have been saying, said that Facebook and other social media were “killing people”. Was he right? There is no doubt that all kinds of untruths are flowing freely on social media. It doesn’t take long after surfing in it to realize that. But does that mean social media is killing people? Either way, what do we do about it?

First, we cannot say, as gun lovers say, ‘guns don’t kill people; people kill people.’ Similarly, it is not fair to say that social media doesn’t kill people; people kill people. We have to look at the issue with a little more nuance than that.

For one thing, Biden, and other liberals must be careful about what they wish for. Conservatives already believe that social media is yoked to liberal elites. Getting such social media to nix all misinformation about the vaccine may backfire. The conservatives may believe official sources less than before this happened. Lots of good information about Covid-19 and other matters is also spread by Facebook. Not just bad stuff.

Facebook has also pointed out in a statement:

“The fact is that more than two billion people have viewed authoritative information about Covid-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

 

Philip Bump of the Washington Post said, “states that voted for Donald Trump in the last election are suffering vaccination rates far lower than states that went for Biden. This suggests the anti-vaccine movement has achieved a kind of cultural escape velocity.”

If there is one thing we have all learned in the age of the Internet, it is that it and in particular social media, such as Facebook is astonishingly effective at fanning embers of untruth into raging fires. It is much less effective at spreading truth.

Some of us think we are immune to the lies of social media. Perhaps we should not be so confident. Is fact checking so easy? Is due diligence enough?

As Kara Swisher said,

“But the ability to resist social media juggernauts pales in comparison to the tremendous power of these platforms to amplify bad information. Attempting to stop falsehoods by claiming to offer good information is like using a single sandbag to hold back an impossibly fetid ocean. It’s like that when it comes to a range of once-anodyne, now divisive issues, from election integrity to critical race theory to whatever, keeping this country in a constant state of twitchy confusion.

Is Facebook killing people, then, since it provided the invention that allows all this to happen? Not exactly. But it reminds me of the famous quotation that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes,” which is — ironically — misattributed to Mark Twain (it is considered to actually be a version of a line first written by Jonathan Swift).”

 

Wherever it came from, it remains even more prescient, except now lies travel much faster — thanks to Facebook.

We should be careful about immodesty in criticizing others until we have our own house in order. We must be willing however to point out those who have earned criticism. For example, the blatant falsehoods on Fox News much not be quietly accepted. Remember how at the beginning of the crisis they said it’s not as bad as the flu. Then later, they said it was stupid to wear masks. Now they are haranguing on about vaccines and health orders.

So things are complicated. Truth is complicated. As Swisher said,

“The truth is that Facebook serves as a gateway to both, presenting clearly solid information about Covid, as well as a place where an enormous flood of lies about it has overwhelmed the same zone — and for a much longer time.

Back in May of last year, for example, as noted in The New York Times, there was “Plandemic.” That is a 26-minute video alleging that a secret group of powerful people were using the virus and the upcoming vaccines to make money and consolidate control over the world.”

 

For example, the film Plandemic spread a number of falsehoods about the pandemic that thanks to Facebook quickly spread around the world, including, even, to  the tiny little hamlet of Labroquerie Manitoba 10 Km from here where their Reeve, Weiss “learned” untruth and untruth and helped spread the misinformation in our region.

We need to think critically–even about social media. After even though it spreads a lot of lies, it also spreads good stuff–like this post.

Christians, Conservatives and Unreason

 

I do not think it is a coincidence that so many Christians and Conservatives have had such a mesmerizing journey to unreason. In both cases many among the groups have abandoned all standards of truth seeking. In fact, many in both camps have abandoned truth entirely. Once the standards of truth, and even worse, once all respect for truth itself, have been abandoned in one area such as faith without evidence, or belief in things that are so obviously untrue like stolen elections, it is very difficult to get those important standards back when they are urgently needed. For example, we need them now when we confront an international climate crisis that may be the crucial crisis of our generation, or when we confront an international health pandemic such as Covid-19, it is almost impossible to retrieve those standards no matter how urgent it is to do so.

That is why we must always be so careful not to abandon evidence based decision making and critical thinking Those skill are vitally important.

In the US the conservatives are led by the Republican Party. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman,

“Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.”

In the U.S. the Republican Party very briefly after the insurrection on January 6, 2021 flirted with the idea of dealing with Trump. Their Senate leader Mitch McConnell said what Trump did was impeachable but then soon abandoned that position and now seems to support him as do so many other of his party. The leader of the party in the House of Representatives also briefly said Biden won the election and Trump bore some responsibility for the attack on Congress but soon began to kiss the ring of Trump. It does not matter that Trump is unhinged. This is how Krugman described the Republicans: “In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules.” In Texas the party adopted the QAnon slogan “We are the storm.” QAnon is about as loopy as it get, but the Republicans are close behind. In Oregon the Republicans endorsed the claim that the insurrection on the Capitol was a left-wing false flag operation.

Part of the problem is the incredible rise in extremism fuelled in part by their cheer leaders at Fox News. This is what Krugman said about that,

This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism (something, by the way, that I’ve seen happen in a minor fashion within some academic subfields). As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.

Like I have been saying, when you give up evidence based decision making, it is difficult to get it back when you need. Republicans show no signs of wanting to get it back. Instead, as Krugman said, “One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back.”

In Manitoba we are currently plagued by an evidence free zone created by conservatives and Christians particularly in our southern health region where I have the misfortune of living. Particularly in a time of pandemic this sleep of reason is a very dangerous thing.

The Theology of Vaccine Resistance from Winkler to Arkansas

 

I doesn’t matter much whether you look at vaccine resistance in Southern Manitoba or the United States. In either case it has some common characteristics.

For one it is often found among conservative religious people and conservative political people. The common denominator seems to be distrust of government. Allan Levine described it this way in the Winnipeg Free Press:

“You can only shake your head in dismay at such distorted thinking. From Winkler to Arkansas, the unvaccinated, who are now petri dishes for the Delta variant and putting themselves and everyone else at risk, explain their untenable decision (apart from the tiny minority with medical reasons) in a variety of ways. This includes everything from fearing needles and concern about insufficient medical data to believing crazy conspiracy theories about the vaccine being a nefarious plot to implant tracking microchips in arms.

Mostly, though, their position is about not trusting government, often combined with fundamentalist religion (as a Winkler resident put it, “I trust in God. I trust he’ll get us through this”), and anti-intellectualism and anti-science.”

 

In both countries the adherents to the theology of vaccine resistance share similar political views based in deep feelings of mistrust about governments. As Levine said:

 

In the U.S., it is no surprise that these sentiments are most prevalent in Republican-dominated states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Wyoming, Florida and Tennessee, where rejecting the effectiveness of the vaccine is official policy — as are the absurd denunciations and threats directed at Dr. Anthony Fauci for his work managing the pandemic and promoting the vaccine (in Florida, the Republican slogan is “Choose Freedom over Faucism” and there are T-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Fauci my Florida”).

The ideology of vaccine resistance is ultimately based on a rejection of science in favor of fundamental religious beliefs that reject science and evidence based decision making in favor of faith in the cause. For example, in the late 19th century and early 20th century Christians increasingly battled the advocates of scientific reasoning in favor of “truths” learned by faith, which usually involved beliefs that had been inculcated by parents in their children in hopes of assuring for them eternal life and avoiding eternal damnation.

Charles Darwin, perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, developed a theory of evolution by natural selection that had a profound effect on science. His theories were so deep and well argued that they changed the course of history and even religion. Darwin shredded the religious view of the day which presumed that the world we live in was created by God with a divine purpose in mind. This resulted in the igniting of a debate that rocked the 19th century world and continued unabated until at least the famous Scopes trial in 1925.  In many places religious views strained to resist the new science which they felt contradicted their faith. As a result, as Levine said,

“during the summer of 1925 in a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., (southeast of Nashville). By then, the very same states whose governments and citizens currently question or reject the vaccine — Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas — had passed legislation banning the teaching of evolution.’

 

Today in southern Manitoba communities like Winkler and Steinbach reflect the same trend—namely, conservative evangelical religion and conservative politics, against modern science.  Both groups give a pass to truth seeking in favour of faith based thinking.

 I  know that some believe this is  opinion controversial if not wrong, but it seems to me that everyday in this pandemic there is new evidence that supports it.

Know Jesus; Know Peace

Winnipeg Free Press Photo August 24, 2021

 

Southern Manitoba continues to lead the way on the stupid Olympics. When Umberto Eco, the Italian author, talked about the invasion of stupid he could have been talking about us.

A Municipal councillor from the Rural Municipality of Stanley, that surrounds the city Winkler, which have the worst and second worst rates of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in Manitoba,  permitted a sign on his property that clearly disparaged the vaccine. It had a graphic of a syringe with the word “Experimental” written inside it referring to the fact that it has been approved on an emergency basis. I don’t think that makes it experimental, but many in our area believe that is what it means. Clearly this was intended to sow distrust in the vaccine among the undecided. Or perhaps to mock those who had taken it. It also had the words “Know Jesus Know Peace” written on it as well. This was a reference to the Black Lives Matter protesters who often carried signs that said, “No Justice No Peace.”

This is dangerous stuff in a Rural Municipality where about only 20% of eligible people have taken the vaccine when we desperately need all the confidence in it that we can get to encourage people to take the vaccine and prevent a deadly 4th wave of the virus that might again overwhelm our health system.  With my wife Christiane finally having a tentative date for her brain surgery we cannot afford to take the chance of another 5 months delay like we just experienced in the 3rd wave. Hopefully the vaccine can help us avoid that, but if everyone was like the people around Winkler we would be in trouble.

 

The sign on the councillor’s property was actually installed by Travis Fehr a local farmer  who told the Free Press that he believes he has important information that indicates the authorities have been hiding a drug treatment for the virus. Presumably that is because the government wants to use the virus to control us.  He has placed other signs in the community that explain “his goal is to spread a religious message that encourages people to trust in God before ‘Pastors, or politicians, or doctors or anybody else.” I suppose when he needs his appendix removed or heart surgery he will trust in God rather than doctors or politicians. According to a local doctor, Don Klassen, there is in his area a common belief that  “a wide network hiding is information about a treatment for Covid from the public.”

Fehr also said, “I believe that God is going to start a fiery revival for Jesus in Manitoba, and so I want to be a part of that. So I do have some signs out there.”

The Free Press also reported that Fehr set up

“a rotating set of messages, including calling the vaccine a “#Clotshot,” suggesting the drug Ivermectin (typically used as a de-wormer for livestock) is a proven successful treatment for COVID-19 and implying the vaccination rollout violates the Nuremberg Code.”

According to the Winnipeg Free Press Fehr gets his vast medical knowledge on “Telegram, a messenger app that touts its privacy features and is known for hosting far-right personalities that are often banned on mainstream apps.”  Again we get that toxic connection between untruth, religion and conservative politics. I wonder why these people hide their cure that would no doubt enable them to earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just today I heard that Manitoba Covid-19 cases jumped again. More than twice as many today (105) than yesterday (41). And guess what—almost half of them in Manitoba were from our Southern Health region. Either the Lord doesn’t care about us, or Covid-19 knows where the idiots can be found.

It never ceases to amaze me what people in the Bible belt are prepared to believe. Know Jesus; Know Peace.