By Bert Olivier, University of the Free State
Since the start of the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’ (in quotes because it was no real pandemic) I have been startled by the number of philosophers – that is, people who work as professional philosophers (which is no guarantee that one is truly an independently thinking, uncompromising philosopher) – who have evidently succumbed to the lies and tactics, no matter how transparent, on the part of those authorities who ordered ‘lockdowns’, mask-wearing, social distancing, and eventually promoted an apparently hastily developed ‘vaccine’ as the only way to combat this flu-like disease.
One might summarise this by stating that many, if not most philosophers – or more broadly, intellectuals – have been struck by blindness (or perhaps worse, cowardice) in the age of the ‘great reset’ and hence failed humanity, insofar as philosophers are precisely those people who should exemplify independent, autonomous thinking as embodied in Immanuel Kant’s famous motto, Sapere aude! (‘Have the courage to think for yourself’). They might have been given a hint of what an independent stance on all these measures would mean by the example of Sweden, which was the only country that respected its own democratic constitution by refusing ‘lockdown’, mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing – in other words, keeping their economy going and relying instead on issuing advice on how to minimise the risk of infection by the virus and on their citizens’ common sense.
For philosophers – or intellectuals more generally – Sweden’s is a position to be emulated. But as far as I have been able to ascertain, not many of my colleagues have done so. I have been able to trace only a few philosophers who have seen through the fog of dis- and misinformation to grasp the iatrocratic (rule by doctors) and corporatocratic aims of private global organisations, namely to reduce the numbers of, and enslave the rest of humanity by various lethal and otherwise destructive means. Honourably, this includes Giorgio Agamben and Bernard-Henry Lévy, Jordan Peterson, Shane Moran, David Pittaway, Emma Hay, Nathne Denis, Jenna Donian, and Inge and Adrian Konik, and excludes the unlikely likes of Slavoj Žižek (a personal disappointment to me; Žižek was always one of my philosophical heroes), Benjamin Bratton, and (unthinkable as it may seem) internationally renowned ethicist, Peter Singer, who incongruously proclaimed it to be a moral duty for people to take the Covid vax! (Did he forget about the ethical imperative regarding the integrity of one’s body?) It also excludes the vast majority of philosophical colleagues in South Africa, to their discredit and my great puzzlement, but includes most of my ex-doctoral students, to their perpetual credit.
It is worth dwelling briefly on Singer’s (2021) position, where he compares the duty to be vaccinated against Covid-19 with the obligation, to wear a seat belt while driving a car. While the latter is clearly an infringement of our individual rights, he argues, the former is not, because not wearing a seatbelt is a choice about one’s personal safety, while being (un-) vaccinated against Covid involves the safety of others – and Singer invokes John Stuart Mill’s famous dictum: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”. It is easy, ostensibly, to agree with Singer on this point, provided it be certain, humanly speaking, that what seems to pose a threat to people is in fact preventable by that which power recommends. And in light of the (by now) widely demonstrated fact, that none of the Covid ‘vaccines’ prevent falling ill from the ‘virus’, nor from transmitting it to others, or dying from it, it is safe to say that Singer – even as late as in August 2021 – failed to take cognisance of this, still clinging to his unfounded insistence, that the Covid ‘vaccines’ prevent people from dying and from getting infected. Could a supposedly critical thinker like Singer be brainwashed by the mainstream media and iatrocratic ‘health’ organisations so easily? Apparently, yes; the least one would have expected him to do is to look elsewhere for alternative information. I believe that Žižek, too, was too hasty and trusting – he, of all people, who is a Marxist Lacanian! This is abundantly clear from his view, that “vaccines bring hope”, let alone his remark: “Distribution of the vaccines will be our biggest ethical test: will the principle of universal distribution that covers all of humanity survive, or will it be diluted through opportunist compromises?” My disappointment in Žižek is compensated for by some other thinkers, however.
First, it is worth taking note of Bernard-Henry Lévy’s stance on the matter, as reported by Richard Smith in his review of Lévy’s book (which I have not been able to acquire yet), The Virus in the Age of Madness. According to Smith, Lévy was struck by the increase in “medical power” during the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’, and in his book he argues “why such power is both undeserved and dangerous”. In a nutshell, by drawing on Michel Foucault’s work, Lévy argues that the latter has shown that governments have learnt equally from hospitals and prisons, but when comparing Foucault’s account of the ‘management’ of plague epidemics in the 18th century with the contemporary response to COVID-19, he opines that “…until now, never had things gone quite this far…Never had we seen, as we did in Europe, heads of state surrounding themselves with scientific councils before daring to speak” (quoted by Smith).
While commending the doctors and nurses who treat COVID patients at great risk to themselves, Lévy reminds his readers that physicians are just as prone to making mistakes as ordinary people, and indeed, other scientists. In saying this, he displays sound knowledge of epistemology and philosophy of science. According to Smith, Lévy – alluding to the work of Gaston Bachelard and Karl Popper in this regard – intimates that scientists and medical doctors do not necessarily know more, or better, than other people. Secondly, scientists do not always agree; on the contrary, Lévy observes (as quoted by Smith), “the ‘community’ of scholars is no more communitarian than any other…is riven with fault lines, divergent sensibilities and interests, petty jealousies, esoteric disputes, and, of course, fundamental differences. I know that the research world is a Kampfplatz, a battlefield, a free-for-all no less messy than the one Immanuel Kant bemoaned in metaphysics.”
Smith regards Lévy’s third reservation as greatest reason for concern. Reminiscent of Foucault, Lévy cautions against “hygienics”, and elaborates: “health becomes an obsession; all social and political problems are reduced to infections that must be treated; and the will to cure becomes the paradigm of political action”. Invoking Plato’s authority in this regard, he reminds readers that Plato discarded the notion of an iatrocracy – which would be founded on a useless “nosology of ‘cases’” – opting instead for audacious and strong “citizen-guardians” to “think through” trying times and tackle them politically. In other words, medical doctors should not rule, but instead abide by their important calling, to cure the sick. Nor should politicians use them as subterfuge for dubious actions and laws.
From Smith’s review it is clear that Lévy regards the response to the Covid-19 ‘pandemic’ as excessive, comparing it to previous pandemics that left a trail of death in their wake. In the previously quoted remark he puts his finger on the source of the trouble – “heads of state” deferring to medical authorities unmistakably signal that what is at stake is power – power over citizens of putative democracies. The philosopher who saw this almost immediately after the advent of the ’pandemic’ is the redoubtable Giorgio Agamben – author of the classic Homo Sacer.
In Where are We Now? The Epidemic as Politics (Eris, 2021), Agamben does not pull his punches. In the Foreword (pp. 5-6) he remarks that the ruling powers have evidently used the ‘pandemic’ as ruse to transform their mode of governance because the latter was perceived as being in decline, or no longer useful. This means that these powers have “pitilessly” abandoned the model of constitutional, parliamentary democracy, to “replace it with new apparatuses whose contours we can barely glimpse”. Given that the chapters for this book were mostly written during 2020, by now Agamben has probably noticed that the new paradigm for governance that representatives of the New World Order are attempting to introduce may be called neo-feudalism, or perhaps neo-fascism, in light of the fusion of corporate and governmental powers, to which ordinary citizens would be subject, willy-nilly, like the serfs of the feudal middle ages. In other words, Agamben was struck by the fact that the supposed health emergency imposed by ‘authorities’ entailed the possibility of much longer-term limitations of human and civil rights, as a kind of vanguard for an increased effort to remove political and social rights permanently. The transformation taking place before citizens’ eyes at the time assumed the guise of “a sanitation terror and a religion of health” (p. 6).
The twenty-one shortish chapters of this book addresses questions such as “Contagion”, “Social distancing”, “Truth and falsity”, “Medicine as religion”, “Biosecurity and politics”, “The face and the mask” and ‘What is fear?” After elaborating on the “despotic measures” that people have been subjected to in the name of health and security, and speculating that this was because they subliminally knew that the world as we knew it had to pass, Agamben concludes “On the time to come” (pp. 94-95) with the words: “We do not regret the ending of this world. We have no nostalgia for the notions of the human and of the divine that the implacable waves of time are erasing from the shore of history. But we reject with equal conviction the mute and faceless bare life and the health religion that governments are proposing. We are not awaiting either a new god or a new human being. We rather seek, here and now, among the ruins around us, a humbler, simpler form of life. We know that such a life is not a mirage, because we have memories and experiences of it – even if, inside and outside of ourselves, opposing forces are always pushing it back into oblivion”.
Small wonder that intellectual critics such as Benjamin Bratton came down on Agamben like a ton of bricks, as it were, although it is easy to show that such criticism demonstrably rests on two wrong premises – one concerning the origin of the ‘virus’, and the other, that medical science is dedicated to ensuring the health of humanity. These are naïve, to say the least, given the increasing evidence that the ‘virus’ was technologically manufactured, and that the ‘vaccines’ are killing people in droves. Were it not for philosophers such as Agamben and Lévy, as well as those colleagues I mentioned earlier, the discipline would not be (partly) vindicated.