Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Anti-Vaxxing is a form of Mental Illness?


Just because the government wants you to do something, doesn't always mean it is bad.

A reader writes that I am full of shit for criticizing anti-vaxxers.  They are not getting the CoVid vaccine because, "I feel the government is pushing it on us!"  And of course, any time the government wants you to do something, it probably is bad for you.  Boo Government!

At first I was going to dismiss this complaint out of hand, but then I thought more about it.  I have harped time and time again, that you can spot a bad deal at 100 paces simply by the way it is presented.  You drive by "Mattress Land!" with the big orange-and-red-and-yellow signs proclaiming "Big Savings!"   Across the street is "Mattress World!" with the same signs.  And you quickly figure out there are no bargains to be had at these places - and financing a mattress is nonsense - a bunch of padding that is covered with fabric isn't worth thousands of dollars.  And no, it isn't a "Scientific Good Night's Sleep!"  If you are having trouble sleeping at night, odds are, it ain't the mattress.  I've gotten a good night's sleep on the ground or the floor - a mattress is just a bonus.

But I digress.

The point is, when you see something hyped, you should be suspicious.  When you see the bandwagon going down the street with people encouraging you to jump on, you should be wary.  And our reader, although I think they are wrong, is right to wonder why they are pushing the vaccine - and doing so badly.  And it isn't just our reader, it is a worldwide phenomenon that many people don't trust the way the vaccine is being rolled out.

In totalitarian countries (and no, this isn't the USA by a long shot!) such as China, you get the vaccine or else.  Lockdown?  Enforced with a vengeance.  China has done a good job of tamping down a virus that admittedly originated in their country.  The rest of the world has crazy ideas about personal freedom, and as a result, has struggled with this pandemic.

In many Western European countries, lockdowns and mask mandates have been ordered, and although vaccines are not mandated, if you are not vaccinated, you may find yourself unable to get a job, take a train, fly on an airplane, or whatever.  It is like "constructive discharge" in employment law - they can make life so difficult you give up.  And people in Europe are protesting this, although the vast majority are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated and using masks and following other recommended guidelines.

In America, we have tried a patchwork approach, with various States enacting different policies, with some, such as Michigan, enacting strict lockdowns, while others, such as Florida, seem to be encouraging anti-vaxxing.   Mandates by the government have been struck down by the Supreme Court, but given that we are a free country, companies are still entitled to fire people who are not vaccinated, as is the military (indeed, to be a soldier, you are first given a plethora of vaccines in basic training).  Some people call this "tyranny" but they've never been to China, so they really don't know.

The problem is, the way this vaccine thing has been rolled out has made a lot of people suspicious - and I am not just talking about the Qanonsense people or the Karens on Facebook who want to be attention whores by posting nonsense about how they are using holistic medicine on their children instead of getting a smallpox vaccine.  That shit has been going on long before the pandemic - sort of like young vegan girls who starve their cats to death by feeding them nothing but broccoli.  It is just doing something outrageous to get attention.

But I get it - a lot of the vaccine information (not disinformation) is being presented in a way that makes it seem like people are jumping on a bandwagon.  And by banning people from jobs and airplanes or cruise ships, it makes it seem that people are being coerced into getting vaccinated.  And quite frankly, as someone who has been vaccinated (I didn't need coercion!) I do cringe a bit at how they are trying to "persuade" people to get the shot.

I recounted before how a lot of anti-bullying efforts are preordained to backfire. The third grade teacher tells the kids, "Be nice to little Billy or you'll go to the Principal's office!"  And little Dirk, the bully, smiles that sickly smile and says, "Of course, Mrs. Beasley!" and waits until recess to beat the crap out of poor Billy.  You can't force people to like you and attempts to do so, will backfire.  We see this today with a lot of this transgender nonsense - trying to "make" people accept that it is OK to allow a child to pick their gender and pronouns, and to use the wrong pronoun is akin to throwing acid in their face.

It is a plan that backfires in a big way - people try to be "nice" but let's face it, it doesn't make you a horrible person if people different from yourself make you feel uncomfortable. That's 50,000 years of instinct and is hard to overcome.  But again, I digress.

Or did I?  Because I think the same thing is going on here.  People mean well and want the world to be a better place.  Unfortunately, what they do is say, "If only everyone would do THIS, then everything would be better!" - where "THIS" is not bullying, or accepting transgender kindergartners, or getting the vaccine.  The net result is that some folks feel they are being pushed around, and they push back.

We should be encouraging people to get vaccinated, but forcing them, directly or indirectly, will only backfire - has only backfired.  So while I was initially wanting to shout down our reader for being an anti-vaxxing idiot, the more I thought about it, the more I realized what they were getting at.  Because even I think the efforts to get the whole population vaccinated are ham-handed and poorly done.

Granted, most people realized that vaccines work.  Coming from the post-polio era, I realized that getting vaccinated was a good thing - our health in America is far better than it was in the not-too-distant past.  My parents had to worry about things like polio as well as a host of other diseases that we have - or had - virtually wiped out.  Having a technical background, I appreciate how the science works.  Note that I didn't say "I believe the science!" because that is an idiotic statement - science isn't based on belief but the painstaking efforts of trial-and-error, revising theories, and peer review.

And so far, the data backs up the vaccine.  The vast majority of people dying from CoVid today are the unvaccinated.  The vast majority of those getting seriously ill and clogging up the ICUs across the country are the unvaccinated.  If you have the vaccine, odds are far greater that you won't get sick, or if you do, the effects won't be as bad.  I don't like getting sick.

Of course, the hard-core anti-vaxxers have an answer for everything - a made-up answer.  "Millions of people are dying from the vaccine!" they say, with zero evidence to back this up, other than a "meme".  Meanwhile, the hard data is dismissed out of hand as "coming from the gub-ment!"  This sort of nonsense is why I initially rejected our reader's argument out of hand.

Sadly, this is part of an overall trend, as the government, has, for years, been "telling us what to do" in terms of improving our health and safety.  We are told to stop smoking and taxed if we do.  We are told to wear seatbelts and drive carefully - and are fined heavily if we don't.  We are told to do a lot of things that are actually in our own best interests, but we don't like being told what to do.

And granted, the government has lost a lot of credibility over the years.  The Iraq war, for example, sort of ruined government credibility both at home and abroad.  We invaded the wrong country, killed an awful lot of people, and accomplished nothing other than to perhaps empower Iran further.  Even the invasion of Afghanistan, even if it was the "right" country, accomplished little.  We should have realized after Russia left that country with its tail between its legs that trying to "Nation Build" was a fruitless task.

Our government has done a lot of wrong over the years.  We declared a "war on drugs" and after ruining a lot of people's lives and incarcerating more people per capita than even China, accomplished nothing, other than to make even more people distrust the government and the Police.  The government, has done a lot of wrong over the years.  But that is only because it is a government of people and thus prone to failure.

A lot of other governments have done a lot worse.  There is no such thing as a perfect government.  But that doesn't mean that the government isn't right some of the time - or much of the time.

As with evaluating good or bad deals, you have to look at the motivations of the actors involved.  The car salesman will tell you leasing is a good deal because "it frees up your cash flow!" and because of "opportunity cost!" - both of which are nonsense arguments. But they are arguments that make you feel good about a bad deal and more importantly, get you to sign those papers.

In the case of vaccines, what is the government's interest?  The hard-core anti-vaxxers argue that the vaccine will kill off millions of people - almost the entire population of the USA or indeed, the world.  I am not sure how this would benefit the government at all - it would cease to exist, which oddly enough, many hard-core anti-vaxxers seem to secretly want.

Others claim it is a conspiracy between the government and "big pharma" and somehow the vaccine will make the pharmaceutical companies very rich.  Maybe they will make money on the vaccine, but again, you could say the same thing about any government program - it makes no sense.  "Big Asphalt" is going to profit from repaving the Interstate!  "Big Bridge" is going to make money from "Build Back Better" infrastructure program!  "Big Defense" is going to make billions of dollars from the new stealth submarine!   All of these things are true.  Then again, it is kind of hard to build roads, bridges, or a military, without spending money on it - and you have to spend it with the people who make the things you need.  As a former government contractor, I know how this works.  Or am I just a mouthpiece for "Big Patent"?

We have a pandemic - and yes, it is real.   And yea, I "get it" that people want to deny horrible things that happen.  It is comforting when an insane person with an assault rifle guns down grade school children to simply believe it never happened.  But reality is what it is, and another theme of this blog is that denying reality will come back and bite you on the ass big time.  The better you can perceive reality, the better off you will do.  That's why crazy people and drug addicts are usually poor - their perception of reality is clouded.

We have a pandemic - so how do you stop it?  You can quarantine infected people.  You can wear face masks.  You can come up with a cure or a vaccine.  We've been doing all of the above.  The fact that it is being orchestrated by the government doesn't mean these are bad ideas.  But again, I "get it" that the government has squandered a lot of credibility over the years and the way this is being sold is off-putting to some people.  That doesn't make it a bad idea.

Will the pandemic end?  Eventually.  One way or another it will.  Even if we did nothing, it would end, eventually.  A lot more people would die prematurely, to be sure, if we took that route.  The old, infirm, the unhealthy, the sick - they would be the first to go.  The remainder - those whose immune system could fight of the virus - would survive and perhaps pass that immunity on to the next generation, which would work until some new virus came along or generations later, we lose that immunity as it no longer becomes a survival factor.

The problem with that approach is that those who support it fail to realize that they may be the ones who die or get very sick from this virus.  So long as it is "the other guy" getting sick, it sounds like a good plan.

The problem we've had, with this pandemic, is that just as it seems it is under control, people get anxious and insist on abolishing lockdowns or getting rid of mask requirements and the whole thing blossoms all over again - three times now. The only saving grace is that this latest variant, while more easily transmissible, isn't as deadly.  Nevertheless, I'd rather not get sick from it.

All that being said, there is another aspect about these mandates and requirements - the unvaccinated are as able to spread the virus as the vaccinated.  So why require that everyone have a vaccine in order to get on an airplane?  It is an interesting question, and I think the answer is this:  while having everyone vaccinated on the airplane might not stop the immediate spread of the virus, if everyone was vaccinated, we would kill this thing once and for all, and put an end to masks and vaccines and lockdowns forever. So, for example, if you are running an airline or a cruise ship, you don't just want to stop people from getting the virus onboard, you want to wipe it off the face of the earth.

I read a quote somewhere along the lines of "It is easier to convince someone of something than to convince them they are wrong about something."  And I think that is what is going on today.  People retreat into their positions and beliefs and if you attack their beliefs they get defensive and think you are attacking them.  So it is pointless to get in someone's face and try to convince them they are wrong.  You might as well not waste your breath.

So I have no interest in convincing our reader to get vaccinated - that is indeed a personal choice.  But I would point out that I have no sympathy - none whatsoever - for someone who proclaims to be an anti-vaxxer and then ends up getting sick of the disease they could have been vaccinated against.  CoVid or Polio, it makes no difference.  And that's where their personal freedom intersects mine - because when I can't get into the hospital because every bed is taken up by anti-vaxxers and they run up a million-dollar bill in the ICU and don' pay it, that affects me (and other people) directly.

And maybe right there is where the government is coming from, because this is a public health matter more than a private one.