The Public Must Be Compensated

Political partisans have been trying to claim that Sweden’s Public Health authority, fronted by Anders Tegnell, is unique in pursuing a “cruel” herd immunity goal. It is a bald lie. Herd immunity to COVID-19 is the end-game for all decisionmakers in public health, including in the authoritarian-coalition NPI (Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention, AKA mass, indefinite Isolation and Immobilization) response designed by Biosecurity experts (See the FOIA’d Red Dawn emails in the New York Times).

The difference from Sweden’s democratic-scientific approach to the pandemic is that the authoritarian coalition’s NPI Mass Isolation & Immobilization approach allows the security state to practice implementing population lockdown (Red Dawn emails discuss this goal, along with testing the internet.), while technocratic epidemiologists are thrilled to be using societies as laboratories (See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html). All the “early”/”late” implementation discourse in the media is scientistic nonsense typically used to sell Biosecurity indefinite mass house arrest, as opposed to a testing-forward, selective-isolation policy that no coalition has emerged to champion within the authoritarian societies.

But we must start focusing on the bait dangled by the authoritarian-coalition strategy. The avalanche of economic, social and health costs it unleashes cannot be worth the golden carrot swaying before the manhandled public: an immunization crafted over 18 months for one (1) version of coronavirus, where novel coronaviruses develop repeatedly. (A new avian flu, the Red Dawn biosecurity experts noted, had developed in China early this year even while COVID-19 was taking the spotlight.)

The people must rise together and demand compensation from the state for their epic sacrifices to the authoritarian coalition’s social-control practice and universal-lab conveniences.

For A More Humane Pandemic

April 2020 revision

Including the US, many countries’ public health authorities, their virologists and hospital workers, have coalesced with politicians, citing mortality risks to the immune-compromised, and prioritizing support for health care professionals in a time of ramping demand in many jurisdictions. Together they have instituted an isolation and immobilization policy upon a great, crude swath of the people, now designated “non-essential workers.”

Eager to protect and serve, people have embraced the virologist’s statistical conceptualization of people as disease vectors. People have embraced a sort of altruistic policy, suggested by public health officials for indefinite implementation. We can see this collective enforcement everywhere, as people impose self- house arrest and dutifully sew their own face masks. Police have expanded checkpoints from DUI to immigrants and now the entire population of disease vectors. Parks are closed, corporations and states furlough and fire employees, New York epidemiologists call for Americans to “freeze in place,” and the only people allowed to move their bodies in plague-riddled Milan are people who own dogs.

 

There is a greater good at stake. It’s just not the greater good we think. While we admire the brand of selfless cooperation, there is also a very strong element of inhumanity in our approach to the pandemic. It is very much rooted in a fundamental, Malthusian premise: Our humanity is the problem to be eradicated. To follow expertise means faithfully following whatever lab-coated technocratic policy crushes humanity while, thankfully for the politicians (some of whom liquidated their vulnerable investments before policies were implemented), maintaining and augmenting economic inequality. The issue here is that indefinite detention, for example the prohibition of walking, the preference for indefinite isolation and immobilization, is also torture in a walking, communicating species, which is what humans are. Both policy confining people to cell-like apartments and mortality are distributed very unequally, afflicting people who live in public infrastructure-poor areas and in the US, particularly long-beseiged African Americans.

Yet if we agree with population management experts in law, that isolating and immobilizing criminals and migrants in prisons is a necessary cost, logically we must agree to the similar recommendation of population management experts in health:  immobilizing disease vectors long-term in their homes is a necessary cost. We have a specific model for how we address problems, optimizing the variables of masculine policing employment, maintaining the medical system as -is, reducing deaths among the immuno-compromised, and maintaining the state-mediated intergenerational transfer of wealth from the working class to business owners and top managers. Applied to the COVID-19 pandemic our “health” and “epidemiology” concepts are narrowly technocratic and political;  nonetheless when we say it’s all for health, we think of our mortality and feel deeply.

Governments have offered trillions to compensate businesses for the economic depletion accompanying extended shut-down of all but “essential” work– primarily hospital and guard work. When life is on the line, most people are pleased to pitch in, particularly helping to police and abnegate themselves. In Canada, a Globe & Mail thought leader posed himself a Pandemic Mr. Rogers, affirming that Canadians are “helpers,” and that what helpers do is isolate and immobilize themselves.  But there is more to being a responsible member of a human society, even in an emergency.

 

A better approach is possible in many places. In Vo, an Italian town where an early COVID19-related mortality occurred, the government instead tested everyone and isolated the 3% of the population that proved to be infected (80% of whom were asymptomatic). In a mere two (2) weeks, the blanket-testing and selected-isolation approach eradicated COVID19 from that population. Iceland is a prominent exception to the technocratic-political refusal of mass-testing. It has been mass-testing and select-quarantining to stop the virus in Iceland within a couple of weeks. With its high public health capacity and systematic incorporation of humane criteria in public policy, Sweden has pursued a testing-forward, selected isolation policy to maintain a socio-economy where federal transfers don’t facilitate business to loot the paychecks of future generations. With its high public health capacity and systematic incorporation of humane criteria in public policy, Kerala has responded to the crisis with effective disease suppression balanced with humane supports and democratic freedoms. As the Wall Street Journal recently observed, countries such as Germany, that are conceptually able (via corporatism) to recognize the contribution of their working class to their economy, soon moved onto increasing their testing capacity, toward a testing-forward approach that allows them to minimize population isolation and immobilization. Minnesota has the capacity to mobilize a testing-forward approach, and save its diverse working class and the economy that depends on human thriving.

 

While blanket testing takes state organization and costs money up front, it can be more efficient and effective–and useful in the long run, and will cost less than shutting down the entire society and economy, and indefinitely treating most people inhumanely as nothing more than disease vectors, a variant of criminals, as the technocratic-political population-management model must do.

 

Different conditions require different interventions. The testing-forward approach is not appropriate in urban concatenations, such as Milan, London, and New York City-Connecticut, where for specific reasons of age demographics, culture, and global economic network and transit centrality, COVID19 has raged throughout the population, and spread outward. In those metropoles, selected testing and blanket isolation & immobilization makes sense. Just as Wuhan was transformed into a “dystopia,” in the first week of May New York’s Governor Cuomo announced that New York City would become a surveillance and policing city as its response to its convulsive, central COVID-19 experience. Because NYC is a capitalist metropole, this will create a commercial export industry in antihuman infrastructure. This antihuman policy and infrastructure will be heavily promoted, but must be resisted outside these capitalist criminalized, disease-vector population cores.

Blanket testing/selected isolation would work best in regions with a lower incidence of transmission. The virus has been spread with the travel of business elites. Yet even in seemingly highly-infected Colorado, playground for the rich, testing has shown that only 1% of the population is infected. Regions less central and disadvantaged under global capitalism could move into a forward economic position, diminishing global inequality, if they were permitted to take advantage of their more moderate COVID-19 exposure, by instituting universal testing rather than the debilitating and interminable blanket isolation & immobilization approach that looks best on computer simulations preserving the existing parameters that produced the crisis.

 

Unfortunately, in countries like the US, policy flows from its financial metropoles. In a pandemic, this subsidiarization is not beneficial. It is a lack of regional-appropriate capacity. While global centers have the resources to manage morality throughout, including solidarity with the afflicted, distinctive high-capacity regions like Minnesota have a different responsibility, to always recognize that that the authoritative status of population management and policy expertise not only reflects their wonderful technical knowledge, but is also conferred by experts’ and politicians’ attunement to optimization at the hearts of the global system—misconstrued, in technocratic conceptualization, as universal welfare. Favoring “freezing” the hinterlands, metropole expertise will argue that the virus and antibody tests are not perfect. Yet if the virus and antibody tests are not perfect, in humane-policy jurisdictions like Sweden, Iceland, and Kerala, they have been shown to be sufficient to allow for efficient, targeted virus suppression and eradication—without incurring other forms of mass health devastation, economic collapse and exacerbated, multigenerational inequality.

 

We need to be able to recognize when and where population management detaches from the human, becomes inhumane, so that we can instead support policy alternatives more effective and efficient for circumstances in our part of the world, connected to but also distinct from people in other places. Doing like Sweden, Iceland, and Kerala, and following not just the virological disease-vector population framework and the politician’s population-communications framework, but incorporating Enlightenment sociological and developmental biology perspectives can help us keep our eyes on what it is to be human and what we need to make to support humanity.  In this pandemic, a cost-forward blanket testing/selected isolation approach would cost some percentage of the trillions governments are working to transfer from workers to business elites for generations, where such problems as coronaviruses are caused by already-excessive discounting of workers’ human needs and welfare (Wallace, Liebman, Chavez & Wallace 2020). It would require immediately building testing capacity under state direction. It would require an organized mobilization, redeploying many of the out-of-work legions in the work of testing, or bringing into testing the armies of frustrated altruists within the military. It would be stridently opposed by metropole expertise, because it would be an expenditure of collective resources, and the global financial metropoles will not benefit from either mass testing or the diminishment of socio-economic inequality.

A testing-forward turn would also reduce the runaway risks and costs of universalizing blindness to the multiple conditions humans need to thrive and survive. For all their hopeful public recitations, none of the potential upsides of the crisis will materialize if we are not able to recognize these conditions, and act upon them now.

 

Mid-March reporting held that Minnesota state and private (eg. The Mayo corporation) labs did not have sufficient supplies to do mass testing. This “shrug” reporting was quite common in the US and Canada at the time, and there was little interest in how the state might fund and organize testing in these jurisdictions.  Throughout the US the main interest in this story was exhibited by political partisans, who used it to bicker over which party was to blame for the poor testing capacity. This diversion is part of the problem with dependency on antidemocratic political leadership temporarily patronizing virologists. By contrast, Sweden averted politician leadership problems by having long ago built up an independent public health bureaucracy. Politicians have little say in public health policy there, though there was some attempt by politicians to intercede. Without politicians able to jump into manipulating people’s fears to keep policy choices within inequality-preserving parameters (eg. using police and commercial tech to institute a vast prison landscape), Swedish public health experts could take into account the significantly-deleterious mental and physical health impacts of treating humans as little more than population network nodes, and instead design epidemic interventions that preserve human health. While the US and Canada shrugged at their own incapacities or gave room for politicos to carp at their political enemies, governments such as Germany’s began to fund and organize mass testing capacity.

Mayo is among the private corporations that raced to produce immunization, as, with both state and private markets, immunization is expected to be more lucrative than testing. It could be that Mayo’s for-profit requirements mean that Minnesota, unlike Iceland (which state has more independence from New York), does not have the public-private-sector incentive to produce the testing that could end the epidemiological threat far more quickly than more-profitable immunization. This for-profit medical preference will be devastating to human health and the economic viability of the working class and capitalism itself in the short, medium, and long-term. Did Minnesota public health authorities have the capacity to intercede and redirect efforts? In April, Minnesota announced its public health officials had convened Mayo and the University of Minnesota to produce 20,000/day swab (molecular/RNA) coronavirus testing capacity. Yet the governor of Minnesota continued to prioritize isolation & immobilization policy, barring the public from parks and recreation.

Are we blinding ourselves to our humanity in order to prevent us from “squandering” our wealth on making less-central regions viable, in order to reserve our wealth as back-end compensation for the disruption of existing centers of overaccumulation? Minnesota’s economic and political elites are well connected to the US financial metropole; but because Minnesota also has working class people, from farm workers to small business owners to furloughed managers, following an isolation and immobilization program is not in this region’s health or economic interests. Ultimately, even our friends in New York can benefit from Minnesota pursuing a humanist testing-forward approach, and preserving health, social, and economic integrity in the US.

Our problem isn’t insufficient mobilization. Our problem is that we are already excessively subordinated, as our swift lockdown makes evident. Prioritizing policies that keep the wealth in overaccumulation centers, stubbornly discounting life outside centers of overaccumulation, will reproduce the crisis conditions, because those crisis conditions inhere in dehumanization and inequality. This pandemic, like the epidemics before it and the crises that will come after it, has everything to do with how capitalism in a dense human-population world smashes its giant, necessary, global working class into no economic choice but to reproduce themselves by living off of what awkward combination of commodified and, especially, uncommodified goods and services they can access and cobble together (Katharine Moos, 2019; Wallace, Liebman, Chavez, and Wallace, 2020). Capitalism separates wealth from the working class, but the population is needed to grow wealth. The wild game must be supplemented by poultry. The development must sprawl into field, forest, and watershed. While we clutch our pearls and claim that our expert antihuman policies are for the “health,” the frontline nurses and doctors, the grandpas and people of color, in fact we are living in a time in which a sinister Malthusian presumption undergirds our expertise: In our disposition to maximize the augmentation of dehumanization and inequality both in our everyday and our emergency policies and institutions, we continue to discount the humanity of working people, to discount their economic contribution, to take more and more from them, to immiserate, stunt and weaken them around the world and cut short their lives, our lives. How can we develop feelings about the foundation of our pandemics, so that we can stop reproducing them? Do well-educated Minnesotans have the capacity to break with the antihuman population management models? Can Minnesota put its weight behind testing rather than freezing humanity?

 

For supporting articles, follow Mara Fridell on Twitter.

References

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix:

 

Anglo-American Health Authorities Prescribe Indefinite Isolation/Immobilization:

‘How long will we need to practice social distancing? “For now, it’s probably indefinite,” Dr. Marrazzo said.’ —New York Times, March 17, 2020.

 

‘How long, then, until we’re no longer behind and are winning the fight against the novel coronavirus? The hard truth is that it may keep infecting people and causing outbreaks until there’s a vaccine or treatment to stop it.

“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” says Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of a book on how outbreaks spread. “The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for. As Kucharski, a top expert on this situation, sees it, “this virus is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two, so we need to be thinking on those time scales.’

Vox, 3/17/ 2020, Coronavirus Lockdowns.

 

Testing Data

COVID-19 Testing Data: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing

 

 

Humanist Approach: Global Testing, Selected Isolation & Immobilization

Alternative to Inhumane Selected Testing, Global Isolation & Immobilization Policy

As public health authorities cite mortality risks and prioritize repressing demand on critical care beds, people have embraced the public health researcher’s statistical conceptualization of people as disease vectors. People have embraced a sort of altruistic policy, suggested by public health officials for indefinite implementation. We can see this collective enforcement everywhere, including in certain cities around the world where COVID19 rages. Today and for some indefinite time, the only people allowed to move their bodies in plague-riddled Milan are people who have dogs to walk, recalling the days when the only people allowed to take breaks at work were smokers.

 

While we admire the brand of selflessness, there is also a very strong element of inhumanity in our approach to the pandemic. Though doubtless dogs are better for health than cigarettes, the issue here is that indefinite detention, the prohibition of walking is also torture in a walking species, which is what humans are. Yet if we agree with population management experts in law, that immobilizing criminals and migrants long-term in prisons is a necessary cost, logically we must agree to the similar recommendation of population management experts in health:  immobilizing disease vectors long-term in their homes is a necessary cost. In both cases, there is a greater good at stake. It’s just not the greater good we’re thinking of.

 

In deference to the public health model, the Trudeau government and provinces are stepwise imposing extended mass quarantine and immobilization. The federal government has offered $85 billion to compensate businesses and individuals for the economic depletion that will accompany extended shut-down of all but “essential” services, apparently such as, looking out my home office window, issuing parking tickets to the quarantined. Most Canadians are pleased to cooperate with trusted authorities, and they certainly show themselves to be a beautiful people in their cooperative attitudes. One Globe & Mail thought leader posed himself a Pandemic Mr. Rogers, affirming that Canadians should be “helpers,” and that what helpers do is isolate and immobilize themselves.  But there is more to being a responsible member of a human society, even in an emergency.

 

Another approach is possible in many places. In Vo, an Italian town where a COVID19-related mortality occurred, the government instead tested everyone and isolated the 3% of the population that proved to be infected (80% of whom were asymptomatic). In a mere two (2) weeks, the blanket-testing and selected-isolation approach eradicated COVID19 from that population. While blanket testing costs money up front, it can be more efficient and effective, and likely costs less than shutting down the entire society and economy, and indefinitely treating all people (but especially those without vacation homes) inhumanely as nothing more than disease vectors, per the technocratic statistical population-management model.

 

The blanket testing/selected isolation approach may not work in cities, such as Milan and London, where for specific reasons of age demographics, culture, and global transportation centrality, COVID19 rages throughout the population. For those cities, selected testing/blanket isolation & immobilization is considered the most appropriate policy. But blanket testing/selected isolation would probably work best in places like Manitoba, and most of Canada. It could well be that regions disadvantaged under global capitalism could move into a forward economic position, diminishing global inequality, if they were permitted to take advantage of their more moderate COVID-19 exposure, instituting a universal testing rather than the universal isolation & immobilization approach.

 

This is not the only policy area in which governments in Canada treat Canada and a region like Manitoba with policy better suited for Milan or London. While global centers have the resources to manage morality throughout, including solidarity with the afflicted, we have a distinctive responsibility in our region to always recognize that that the authoritative status of population management and policy expertise not only reflects their wonderful technical knowledge, but is also conferred by experts’ attunement to the conditions at the hearts of the global system—misconstrued, in technocratic conceptualization, as universal welfare.

 

We need to be able to recognize when and where population management detaches from the human, becomes inhumane, so that we can instead support policy alternatives more effective and efficient for circumstances in our part of the world, connected to but also distinct from people in other places. Incorporating Enlightenment sociological and developmental biology perspectives can help us keep our eyes on what it is to be human and what we need to make to support humanity. In this pandemic, a cost-forward blanket testing/selected isolation approach would cost some percentage of $85 BN, yes. It would require redeploying many of the underemployed in the work of testing. It would also reduce the runaway risks and costs of universalizing blindness to the multiple conditions humans need to thrive and survive. For all their public recitations, none of the potential upsides of the crisis will materialize if we are not able to recognize these conditions.

 

Are we blinding ourselves to our humanity in order to prevent us from squandering our wealth on making less-central regions viable, in order to reserve our wealth as back-end compensation for the disruption of existing centers of overaccumulation? What is Canada’s interest in this?* Our problem isn’t insufficient mobilization. Our problem is that we are already excessively coordinated, as a one-week lockdown makes evident. Prioritizing policies that keep the wealth in overaccumulation centers, stubbornly discounting life outside centers of overaccumulation, will reproduce the crisis conditions, because they inhere in dehumanization and inequality. This pandemic, like the epidemics before it and the crises that will come after it, has everything to do with how capitalism in a dense human-population world smashes its giant, necessary, global working class into no economic choice but to reproduce themselves by living off of what combination of commodified and, especially, uncommodified goods and services they can access (Katharine Moos, 2019). Capitalism separates wealth from the working class, but the population is needed to grow wealth. The wild game must be supplemented by poultry. The development must sprawl into field, forest, and watershed.

 

If we cannot remember our humanity, and pursue the appropriate policy approaches that allow us to thrive, we have nothing to look forward to but more crises. You could see how that would happen, and be celebrated as morally just, within the framework of capitalism. But it isn’t solidarity if it only ever sacrifices one way.

 

*It turns out that what Canada is interested in is what it has always been interested in: extractivism, rah, rah. The government is intent on reserving its power to socialize costs for subsidies to twilight oil rentiers. So it doesn’t want to pay up front for comprehensive testing, and preserve any hope of having an economy not in decline, let alone implement policy on behalf of humans. Instead, it’s forcing the Canadian people, from their home-detention sentence, to suckle the bloated, near-moribund corpse of trash oil capitalists.

 

Anglo-American Health Authorities Prescribe Indefinite Isolation/Immobilization:

‘How long will we need to practice social distancing? “For now, it’s probably indefinite,” Dr. Marrazzo said.’ —New York Times, March 17, 2020.

 

‘How long, then, until we’re no longer behind and are winning the fight against the novel coronavirus? The hard truth is that it may keep infecting people and causing outbreaks until there’s a vaccine or treatment to stop it.

“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” says Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of a book on how outbreaks spread. “The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for. As Kucharski, a top expert on this situation, sees it, “this virus is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two, so we need to be thinking on those time scales.’

Vox, 3/17/ 2020, Coronavirus Lockdowns.

 

Testing is Being Deprioritized

COVID-19 Testing Data: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing

Iceland is the exception, is mass-testing and select-quarantining to stop the virus in Iceland by mid April.

Iceland’s relative sovereignty makes me think that what contrastingly distinguishes an unspoken Anglo-American social contract is that the people of the hinterlands must always disgorge themselves to the overaccumulation centers. That’s what makes the Anglo-American model tick.

Remembering the Humanity of the Population

Population management can be humanist or antihuman.

 

Contrast 21st century children’s experience to late 20th century children’s experience. 21st century children in the West have been hit by crisis wave after crisis wave. In the late 20th century US, the world I grew up in had one chronic crisis, and it was, in our experience, simple bullshit. Sure, some people (comms & cops) in particular places (DC) built jobs and job networks on the back of the perma-crisis. But for most of us, the experience was annoying and laborious, but we had control. Even as children we were required to constantly labor over the private, internal work of holding the discursive construction of that “crisis” at bay. “I hope the Russians love their children too,” Sting steadied us. For most of us, our problem was to avoid manipulation. The Red Menace would never disrupt us working-class people in the core.

The initiation of the first crisis, a real disruption to working people’s lives, was misconstrued at the time as a private crisis. But I was there, sitting next to it on the bus, joking with it and listening with it to its beloved Jon Bon Jovi tapes. In high school, my best friend and, really, my partner, the shooting guard to my point guard, was a refugee from the state repression of the Hormel strike. Her large Catholic family had been blown apart by the state sending in the troops to put them all down, at the beginning of the dismantling of American labor organization. She was the last child, the one child who could fit in the trailer by the river her parents were reduced to when they lost their manufacturing careers. As a 1980s teenager I didn’t probe into my friend’s trauma, and at the time I didn’t understand this was the initiation of the mass crisis cycle in the West. All I felt was really lucky to have such a great friend show up in town at the beginning of my high school years.

 

Forged in Crisis: The Archipelago of the Hyperreal & the Barbarity

For most people in the West, however, the crises started a few years later with AIDS. AIDS initiated what was to become a fatefully, geographically-split experience of mass crisis. AIDS anointed and launched a new archipelago of disrupted life. With every subsequent crisis, the archipelago drifted away, increasingly alienated from vast socio-geographic blocs of private experience only disrupted secondarily, by its tethering–as a population–to the Archipelago of the Hyperreal. Experiencing suffering, death, and disruption, the moral, social-psychological community life of the metropole was reforged within the passion of a thousand suns. People in cities with high AIDS rates lived through a collective experience that pressed their faces together into the matters and terrors of life and death. They became for themselves a hyperreal people managing with moral conviction the advent of a new population imaginary. Their positionality gave them sanctified knowledge of what was truly important in this world. And they knew also that there were mobs, barbarians in the distance who had not been baptised by this fire, this crisis, this confrontation with the underlying reality. They knew that it was their sacred moral duty as the hyperreal people to impress upon the inchoate mob its new identity as a population, a duty  sacralized by technocrats, not just economists with their iffy idealist models, but now also public health authorities, prophets of the hyperreal.

Convinced they were part of the AIDS epidemic, the population nodes marched dutifully, in mortal terror, to the testing centers, where, in not too long, they encountered eye-rolling technicians and were sent home, confused and officially pronounced HIV-negative. It wasn’t quite an experience of relief. It wasn’t an experience of togetherness. We were never supposed to talk about it: It wasn’t just a sub-real experience. It was also an immoral experience. We were reduced from humans to disease nodes; but we weren’t subsequently restored to humanity: Then we were nothing. Humanity had moved on to the hyperreal.

 

Antihuman Population Welfare Coalition

Within the Archipelago of the Hyperreal, leftists embraced a new coalition, positive that the combination of moral fervor and technocratic power would combine to bring the mob to heel at the throne of the real, stark life and death. It would finally subjugate the individualist and racist Western mob to a population framework. A hierarchical coalition of the rational and moral–liberals, left-liberals, and in their orbit, communists–would politically advance when the mob was disciplined to the exigencies and morality of technocratic population management.

Once we were historical materialists. Great humanists roamed the Earth. Democratic Enlightenment ideas about who we are and how we should live were shared from the global adventures of the motley crew, as described beautifully in the works of Herman Melville and later, historians Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh. These Enlightenment humanist notions were embedded in Marxist philosophy at its Greek materialist roots, and they infused socialist and communist population-welfare ideas. It’s why, as late as the early 1980s, much of core working class (excluding African-Americans, who were still deprived of assets and exposed to policing) was still protected from the disruptive crises that capitalist allies bombarded developing countries with. For the protected core working class, crisis was mainly a discursive social construction, struggling to prepare the way for the global end of Enlightenment materialist socialism, and its replacement with a global antihuman population management regime befitting expropriative capitalism. The great project of our financialized era was certainly not the progressive symbolic and material advancement of the motley crew, but the “equitable” restoration of the antihuman imaginary, subhuman status to the entirety of the globe’s working class. If conservative political parties did this directly, like a boss, liberal political parties accomplished it thoroughly, through metropole managerial meritocracy and technocratic population management. The US slavers’ South, idealist Britain, surveillance China, and modern-slavery Saudi Arabia were at the helm, steering right social thinking and institutional and policy development.

In the neoliberal Late Monopoly Capitalist era, ideas about who we are and how we should live seeped out sideways from a deep well of antihuman population-management ideas. Capitalist economists crafted population-welfare models in their basements. Their morality was to blackbox what it is that humans are, centering the welfare of a marginal peoples, the capitalists, as expressed in economic growth indicators. Public health authorities fretted with them over population pyramids, arguing that population welfare would decline if the pyramids were not pyramid in shape. Even the humanities and social sciences were steered by linguistic philosophy into arguments for the moral centrality of certain positional knowledges, against understanding comparatively and scientifically the range and possibility of humanity. [TBD: Discuss Lyotard here.] The motivated democratic Enlightenment curiosity in the range of human expression and human limitations was nearly wiped out.

 

Redistributed Capitalist Crisis, Hyperreal Moralism, & Antihuman Population Welfare

We turned the corner to the 21st century bracing for the crisis rollout. Y2K, which was to disrupt us all, failed to materialize. But the planes hit New York City’s Twin Towers not much later, on 9/11, and again the Archipelago of the Hyperreal recoiled and bunkered from the barbarians. The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity; it required the imposition of (antihuman) population solutions like securitized travel and borders and military disruption of the more democratic oil countries; and all who failed to submit to the slate-wiping gravity and necessity of our hyperreal mortality were abjected as monsters.

Wall Street crashed in 2007-2008. The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity; it required the imposition of antihuman population solutions like Quantitative Easing and carceralism for the advancement of economic, political, and social inequality; and all who failed to submit to the slate-wiping gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis were abjected as monsters.

In 2020, population health experts registered a new flu epidemic, Coronavirus, COVID19, ripping through some populations, flooding medical systems, and ending the lives of people with fragile health, including especially aged men. The population health technocrats turned to our institutional hierarchies, and with astonishing, breathtaking speed, together they reduced humans to population nodes, disease vectors.

The experience was the hyperreal crisis of humanity. It required the imposition of antihuman population solutions like the gendered discounting of labor (“Inessential” feminized work enclosed in home arrest), universal, mandatory immobilization and isolation, the shut down of all our institutions accommodating human requirements for sociability and bodily movement. All who failed to submit to the slate-clearing gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis were abjected as monsters.

Surely, the universal reconceptualization of humans as population disease-vector nodes–requiring total institutional reformulation to obliterate humane approaches to population health, such as maintaining rather than shuttering childrens’ and community sports and social infrastructure–was the only way to secure health.

Surely, as an emergency strategy, this antihumanism in service of population welfare is a temporary modification.

Surely, all who fail to submit to the slate-clearing gravity and necessity of our hyperreal crisis must be pilloried and abjected as monsters.

 

Reproducing The New Crusades

“Pragmatically” Setting Aside The Idea of Humane Population Welfare: Generalized Crisis, Socio-Geographic Alienation & Capillary Regulation Reproduce Mass Dehumanization

While certainly much of the hinterlands complies with, internalizes, enforces, and moralizes the inhumane population welfare measures, what the barbarian multitude out here has also learned to do throughout the ratcheting crises is to undertake the stressful work of balancing: We struggle to balance cooperating with the increasing imposition of inhumane population welfare policy and infrastructure with carving out and maintaining ideas and practices that allow us to continue to express ourselves as humans. So for example, in the current imposition of immobilization and isolation, we try to figure out private ways to live healthily, to move and socialize, like humans.

We struggle to figure out how to balance living as healthy humans with cooperating with the notion that we need to be immobilized and isolated as disease vectors. This struggle is not the hyperreal of immediate life and death. But in its own lesser reality, it is terrible and depleting work. We are subjected to self-appointed inhumane population welfare bullying if pieces of our monstrously-cruel observations about statistical logic or ideas about humane population welfare drift into the public sphere or unwelcoming private spheres. We weep in disappointment, frustration and anger, and we lose sleep–not just for ourselves, but for others caught in antihuman population management–because we remain secretly human, though we are now only recognized as disease vectors.

We must acknowledge that it is obviously an extremely-compelling moral argument, that everyone collectively submit to (inhumane) population welfare logic and institutionalization. It is clearly even morally persuasive to suggest that in particular the barbarians, with their subreal experience of merely accommodating crises without passion, need to be cut down to disease-node size, require discipline and silencing. These conceptualizations have the virtue of resonating with political parties’ antidemocratic populism theories. But their real power depends on a wild assumption we are asked to embrace: That the “emergency” dehumanization will at some, reasonable point cease, and the “normal” will return. What is the evidence for accepting this assumption? Who can point to inhumane population welfare policy that has been rolled back after the previous crises?

It is the increasing scale of dehumanization that is reproducing crises, epidemiological, social, political, and economic. Because we’ve selected almost all of them for their competence in the various tasks of bulk dehumanization, there are precious few to no responsible, on-message “Adults in the Room” who can or will switch the tracks. Humane population welfare is off-brand, off-message, and not in the budget.

 

Could We Imagine Population as Human?

Marginal, remnant messaging suggests that even the prioritized beneficiaries of antihuman population welfare policy might be better served with a more humane population imaginary. The critique of elder isolation, the centerpiece of a brave recent movement toward humane population welfare within Anglo societies, is reduced to a lone, ghostly protest whisper on the edges of the emergency antihuman population welfare mobilization.  It is the only intimation that we could imagine an alternative and humane population welfare. The humane population imaginary no longer has much of a social coalition behind it.

What kind of society, what kind of social welfare would we be making, if we instead recognized–in say, a democratic-developmentalist Epicurean materialist sense such as inspired Marx–that humans have a characteristic range of capacities and have limitations, and that our ideas, policies, institutions, and practices of population welfare could and should be oriented humanely to these, even in an emergency?

It is outrageous, unthinkable to suggest in this neoliberalized era of crisis, population management, and institutional reform–let alone in the midst of this crisis– that moral and technocratic authorities, and hyperreal people, go so far as to consider antihuman population welfare measures as themselves a monstrosity, in which perspective people struggling to balance the statistical social good and our own human expression and development flips morally, becomes a moral good instead of a sign of evil. We are no longer Melville’s motley crew. We have been made into a drastically-divided, hierarchical world: the Hyperreal Men cohered in crisis and the barbarians.

Anti-Enlightenment and anti-Marxist Cold War messaging lied. Capitalism’s victory did not vanquish population management. On the contrary, it produced waves of disruptive crisis and the global excretion of unfettered antihuman population management. We need to recover the ideas that recognize the human in population.

 

Other Views:

Agamben on public health and bare life: http://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/coronavirus-and-philosophers/

Sotiris’ Foucauldian response to Agamben: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2020/03/14/against-agamben-is-a-democratic-biopolitics-possible/

Oleg Komlik sees formal national-level cultural differences which obscure lived regional experiential differences. The relevant factors for understanding Coronavirus response from a national-cultural framework include: “the state’s realization of its role and degree of responsibility towards society, the extent of citizens’ trust in the state’s institutions, the tension between individualistic and communal values, the social and civic motives versus business and economic interests.” A national-cultural perspective obscures how individualistic and communal values are identical in some regions in the geography of capitalism, but require work to balance in others.

 

Relief in dark times:

Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite

Ezra Furman’s Restless Year

 

 

Varieties of Winter

Winter Impact

The Life Spent in Darkness variable includes both night time and cloudy daytime hours. It’s a metric of your access to sunshine. Even if it’s not just a daytime or a winter measure, as a percentage, it’s an easily-compared measure of suffering and health threat. It’s hard to live in Goteborg because the winters are rainy and dark. Although it’s a dry winter in Winnipeg, it’s as hard to live in Winnipeg as it is to live in Portland, Oregon; the aggregate sun deprivation is the same.

However, the metric won’t capture the heightened difficulty of access to that sunshine on a short -19C February day, contrasted with Portlanders’ summertime full of sunshine. Now we know why almost all Canadians have chronic vitamin D deficiency, and associated diseases!

Running Unalienated

Here in “The Lost Secret of Running” is 1) a brilliant little story of how capitalism (in the form of Nike) distorts our species being (We are a long-distance running species.) and hurts us; and 2) how to run as if you had a human body. Hint: It’s not how you’ve learned to run, which is to maximize Nike’s profits. Includes a video and stills of human running technique.

It turns out, that if we run like humans, we can run far, and faster, and without pain.

Human running (with some degree of desperation)

Showing more stills of proper running technique, this blog calls 100-up running technique “Chi running”. The technique’s about the same.

In a related story of what happens to food and health when financial capital steps in, here is an article about the blog confessions of a retired General Mills exec.
Need to know how to eat as if you were a human? Check out Michael Pollan.

“Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The US Model of Social Exclusion

Here is a link to Schmmitt & Zipperer’s “Is the US A Good Model for Reducing Social Exclusion in Europe?” (2006) CEPR.

Not so much, contend the authors, analyzing social exclusion through the variables of income inequality, poverty, education, health, crime and punishment, the labor market and finally, the coup de gras, social mobility.

Nutrition & physical degeneration

Here is interesting early 20th century research into nutrition and physical degeneration, particularly dental decay. The researcher was inspired by the superior nutrition and good dental health of people not excessively exposed to the modern industrialized food system (In the parlance of the times, “primitives”). His research showed that replacing a modern diet with good nutrition (high vitamin / lower calorie foods) creates healthy saliva that reinforces tooth enamel and gum strength in the mouth, and can even repair tooth decay.
He found it very important for human physical and mental health maintenance to eat such high-nutrition foods as are only available locally (not bred for distance shipping), from plants and animals that are well-nourished themselves.
This research write up is published at Journeytoforver.

Obesity is a Social Inequality & Health Problem

Sociology: I like it more the further removed it is from the task, explicit or de facto, of  proposing the manners required to grease or otherwise optimize capital accumulation.

I appreciate that feminists feel under siege and martyred. Don’t we all these days. But sometimes, due to  un-nuanced, anti-authoritarian alliances with capital, some kinds of feminists permit feminism to be reduced to a wretched, reactionary tool. Certainly, liberal feminism is commonly used in the contemporary era as a tool by political elites to persecute political opponents, as for example where Swedish courts are currently abusing pseudo-feminist sex deviance charges to persecute Wikipedia’s Julian Assange (Sweden has an established weakness for allowing conservatives to use liberal feminism to attack progressive policy, as in immigration).

We appear to have arrived at an epochal juncture where, while global oil-finance-war capitalist machines and working class Enlightenment fighters clash in the streets, postmodernism appears to consist of poorly-paid, impassioned liberal (sometimes self-identifying as radical) feminists, as they are tossed out of the crumbling offices of dying Women & Gender Studies departments in dying humanities schools in overpriced colleges and universities, grasping desperately at the last, remnant, potentially-fundable liberal reform cause: Obeausity liberation (sponsored by Pepsico).

In obesity advocacy, liberal feminism and radical social constructionism are tools used to claim that obesity has no known association with disease. For example, on the environmental website Grist, obesity advocates opposed environmentalists’ pro-bicycling infrastructure campaign on the grounds that it is an affront to obese women. This the last great liberal cause exhorts us to liberate the maligned fat girls from their oppression at the hands of the elite of society: the mean girls, the bicyclists, men who aren’t attracted to fat, and the unsupportive medical doctors of course. In academia, an obese Canadian OISE academic claims that obesity-as-public-health-issue is nothing more than a mean social construction. Presumably to her the function of recognizing a relationship between obesity and disease would simply be to make her feel like she’s in the 7th grade again. Solipsism and careerism charade as a justice campaign.

In a 2010 article from this expanding academic subfield, the UCLA authors Saguy, Grys and Gong reduce the terrain of the issue to a random fight between two groups they reify as moralists v. sociologists. Essentially these are Sneetches with Stars, an unsociological group of people who, presumably out of sheer meanness, choose to understand obesity as a sin behavior “like smoking,” versus Sneetches without Stars, presumably more sociologically-sophisticated people who understand obesity as an “ascribed characteristic like race.”

You know, I enjoy a critique of rampant sociological illiteracy and individualistic moralism as much as anyone; but always take a step back and look around, when social science devolves into simple, de-contextualized barbarity policing/scolding, and social scientists are reduced to professional, secularized nuns. At this point in history, it is a discovery every day for 18 year olds, that race is ascribed. That doesn’t mean that at this point in history, the problem is that doctors got bitchy and called Americans fat.

Fat’s significance is not as a phenomenon of a collective 7th-grader imagination. That would be an EZ problem to solve–for example, with the good old ruler to the knuckles, basically the implied suggestion. No, fat’s significance is that it is created in the physical world outside of our heads, by unequal social relations, which hurt our bodies and minds in other ways as well. People are not being barbaric to oppose this, and it is cheap sophistry to conflate their opposition to these relations with incivility to fat women.  Because it is so myopic, X-treme, fetishized social constructionism can be such a reactionary and careerist tool. Cheap sophistry and toolery are endemic hazards of post-modernism, or any phenomenological dogma. Post-modernism’s proliferation of contextually-naive sophistry and its susceptibility to serving as a political tool for better-organized, hegemonic conservatives (centres of social domination) enable brute power to dictate the terms of reality, and that is why critical realism is required for science, human knowledge, to proceed. (Anarchist post-modernists  argue back that science is nothing more than a tool of the state. That is a debate I will take on more fully elsewhere, but some aspects of my case are embedded in this post.)

Liberal feminist social constructionism dully, dutifully black-boxes why various experts and institutions are identifying obesity as a public health problem, and what their different goals are (eg. social epidemiological efforts to improve public infrastructure v. drug company efforts to sell diet pills). Thus, to the extent that such work –similar to climate change deniers– simply ignores the changing incidence of obesity, its infrastructural, economic and policy roots, its costs to, variously, individuals, families, communities, insurance firm profits, and state health care budgets, and efforts to rectify the roots of obesity that avoid stigmatizing the obese, they are intellectually lazy. But worse, they are dissimulating;* there is in fact solid scientific consensus on the material relationship between fatness and disease.

The Causes of Mass Obesity and the Costs of Obesogenic Societies

This post is not refuting the psychological and physical struggles fat and obese people can experience. Here is a relatable article on how hard it is for a person, once she becomes fat or obese, to lose weight. John Cheese avoids pseudo-altruistic academic bullshit and gives it straight, why poor people in the West are obese, and why they stay that way: They can’t afford real food, and even if they run into money, their tastebuds have already learned that quasifood is exclusively what you stick in your piehole. “Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel.”
In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey declares that we should avoid being mean to people about their weight. I agree. Generally, I am all for being nice. I like it when people are nice to me, though I notice that in a world of 7 billion people, privatized, concentrated means of production and consequent rampant over-competition within the labor market, and very little equality and repair, this doesn’t happen as frequently as obesity advocates assume is normative. The reliable exception to this niceness rule is in paid, underpaid, or free, professional academic and political argumentation. So without further ado, let me tell you why fatness and obesity are themselves social and health problems determined by systemic social problems.

The increase in rates of obesity in the soaring-inequality Anglosphere is alarming. In the past 10 years, the incidence of obesity has risen 50% in the UK. The British National Health Service (NHS) observes that childhood obesity is increasing most drastically. Since 1980, the incidence of obesity (as based on BMI) has increased from 25% of the American population to over 1/3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, along with the British Department of Health, have classified American and British societies as “obesogenic,” meaning these societies promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity. Although more conservative public health experts avoid specifying the well-demonstrated social epidemiological relationship between growing inequality and declining non-elite health, an obesogenic environment is nonetheless seen as the root cause of the increase in fatness and obesity in a population.

“The problems we are now seeing are to do with changes in society – the levels of car ownership, availability of convenience food,” Dr. Tim Crayford of the Association of Public Directors of Health advises. “We need to make it easier for people to make healthier choices, for example, that means having better cycling and walking networks.”

“Dr Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council said that in this (obesogenic British) environment, it was surprising that anyone was able to remain thin, and so the notion of obesity simply being a product of personal over-indulgence had to be abandoned for good,” reported the BBC following a 2007 UK study of the impacts of obesity, conducted by 250 clinicians and backed by the British government.

Fatness-associated risk for the chronic diseases listed below can be (and has been) measured in health care costs associated with fatness. Depending on the methodology, 1998 US costs associated with fatness totaled between $51 billion – $79 billion, for example. In 2002, those who were overweight or obese cost the UK nearly £7bn in treatment, state benefits and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and reduced productivity. These costs spur both capitalist and government interest in decreasing fatness and obesity in some societies. As well, these costs to societies are private profits for many businesses, which produce and support pro-obesity commodities and infrastructure, including pro-obesity hegemonic work.

Fatness is a Risk Factor for Chronic Diseases

Some of the medical and health research establishment classifies obesity as a “metabolic disorder.” That classification facilitates lucrative medical interventions into the symptoms of the public health problem. There have also been successful efforts to designate obesity as a disease, in order to promote drug treatment. That is obviously profit-scrounging behavior, especially as it ignores and distracts from the roots of rising obesity in the population. You are on firmer ground regarding obesity as a “known risk factor for chronic diseases.”

UK studies have shown that 9,000 premature deaths/year in the UK are directly attributable to obesity. Obesity decreases a person’s lifespan on average by 9 years. Severe obesity reduces the lifespan by 13 years.

Fatness significantly increases the risk of the following ten (broad)
diseases (the evidence for the association is rated “convincing” by
the CDC):

Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of
triglycerides)
Stroke
Liver and Gallbladder disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone
within a joint)
Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

Fatness Taxes the Heart

According to the American Heart Association, fatness is associated
with a number of comorbidities, including several forms of heart
disease. Comorbidity means that no direct physical relationship has
been established between the main “disease,” (here considered fatness)
and the diseases it tends to occur with. So technically, many of the
diseases associated with fatness are not as far as we know caused directly by
the “disease” of fatness.

However, some heart diseases are caused by fatness, including
hypertrophy of the left heart ventricle. Weight is directly positively
related to blood pressure. Fatness tends to cause systemic
hypertension. People with severe obesity are likely to die suddenly of
dilated cardiomyopathies, featuring concomitant cardiac arrhythmias.

When the left ventricle hypertrophies, this causes the right ventricle
to also hypertrophy. This causes obstructive sleep apnea and the
obesity hypoventilation syndrome, which produce pulmonary
hypertension, dilatation, progressive dysfunction, and finally
failure.

The most valid way to diagnose obesity is via hip-waist ratio. Because
insurance companies (eg. Met Life) have traditionally used BMI to
successfully predict risk of disease, we know that BMI is a valid
predictor of heart disease for people who are not of the following
ethnic backgrounds: Pima Indians, Hispanics, and African-American
women.

Fatness Causes Diabetes Type II

Obesity causes impaired glucose tolerance or non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, which leads to insulin resistance and accompanying hyperinsulinemia.

With insulin resistance, muscles no longer respond well to insulin, and do not pull sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles (storing extra fat within and between muscle cells) are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes.

The BBC regularly reports on government-sponsored studies of the obesity epidemic in the UK. See:

BBC. 2007. “Obesity not individuals’ fault.” October 17.

Triggle, Nick. 2007. “Why the NHS struggles with obesity.” BBC, September 11.
Also fun: The CDC’s Global Cancer Atlas Online and the US cancer map site. The CDC’s site has mapped data on obesity as it relates to cancer.

Social-constructionist feminists are not the only accomplices in the reactionary coalition to block needed social infrastructure reform in sclerotic, anti-egalitarian, stress-fueling, health-depleting, crisis-plagued late-capitalist societies. Accepting the data on obesity’s relationship to disease, one rising Canadian star of neoclassical freakonomics has used her mathematical skills to argue that obesity is caused by cigarette taxation–which encourages individuals to give up smoking. Her view is that individuals smoke instead of eating; and so in order to stay thin, people must smoke.

So if you’re of the Panglossian pro-inequality persuasion, and yet somehow you don’t subscribe to the solipsi-feminists’ anti-empiricist flat denial of obesity and disease research findings, you have the option of embracing the conservative economists’ contention that there is a second E-Z policy approach (Besides sassily labeling obese people “Real Women” and scolding thin people and family practitioners.) to obesity: discourage taxation and encourage smoking!
Yes, this neoliberal junk social science is what painstakingly-educated people get paid and/or lauded to come up with and flog. They’re just like everyone else when it comes to scratching for their meat. It’s a wicked life, but what the hell. Everybody’s got to eat.

*To be perfectly accurate, they are radical social constructionists, and not critical realists. So they don’t recognize differences among epistemologies’ relationships to ontology. This is what allows them to join with conservatives to deny scientific consensus on changing conditions.

Infrastructural Contributors to Obesity

I) Pollutants Contribute to Obesity and Diabetes:


II) Social Inequality Contributes to Obesity via Stress


III) Capitalism Contributes to Obesity via Class Inequality in Consumption: The Consumption and Lifestyle Decision Paths of Workers and Consumers with Little Effective Demand Are Unhealthily Constrained