‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’ | Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (Carol, 74)
Since Corona-19 struck end 2019, humankind has obeyed. But who or what are we obeying and what might the consequences be?
The future foretold
Locked down, curfewed, sanitised, medicated, mandated, and tracked; scary, but Wuhan’s only the grin. Let me try show you the cat.
I live in a valley alongside what once was a mission village which is still largely peasant. I watch as cows, goats and horses give birth and are licked into consciousness, nudged towards the teat, totter and then stick to the mother’s side, grow confident and inquisitive.
In stark contrast is the large-scale farming operations I motor past, which confirm for me how blessed are the animals that I tend, and are my neighbours’.
But sharing my misgivings about the inner working of large-scale farming operations mostly get blank stares from city folk with whom I communicate, as they seldom get to see the snaking columns of defeated, artificially inseminated, genetically engineered, vaccinated cows pumped full of antibiotics each with a distended udder, deprived of ever connecting with her calf, then connected to micro-measuring milking machines so the farmer knows the exact day for her to be loaded and transported to the abattoir.
Bos taurus hooked into an alien other where nature in the form of rutting, licking, nuzzling, suckling and protecting no longer exists, a world no longer bovine let alone mammalian but of science and technology.
And often when I meditate on what this means for the animals concerned and the psyche of the planet as a whole I cannot escape sensing disturbing parallels with how we humans are choosing to live our lives. My concern has been brought into sharper focus since Covid-19 struck, as, mesmerised, I watch in astonishment how humankind is actively willing a posthuman future with all the hallmarks of the factory farm: wired, hermetic, sterilized, monitored, adjusted, augmented.
But now has its roots in the late 50s and early 60s when those who were alive then or whose parents were alive can still recall the dire predictions of famine and starvation that primed humankind for what was euphemistically framed at the time as the green revolution.
Yet despite Rachel Carson’s red flag in the form of ground-breaking research, her publication Silent spring failed to stem the almost complete domination of the food chain by big pharma and big tech eventually morphing into big agriculture through the use of insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, genetic engineering, and smart systems delivered through technology and now AI, in other words, the food chain almost entirely under corporate control.
Now we have more food than we can eat (give credit) but by systematically putting in place an environment resembling ICU, cordoned off from the dangers and unpredictability of nature. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the template.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
What followed after China surely illustrates Naomi Klein’s Shock doctrine to a T, First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin (with apologies to Leonard Cohen): big pharma, once again, to the rescue. The self-same industry that has already captured large swathes of the food chain and that hitherto must surely have been working hand-in-glove with research labs around the world to develop vaccines and associated mRNA technologies to combat the strains such as those being trialled in Wuhan fortuitously (if not ironically, given strong evidence that the virus is science-made, although vigorously denied) finding itself in the driver’s seat able to benefit by fast-tracking research, and using the ensuing crisis to forward products directly into Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) thereby skipping years of rigorous animal studies and with no comeback; a heaven-sent opportunity to test and then tweak experimental technologies still in their infancy.
And if that isn’t enough leeway, every single alternate attempt at understanding or dealing with the pandemic labelled conspiracy and anti-science, blanket mandates that we agree to an invasive technology (mRNA delivery platforms, proprietary lipid nanotechnology, strands of synthetic RNA, transfection) which replicates what a healthy autoimmune system has been primed to do naturally over aeons, aggressive marketing of a social credit system similar to China’s – and with the overwhelming majority of us in total agreement that this is how things should play themselves out.
So what in heaven’s name is going on?
The sanctification of science
René Girard (Things hidden since the foundation of the world) provides the most persuasive explanation: we are a mimetic messianic horde participating in violent social processes that reach back to the foundation of the world.
According to Girard it is our ability to emulate one another (he calls this propensity mimetic envy) that has led to our rapid progress as a species (as evidence, consider language).
So it follows that fear triggered by news of the virus rapidly spread throughout the human tribe much like a herd of wildebeest milling, circling, and locking horns uncertain from which direction danger would come.
However our greatest strength needs to be tightly managed otherwise we’ll tear one another apart wanting the same thing (in this case to go on living). The promise of a vaccine therefore held us temporarily in check until doubt as to their efficacy (EUA, the vaccines’ narrow specificity and the fact that their efficiency wanes rapidly) again spread mimetically.
What now? Will I die?
Cue what Girard labels the scapegoat mechanism: propitiate the gods, find and offer up a scapegoat, the unclean among us, the carriers of disease, the unvaccinated.
Girard believes that the violence inherent in deflecting blame on to a scapegoat to cleanse society of contagion by channelling pent up mimetic conflict has operated from the beginning of human time and forms the bedrock of society’s customs, taboos and institutions including religion and the the rule of law.
How it happens is that the cathartic release following the slaughter of a scapegoat confirms the scapegoat’s guilt thus bestowing righteousness on the perpetrators and builds mob or tribal cohesion thereby assuming a sacred dimension which, in this instance, entrenches the sanctity of the pharmaceutical industry as the cornerstone of a new order serviced by its priesthood of white-jacketed scientists, supported by their acolytes, the tech luminaries and the big guns running mainstream and social media, and now worshipped by humankind.
The parts now control the whole
Yet science, the pharmaceutical industry and big tech didn’t achieve their power through guile and coercion alone. Instead, they’ve cracked the code of the very small, as in the building blocks of life by splitting the atom, deciphering the human genome, and inventing the algorithm. Thus they hold the patents that have won them the right to rearrange nature according to their own understanding and ends; and it should be noted that you and I are part of nature.
Insight that the parts now increasingly control the whole is at the heart of Iain McGilchrist’s analysis (The master and his emissary) into the way the brain functions which, hitherto, consisted in the right hemisphere’s experience of borderless magnitude and flow beyond the taken-for-granted (McGilchrist’s ‘master’), working in partnership with the left hemisphere’s ability to make out the parts that constitute the whole (McGilchrist’s ‘emissary’) in order for both to bring into being discovery, insight, understanding, wisdom and right action.
However, since the left hemisphere learnt that by manipulating the parts you could reconstitute whatever whole you desire, the left hemisphere now wears the crown thus relegating right hemispheric experience to anti-science or the conspiratorial.
By parts think bits, bytes, nano, code (computer and genetic), the algorithms that power commerce, security and, increasingly, an artificial intelligence formed from countless trillions of discrete instances that aggregate into humanoid mice genetically engineered with the sole aim of testing vaccines which we inject into our bodies to protect us from a virus possibly invented for that very purpose. Parts aggregating. TikTok. The sense of whole, absent. The body’s early-warning defence system commandeered. A left-hemispheric putsch increasingly resulting in humankind living in an atomised world with little meaning beyond our smart devices that provide predictability, watch over and make us feel safe: “It is time for your next injection, Mr Mentz. Should I set up an appointment? Don’t forget to phone Lia, as today is her birthday.”
We are choosing our future
Answers to the following four questions will hopefully serve to bring the foregoing into sharper focus:
- if the aim is to save lives why are alternatives to vaccines never mentioned or always discredited (natural or acquired immunity, vitamin D, losing weight, dieting, exercise)?
- if it’s about the science why do away with the control group: those who choose not to be vaccinated (science asks questions, weighs alternatives, resists premature closure)?
- if it’s about truth over conspiracy why do we still not know the origin of Corona-19? And why are thoughtful, responsible voices on social media such as Prof. John Ioannidis, Dr Suneel Dhand, Drs Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, and even Unherd finding posts or their accounts being taken down, deplatformed and/or demonetised?
- if the aim in to return us to normal why are the human values and rights that we have hitherto cherished being trampled (individual choice, mandatory vaccines, vaccine passports, prohibitions)?
Questions one and two assume a whole which no longer seems to count.
Questions three and four highlight left-hemispheric praxis: identify and control the parts. For instance single words are now deemed signifiers of virtue, or reasons to intimidate and neutralise individuals and ban books. Swarms of discrete mimetic online accounts patrol, target and take out offenders of the faith. Algorithms decide. The glue that binds us is now contingent. That which imparts the sense of us being human legislated away.
As argued throughout this essay, humankind’s response to Covid-19 strongly suggests we’re next in line, rapidly reaching that point of no return where there’ll be no right-hemispheric big picture to guide humankind. Instead you and I reduced to disembodied instances subject to algorithms, tagged, medicated and earning social credits. Motherhood, fatherhood, heroism, and nature cancelled. And we will have done it to ourselves. That dear reader is the cat.
And to understand exactly the implications, look into the eyes of the cow captured in the image below, knowing that no one will come to her rescue. Not you, not I, not the farmer nor the programmer.
This post was rewritten on 2021/11/08. Apologies and thanks to those whose who kindly pointed out the earlier version’s shortcoming via email and in the comment’s section. Hopefully this iteration communicates its intention more clearly and directly.
I want to thank my son, Matthew, for his intense engagement around many of these issues (you can find Matthew at Niche Unity click here); also marathon Sunday espresso sessions with neighbours Mark & Dori and friend Patsy, from the village; Paul living in the next dorp for introducing me to McGilchrist, @FrancoisVanSchoor in a long discussion thread in Vrye Weekblad where neither of us changed the other’s mind, and Louis, with the same outcome as Van Schoor.
Featured image: ‘De Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 23’ in ‘John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Wikimedia Commons, available online here.
Inserted image: via a duckduckgo search leading to Psychopaths&Love website online here which no longer seemingly includes the image in question
Carol, L. (74). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Open Books, available online here.
Photographs, the author.
Hendrik Mentz lives off grid with his goats, chickens, cats, aging bullmastiff, and his thoughts. If what he writes resonates please subscribe below (if viewing on your phone) or top left via your laptop.
3 thoughts on “A grin without a cat: Covid-19”
My usual immediate knee jerk response:
Hang jou onderrok ‘n bietjie uit making statements like “We do not all need to march in unison waving our Little Red Books chanting”? How does the global response to a pandemic turn into a plot by the demon Left? Seems rather like the Rooi Gevaar, Geel Gevaar, Katolieke Gevaar etc which we were taught to fear under the real gevaar of apartheid.
You make some very valid arguments, yet I remain unconvinced that the refusal to be vaccinated is truly rational and justified. Heaven knows I agree that we have lost perspective of our place in the far bigger project of nature. And the further we remove ourselves from it with our belief in ourselves, science and our rational analysis, the less sustainable we become. And yes, we are in the midst of a crisis and an experiment with how to respond. This thing is still unfolding and we’re continuing to fumble in the dark but also to learn and understand more. It is likely to take at least another year or two to see what benefits the widespread vaccination will hold. However, there is indeed a chance that not being vaccinated makes us more succeptible to contracting what appears to be a very contagious virus, and peoples’ response of wishing to safeguard themselves from potential infection is not at all unreasonable.
I also agree that we should remain hugely sceptical of the corporations which own our politicians and command total devotion. But it still seems to me to look rather like a conspiracy theory suspecting they’re all in cahoots to totally own us and have managed to co-opt all the scientists individually and collectively.
‘Of the almost 16,000 cases since July 12 (start of lockdown 5), 79% were eligible for a vaccine but hadn’t been, and 88% were unvaccinated. 98% of the Covid patients in ICU were unvaccinated. “Vaccines remain our strongest weapon against this deadly virus,” Prof Cowie says.’
State political reporter at @theage
firstname.lastname@example.org, securely via email@example.com
(Figures for Australia show that it’s reaching the point of close to 50% of the population having had two shots, and a far greater percentage one shot – with a higher uptake in the areas where covid has affected the community more.)
My grateful thanks that you not only made the time to read and absorb the post but also to reflect on its contents and put pen to paper to agree with certain points raised and contest those you believe were wrong, thereby allowing me the opportunity to clarify or amplify, as in:
‘… onderrok ‘n bietjie uit’: valid point although it was meant as a metaphor for group think and conformity and not as a political statement.
‘… appears to be a very contagious virus, and peoples’ response of wishing to safeguard themselves from potential infection is not at all unreasonable’: Again a valid point I hoped had been taken care of in the statement reading: ‘This last point is not to deny that Covid vaccines, although not without risk, do have a place [ … ] or those for their reasons choosing vaccination’.
‘… conspiracy theory suspecting they’re all in cahoots to totally own us’: maybe not ‘own us’ but own ‘the space’ (as in the food chain and now the immune system) thereby indirectly owning us. I do go further however – illustrated by the metaphor of the sorcerer’s apprentice – by suggesting the genie is now out of the bottle (AI, CRISPR, surveillance) and that the scientists are now also owned, which means our species is in trouble.
‘… and have managed to co-opt all the scientists individually and collectively’: this statement illustrates the assumption that the science community is at one; which is clearly false (vide: links referencing voices that have been silenced for opposing the one narrative).
Thank you, Louis.
Hi Louis, just to draw to your and subsequent readers’ attention that said post has been completely overhauled as its main point (humankind’s response to C-19 seems to suggest we’re willing a posthuman future) wasn’t being communicated. The points you raise helped trigger the re-write and therefore speak to the previous rather latest version. So thank you for your insights.