By Bretigne Shaffer - Bretigne@gmail.com
"For centuries, people have been aware that being out in public carries certain risks - among them, the risk that one might contract a disease from another person. Never before have people widely asserted that they have the right to demand that everyone around them take all possible precautions at whatever cost to themselves to make this environment absolutely risk free. If, as the mandatory vaccination proponents contend, we can demand that everyone around us take every conceivable precaution against every communicable disease, what else can we demand of them?
"What are some other risky practices Americans should no longer tolerate from each other? Going out in public with a cold?" - First they Came for the Anti-Vaxxers, April 23 2015
I wrote this almost exactly five years ago. I was trying to come up with extreme examples to illustrate the absurdity of the demands made by those who would force vaccines on everyone, based on the premise that not taking every possible precaution against being infected by a pathogen constitutes an aggression against those around you.
It turns out my attempts to outdo the absurdity of this argument did not go nearly far enough. It turns out that probably nothing ever could. The past five weeks have made this clear.
Just to recap:
Vast swathes of the world's economy have been ordered to come to a standstill - the impact of which will be devastating for millions of people around the globe who stand to lose their jobs, their businesses and possibly their food supplies - all because of modeling that warned of as many as 2.2 million deaths in the US and 500,000 in the UK if those governments did not impose drastic restrictions on the people of those countries.
But when data scientists have actually examined the results of the lockdowns that were imposed, they have found no evidence that they have helped to contain the spread of Covid-19, or indeed, to "flatten the curve", while those places that did not impose lockdowns are not faring any worse than the ones that did.
In the US, with the exception of a very few cities like New York City, hospitals are anything but overwhelmed. Many are actually shutting down or furloughing staff because of the sudden drop in elective procedures. China's lockdowns have ended, and the government of Iran is beginning to lift lockdowns there. But here in California, instead of simply declaring the lockdown over, Governor Newsom has assembled a task force to examine the question of how best to end it.
Why? Did he need a task force to implement the lockdown? No. Nor will he ever be made to pay for the human and economic (are the two really separate?) costs of these unprecedented authoritarian moves.
But that is the nature of political systems: The people making the decisions are not the ones who will suffer their consequences. Government entities are - by design - not accountable for their actions. And that is the whole problem. What we are facing right now is not the threat of a deadly pandemic. We are facing the threat of a deadly paradigm.
It is a paradigm that tells us that the best way to deal with threats - especially big, scary threats that could impact us all and potentially kill a lot of people - is for a central authority to make decisions that are then imposed by force on everyone else. (The pushers of this paradigm like to leave out the whole lack of accountability thing.)
To a panicked population, this might sound reasonable. "Freedom and individual rights are all well and good when things are fine," people may tell themselves, "but this is an emergency! We need the parental figure of the state to step in and do something!"
Don't laugh. It's how a lot of people actually think. Or rather, it's how they don't think. Because if they were thinking, they would notice the catastrophic results all around them of allowing central authorities to make decisions in crises like this.
They might also remember that we all learned an important lesson about this in the Twentieth Century. You remember: That was the century when a bunch of places "experimented" with totalitarian regimes that did exactly this: Imposed by force, decisions for everyone living under them about what they could buy, what they could sell, what work they could do, how much they could be paid for it, and on and on.
What humanity learned from those experiments was precisely what economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek told us we would learn: That centralized decision-making not only "doesn't work", it leads to disastrous and brutal results in every imaginable way - and some unimaginable ones. Again: Results for which the perpetrators never have to pay.
But there is another paradigm. One that respects as inviolable the rights of individuals to make their own decisions over their own lives and their interactions with others. Both history and theory have demonstrated time and time again that this is not just the best, but really the only way for decisions to be made in a way that meets everyone's (as opposed to a few people at the top of everyone else) needs and wants.
"But this is a pandemic!" The people who buy into the first paradigm will scream. "Don't you understand??? This is a terrifying pathogen that knows no national boundaries, and no individual boundaries! This is a threat to all of us, and so we must all respond as one!"
Not only does this flawed thinking not hold up in the realm of political economy (basic economic principles do not magically disappear during a crisis - if anything, our adherence to them is even more critical in those times). It is also not true that we need to "all respond as one" in the realm of infectious disease.
To understand this, it is helpful to go back more than a century to what was then a vigorous debate between two French scientists: Louis Pasteur, and Antoine Bechamp.
Pasteur is well known for his role in laying the scientific groundwork for "germ theory", the idea that it is pathogens - bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. - that make us sick, and that our efforts at wellness are best focused on combatting these pathogens. Whether through drugs that kill them (antibiotics, etc.), protective measures such as masks and disinfectant to prevent them from reaching us, or vaccines to artificially stimulate the production of antibodies against them, the focus is on the germs.
Bechamp had a different view. He believed that it was not the presence or absence of a particular pathogen that made a person ill or well, but the underlying conditions of that person's own body, or, as he put it "the terrain." What was then known as "terrain theory" we might today call a "holistic" approach to medicine and healing. The focus is not so much on repelling outside invaders, as it is on strengthening the body's own systems for fighting off anything that might be a threat.
How is this relevant to the totalitarian nightmares of the Twentieth Century?
One of these medical paradigms aligns itself very nicely with the notion that a dangerous pathogen is a matter of "public health" requiring government intervention. While germ theory does not require an authoritarian response to the perceived threat of pathogens, it is far more amenable to one than is the world view that our own individual "terrain" is what matters most for protecting our health.
If every other person around us is seen as a threat, because any one of us could be carrying a deadly germ over which we have no control, then it is that much easier for governments to justify imposing sweeping restrictions on everyone's activities. All of a sudden, our most ordinary interactions are considered fraught with danger because of this new and very scary germ against which not a single one of us can possibly defend ourselves. We need someone to protect us, and the state is very conveniently close at hand.
Bechamp would see it quite differently. Focus your efforts on the terrain, he would say. Build up your own individual underlying environment, and we will see that we do indeed have tools to defend ourselves against the bacteria and viruses that surround us in nature.
What are some of those tools? For Covid-19, Vitamin C in particular has shown itself to be a powerful treatment when given intravenously in high doses. It is part of the official protocol in Shanghai, along with both Western and Chinese medicine, for treating Covid-19 patients in China and has been given to Covid-19 patients there since February. Even some hospitals in the US are beginning to use it.
That traditional Chinese herbal medicine is part of that protocol is also interesting because Chinese medicine tends to focus more upon supporting different organs and elements within the body, rather than killing pathogens. It also does not offer "one-size-fits-all" treatments to patients with the same diagnosis, but tailors a combination of herbs to each individual, based on the specific presentations of each individual.
There is also evidence that Zinc, and Vitamin D may be helpful in strengthening our "terrain" against threats from the outside world, including Covid-19 in particular. So why don't we hear about these treatments in the media? And why have US media outlets and social-media platforms like FaceBook and YouTube been censoring information about Vitamin C in particular for Covid-19?
Because to acknowledge (as Chinese scientists have) that something as simple as Vitamin C can be an effective treatment for the Scariest Pathogen of our Time is to undermine the entire paradigm.
That paradigm is already under assault. Doctors, and epidemiologists around the world are pointing out that throughout our history, human beings have had a symbiotic relationships with the pathogens in our environment, and that the way we cope with them is to develop herd immunity to them. Says former head of the department of biostatistics, epidemiology and research design at Rockefeller University, Knut Wittkowski:
"With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity... so it's very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible. And then the elderly people, who should be separated... can come back and meet their children and grandchildren after about four weeks..."
Likewise, Professor Johan Giesecke, former State Epidemiologist for Sweden (the position now held by Anders Tegnell), and currently an advisor to the Swedish Government, says that most of the policies imposed by other governments are not evidence based. And as two California doctors argue in a video that has gone viral, the lockdowns go against the very nature of our immune systems, which develop and become stronger by exposure to pathogens.
Meanwhile, plans to create a vaccine for Covid-19 are fraught with problems - not least of which are the serious safety problems that have arisen in past attempts to develop SARS-related Coronavirus vaccines. These problems included lung pathologies in animal testing, which mirrored similar, earlier, results with infants given vaccines for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), who experienced enhanced disease effects when exposed to the virus.
"As a consequence," says a report published in Immunologic Research, "there is currently no licensed RSV vaccine and detailed studies directed towards prevention of vaccine-associated disease are a critical first step in the development of a safe and effective vaccine."
Some are alarmed by the fact that manufacturers have been granted immunity from liability by the recently enacted Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act). Others, including the director-general of the International Vaccine Institute, Jerome Kim, have expressed serious concern about the speed with which Covid-19 vaccines are being developed.
Kim says that this speed is "unprecedented." Normally, he told CNBC earlier this month, the process takes between five and ten years. "We don't know that a vaccine that's developed in four months - or I guess 12 to 18 months, which is the current estimate - is really safe."
This all comes at a time when the "vaccine safety" narrative is already showing significant cracks. Back in December, leading vaccine scientists with the World Health Organization revealed that the evidence in support of vaccine safety is not as solid as that organization publicly claims it is. And in March, when the CDC was required by a Federal court to produce evidence in support of its claim that "vaccines do not cause autism," it was unable to do so.
If we can, in fact, strengthen and support our "terrain" such that it can withstand assault from the germs we encounter as we go about our lives, then the whole narrative starts to collapse. We need no longer be locked up in our homes; we need no longer wear masks when we do dare to venture out; we need no longer view our fellow human beings as existential threats.
More than that: Maybe we do not in fact need the promised vaccine that the followers of Pasteur tell us is our only possible hope for surviving this most deadly of threats.
Germ theory lends itself very easily to the authoritarian visions of Bill Gates, the World Health Organization, and the petty dictators across my country who would destroy the livelihoods of everyone beneath them in order to appear to be "doing something" (and coincidentally expanding their own power.)
Terrain theory does not. It lends itself instead to a vision of humanity in which people are free to make their own decisions about the risks they are willing to take, about the activities they engage in, and the interactions they have with others.
What we in the US are living through at this moment is the near-perfect expression of germ theory taken to its extreme: Human beings driven away from each other by fear of a pathogen; economic activity strictly controlled by the state; normal human interaction outside of families practically forbidden. If you believe wholeheartedly in germ theory, in the idea that the state of our health is wholly at the mercy of the pathogens that surround us, then you might even think it makes sense. While this belief does not by itself justify state intervention, it does make it a lot easier to sell it to a frightened public.
It is of course also entirely possible to imagine a purely private, free society, where individual property owners buy into the idea of germ theory and impose restrictions on what people may do on their property accordingly. Such a society might even end up looking very much like the dystopia we are living in now, if enough people buy into the fear.
But it is difficult to imagine the inverse. It is difficult to imagine a society that embraces terrain theory that also imposes medical authoritarianism. Why? Because terrain theory is a paradigm of individual empowerment, and individual sovereignty. To the extent that I am responsible for the state of my own wellness, and you are responsible for yours, it is that much harder for me to perceive you as a threat, and that much harder for the state to rationalize intervening to protect me from you.
As our experience with Covid-19 plays out, as we start to get a glimpse of the tremendous costs that government-imposed lockdowns are going to have on all of us, and as we see other countries ending their lockdowns, or indeed, never imposing them in the first place, a lot of Americans are starting to question the paradigm of top-down decision making that got us here.
As we look forward to what the technocratic heirs of Louis Pasteur are dubbing "the new normal", if we find ourselves thinking that it is both unlivable and unnecessary, then perhaps we will also find that it is time to start questioning that authoritarian paradigm's counterpart in the world of medicine.