I got sick in the Spring of 1998. Very sick.
I missed a week of work. Several days in bed with a fever.
I remember my first days back at work. I could not remember when I’d arrived at work or what I had done a moment ago. The second morning back, I remember walking toward my cube in utter confusion. I could not have pointed to my desk on a map of the floor. I progressed from landmark to landmark, afraid I’d find myself in an place I did not recognize.
As passed a row of small conference rooms, I began to wonder if this confusion and lack of memory was permanent. Even more frightening, I could not recall what its absence was like.
“Maybe I’ve always been like this,” I thought.
I made it to my desk and sat down. The three programmers in my small Web Development team sat around me. I asked one of them what we were working on. “Panasonic,” he said.
I recognized the name, but I had no idea what the work entailed. “What are we doing for Panasonic?” I asked.
“That new file you told us about last night.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I couldn’t let him know that. So I opened the Panasonic repository, scanning for a file or a folder that might trigger my memory.
This went on for the remainder of the week.
I don’t remember a moment of recovery, so I guess I gradually emerged from the fog of that illness. Or maybe I just adapted. Or maybe I was always that way, and the unplanned down time simply elevated my awareness of my normal state. I still have no idea.
But when I read about “long COVID,” I know exactly what it feels like. I had it in 1997. Maybe I still do.
Having experienced something long ago that others are only now discovering has a strange effect on me. Sympathetically, I know exactly what they’re going through. Cynically, I scoff at their hyper-emotional lamentations. “My life is ruined,” wrote one long Covid sufferer. “Man up, woman,” I thought.
I shouldn’t be that way. I actually don’t know exactly what she’s going through. But the way she described her symptoms sounded exactly like mine in 1997. I could be misinterpreting her descriptions, though.
But lingering brain fog and fatigue are not the point of this post. This is about the other “long Covid,” the one that affects us all and probably will for generations. I’m talking about the protracted effects of surrendering unlimited power to morally defective authorities.
We Were Warned
The Crisis resolution will establish the political, economic, and social institutions with which our children and heirs will live for decades thereafter. Fresh from the press of history, the new civic order will rigidify around all the new authorities, rules, boundaries, treaties, empires, and alliances.1
If Americans learned one lesson during the Covid pandemic, it was this: thou shalt not question authority.
That unquestionable authority might be unquestionably wrong, evil, and sadistic, but the fact that it is the authority demands silent assent. Dissent, or even asking too many questions, is punishable by a sentence of long Covid: unemployment, ostracization, family rejection, loss of credentials, public humiliation.
Fear of being condemned to this internal exile, many people have learned to signal their obedience to that authority. The mask thus became the predominant symbol of love of party.
Last night I had to run to two stores for groceries and staples. I noticed something interesting. While very few people wore masks over their faces (nine of 48 people I randomly observed), almost half wore a mask under their chins like a cartoon character with a toothache. Why? Masks have no effect on the transmission of Covid, even if worn as intended over the mouth and nose. Masks under the chin are just uncomfortable.
The only reasonable explanation is symbolism. The chin-strappers want to prove their love for authority.
I saw an even more bewildering encounter. Two women in the fruit section of a supermarket (two of the nine with masks worn properly) managed to recognize each other despite their face coverings. They maneuvered around the tomato bins to talk. As soon as they got within four feet of each other, they lowered their masks to the chin-strap position.
I pretended to be an avocado aficionado for a few minutes to observe. Not to eavesdrop—I have no idea what they talked about—but to watch and wonder, the way an ornithologist might stop to watch birds in a mating dance.
The pair talked and laughed and touched each others arms. Their behavior was completely normal for two friends sharing stories. Except for the masks stretched beneath their chins.
It’s possible the women are just stupid and don’t know that masks, if they work at all, are most valuable during long interactions within a few feet of another person. Masks are most useless in a well-ventilated space as people pass like ships in the night. This leads me to conclude these birds are either idiots or chin-strappers who use the mask for identification. They are not afraid of catching infectious diseases but, rather, infectious ideas.
Chin-strappers, whether teens or retirees, have decided they know all there is to know, and they will not tolerate ideas outside their narrow, safe limits. They believe themselves to belong to an evolved species that should not mate with or even talk with inferior breeds. They fear not the breath of bare-facers but the brain. They daily say a silent prayer of thanksgiving to science for devising a system to identify their kind from the barbaric bare-facers who now and for centuries have held society back from achieving its full potential: the brotherhood of man.
Chin-Strappers and Geopolitics
I saw an interesting headline on Fox News yesterday. It’s buried or removed, now, or the headline changed. As I remember, the headline read: “Russia Attempting to Wipe Out Dissent on War Narrative.”
I laughed. The same could be said of the United States, and no one denies it.
Mitt Romney accused former Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of “treason” for merely mentioning the fact that the US built and funded biohazard research facilities in Ukraine. Congressman Dan Crenshaw repeated Romney’s accusation, saying Americans should not be allowed to utter any words that Russia might later use for propaganda.
Glenn Greenwald pointed out in a brilliant article on substack that treason is the only crime for which the Constitution provides the death penalty. Because of its seriousness, it’s also the only crime the Constitution specifically defines.
Treason was the only crime to be explicitly defined and limited by the Founders because they sought “to guard against the historic use of treason prosecutions by repressive governments to silence otherwise legitimate political opposition.” In other words, the grave danger anticipated by the Founders was that "treason” would radically expand to include any criticisms of or opposition to official U.S. Government policy, activities they sought in the Bill of Rights to enshrine as an inviolable right of U.S. citizenship, not turn it into a capital crime.
Yet, here we are. Treason is now, according to two members of Congress, any speech that could potentially be used by a foreign power to challenge US authoritarian narratives.