Armchair Psychology in the Time of Covid
"The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants..." A.C.
Let’s run a quick experiment. Take a minute and try and remember where you were exactly two years ago on this January day, 2019. Maybe poke around in your phone calendar and see if you entered the arbitrary tasks that occupied your day before you even heard such words as spike proteins, mRNA, Covid-19... My search tells me I drove my kids to a park district activity that day, and our piano teacher had come over right before, and I had a production meeting in person right after — a most ordinary day. Tomorrow, on the other hand, according to my phone, is when I get the flu. The funny thing about this flu that graces my entry on January 12th, 2020 is that it repeats for quite awhile, until at last, on January 24th, I have typed in “flu going away”. I couldn’t tell you why I kept track of all the days I was sick (and I was sick, sicker than I had ever felt as an adult). But I can tell you that my activities that graced every day of my calendar for those two weeks slowed down only slightly and I conducted business sick as a dog, as I usually do, as America is known to usually do. All the theatre nerds would agree with me that if you can peel yourself off the bed or toilet, you just suck it up and get your ass to rehearsal (consequently getting the entire cast and crew ill while the stage manager walks around with Ricola and mint tea bags in her fanny pack cursing at the tech schedule; we’ll leave the anecdotal for a different time.) But I remember being so sick that I asked my friend to pick me up on her way to our not-to-miss work meeting because my fever wouldn’t have allowed me to drive. I remained dressed in my big winter coat and folks had to wait for me to finish coughing up my lungs out buried in its fuzzy interior. I had lots of sympathetic pats on the back and lots of “feel better”s, we are a compassionate people.
This was before PCRs, before masks, before…
Two months later, following up on some international news stories, I started telling everyone who would listen that the virus we had been hearing about is going to hit us hard and that we are going to be at stay-at-home orders. No one believed me. It was a Thursday. I went and stocked my fridge, I lobbied my theatre ensemble to cancel our show that weekend, I went and cast my vote for Bernie Sanders early so I can avoid Election Day. One of my house mates came to take a shower and we got into a fight because I begged him not to leave the house, that if he left, his return would be putting everyone at risk. I was genuinely afraid. There were ten of us living in the same house and spanned from 6 mos to 65 years of age, some with co-morbidities, 15 days to shelter inside seemed like such a small price to pay for the health of humanity.
We went from 2 weeks to “don’t let the unvaccinated eat in restaurants” real quick, didn’t we, Chicago?
The road from “banging on pots like obedient seals” to the worshipping status of this softcore totalitarianism was paved with fear porn and The Settled Science™, and most of us somehow missed the giant warning signs. Is it because there’s no one running around with a particularly funny mustache? Or maybe it’s because we canceled all the comedians? While we were in the bathroom arguing about who can piss in there, the lights of the disco had been pulled by the plug and now you only get to dance if you learn the particular beat. Albeit, perpetually in the dark. Oh, and the beat will change on a whim.
Recently accused of being antagonistic in some of my previous essays, and pleading guilty, I must offer a simple summation of why it’s important for me to stir any feelings inside of my readers, be they pejorative. We are still in a position to ask questions, so I’ll ask them. We are still in a position where dissent won’t get you locked up, so my dissent will hold space. Because, my dear friends, if we are not allowed to question, or to express unpopular beliefs, even if they are totally and utterly wrong, you will be left without the faculties necessary to realize that you’ve been simply told what to think. So, here’s to creating cognitive dissonance. Know that I am certain of nothing, but if you think you are, sorrynotsorry to quote some Voltaire at you: “ Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”
Infection Point and the Portal of Curiosity
If you’re still here, I’m hopeful that your curiosity will be piqued enough to keep reading, because curiosity just might be the thing that gets us out of this mess. If you aren’t even wondering why someone might think and feel entirely the opposite of what you think and feel, perhaps it’s you who is asking for an echo chamber and I am sorry to have wasted your time, you should leave this article now, I can (rather often) be longwinded and indulge in lots of run-on sentences, my god, let us add nuance to the conversation.
During some of my deep dive into “conspiratorial” territory, I often heard the same question being asked: “How did you know?” There’s a lot of overlap here and clear patterns emerge between subsets of people. Some of the really smart folks never fell for the narrative because they were capable of interpreting the data themselves and didn’t have to rely on any “Experts”. The laymen grumbled a lot about not trusting the government. For me, an immigrant from a garden variety Communist country, it was the censorship and propaganda, although I have to give a lot of credit to my mother (who has been tinfoil hatting it all her life) who sniffed this out very early on.
However, there was a specific moment when some random video on FB of RFK Jr. making an observation about Fauci simply rang true down to the core. I had been watching Fauci on television (he was always on) and due to the nature of my career (studying body language and gesticulation to create physical theatre narratives), my gut recognized the observation immediately. It was obvious that he was lying.
These days, when I have conversations with friends who stayed by my side and even indulged in curiosity, the issue of who you can trust comes up often. How do you know if the people you listen to are telling the truth? I return to that moment when the Jeff Award worthy performance of an infallibly painted Fauci didn’t cut the mustard. Every experience I’ve had since then has only propped up my view. Because that’s what reality does: it either returns confirmations of your beliefs or it delivers experience after experience which, if not aligned with your truth, rots and hallows you out causing a sordid discomfort. If you want to know who to trust, just go back to the beginning of this essay’s exercise. Now, look at the past and ask yourself if your expectations were met: Was it just two weeks? Was it only two jabs? Were they only meant to minimize your symptoms? Could you ditch the masks if you were vaccinated? Weren’t the shots entirely safe and effective? As the term “fully vaccinated” is replaced by “up-to-date”, as cloth masks become less reliable than n95 masks, as the story keeps flipping and flopping and grasping for air like a wet fat trout, how many times have the people you have been following been right? Has anyone ever even admitted to getting it wrong or maybe, even, gasp, apologized? Have your experiences echoed back at you?
Sometimes, in the very same conversations, I’ll ask a question back: What would your red flag be? What is the line that has to be crossed before you realize something quite nefarious might be happening, that you are on a treadmill with a carrot on one side and a stick on the other, that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and frankly, everywhere? One of the answers I received was that if someone who is speaking out against the narrative was killed, then we would know. Yeah, we would know that it was too late.
Flirting with Fascism
There’s a trend that has been revealed this past week, with leaders in multiple countries echoing the same sentiment like a perverted ominous chorus in a Greek tragedy. Macron calls the non vacciné Frenchies “non-citizens”, Biden doubles down on his “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and tells parents to keep their kids away from their unjabbed friends (this is at the heels of me sharing this video in my last essay), but the coronation of most despicable despot goes to…you guessed it, indigenous-snubbing-blackface-wearing-performative-ridden clam Justin Trudeau who claimed that unvaccinated are racists and misogynists and should not be tolerated, the fact that he is now saying the quiet parts out loud is rather disconcerting, Canada blink twice if you need us to start building underground railroads.
This agitprop is purposefully dehumanizing, an intentional shaking of the jar of ants so we can keep “othering” and fighting but never questioning who is causing the quake. It happens to be a highlighted chapter in the totalitarian playbook. Both the red ants and the black ants are known victims of it, the stance of pro- or anti- having little to do with right or wrong, even if the hand that shakes the jar is publicly rooting for every mask-wearing, social-distancing, tripple-jabbed Formicidae. I’ll spare you any Biblical references of how even the righteous won’t escape the pits which evil has set aflame, but insist that we are all playing the roles of useful idiots while our reality is being constructed around us without our informed consent.
The divisive rhetoric is ultimately unnecessary. Everyone should have a choice to do whatever they want with their own body. If you choose to take no shots, one shot, or all the shots, the key word there is “choose”. Clamoring for mandates is a whole new level of useful idiocy. It’s a dangerous precedent to strong arm your neighbor to undergo a medical procedure for your benefit, but what makes it terrifying is the gleefulness with which tyranny cheerleads you on.
“The new tyranny of which we are speaking exalts man to the point of adoration, giving him the opportunity to turn his interests and desires into freedoms and rights, which however are no longer inherent in him by nature, but become the “gracious concessions” of a power that legally ratifies them. And so, turned into a child who contemplates his own whims as these are maximized and satisfied, the man of our time is more than ever the hostage of the assertions of power that guarantee him the enjoyment of all-encompassing liberty and constantly expanding rights. In the classical tyrannies, the subject at least still had the consolation of knowing that he was oppressed by a power that was violating his nature; but those who are subjected to this new tyranny have no consolation other than the protection of the same power that has lifted them up to the altar of adoration. And so without even realizing it man has become a tool in the hands of those who tend to him with painstaking care, as ants tend to aphids before feeding on them.”
Never mind that this is all happening under the watch of the party who stood for bodily autonomy. Never mind that it was the Dems who used to oppose Big Corp and Big Pharma. And now they are sleeping with the enemy and control leaking their sex tapes to the media. You can’t bed the same people who are hurting the folks you are claiming to protect, Democrats, and then turn around and call those folks Trump supporters to dismiss their complaints. It doesn’t work that way. The latest poll suggests that the typical vaccine hesitant person isn’t even a Trumper, but the 40 something women who vote liberal. We used to look up to the liberal Justices for defending our right to choose, yet during the latest Supreme Court hearing regarding the vaccine mandates, in her defense against choice, Justice Sotomayor makes the false claim that there are over 100,000 hospitalized children (even though there are roughly only 81,000 total hospital beds in the entirety of the United States), with some on ventilators (none on ventilators). I held my nose voting for Biden, back when I thought it would make a difference. Now that I’m politically marooned and see no point in voting, I don’t want to participate in this charade ever again. We are a disillusioned people.
Leap of Faithality?
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters on which side of the isle you stretch your legs. Tyranny doesn’t care about the color of its sheep’s clothing. It finds something for us to worship and demands constant ritual to prove we worship it. This enlightening thread by Forrest Maready calls out our elevation of Science (or Psyence) to the status of Religion. I find the comparison quite apt: religion isn’t so much about the moral code of how to act as it is a tool with which to describe the nature of reality. It’s an origin story that requires a great sense of faith. Science is the study of the natural world based on observations and experiments. Science shouldn’t care about the majority opinion, it only asks questions based on evidence. But how many times have you been asked to just trust The Science™ even in the face of failed experiments? How many times were you asked to show your allegiance by performing ritualistic initiation?
Are you still wearing masks even though all these studies show that masks are useless at best and damaging at worst? Are you still testing without having any symptoms and overwhelming the hospitals? Did you still get Covid although you were told you won’t get it if you jab? Or are you gonna pull that ol’ “it was only meant to minimize your illness” excuse out for a spin, because then just maybe stop calling it a vaccine and just call it a therapeutic. You know, like an allergy shot. How long can Science deny your own experience and still keep asking for a tithe? Toby Rogers unintentionally answers that pretty accurately: “Covering up negative vaccine efficacy with more vaccines is the ultimate totalitarian flex.”
Now, of course, you are free to believe in anything you want in this great country. It’s part of what makes USA so appealing. You can let Science govern the shit out of you and you can worship its false idols. But be aware of the dangers that lurk in deifying. “To worship,” observes Jordan Peterson “is to imitate.” It’s how tyranny highjacks the empathy of regular people, it’s what Hanna Arendt calls “the banality of evil” and so far it has gotten a free pass during this pandemic. That is until Normie Twitter realized that shit was getting serious because Joe Rogan entered the conversation and put his big fat 200 million follower thumb on the scale of alternative perspectives, both his Peter McCullough and Robert Malone interviews got deplatformed from YouTube in a matter of hours. Even so, the term “mass formation psychosis” trended and almost broke the internet as Google actively tried to cancel it and then shuffled out the top hits to promote some unknown YouTuber’s link.
Mass Psychotio Whattie?
The term, a hybrid of Desmet’s “mass formation” and McDonald’s “ mass delusional psychosis” was promptly fact checked by Reuters by claiming that “no evidence of pandemic ‘mass formation psychosis’, say experts” and “numerous psychologists have also told Reuters that such a condition is not officially recognized.” Never mind that the media has been feeding you terror soup for two years. Never mind that the Chairman of the Reuters Foundation, James C. Smith, sits on the Pfizer Board. Never mind that arguing what you call the condition of mass manipulation is irrelevant to the act itself. Fact checkers gonna fact check. Paging Ms. Morissette, irony on isle 5, Ms. Morissette, please come to isle 5.
For the Greater Good
So let’s dig around and see how we might have gotten here. While most people got bread making PhDs during the pandemic, my friend Diane and I got honorary arm chair psychologist degrees sitting around and talking about behavioral impulses. Our credentials consist only of thousands of hours of observational field work in the performance art sector. The process of creating in a group forms insta-intimacy. Interpersonal relationships can and do influence the dynamics of a production — an overarching umbrella under which we pick apart the human experience of the fictional characters themselves. A play within a play within a play…
I know I have already discussed how most of us fell for the narrative at lengths, but it bears the repeating that it was our compassion that did us in. It was our empathy that was preciously groomed and weaponized the way a narcissist love bombs and gaslights its pray. It was our hearts that convinced us that we can serve tyranny as long as it was for the greater good.
"Le bien-être du peuple en particulier à toujours été l’alibi des tyrans, et il offre de plus l’avantage de donner bonne conscience aux domestiques de la tyrannie"
Albert Camus, Hommage à un journaliste exilé (1955)
We are being taken advantage of by those who we elected to protect us, afraid to leave our abuser, to let go of our inner egos which are playing out on a global scale, to empower ourselves and reclaim our self-possession. This wouldn’t be the first time that humanity fell for the trick. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of humanitarianism. It wouldn’t even be the first time that it was called out:
Yet, this kind of multi-pronged psychopathic hydra likes to hide behind its eye roll when it’s compared to the Brave New World of 1984 and behind its pearl clutching gasps of “How dare you invoke Nazi comparisons, don’t you know how people have suffered?” It then sweeps its guilt-woven cape around its necks, sits on its guilt-forged throne, and adjusts its crown in the vanity of guilt mirror. What is reflected is incapable for asking for forgiveness. It holds the memory of the outrage in such high esteem that it is bound to repeat it. You might be an exceptional psychopath, Hydra, but you are not the exception.
But more on psychopathy in a minute. Let us sit back down on the couch.
On Being a Good Person
In our armchair analysis, Diane proposed a hypothesis of how the internal ego is playing out on a global scale. If we dissect the refuseniks, what reveals itself is an internal trauma of broken boundaries and holding onto self-custody — an analysis that resonates deeply when I run my own internal scan. Then, there are two kinds of people that trust the main narrative: those whose trauma lives inside the question of “Am I a good person?” and those whose trauma lives inside the certainty of “I’m a good person.” The former consists of most everyone I know in the city of Chicago. I wish I can reassure my friends that they are, indeed, incredibly good people; kind, generous, and full of love. The latter has been given the hall monitor sash and is writing out detentions in the relentless attempt to show proof they are a good person. Goodness happens to be the ego’s favorite place to hide.
If you’re locking down but surviving doing so with meal delivery apps, online shopping, and delivery groceries, you’re not reducing risk, you’re just imposing it on other people.
-Freddie de Boer
The good fall over themselves with witticism and snarky condensation taking down anyone who has questions and concerns on social media; the good gush how we need to assure Third World countries are given the same precautions we took (even though those precautions failed us and were largely rejected by them); the good go out of their way to list all the measures they took to prevent getting really sick while being really sick and insist that you follow the same protocol. We are not a serious people.
Leaving the Story
The truth is that the snakes are slipping away in the night and someone is gonna be left holding the back of venom. Even for those less self-aware, the universe will keep delivering experiences that will feel uncomfortable, void of joy and humor, a scratchy record stuck on repeat. As Jordan Peterson says, “You pay a price for internal ethical disunity.” One day the hall monitors will look around at the empty halls, follow the laughter emitting from the picnic grove outside, and finally pull down the mask to take a breath of fresh air. The “go along to get along even though you know it’s wrong” loses it appeal when no one’s there to get along with.
Prohibition played itself out similarly. At first, there was some vocal support to insist the public remain proper, healthy, and alcohol-free. But there was a minority who was willing to be arrested, killed even, to continue making and smuggling booze. And then they got creative while evading the rules and regulations and some of them started having fun. So they fashioned Speakeasies and Nascar and the normies got curious. Once it became common public knowledge and the politicians started patronizing underground establishments, the risk of death by unregulated booze became bigger than the benefit of righteous indignation and just like that, prohibition ended.
Eventually, even those who like hiding behind their masks to avoid revealing who they really are, will step through the Speakeasy door. The media is already pivoting after stories of Flurona and Deltacron were met with raised eyebrows. The courts are bringing some sanity back and ordering Pfizer to drop its data by March 1st. Walensky came out to say death rates will be adjusted to reflect “with” Covid instead of “from” Covid, something the CDC incompetently failed to do for the last two years. Fauci, pardon, The Science™ might get thrown under the bus while its wheels are coming off, but for the most part, the political theatre of Covid is coming to an end. The war on virus will go down the same way as the war on drugs and the war on terror. The shift will happen when we are ready for our reality to change.
“The 'Messiah' character is often used to signal, or represent, the emergence of a new way of engaging that reality - a new age - and the destruction or obsolescence of the old.”
The ‘Messiahs’ are growing in numbers. When the day the curtain falls on this particular pandemic, (and yes, there will be others, if not pandemics, emergencies, as John Waters acknowledges: “The ‘pandemic’ is a charade to camouflage the takedown of the economic system and its replacement by a totalitarian economics of perpetual emergency.”) don’t reach for the pitchforks and don’t sharpen the guillotines. No need to grind the axe, even for the heads of those who lied to you. Someone had to play the role of the bully; the psychopath, too, has a place in society as the catalyst for conscious evolution. The psychopath, too, is living out its trauma: the insatiable appetite to be in control of an untamable Universe. Besides, the psychopaths are dying. To do the killing ourselves is to keep existing in a reality where violence is the only answer. We are all guilty as we are all capable. Instead, let us reclaim our empathy even if we have to look outside of the Hallmark card isle. I promise you, it’ll be worth it. So, I leave you with this social experiment question: If you had the opportunity to prevent the deaths of million by smothering Hitler as a baby, would you? If you know for sure that someone would be responsible for humanity’s worst nightmares, would you end that person’s life? It is the metaphysical inquiry of our civilization. Feel free to tell me (off) in the comments.
Visceral Adventure is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It's always fascinating for me to hear individual accounts of moving from acceptance to skepticism. As a big time fan of quotes you have a few from the favorites list and this one new to me extra hugs for this.. so true and so seldom noted among the blue check Zoomers! :~)
"If you’re locking down but surviving doing so with meal delivery apps, online shopping, and delivery groceries, you’re not reducing risk, you’re just imposing it on other people."
-Freddie de Boer
"Canada blink twice if you need us to start building underground railroads." <----- Belly laugh moment for me. I enjoyed the entire essay, but the belly laugh was sorely needed.