During this COVID19 situation, there were many countries and locations that continued to operate schools normally without interruption or major changes in operations. At the same time, scientists have learned that school-age to young adults have little risk of getting severe complications from this virus. The risk is not absolutely zero, but it is comparable to other disease risks that we tolerate without changing the operations of schools. During this time, we obtained data showing little evidence that there is a significant risk of spreading COVID19 from young people to older people.
I have always thought that the government response for this situation should be different for different age groups. Children and young adults are least affected and should have the least interruption to their normal lives. Elderly are most affected and should be isolated, especially if they live in communities for elderly where the disease can spread quickly among each other.
Those ages in between these ranges are exposed to a moderate level of risk of complications but most people will accept the risk in order to live normally. These are the people who will instruct, coach, or supervise the younger people, and the same population also will provide services to the elderly at risk. Inherently, this middle generation faces a difficult task of serving both the invulnerable young people who need to develop their lives for their futures, and the vulnerable old people who need to be protected from infection.
I described in posts very early in this situation that we needed to free this middle generation group to live their lives as they wish because from them will come the services everyone needs. Many countries such as my own decided to ignore that option and instead focus on “stay at home” for the sake of public health. People we otherwise would need to operate our economy would need to stay home and entertain themselves while we wait for a vaccine that will allow us to return to normal.
This is so ridiculous that should be a farce. Staying at home forces people to lose out on opportunities for their own growth, and consequently it will cause them to regress, becoming less relevant either due to lost wealth or degraded health.
I was particularly disturbed by reports of schools that are attempting to open up again. They are ignoring the strong evidence that children do not need any modifications of their school experiences, as shown in many locations that did not close their schools. Instead we see classrooms with students spaced 6 feet apart, having to wear masks all day, and having recesses where each child must stay 6 feet apart, and in some cases confined to an assigned square marked off by chalk. This is child abuse.
Meanwhile, teacher’s unions are fighting against opening schools entirely due to the risk it poses to the teachers. This again is clouded by the age range of teachers. There are older teachers at an age where they begin to be more at risk. Other teachers may need to come home the share with their parents. The unions are requiring extensive personal protective equipment for teachers. While this may protect the teachers, it would punish the children by having to interact with the teacher across plastic barriers and with everyone covering their faces with masks.
This does illustrate the general problem we face. We have a generation that we need to serve both the future generation that deserves the maximum liberty to develop for optimal futures, and the aging generation that needs to be protected and isolated and whose better days are behind them.
The proposed solution so far is to lock down everything but essential services and that includes encouraging people to stay at home all the time, or even enforcing these as stay at home orders. As I wrote earlier, this does not make sense to me, these are the people we need to be active to keep things working, and the young in particular are the people we need to be developing to prepare for their future. For practical reasons, we never should have even started this policy, or at least we should have discarded the policy the moment it became clear that this was not going to be like the medieval plagues. Yet, here we are.
It was the images of the tentatively reopening schools that alerted me to something I hadn’t thought of before. What we are doing to the young people and children are inhumane. We preventing children from playing in close-contact with each other, or it is preventing young adults from gatherings into close community whether for entertainment, sport, or education. There needs to be a very good reason to do this. No such reason exists, these groups are not at risk of this disease, and we owe these groups the maximum advantages for them to advance their development for a prosperous future for everyone.
I am convinced that our current policies are going to have dire consequences on the future we will need to live through. Each day we delay or slow-walk the removal of the restrictions only compound the damage to our collective future.
Recently, my local government was given the opportunity to begin to relax the restrictions. Before they did so, I wrote to them to say that given that the restrictions were based on flawed science to begin with, the restrictions should be lifted entirely, even if that means to demand it from the governor. They responded that my view was in the minority, and the majority believes that the current policy is appropriate even if it was flawed to begin with. This is consistent with my earlier complaint about the enlightenment-inspired government that presumes that once any decision is made the burden is on those who want to change it. Evidence of flawed justification in the first place is not proof it needs to change.
The images of social distancing practices in school settings haunt me. It is cruel to force our children into that environment for most of their day. It is downright sinister if they are facing teachers who appear terrified of being around their students. Some actually are terrified, but all appear so as they are dressed up in their PPE and are constantly screaming at the class to conform to social distancing rules.
My childhood classroom experiences are many decades in the past, but I still recall the experience. It is terrifying to imagine what that would have been like with the current environment. If I had children of my own, I would seriously consider keeping them out of that kind of environment. Even if I could do that, I would still be upset knowing many children do not have that kind of choice.
We are entering the summer months, so most schools will not open until August or September. Based on the government’s reluctance to admit their mistake of getting us into this mess in the first place, I expect that schools will open with this kind of fear and it will likely remain that way for the entire school year, at least.
This experience will shape the rest of the lives of these children. The only thing comparable in my own experience was the earlier nuclear bomb drills of duck and cover after hearing a special siren sound. Those only happened once or twice a year and lasted only a few minutes. Now we are imposing a similar drill every minute of every school day.
As others have mentioned, this is training children into fearing the natural world, and fearing other humans in particular. Every excursion outside the confines of home must involve masks, gloves, and proof of recent medical interventions of testing or vaccinations. Every encounter with any human being must not involve physical contact and in fact must be at least 6 feet apart.
I see this every day I walk in town where if people are walking past each other they will change their paths to avoid getting too close, walking out into the roadway (playing chicken with oncoming traffic) if that is what is needed. We do this despite the the minuscule risk of catching this disease from a momentary encounter in outsider where neither is coughing or even heavily breathing. Even if we do get the disease it is unlikely either of us will die from it.
This policy is dehumanizing people. It is especially acute for younger people, but it is affecting all ages.
It is not dehumanizing everyone, however. People in government do not appear to be affected much. Nearly every government job is essential and they continue to work. When their work involves doing work outside in groups, they are not restrained by social distancing rules. Many jobs are impossible unless multiple people work in close proximity to each other. Even when the option of social distancing is available, such as when workers congregate to talk, they are doing so in less than 6 feet apart and without masks. No one is going to stop them.
People higher up in government (such as politicians and their staff) are free to travel and hold meetings where social distancing occurs only when cameras are on them. Similar exemptions are allowed to the very wealthy or the celebrities.
The stay-at-home, or social-distance-in-public rules only apply to the non-essential people. That designation itself is dehumanizing.
From the start, we accepted without objection that we can divide people into essential and non-essential. We readily agree who the essential people are, because they are the ones that show up all the time on TV or in online videos. Celebrities are essential. Celebrities include politicians, government office holders, and news reporters.
Recently, it was announced that sports competitions can continue as long as there are no one in the stands. This includes contact sports. The athletes are essential, the audience is not. I am not a sports enthusiast, but my impression is that most team sports are pointless without a live audience.
I began this discussion focusing on the children largely because I’m genuinely concerned about the injustice we are imposing on them, especially in terms of shaping their future prospects. I’m convinced we were damaging their futures, and by extension of future of our society if not all of humanity. This is in a literal sense dehumanizing the little people.
In a more metaphoric sense we are dehumanizing the little people in general. This is illustrated with the outlawing of most small businesses, especially those not associate with large chains or franchises. We see many reports of small businesses in the forms of shops and personal services forced to operate with no more than 10 people inside their establishment where most need at least half that number in staff. Even under relaxed rules, restaurants are forced to remove 3 out of every 4 tables for serving customers, and bars are not permitted to have people congregate in the bar areas.
The little people are the small businesses and their clients. In a direct sense, the rules particularly restrict their ability to engage in commerce among each other. In a more general sense, these same people have no other options available to them to engage in anything. The only permitted option is to stay home and isolated.
Meanwhile, the proclaimed essential workers lives are largely not impacted by the rules. Some of these essential workers are facing higher workloads and under more protective apparel as they work in medical fields or in food retail stores that are big enough to stay open. Most of the so-called essential workforce are not experiencing either higher workload or unusual protective measures. Most of the essential population’s lives are largely unaffected.
This was illustrated recently in a daily TV show involving a panel who are all permitted to continue working with salary (after all they are providing entertainment to the people staying at home) and chastising some small business owner for attempting to open their business. The privileged panel insisted that the small business owner should be satisfied with the handouts from government. The overall image was repulsive. There was clearly a class divide on display: privileged people permitted full freedom to pursue their happiness are telling the unprivileged that they had no right to do likewise.
Another example was of another privileged frequent TV guest who argued vehemently that there is no Constitutional right to operate ones business as long as the duly elected democratic government determines that doing so would pose a public health risk. The argument was very explicit in that all that matters is that the government can determine what is and what is not a public health risk. Everyone must abide by whatever that government decides. The justification comes from the government being democratically elected.
Apparently, the bill of rights is alienable as long as the alienation comes from the penumbras of a democratic government.
A single scientist working under a government contract under some bureaucratic arm of a government that happens to have democratically elected legislature and executive branch is able to impose a model of public health that declares a public health situation that requires people to give up their businesses. This is perfectly acceptable in the current government because the government has a constitution that permits democratically elected representatives who are mostly at the mercy of whatever that scientist says is scientific.
In this blog, I frequently talk about an alternative government that is in many ways a dystopia future where we have extensive data monitoring, but where all decisions are made by algorithms so that no people are involved in decision making at all. Over the years, the discussion has focused more on the benefits of that type of government over the current government.
One particular theme is that this particular government has no one in a position of power over anyone else. The machine has complete power to assess available information with an available algorithm to come up with a rule that will affect everyone according to what will produce the optimal outcome. Such a government may in fact decide who is essential and who is not, but that decision will be free from considering who was important prior. A person who benefited in a privileged position earlier (such as those celebrity television guests) would be just as likely to be determined as non-essential as anyone else. Similarly, depending on the situation, some obscure little person may be given a highly privileged role because they bring exactly what is needed for the current situation.
Again this discussion is of a specific implementation of automated government that I call a dedomenocracy. This is a government that by default imposes no constraints on the population. In other words, in this government, by default everyone is essential. If you are alive, you are essential for this government because the government needs you to provide the data needed when a crises occurs. The government only acts when the population expresses a crisis, through a majority decision that some urgency exists. Only at this point would the government do anything and even then that decision expires a short time later.
To work best, a dedomenocracy needs access to unbiased behavior of what actual human behavior is and what each person offers. Another way to describe this, is that this is a government that trusts the people. A machine-based government is more likely to trust the people than any government run by people. The latter is bound to distrust the governed.
In recent discussions, there was the case of Sweden’s success in weathering through the crisis about as well as other nations even though Sweden had very little restrictions on people. It was explained that this worked because the people trusted the government because the government trusted the people. (I think their policy just proved that the pandemic was not dangerous as scientists warned). This description is relevant to the dedomenocracy discussion. I haven’t stated it but I believe I always presumed exactly the same thing: the people will trust a government that convinced the people that the government trusts the people. That might be possible from a government by data and urgency.
If I had such a choice, I would prefer trusting a government that trusts me over the current democratic government that repeatedly reminds me that it does not trust me to even leave my house without government prescribed precautions of masks, social distancing, and (soon) certificate of vaccination.