Spring is Here


Spring is here; as ever, who knows what happens next. Spring is about being visionary as the inward directions of winter are moving upwards: growth and envisioning possibilities. Days are lighter and brighter; pandemic circumstances are certainly changing. Pandemic discussions of course continue; PhDs and books are being written about our experiences of the last two years. A few might think that absolutely everyone must be repeatedly vaccinated while a handful of people do actually believe that the earth is flat. Most are in the middle: doing their best to keep heads above water, recognising the seriousness of Covid, perhaps able to acknowledge pandemic pluses amongst all the challenges. Inevitably, there are differing perspectives. For myself, some good friends are unvaccinated and some are vaccinated.

It has to be said that fear is a great tool for controlling people. Fear can cause obedience. It also has to be said that conspiracy theories are a great tool for confusing people. Hitler did die in that Berlin bunker in 1945. The moon landings happened. The Jesuits did not sink the Titanic nor are the Royal Family lizards. [1] Let us be practical: how many people would have to be sworn to secrecy for such conspiracies to actually exist?

As one example, for the moon landing to be a conspiracy, tens of thousands of people would have to be involved. Roger Clark wrote about the myth of Hitler’s survival: “Conspiracy theorists pollute the wells of knowledge…If serious historians are wrong about Hitler’s death – and he really did survive for years after 1945 – then perhaps they’re wrong about everything else, including the Holocaust.” Often these conspiratorial elements have belief systems that combine hyper-individualism with authoritarian nationalistic populism (like the so-called ‘Freedom’ Convoys or Donald Trump).

But it is also true that conspiracies do exist. Look at the CIA’s involvement with others in overthrowing democratically governments in countries such as Iran and Chile or more recent examples such as Edward Snowden’s revelations and the Pandora Papers. And it is certainly true that there is not just one singular voice of science; there are always opinions, political positions, egos straining for money and status and glory.


Covid Vaccines

Covid vaccines are not causing significant amounts of damage to millions of people and yet this fact is true: there are some who experience significant adverse side-effects from the vaccine. Nothing is risk-free. Philip Hammond – Private Eye MD columnist and a doctor since the late 1980s – wrote: “In general, vaccines are among the safest health interventions known…if you vaccinate billions globally, some will die as a result of vaccination. However, many more will die from Covid…” [2]

Covid is an especially nasty disease that especially penalises the elderly, the overweight, the diabetics, those with existing health conditions, people of colour in particular cultures. Covid vaccines are not effective at preventing infection and transmission; they are very good at lessening severity of illness and risks of hospitalisation/death; efficacy of Covid vaccines does definitely decline over several months, as do other/natural immunities. Personally, I have been triple vaccinated and I oppose mandatory vaccination; I am highly doubtful about vaccine passports and I am in favour of face masks in certain situations.

There is a great longing for things to return to normal and it does seem that this Covid era might be coming towards an end. But it has to be clearly stated that things will not go back to what they were pre-pandemic. A new disease has been added to the mix; a disease that is more infectious and more severe than flu. There will be more sickness, more disruption, more chronic conditions such as Long Covid. There will be more waves of Covid (with hopefully less severe variants) and it is highly likely that there will be more pandemics in the future (as there have been in the past).

As spring comes, this can be a time for us to raise our aspirations. Covid is primarily an airborne illness; so fresh air and improved ventilating systems are much needed. The Victorians transformed sanitation in the 19th century; ventilation could be our 21st-century equivalent. Offering vaccines around the world is a way of lessening the emergence of variants. Proper supporting of health services (rather than privatisation and undermining) is essential; this means substantial funding increases. Polls have repeatedly shown that a considerable majority of the UK population want the NHS to be better funded.

Other steps include prioritising health through exercise (how about all gyms and leisure centres having free membership?); ensuring that when people are sick that they receive sufficient financial support to stay at home; providing good quality masks; eating healthy food that supports our immune system. Realising that Covid – like so many other illnesses and diseases – inextricably correlates with socio-economic inequality. Recognising that there is significant correlation between Covid and obesity; the US Centre for Disease Control reported in March 2021 that 78% of people who had been hospitalised or died from Covid were overweight or obese. [3] Around the world, countries with high levels of obesity also have high levels of death rates from Covid. [4] The links between obesity and food industry influences on legislative policy must be acknowledged. Often unhealthy foods that cause obesity mean more profits for that food industry.

Living With Covid

The government talks about “learning to live with Covid”. There is truth in this – but their policies seem to have little learning and much wishing for the illusion of “back to normal”. Professor Christina Pagel stated in February 2022: “Fundamentally, the world is different now. Acting as if it isn’t, which the UK seems determined to do, may feel good in short term but will result in a new normal worse than the old one. I prefer for us to build a new normal that’s better than frequent sickness and disruption.” [5]

We must aspire towards more listening, more willingness to discuss different views, more empathy. More nuances and fewer absolutes; fewer certainties and more curiosity. Less vilification of the unvaccinated; more attention to socio-economic structures. Developing critical literacy that helps us to think more for ourselves.

Health has to be both collective and individual. Poor health is definitely linked to social inequalities. The pandemic has undoubtedly enriched a few; as well as Pfizer (maker of one of the vaccines), there is Amazon, private health care providers and PPE manufacturers. And the pandemic has also shown that co-ordinated actions grounded in looking after each other are possible – such as economic support for those who lost work and volunteers staffing vaccination centres. Those who deny the truth of these statements are deluded.

Life – and we humans – certainly have cycles. From frosted soil to bulbs becoming buds, from childhood to adulthood, from women’s monthly cycles to the waxing and waning of moon. Then there is the vast range of human emotional cycles, such as abandoned, affectionate, anxious, agreeable, awkward… These cycles of constant changes mean that what we might perceive as fixed is in fact much more fluid. Shifts definitely do happen

It is a good practice to question narratives: both personal and societal. A very valid question is: who is benefitting from particular policies? Instead of binary statements, we could look for broader pictures; we can sharpen our critical facilities and we could encourage thoughtful and creative discussion. Less cultures of censorship, more an imaginative and connecting response to the difficulties we face. Finding the abundance of common grounds that we do have.

Norman Blair
21 March 2022

[1] Richard J Evans. 2020. The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination Allen Lane. The first three examples are from this book – the Royal Family being lizards is a belief upheld by individuals such as David Icke, an English conspiracy theorist.
[2] Philip Hammond. 2021. Dr Hammond’s Covid Casebook. Private Eye, p131.
[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/08/covid-cdc-study-finds-roughly-78percent-of-people-hospitalized-were-overweight-or-obese.html – accessed 28 February 2022.
[4] Philip Hammond. 2021 Dr Hammond’s Covid Casebook. Private Eye, p159.
[5] Professor Christina Pagel on Twitter, February 10th, 2022.