“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
— George Bernard Shaw
I wrote about my dilemma with respect to air travel a couple months back, but haven’t yet resolved it. In fact, I was supposed to board a flight to London Friday for Heather’s best friend’s 50th birthday celebration, but coincidentally came down with Covid last week and had to stay home. Did I conjure that illness into existence to respect my prior vows?
Part of me is jealous I’m not going on the trip, first to London and then to Split, Croatia where they rented a house with a pool overlooking the Mediterranean. I’ll miss the restaurants, wine, barbecues, swimming and walking with friends. They sent me the link to the house to encourage me to fly directly to Split Sunday or Monday when I’m 100 percent over it, but even then I’d have had to test negative to get back into Portugal this week, and I could easily have gotten stuck (last summer I was stuck in LA for 17 day after I first tested positive.)
So it’s not just the tyranny of airport security, masks on planes, etc., but also that when you cross international borders you are subject to the whims of the biomedical security state. Testing, or vaccine compliance if applicable, even now that Bill Gates of all people admits the absurdity of it.
When I look again at the house with the pool and sauna overlooking the sea, I’m still disappointed to miss it, but it comes with an awareness that the “good life” is but a bribe, of sorts, in exchange for my principles. Chilling poolside with good wine and oysters, or whatever the private chef they hired is serving up comes at a cost of more than money.
That might sound hyperbolic. After all, as degrading and unpleasant as the modern air-travel experience is, it’s nothing compared to having to get to places on horseback 150 years ago. Imagine complaining about air travel when our recent forefathers froze their asses off on week-long journeys to cover less than half that distance!
But my beef isn’t with the discomfort per se — it’s with the degradation, with which I am asked to comply. Someone on horseback suffered more discomfort, but it was due to nature, not the edicts of bureaucrats excited to exercise their powers.
The distinction matters because natural discomforts have different second order effects — resiliency, toughness, strength — vs. bureaucracy-induced ones — compliance with and perpetuation of the bio-security industrial complex. The problem with treating all discomforts as discreet debits from the utilitarian spread sheet is that doesn’t account for their second- and third-order effects, e.g., normalizing the treatment of your family as potential bio-terrorists because you, God forbid, wanted to take a vacation. Utilitarian oversimplification is a ploy, the distorted lens through which the bureaucratic state persuades you to overlook something you know is wrong.
The small inconveniences and discomforts normal people are expected to tolerate then have far reaching consequences. One is told to “pick your battles,” to accept the things one cannot change, etc. There are a million excuses to justify sacrificing a principle here (okay, fine I’ll put my kid through the radiation scanner), a piece of one’s soul there (sure, stick the swab deeper up my nostril to take a flawed test for a virus that’s already everywhere.) It’s just a mask. It’s only my shoes and belt. It’s only for travel. Like a profligate heir, taking the family wealth for granted and squandering it into bankruptcy, this is the mindset of a people, not remembering the rights for which their ancestors died, disenfranchising themselves into subjugation.
When you see what’s ultimately at stake, whether to submit to security and health measures that are about neither security nor health is not a trivial decision, or a minor hassle. I dodged it (if not by conscious design) this time, but I have a trip to the states I can’t easily avoid in July. I’ve been remiss in not meditating more intently on a better solution. As I wrote in the first post:
Obviously, I don't have a good answer yet. I just know the present alternatives (a) subjecting myself to the indignity of air travel, (b) staying home without my family (and also being deprived of seeing family and friends in my own country); or (c) trying to convince Heather not to go when it’s important to her and Sasha to see everyone are all unacceptable. I reject all three apparent choices I have and would like a better one.
The clock is ticking. I need to figure something out, besides contracting another virus.