Feature 09.29.2021 7 minutes


Businessman safely inside a shield dome. Protection and safety concept

Sterile subhumanity is our lot under the theocracy of disease.

A child stepping outside on a late summer’s evening in the 21st century could be forgiven for lacking the concept of “star.” A sealed Dome seems to lie heavy upon the world, the manifestation of the ominous structure that haunts numerous 20th-century dystopian works.

The metaphor of the Dome, in our early-authoritarian moment, encapsulates the meaning of the totalizing impulse. The Dome denies acknowledgment of life beyond itself. The Dome forbids people from recognizing other sources of orientation and meaning. To live in the Dome means there is nowhere else to run.

Artists, journalists, and inventors have been fascinated and repelled by the Dome, be it virtual or physical. From Buckminster Fuller’s vision of a snowplow-free New York, to the planet Camaztoz in the children’s story A Wrinkle in Time and the Village in the Prisoner television series, to Stephen King’s recent novel and television show Under the Dome, the implications of centralized control appeal or horrify. The Dome is the fruit of an often-coercive trade: freedom and the burdens of the individual conscience for security and comfort.

In Seeing Like A State, James C. Scott identified the phenomenon of merging scientific technocracy with the State as High Modernity. High Modernity serves a similar function to the Dome without the easily identifiable physical presence. It is the established religion of our economic zone, faith in a technocratic vision of permanent management. From stars to microbes, no organism capable of detection will be left alone. Dissenters represent a crack in the glass, an intolerable existential threat.

The media describes these malcontents as bleach injectors and swallowers of horse deworming formula, but their real sin is the refusal to defer to High Modernity-approved experts. Whether we are fighting a war against global terror, racism, viruses, or white supremacy, the target is the same: grow the surveillance state, gather data, build an apparatus of global security and control, and wear down objections to the hegemony of the Dome. In the name of safety, be it from terrorists or microbes, no one will be allowed to opt out.

A disappointingly large group of people who see themselves as educated free-thinkers have thoroughly adopted the rhetoric of pharma lobbyists. They talk about the rubes who sent their children to die in Iraq, who watched them die of opioid overdoses, and mock them as hicks who refuse the vaccine because they believe it magnetizes the body. The coming caste system is almost too good for them.

Why revel in these caricatures and delight in the agonizing hospital deaths of the unelect? High Modernity is a religion, and to depart from it would be to exile oneself to the land of the heretics. For millions, to distrust the media would be to live without their substitute for hope in the heavens. If they lose faith in the benevolence of the CDC and Silicon Valley and the pharmaceuticals, then they face the same problem which makes the dissenters nervous: there’s nowhere else to go.

In their rush to triumph, those who control the institutions are hasty. If they move fast and break enough things they think they can hold the loyalty of those addicted to the highs of two-party political hatreds. But they break too much. The ACLU, guardian of civil liberties, says that violations of biological autonomy are a way of protecting civil liberties. But people are not stupid. They know Satoshi Omura won a Nobel Prize for discovering Ivermectin. They know billions of people have taken it. They are aware of the long catalogue of lies from the establishment as well as the revolving door between the CDC and the pharmaceutical companies. To be forced to surrender bodily autonomy is bad. But to turn their bodies over to institutions which sowed so much disinformation that their prime supporters, Democrats, are the most uninformed demographic regarding SARS-CoV-2 death rates, is out of the question. The lies are too visible and the main thing propelling High Modernity’s dreams of control through this civic crisis is not Science but simple old-fashioned two-party hatred.

People could and would say: “Okay. I see I have no place in this society anymore. It is regrettable to leave all I know, but I will go.” But there is no elsewhere. The right to opt out has been effectively destroyed because the ability to opt out was attacked by High Modernity first. Credentialing and licensing have effectively destroyed choice in education, medical care, and numerous professions and trades.

Jobs were outsourced. Communities were destroyed. Main streets disappeared to be replaced by shopping malls to be replaced by box stores to be replaced by Amazon, which builds its own quaint Main Street brick-and-mortar stores that require Amazon Prime membership. Money is funneled into a few coastal enclaves.

Local newspapers were purchased, merged, and syndicated into non-existence. The charming diversity of regional conversations was suffocated from coast to coast. Now all waiting rooms play CNN, flattening our accents into monolithic Mid-Atlantic-newscaster tones. Twitter is rumored to have attempted to purchase Substack, frustrated to see their exiles build communities elsewhere. Silicon Valley spends billions of dollars purchasing start-ups to ensure they retain a monopoly over conversational mediums. Ma Bell could only dream of such power.

Humanity Springs Eternal

It is reasonable to wonder why “The Science” is treated like the Ark of the Covenant rather than an evolving dialogue dependent upon pushback and dissidents in order to avoid calcification. It is reasonable to ask why for-profit companies have such an outsized role in crafting responses, and to ask why there are so few mechanisms to protect against groupthink.

It is reasonable to ask if technocracy has become our established religion when people who disagree are not merely wrong but evil, dangerous, garbage humans, etc. It is reasonable to ask why questions are not only labeled “misinformation” but suppressed. If this is a religion, if the CDC model of health is the established faith of the land, then what are the rights of people who hold to a different medical-religious framework? Are people who perhaps accept two sacramental jabs, but reject the booster shots, to be like Old Believers murdered for their faith?

An epidemic of obesity with all the accompanying health woes cannot be addressed as a health problem because it might cause stigma. Mental health is in shambles with children and adolescents bearing the worst of the impact. Adults say they cannot afford children. They cannot afford houses. They cannot afford retirement. The homeless proliferate. Road rage incidents increase. Educational standards collapse.

The bright green revolution has led to soil erosion and food depleted of nutrients. Millions of tons of masks and medical waste are dumped into the ocean. It is a society rife with autoimmune disease. It wants everyone in therapy because neighborhood life collapsed and Americans report themselves a little lonelier every year. People are depressed and anxious and rather than ask why they’re sold a pill. Its entertainment is terrible and even its leading lights know this. Its buildings are ugly and fall apart. It is slathered in noise and advertisements encouraging more consumption but always delivering less and less of true value.

High Modernity prioritizes Efficiency, Growth, Control, Money, Safetyism—all values of quantity—over truth, gentleness, stewardship, restraint, beauty, goodness. We may be safer but we’re also reduced to consumers and, increasingly, permanent patients. The heretics feel an itch under their fingers. They want to make things again. They want to learn about the world. They are tired of being bribed and threatened to exchange the fullness of their human inheritance for the sterility of life in the Dome.

There is evidence in favor of universal vaccination but there are reasons, also supported by scientific hypotheses, to oppose vaccine mandates. There are separate but important political principles which deserve attention despite the madness of the crowd. But there are also deeper reasons to oppose vaccine mandates, reasons which precede any political or scientific argument, reasons which cut to the core of what it means to be a living person in this star-starved world.

It is not for the High Moderns to dictate the terms upon which individuals take consolation and hope. It is not for the High Moderns to impose their for-profit medical vision upon every living person. Millions have looked with prudence upon the evidence, the censorship, and the consequences of life in a world with no alternative to technocracy. They have come to the conclusion that the professed crisis does not warrant the abdication of religious freedom. The public health experts may have the force of hundreds of for-profit companies behind them, but millions will continue to reject their role as self-appointed priests. You have your religion and I have mine.

It is frightening to consider life outside the religion of High Modernity, but life within it is increasingly intolerable. Risk is hard. Death is hard. Our consciences are given to us to navigate these experiences. Weeping is part of the work we have always done. It is not always time to weep, but life in a world which rejects weeping turns out to be a world not worth weeping over.

When we look up to the stars we can find the renewal of hope that our suffering is not in vain. Let us turn off the glowing stream of breaking news, step away from the streetlights, and search the constellations for memories and hope. Perhaps there will be tears. Living with the mystery of the heavens is a dangerous gift, but it is the particular gift of being human.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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