After two years of completely avoiding illness, in January of 2022, I succumbed.
It started gradually, about the week of Monday the 10th. I took some zinc and vitamin C and spent the weekend resting.
The next week, Tuesday rolled around and I woke up stuffy. But Spring comes early CA and I’ve always had seasonal allergies. I went to work as normal, got home, took the dog for a walk, then made dinner. I started to feel exhausted—physically exhausted. When I started the dishes, I found myself standing at the sink realizing that if I didn’t sit down soon, I was going to collapse.
A head cold. That’s it. I knew I was going to have to call out of work the next day.
I rested that Wednesday and on Thursday, woke up feeling much better. I returned to work, actually certain that what I had was a head cold. I had no cough, no runny nose, no fever, no chills, no loss of taste or smell, just a stuffy nose. The three-day weekend was certain to clear it right up.
On Friday, near the end of the day, a family member tested positive for covid. But I still felt okay.
Saturday I was so tired I couldn’t get out of bed despite that I’d slept for ten hours. A short walk to the kitchen or the bathroom left me out of breath. At that point, I knew and I dreaded what that meant for me and my professional life. Never once did covid scare me, a virus with a 99% survival rate doesn’t warrant fear.
What I feared was the stigma—the reaction my workplace would have when I called out on Tuesday. But my first step was to make it through the weekend. I felt better on Sunday morning and had breakfast with my family. The caveat is that nothing I did could warm me up. I was freezing. Later that same day I took my temperature and clocked a mild fever of 101.
Bear with me because I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent but I want to clear up some things before I move on.
When the pandemic response first began back in March of 2020, President Donald Trump uttered those infamous words: “Two weeks to stop the spread.” I’m skeptical by nature. I liked Trump, but I was deeply suspicious of the men he surrounded himself with. I told anyone who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) “two weeks turns to two months into two years…” It’s now 2022 and I take every opportunity I can to repeat this.
I’m not going to say that I knew exactly what was going to happen in the proceeding years of 2020 and 2021. But I knew as soon as Governor Newsome ordered all “non-essential workers” home, that this was the beginning of a protracted nightmare of medically dictated tyranny.
What it ended up being was the wiping away of the comforting illusion I’d bought into since childhood. American was never the land of the free and the home of the brave, at least not in my or my parent’s lifetime; she is the land of the orderly and the home of the complacent. For about six months in 2020, I held out hope that Americans would quickly tire of all this and simply get on with their lives. I was so wrong that I had trouble comprehending just how wrong I was. I was so confused and troubled that I’ve abandoned the whole experiment entirely. America is fallen, and that is that.
But I’m an amateur historian, a criminologist, and a victim’s advocate. I can’t resist a crime scene.
Through this entire mass psychosis, there has been one continuous driving force: the media. I would posit them as the originator of the madness.
It’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of politicians and corporate interests, but these elements are themselves enslaved to the will of the media elite. This doesn’t extricate them from blame or lessen the responsibility that politicians and corporations have; ultimately, there is right and wrong. Doing wrong because you’re afraid the media will speak badly of you is not an excuse to do wrong.
I am not a believer in mass conspiracy, or, rather, I don’t see a singular, all-powerful leader(s) guiding these actions with a steady hand. I think it’s clear that personal power and money interests move these disparate elements in the same direction. They make their petty alliances, often for short stints, each waiting for the moment to one-up the others in order to maximize profits and power grabs.
But the media started this. First, they played off Trump’s concerns for covid by calling him racist against the Chinese. There was little traction with this (because only fools think the man who helped the Rainbow Coalition is a racist). Then, perhaps collectively, or maybe in one of their many meetings (as we know the news companies don’t compete, they collude), someone remembered the old adage if it bleeds, it leads. The stories suddenly changed; 2020’s rough flu season was ripe for fermentation. And the media was going to make the headiest wine they’d ever made.
Nobody was bleeding, but a lot of people were coughing. And that was close enough. The media fomented the uncertainty of a new virus into the blunt tool of tyrants—fear. Everyone else piled on because you should never let a good crisis go to waste. Trump and his people jumped in because it was an election year and no one wanted to be caught doing nothing in the event covid ended up being as deadly as the media was claiming. The deep state [read: apparatchiks] saw a chance to further cement power. A corrupted state’s purpose is the continuation and expansion of state power.
Globe-spanning multi-national mega-corporations like Amazon, Pfizer, and Facebook (Meta) started seeing dollar signs. Amazon, as people were forcibly locked into their homes either by fear or executive fiat and could no longer visit brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon’s only real perceived competition is the small business, all other corporations are partners. Pfizer, because a health crisis demands various drugs from anti-depressants, to opioids, to Operation Warp-Speed. And Facebook, because if people can’t meet at the restaurant, they can at least like and share on social media.
Worse, our own friends and neighbors succumbed to the siren song of the little dictator. We’ve always known these tiny Hitlers existed, we interact with them every day. The neighbor who demands you take your trashcans in right now; the woman who wants to speak to the manager because of some small, perceived slight; the teacher who thinks all laughter regards her; the HOA that bans American flags because it ruins the aesthetic of the neighborhood.
The everyday petty tyrant found in covid the club they’d always longed for. From the Mask Karens screaming proudly on TikTok at unmasked teenagers to the insipid mid-wit manager whose very prescience silences a room. Power and profit are the ties that bind tyrants. There is not a single element in this equation that doesn’t profit from covid.
And the media fed them. Fed them all a two-year feast of power fantasy. Laws and rulebooks were written with less than little regard for a man’s natural rights, or man’s dignity, or a man’s nature.
All this was done because people were afraid. Because not everyone learned the lesson of 2017. Some people, decent, trusting, foolish people, believe the media tells the truth, believe their senator would never sell them out, believe that every American loves America as much as they themselves do.
The media didn’t make everything up from whole cloth, they had help. A CDC determined to immortalize its egotistical leader; a hospital industry paid extra for every patient it intubated regardless of patient-health outcomes; a modern scientific community convinced it can solve any problem; a modern populace enamored of expertise and fancy titles, confusing specialist with wisdom and schooling with education.
While talking heads were more than willing to misread and misreport studies and statistics, its not like those who wrote the studies or complied the statistics weren’t more than willing to misread and misreport their own findings.
And all this swirled together to create a perfect storm of confusion, anxiety, and dread. The lockdowns completed the menticide. Isolating people from the things that keep them grounded; the joy of seeing family, the quiet dignity of work, the pleasure of a beer at their favorite bar.
Before we knew it, our friends, our family, our co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances had gone mad.
“If one can isolate the mass, allow no free thinking, no free exchange, no outside corrective, and can hypnotize the group daily with noises, with press and radio and television, with fear and pseudo-enthusiasms, any delusion can be instilled. People will begin to accept the most primitive and inappropriate acts.” – Joost Meerloo, the Rape of the Mind
I don’t mean they’ve all become schizophrenic, or jibbering, paranoid madmen. But they have undergone a psychotic break, which movies and tv would have you believe is a self-indulgent tear-fest of screaming and therapy. But it’s a re-ordering of the mind. A blending of fact and fiction that ends the flood of negative emotions, particularly panic. Panic, which is caused by confusion and anxiety.
In the beginning, I imagine some of the people in power believed what they were saying. But by late 2020, to those outside, who knew the media, politicians, bureaucrats, and corporations to be lying, opportunistic fiends, it was becoming obvious that they too knew they were lying. The entire enterprise became an exercise in raw power politics.
It wasn’t about covid, it probably never really was. It’s not about public health or community safety. It was about subjugating an increasingly uppity working class. It was about punishment for electing Trump. It was about humiliating the MAGA crowd. It was about putting presumptuous workers back onto the assembly line, ordering them to produce and consume and dare not ask questions.
And so, when the fear began to wane in early 2021, they began talking up the delta variant. And when that fear began to diminish, they hyped omicron.
The debate on masks, notwithstanding the CDC’s tacit admission that they never worked in the first place, rages on. Despite that some states are lifting mask mandates for adults; they refuse to lift them from children in public school. Although Biden’s wildly unethical and morally bankrupt vaccine mandate died in the Supreme Court, some states and municipalities are forcing their own mandates and passports.
The mandates and the passports accomplish three important things:
- It allows the state to check the population’s compliance.
- It allows the state to target and identify dissenters.
- The dissenters are ritualistically humiliated by weekly tests, forced masking, labeling (i.e. “science denier”), semi-public circulation of their private health and faith matters, exile from the comfort of group dynamic (i.e. eating at a restaurant, participating in work events).
All of that needed to be written in order to explain that despite my knowledge of the above, I still succumbed to the fear.
That Sunday and Monday, I laid in bed and felt utter despair. While my fever cleared by Monday, I now had a post-nasal drip cough so bad that it inflamed my sinuses causing bleeding. My body was wracked with aches, from the cough, from my joints. I had trouble eating and eventually, my appetite dissipated entirely. I wouldn’t have eaten at all if I didn’t live with other people who encouraged me to eat.
I suffer from insomnia and had two nights where I simply couldn’t sleep, which made everything worse. Anyone with a sleeping disorder can tell you, that by day two, you begin to doubt your rationality.
As I lay alone one of those nights, I began to think that maybe this was my lot. That I was never going to get better, I was always going to feel like this, and that maybe, after all my hubristic prattling about covid being less dangerous than tyranny, I was going to die of covid.
This was obviously false, but I couldn’t think clearly. Even as I was sick, I began to wonder about the psychological effects of covid itself. My symptoms seemed to change by the hour and alternate in severity. I’d feel strong enough to get up and do something, then need to rest several hours to make up the energy it took to do basic human maintenance.
I called out Tuesday. It felt like I was spiraling into a pit. I talked to my parents, who were also suffering covid, and compared notes. I confessed that despite that I knew a fever of 101 was fairly mild, it scared me greatly. I told them about my despair, that I felt like I was never going to get better. They felt that too. Shared suffering seemed to bolster us.
Was the hopelessness an attribute of the virus, or was I succumbing to the media fear-mongering?
On Wednesday, not completely recovered from insomnia but better, I was granted teleworking. Although my cough persisted, the bleeding stopped and my stuffy nose began to ease. At some point that day, I came to the startling realization that I couldn’t smell anything. Thankfully, I still had my sense of taste (I can taste extremes), but even as I write this, I have yet to recover my sense of smell entirely.
On Friday, I felt well enough to go back to work. My workplace requires that we fill out a questionnaire before going to the office. I protested it, writing multiple emails to multiple people, but chose to comply. The questionnaire asks about new or worsening symptoms. I had no new symptoms. I still had a cough, caused by post-nasal drip; I still couldn’t smell anything, and everything I’d read and heard anecdotally said I would be fatigued for weeks post-covid. But I was actually better.
Now, I wanted to feel normal. My mistake was believing that my workplace would allow that.
I worked that Friday morning, feeling better, glad to see my co-workers, glad to be normal. But I was coughing, and I mentioned to my unit lead, that if she heard someone was made uncomfortable by my cough, to let me know. I think covid fears are overblown, I think most people have fallen under the spell of mass psychosis, but I’m not a jerk.
Just before noon, two managers called me into a private meeting and told me, in the politest possible terms, that someone was offended by my cough. They told me, politely, that it was my health they were worried about and that I was now authorized to go home and telework. Alright, I acquiesced. I went home and finished my work from the comfort of my couch.
At this point in time, I wasn’t mad. I was embarrassed and disappointed. But I went home. Nothing about it was surprising. Looking back, I know that my insomnia is usually triggered by anxiety and stress; I suspect that the prospect of trying to go back to work was what caused it.
I was upset that weekend. I was filled with dread. My cough was getting better, but it still lingered. I called in Monday to telework, then Tuesday. I kept telling myself that they were going to just let me telework until my cough went away because I hadn’t done anything wrong, and after all, they sent me home. The impetus was on them.
Wednesday, I got a call from my boss. He’s a good guy, I don’t want to malign him. He shares many of my views, but he’s retiring soon so he doesn’t really have skin in the game anymore. But he tells me that I’m out of teleworking days and that in order to return to work I will have to have a negative covid test or get a doctor’s note.
My current job code doesn’t demand that I test weekly or be vaccinated (although I am required to wear a mask). If that were the case, I would have been fired back in 2021.
When the dictatorial order came down from Newsome, I wrote a letter to the Chief that following an unconstitutional order violates the oaths sworn by law enforcement officers and that personal responsibility is the only remedy to covid. I was ignored.
I do not test for covid. I will never test for covid. My reasoning was listed above: I refuse to participate in ritualistic humiliation. And while I am fully aware most of those people conducting and participating in this ritual do not see it this way, and many are under the impression that they’re saving lives, others merely continue to play their parts in this political theater in order to “go along to get along.” But the spirit of the ritual remains.
My boss and I had a drawn-out conversation on the phone where I explained that what my workplace was doing to me was deeply inappropriate, disrespectful, and devaluing. I told him that I had been directed to go home and telework. That my cough was lingering, that I had limited my interactions with co-workers. He quietly muttered “I know,” “I understand how you feel,” “I agree,” “I will pass on your concerns,” “I will let the director know,” etc.
Eventually, I muttered words I’d been mulling over for months: “I’m not certain I want to work for the department anymore.” There, I was promised that my concerns would be taken to the director as it was clear that I wasn’t going to yield so easily.
I spent the next several hours finishing my work, alternating between rage and tears. I still love my job, despite that 2020/2021 made it a frustrating hell. I have great respect for my coworkers and even my bosses. But my principles come first, and even though I’ve compromised and done things I wouldn’t normally do outside the workplace (like wearing a mask), I knew I was going to have to draw a line.
And it seemed like I was going to have to draw it here. I didn’t get a call from the director until 4:40pm that night. I was given three options: a negative covid test; a “return to normal activity” doctor’s note; unpaid leave of absence.
We spoke in polite circles, I retold my point of view, stating bluntly that what they were doing was wrong on the basis of a violation of my Natural Rights; the response was that these were the options given all employees, but they’d never had one who refused to test. I said something to the effect of “sharing out unfair treatment equally doesn’t make the unfair treatment fair.”
When it became obvious to us both no headway was going to be made, I said: “we’re at an impasse” and summarized his options like this: I can cross the line in the sand and test; I can talk to a doctor who will most likely insist I test, or I can take unpaid leave and then only be allowed to come back after I test negative. The director didn’t seem to agree with my summation and asked me to try.
I told him that I would have to think about it because I was having serious thoughts about my future with the department. He then tried to flatter me. I know we’re short-staffed, losing me wouldn’t be a catastrophe, but it would be a month’s long inconvenience. I agreed to give him my answer by noon on Friday, however, I would have to take vacation hours for Thursday and Friday.
After a long discussion with my parents and boyfriend, I mildly came to the conclusion that I should take unpaid leave. Time away from work would give me the opportunity to seek work elsewhere. The next day, I contacted my boss to ask about unpaid leave. He asked the head of HR to contact me, as she’s the authority on this topic. I never heard from her.
All through Thursday, between bouts of reading and upset, I began to second guess myself. Was I being unreasonable? Was I making a mountain from a molehill? To many readers, I’m sure the answer is yes. To me, it wasn’t so clear.
In the end, I compromised and went to a clinic. Despite my lingering cough, the doctor wrote me a note informing my employers that I could return to normal activities. She further explained to me that I was well past the five days required for quarantine and now past the ten days formerly required by the State of CA. That realization still burns me, I’ve informed my manager that this oversight requires some explanation. It could have been a mistake, I wouldn’t blame them for completely forgetting their own covid rules—there are a lot of them, and they seem to change by the hour and mood.
From the beginning of this mass hysteria, I have complied under protest. When they started taking temperatures, I wrote an email stating that doing such was a violation of employees’ personal medical information and privacy. I still complied.
When they started making us fill out health questionnaires as a condition for admittance into the building, I protested again. When does it stop, I asked? If covid is so deadly, why are we returning to the building at all?
Then came the order requiring certain job codes to vaccinate or test. I protested once again, mostly on behalf of my coworkers because my position wasn’t covered under the order. I involved my Union, who told me nothing useful and did even less than that. I wrote a letter to be read to the chief and directors, I still have no idea if that got anywhere. With the mandate, temperature screenings stopped.
Although the mask nonsense began before the vaccine mandate, masking science “evolved” between the vaccine’s production and the release of the vaccine.
Originally, everyone had to wear a mask only when walking outside their cubicle because the cubicle walls are about 8ft high. Then, the vaccinated were allowed to take their masks off, but the unvaccinated had to wear their masks while in their cubicles because “a cubicle is not a room.” Most of us ignored that and continued to wear them only where managers were most likely to see us.
When Christmas rolled around, the state ordered all vaccinated and unvaccinated employees to wear their masks and temperature screenings picked up again. Few complied until a manager went around scolding people for failing to comply.
At this time, the mask mandate for vaccinated employees has been lifted, but not for the unvaccinated. And yes, the masked police patrol the halls.
Quarantine days went from ten days to five days. Testing changed again: those unvaccinated who test positive don’t have to test for three months from their last positive test. Although those who test negative have to continue testing.
Looking back, I realize that the only consistent aspect of my employer’s covid response has been me. “The science changes,” they tell me. But that’s a fallacy. Science never changes, our understanding of it does. Nothing about covid has been about science. It’s been about fear and humiliation and the power one gains from inflicting them.
wer, more animal type of thinking becomes deaf to any thought on a higher level. If one reasons with a totalitarian who has been impregnated with official clichés, he will sooner or later withdraw into his fortress of collective totalitarian thinking. The mass delusion that gives him his feelings of belonging, of greatness, of omnipotence, is dearer to him than his personal awareness and understanding.” – Joost Meerloo, the Rape of the Mind
We’ve become the victims of an arbitrary rulebook put together by faceless, appointed bureaucrats—a committee of “concerned leaders” who don’t know us or want to know us. The literal definition of an apparatchik.
They paint everything in the politest of terms, a professional, but vague and meaningless tone. If tyranny had a language, it would be spoken in the soft, corporate lilt of weasel words. The apparatchiks are suited to the work. They’re trained in the dulcet manners of polite professionalism. They know how to hide behind the rulebook, then peak out and pretend it was they who, by hearing you out, used they pretend influence to do you a favor.
While the Karens are shocking and often hilarious. It’s the middle managers who do the real work of tyranny.
Covid is one hell of a power trip.
“The totalitarian systems of the 20th century represent a kind of collective psychosis, whether gradually or suddenly, reason and common human decency are no longer possible in such a system. There is only a pervasive atmosphere of terror and a projection of the enemy ‘in our midst.’ Thus society turns on itself, urged by the ruling authorities.” -Joost Meerloo, the Rape of the Mind
Joost Merloo was a psychologist and a man intimately knowledgeable regarding totalitarian regimes. He coined the term Menticide—the killing of the mind—in his book, The Rape of the Mind. You may know it as “brainwashing.” It can be done to individuals, but it’s usually done to individuals in order to completely subjugate a populace. Menticide is mass delusion, a collective psychosis, the conquest of the minds of many by elitist few.
I went to that doctor, not because I needed to go back to work but because my heart hurt when I thought of walking out—with no explanation—on people I care about. It would hurt, not just me and my name, but the people I’m privileged to call friends and mentors.
When I expressed regret in my compromise, I was told that it’s not a weakness to obey the precepts of the heart, even when the government uses it against you. Governments and corporations cannot exhibit reason and especially cannot express common human decency. Only individuals can do that.