Experience Reponse

Have you experienced an important shift in perspective on anything?

The COVID-19 pandemic affected us on a personal level in many different ways; sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. I experienced a rapid but deeply-reflected shift in personal beliefs. What was a gradual change in my perspective in my adolescent years was expedited by the events of the pandemic globally.

I know that this pandemic had devastating effects on the lives of many; however, it must be noted that it was never COVID that caused an economic crisis, separation of families, a mental health crisis, severe education issues, and restrictions on the way we live but the government response to the pandemic. Despite this, governments with minimal intervention are not much better off.

Every authoritarian regime rises in a state of crisis; disasters and problems have state solutions; though when does the former become too large of a problem? The most dangerous thing that has spread from this pandemic is an increase in authoritarian policies. Born in the country with the largest most influential government in the world, I have observed the series of events leading to the consolidation of authoritarian levels of power in a nation that boasts of its freedom.

9/11 was the first big crisis of the decade; Every U.S citizen became a criminal under U.S law which justifed the implementation of a massive and illegal intelligence apparatus, widespread torture, and dangerous “ends justify the means” rhetoric that leads to distinctions such as defining a military target as any brown person in the desert. While this was a U.S crisis, the policies that emerged had effects globally.

Now that the COVID pandemic is the second big crisis of this century the same issues emerge. The results of this pandemic globally have been the consolidation of state power over news and journalism, social media, the scientific community, business and the economy, and numerous individual rights. Some people will still advocate that the ends justify the means; the current policies are the only solutions and are for our well-being.

Men will sacrifice liberty for security, but will end up losing both.

Here in Belgium, we had some of the longest and harshest lockdowns in Europe; yet, the months that followed at the beginning of last year were a period where this country had rates higher than its larger European counterparts. In the U.S and other countries we are witnessing the normalization states deciding what constitutes science, what narratives can be shared and expressed, and the formation of a group of second-class citizens. This is much more difficult to undo than any other social effects of the pandemic. There are “safety” measures in place meant to protect the well-being of the majority; however, there is no strong evidence of this being a superior form of protection nor do they serve the well-being of the majority.

I implore everyone to look at the larger scale of the effects of the response and appreciate the nuances in these discussions that are underappreciated, misunderstood, or flat out censored. Vaccine mandates put ethnic minority groups and lower-income families at a serious disadvantage. When such groups are marginalized their treatment should be assessed with care rather than the disdain and blame propagated by most politicians. The cost of preventing further deaths from the pandemic comes at a great price; no receipt will allow us to return what it has wrought. Yet still, how successful have those measures been?

Most Europeans view government as the ultimate moral authority; it is hard for them to consider the other argument. The pandemic is an issue that has been politicized, irrationalized, and utilized to consolidate power. At the beginning of the pandemic I was naively hopeful; I chastised family members for breaking lockdown rules, accepted the measurements governments took, and predicted responsible leadership. This change has made me more confident in the inherent malevolence (or incompetence at best) of people in charge. This is the first time I have been passionately involved in such a cause.

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