HomeUncategorizedInfluenza vs. Covid: the structure of the pandemic problem space

Influenza vs. Covid: the structure of the pandemic problem space

the following is extracted from discussions on social media concerning flu numbers disappearing as covid became the dominant diagnosis:

  My work is in the history of ideas and their sociological context. From that perspective I see how ideas emerge from systems that are seldom transparent to those working with them. Many of our models in science have become dominant for complex reasons that do have to do with capitalism and the political economy, even while those working with these models are not necessarily doing so within a for-profit structure or even depending on financing from industry.

The political economy has effects that ramify throughout society, though even the material base of society is always being modified by other related systems. We can change things by changing anything that feeds back upon this system of systems, which on the whole tends to block any semiotics that promotes openness, open systems with greater transparency and permeability. The semiotics of a segmented society of experts and officials in disconnected fields and power blocs is not necessary. We can have general knowledge and open communication that connects us all and facilitates expertise being a productive elaboration of detail rather than an insular coterie of authoritative priests–and there are many people working within their respective fields that have a more philosophical mind and are helping to build the bridges of an interdisciplinary science and theory. They are doing the good work of making specialized sciences not just understandable but debatable on a general level that can empower public awareness about the deep problems in the politics of science.

I have long had an interest in the boundary between biology and medicine because one of the main fault lines quite brilliantly illustrates and symbolizes this conflict between different semiotic regimes, with the closed-system regime defending its logic as a logic of life against the encroachment of the open-system logic of symbiosis. As Keith Ansell-Pearson puts it in his book “Viroid Life”:”In biology, however, symbiosis has had a curiously awkward history which reveals much about the anthropocentric determination of the subject andabout hominid fears of contamination.It has played, and continues to play, a subversive role in biology since it challenges the boundaries of the organism. Indeed, it has been argued by one commentator that it was not until 1950, when geneticists extended their field of study to micro-organisms, that biology recognized that there were means other than sex for translating genes, such as infections and symbiotic complexes. Prior to it was the institutionalized boundaries of the life sciences themselves, such as zoology, botany, bacteriology, virology, genetics, pathology, etc., which prevented the synthetic studies of symbiosis from being properly assessed (Sapp 1994: 208-9).”

———————————————————————————————————— People don’t want or don’t think they have time to think. And if you can get them to admit that experts don’t necessarily agree and they have to actually think for themselves, they will just go with the dominant paradigm. That is how the system wins. There doesn’t need to be any conspiracy. As Hannah Arendt discovered at the Eichman trial, there need not be anyone planning or doing anything intentionally. Just everyone following the order of the system. It implicates us all, whatever position we hold in the structure, even those who happen to be its passive victims. It is our highest ethical duty to THINK :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmBSIQ1lkOA

 I don’t think what I am talking about in this thread is that fringe or conspiracy. This is a debate within biology between different groups of scientists, doctors and biological theorists, that is pretty consistent with the history of debate in that field. When scientists as a class were consolidated in the Victorian era it became important for them to market themselves as experts and distance themselves from other natural philosophers. For logical reasons they aligned themselves with the more reductive thinkers in every field, but biology was the most contentious and helped form part of the cultural conflict that lead to fascism.

As for people not wanting to think, I was quoting Hannah Arendt and linked to that clip dramatizing her speech. What her and Heidegger meant by “thinking” is not what you mean. They mean what you might call “philosophical” thinking, meditative thinking, or even creative thinking. Heidegger contrasts it with calculative thinking, which is all most people do these days.

People do not want or have time to think differently not because they are stupid and not because it actually takes any more time than sifting through all the conflicting information thrown at us every day. People don’t know how to think intuitively because we are constantly trained and pressured to do otherwise. And as this process of separating us from each other and plugging us all into technology proceeds, people are getting less and less able to think any other way than calculatively. Along these lines, recently deceased philosopher Bernard Steigler contrasts two different kinds of attention. One, which is promoted by tele-technology and screen learning, he calls hyper-attention. It is what we are all being trained to do. Absorb and sift information, make connections along “a plane of reference” as Deleuze calls the plane that science works on. What Steigler calls “deep attention” necessitates a suspension of calculative thinking to allow new ways of thinking to enter into our awareness. It takes a kind of slow pace that we are not trained to have anymore, especially with technology.

Even when people do think differently they often get caught up in the rapid associations of their calculative mind and become fringe conspiracy theorists. They often have the most creative and intuitive insights, but often get caught up eventually in simple banal associations that mirror the literalism of the mainstream. To sustain meditative thinking is the most difficult thing in the world. I don’t blame anyone for not doing it. The world is not making it easy.


I try not to speculate, or call what I do speculation. There are already is this tendency to dismiss this faculty of thought, which we have been discussing as creative thinking, as mere “speculation”. That word didn’t once have the negative connotation it does now. Hegel thought of it has man’s highest activity. But these days people value calculative thinking because they think in literal terms according to the structure of judgment. Something either is true of false. If it is one thing than it is NOT the other thing. Hegel recognized this essential structure as based on negation and thought speculative thought could overcome it through the dialectical process of conflict and contradiction.

I think, following Nietzsche and Deleuze, that we can negate through a higher affirmation, by creatively extrapolating connections between things rather than the often empty back and forth of conflict and negation. In either case the working assumption is that the world is not a separate finished product that we are speculating on, but one that is mediated and formed through our activity.

So when you ask me what I think is REALLY going on, I hesitate, especially on such a complex topic. What I can do is paint a picture of what some of the relations are, or how I think it is helpful to think about them.I think, following the details laid out by Vandana Shiva, that a large portion of the corporate/state structure is invested in re-engineering society along technocratic lines. Fossil fuels and the economy based on them is not sustainable and much of what is happening in the world is a struggle over what the next stage will look like. While there are many factions competing for control, or for some amount of independence from the control that is arising, they all appreciate the opportunities of a technocratic infrastructure to consolidate control. And because the new economy is not compatible with capitalism, control is necessary for the transition.

Virology has recently come to play a big part in this but it has gotten a lot of support over the years for related, but purely structural reasons. When viral theories won out during the Polio crises or during AIDS, it wasn’t necessarily because there was some deliberate manipulation. You can read the research. I find it much more interesting the way people fall in line around a scapegoat because of the pressures of the system. Not only is no one forcing anyone to do this, people aren’t even conscious they are doing it most of the time. Robert Gallo did so much shady shit constructing the AIDS narrative but I believe he thought he was doing the right thing. He was competing to be the first one to make sense of AIDS and isolating a foreign agent is always easier then finding the complex factors behind problems.

Conspiracy theory often has good intuition, but as I said earlier, it often builds a kind of dogmatic plane of reference, a series of associations get piled on top of its insights that don’t always make good sense of all the details of real world social drama. We can go into the details, but I think they often get some of the patterns right, but they often don’t understand structural forces very well. They tend to have “hyper-agency detection”. They see agency and intent where this is only impersonal forces. At least at the physical level. The intent may exist on other levels, but that is the problem. They are often engaging in mysticism but think they are making literal truths. Conspirituality is basically mysticism for a materialist age. They confuse categories and come off crazy for that reason, even if the patterns are real.

So to return to the level of your everyday workaday scientist or bureaucrat, I don’t generally assign inhuman motives to any human. I think generally people believe they are doing the right thing, or in the more common and mundane scenario, don’t know they are doing anything out of the ordinary. And that was Arendt’s point, it is ordinary, unremarkable people all working together that create what seems inhuman on a large scale, but at the level of actual people, they are doing their best to solve a problem. The problem with the focus on solving problems is that solutions tend to cover over and obfuscate problems.

Rather than use Arendt’s Heidegerrian distinction between thinking and not thinking, I prefer thinking as Deleuze does between learning and solving problems. Learning is an open-ended confrontation with the infinite plane of connected problems. Learning never ends, opening up always to new problems, whose solutions are only contingent variables in a much larger space of possibilities.

But we are not taught, nor is the system set up to promote learning in this sense. People are always just trying to solve problems (and there is always a pretty quick slide from THE solution to some kind of final solution). They aren’t focused on “problem spaces”, not outside of a few academic fields. They don’t think in terms of alternative or counter-factual scenarios. They don’t ask: what would have happened to a person who died “of covid” if they hadn’t died “of covid”? They don’t ask this because there is no obvious reason to. Our animal instinct is to think in terms of brute literal actions. Cause-effect. Problem-solution. Learning requires understanding context enough to be able to handle similar problems that don’t conform to the same surface features. To see how seemingly unrelated problems are connected. It requires overcoming the discrete digital structure of either/or logic and embracing the analog nature of the real world. Then one no longer sees each thing in isolation and is much less likely to divide up the world into separate things with separate properties that exists for no reason related to anything else. One is less likely fooled when one is told that something just IS such and such a thing with such and such properties without any explanation for why it is that way and how it fits in with the environment that created it.

What our system tends to call learning is just memorization. Doctors don’t understand health at all, they just have to memorize disease names that are abstracted out of the processes that give rise to them. Problem-solution. And what are their solutions? Not only are they often worse than the disease, the biggest problem is that they further cover over the problem. This is central to the Marxist analysis of capitalism. Capitalism never really solves problems, it just moves them around geographically. It is the same with medicine under capitalism.

On a related note, I think there are interesting things going on with women around vaccines and medical politics. Nursing has become such a pillar of upward mobilization for working class women that it has become very difficult for the truth to break through the ideology. It’s the classic problem of the petite bourgeoisie. Even when their friends or themselves are watching their children die or be disabled by vaccines, their slighted elevated class status prevents them from questioning their medical “learning”. I am always so impressed when women have the courage to speak out against vaccine harm, especially when it harms their standing in the class politics of working and middle class society.

In any case, flu numbers will stay low because there are only so many numbers to juggle around into different categories. More or less the same amount of people each year are going to get sick in whatever ways they do.It is true–our environments change and new stressors and toxins enter it all the time. There are infinite factors affecting this. We have had a difficult and stressful year for many reasons, astrologically, socio-politically, and definitely the introduction of new toxic factors in many of our cities. It is likely that slightly more people will get sick this year in general but as we have seen the overall death rate is about the same, (though the lockdown affected this rate for what should be obvious reasons if you are thinking along the lines that I am). Despite all this the amount of people sick is not going to be drastically different because there is no novel disease agent with super powers. Nature just doesn’t work that way and even labs haven’t been able to make it work that way, not that I have seen.

As for excess death, the pattern becomes clear when you look at the data across the world. Lockdowns usually came after the supposed infection influx, and even there I think there is reason to think that tests would have shown some positive results last year or even 100 years ago. In any case the overall mortality spike is always correlated with lockdowns, not the supposed wave of infections: https://medium.com/…/questions-for-lockdown-apologists…