Will reverence for rules, however stupid, be the lasting legacy of Covid?

A significant part of the world has by now accepted that Covid-19 is part of the normal cycle of flus and colds, and as such, should not be treated as a special threat any different to the flu or cold. Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the Czech Republic have dropped border testing requirements completely. A growing number of countries have dropped masking requirements as well.

Yet there will always be those “hold-out” governments, such as Spain, Austria, and France, which, for whatever reason, are particularly slow at accepting the reality that testing at borders, requiring Covid vaccination, or imposing inflexible mask mandates in supermarkets, restaurants, and shops, are all completely inappropriate, ineffective, and disproportionate measures for promoting public health.

As of today, if you have not received one of the approved Covid vaccines, the Spanish government still requires you to undergo a Covid-19 test prior to entry, at your own cost, as I recently discovered when I travelled back to Spain from Ireland. Essentially, this is equivalent to requiring incoming travellers to test for the flu or common cold.

The test centre in Dublin was almost deserted. I commented to the woman administering the test that this was a useless exercise that made no sense whatsoever. She was inclined to agree. She remarked that from her perspective, Covid-19 is equivalent to a common flu, and should be treated as such. At least she was honest.

I walked through Dublin airport with my wife. Hardly a mask in sight, although a mask “recommendation” was periodically announced over the PA system.

Then, as we crossed a magical boundary between the airport and the airplane, we were instructed that masking was mandatory upon boarding the flight to Spain. So, after milling around the gates maskless with all of the passengers of our flight and anyone else who happened to be passing through, we were suddenly required to put a piece of cloth over our faces upon boarding the flight.

Then, when food was served, masks were happily removed again. As soon as we disembarked in Madrid airport, there was hardly a mask in sight. So aviation authorities would have us believe that there is some public health benefit to be derived from passengers covering their faces on a flight between two countries whose populations are freely socialising in every conceivable venue without masks.

Seeing as most of us had been inflicted with nonsensical rules for the best part of two years, it probably felt like no big deal to many of the passengers to mask up for a few hours. But to me, it was a bitter reminder of the needless humiliations, inconveniences, and distress that citizens are put through on a daily basis when those with the responsibility to serve the common good are given a free hand to turn prudence and good sense on their head.

Wearing a mask with no clear benefit for anyone was just the latest of countless drills in futility that citizens had been coercively recruited into since the pandemic had been first officially announced in early 2020.

We had been ordered to stay at home, reprimanded for wandering more than 2 kilometres from our homes, prohibited from taking a walk on the beach, instructed not to entertain healthy family or friends, prevented from accompanying our spouse during childbirth, banned from seeing loved ones on their death-beds, and legally required to show vaccine passes at bars and restaurants to certify receipt of a vaccine that did not even block transmission.

And now, just to prove that we have not learnt much from the futility of those disruptive measures, Spanish health authorities have decided to keep testing a few citizens at the Spanish border for the equivalent of a common cold, because they won’t take a vaccine that is clearly ineffective at preventing Covid-19 transmission. Plus ça change.

Teaching citizens to comply with stupid rules, either in order to virtue signal or to avoid getting into trouble, is essentially a lesson in servitude. Blindly worshipping rules is the very antithesis of responsible citizenship, irrespective of how fancy or “respectable” the credentials of the rule makers happen to be.

This is a lesson we should have learned from the ugly history of totalitarian regimes, where the most absurd, despotic, and wicked of rules were blindly accepted by citizens either because their critical faculties were dulled by incessant propaganda, or because the rules were created, after all, by “respectable” authorities.

To understand the civilisational risk we are running by inculcating mindless conformity to rules, we might recall the infamous testimony of Otto Adolf Eichmann, as recounted in Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. When asked how he could bring himself to cooperate in the murder of the Jews, Eichmann simply answered that he was doing his duty as a German citizen, and that everything he did was lawful.

It would seem that we have a very short memory indeed.

This article has been republished with permission from the author's Substack, The Freedom Blog.


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