Thursday, May 30, 2024
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The terrifying echoes of ‘the collective good’


ONE day few people in the UK had heard of Joe Rogan. The next it seemed everyone had. After his interview with Dr Robert Malone, co-inventor of mRNA technology and critic of the Covid vaccine, went out on Spotify, the streaming service announced a warning on Covid podcasts in an attempt to curb calls for him to be removed from the platform.

Millions in the US had long appreciated Rogan’s podcast, a rare outlet for in-depth conversations with expert, interesting and  ‘controversial’ people, a more recent one being with Maajid Nawaz who was discussed on TCW this week

In this conversation he also highlighted the absence of any national debate about bodily autonomy relating to the Covid vaccine and how the relationship between the State and the individual, an individual’s responsibility to society versus society’s responsibility to the individual, has changed with the advent of Covid vaccine mandates and ‘consequences’ for refusal. We have been told ‘it’s for the common good’ must be enough for us. Yet the popularity of both Rogan’s podcast and this episode in particular is some indication that millions are questioning the official narrative. 

The position that regards this fundamental change in society’s view of bodily autonomy as ‘the right thing to do’ is deeply entrenched in those who seek to guide us. It was just before Christmas that the Archbishop of Canterbury told us to ‘get vaccinated, get boosted’ because this is a good way to ‘love thy neighbour’. According to the Right Rev Justin Welby to get jabbed was to follow the example of Jesus.

Setting aside that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus declare, ‘Verily I say unto you, go and get thy Covid jab,’ this is a striking stance on bodily autonomy by the leader of England’s official religion. Essentially he was instructing the faithful to submit their body to the (politically decided) needs of the wider community. Some might argue that this is the Christian message of self-sacrifice. However my C of E vicar Mum reminded me that the Archbishop overlooks half of Jesus’s command. The addition of ‘as thyself’ to ‘Love thy neighbour’ is vital. Jesus doesn’t say ‘Love thy neighbour morethan thyself’. Instead it is very clear in his command that a love of oneself is also expected and valued by God.

For a long time the ‘me, me, me’ attitude in secular society was encapsulated in the L’Oreal slogan ‘Because I’m worth it’. But a recent addition to the culture of self-obsession is, paradoxically, giving the appearance of being selfless. This manifests itself as standing up for other people’s rights, taking offence on other’s behalf and ostentatiously displaying symbols or performing gestures for certain causes. Such acts can be genuinely virtuous but the risk lies in the displayed virtue being shallow and merely performative. Jesus himself railed against this in the form of the Pharisees, who loved a good bit of virtue-signalling.

It concerns me deeply that healthcare has been drawn into the performative display of moral superiority. We are being asked to sideline our personal health concerns and bow to the opinions of others in society.

Of course there are plenty of voices insisting that taking the Covid vaccine is in every individual’s best interest. But then we arrive at the assumption that others can and should sometimes determine what is in the best health interest of others. The reasons for refusing any medical treatment are many and varied. They can be for physical or mental health reasons or for complex reasons of personal preference. It is the individual’s body, mind and soul that has to endure the consequences, something my own experience has traumatically shown me.

In 2016 I was forced into an eating disorder clinic under threat of being sectioned, against my and my family’s anguished pleas. On paper this was ‘a voluntary admission.’ However for more than six months I had no bodily autonomy – from being watched on the toilet, to having to take certain medication and being tube-fed in a way that caused extreme physical and mental distress. It was only when I finally managed to discharge myself that some of the medical professionals admitted it had been a mistake. I had been given grossly inappropriate treatment that had not only failed to tackle my serious mental illness but had also caused huge additional damage. This type of ‘being sectioned without being sectioned’ is happening all the time in the NHS. Now it has been suggested for everyone in society in relation to Covid vaccination by members of our own Government. One good example is MP Tobias Ellwood declaring on TalkRadio that if people ‘voluntarily’ get the jabs the Government won’t need to mandate them. Have this medical treatment/take this medication/stay in this clinic ‘voluntarily’ and then we won’t have to force you! Some may be shocked by this comparison, but it isn’t dissimilar from ‘sleep with me and you won’t lose your job’.

But doesn’t everyone in the UK still have a choice about whether to get vaccinated or not? Forcing someone to have a medical treatment doesn’t always mean holding them down. All that needs to happen is for the ‘consequences’ to be unbearable for the individual. For me this was the consequence of not being able to travel to Germany to see my grandmother without quarantine, be unable to enter her care home and unable to function as a normal human in German society. This is of course not the UK Government’s responsibility, but there has not been one word of condemnation from our Government of the medical apartheid spreading across Europe. For others it is the loss of a job, a career, a lifetime of work, a means of feeding their family. I’m thinking particularly of those working in the NHS and social care who have been given at least a reprieve for now. That is very much the UK Government’s responsibility. But no physical restraint is being deployed so the mirage of a liberal, moral democracy is maintained.

‘The collective good’, ‘for your safety’, echo in history as the foundations of and justification for every evil authoritarian regime. In 2005 Unesco adopted the full text of ‘The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights.’ It is worth quoting:

‘The interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society.’

‘Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.’ 

 It is profoundly sad that the Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t capture the true meaning of one of God’s principal commandments in the same way that this secular Unesco declaration does. It is also frightening that many countries of the world appear to have forgotten they signed up to its fundamental principles. 

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Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti is half German, a quarter Italian and a quarter Peruvian but is proud to be British. She has a masters degree in medieval history from Oxford and is a passionate campaigner on issues of mental health and NHS reform.

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