A few days ago I went to lunch with my mother again. She is 88, has cancer that is controlled with medication. Of course she is an easy victim for the corona virus. In the virological context, she just has to stay at home. And wait until she dies, then she has become completely immune.
It was this sarcastic joke that lured us into the ‘forbidden’ dinner, and whether it tasted good. Immediately we are in the discussion of medical logic versus wellbeing. And the stone in the frog pool that was thrown by health economist and happiness professor (that’s how the media know him) Lieven Annemans. After a open letter, published at the end of August, in which literally ‘the legitimacy of the current experts is questioned ‘, he actually got a seat in Celeval, the expert committee that advises the National Security Council.
Power, enemy image, fear
Annemans has since been tipsy wild because he dares to contest the culture of fear surrounding the virus, and also brings up factors such as insecurity, loneliness, depression, educational disadvantage and the increasing poverty caused by the contact restriction and the quarantine measures. Virologists do not like that: they do not want their authority to be challenged by someone who obtained a master’s degree in physical education, then studied business administration and commercial engineering, and finally obtained a doctorate in applied economics.
He is a learned man, but also a well-prepared generalist, at home in all markets, and who has two feet on the ground. The fact that this outsider position clashes with virologists has mainly to do with power. With Wilmès, those virologists had more or less attained the status of astrologers. They do not give it up just like that. On the other hand, corona was an alibi for politicians to push the boundaries of the rule of law.
Annemans questions this dual monarchy, but at the same time again posits the autonomy of the individual. We don’t want to be dummies in the hands of a control state. Not even in times of pandemic. So it is also a democratic resistance that we will call ‘politically incorrect’ right away. Because the virus controls our lives, we have ended up in a total war, in which the end justifies all means. Someone had to pop that balloon: no, the end does not justify all means.
The term ‘all-out war’ (Total war) is relatively young: Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels launched it in 1943, when Germany could no longer win the war and the German people were invited to a Götterdämmerung, a collective self-destruction. In that phase of the regime, people are no longer counted. Then even the collective interest fades into a matter of hysteria and mass indoctrination, with an extreme enemy image as a weapon. Today the enemy is called corona. He lurks everywhere, and worse: everyone is everyone’s enemy / source of infection. In such a war situation, freedom and privacy are irrelevant.
Far from suspecting Marc Van Ranst, Erika Vlieghe and C ° of Nazi sympathies. But one must nevertheless pay attention to the totalitarian nature of their thinking system. It is accepted that there is one science, one doctrine that determines policy and dictates our behavior. Moreover, their rather autistic reasoning pattern is an offshoot of the Cartesian world view, to which is also associated with a form of fear of contamination. The human body is a machine that can malfunction due to an external cause. This problem must be repaired by a technically qualified person – the doctor, the surgeon – who removes the cause of the problem and prescribes measures to limit the risk of ‘relapse’. The doctor’s authority is total, and his view of man is that of a living corpse.
This garage owner’s view of the body (the analogy with the car goes very far) is very efficient in a society where general, abstract models prevail and individuals are subordinated to a ‘politically correct’ behavioral control. In essence, this vertical view of the patient has been dominant in Western medicine since the 13thof century and the establishment of universities.
Patients are lay people, they don’t know anything. Only recently they have access to their own medical file. It led to the contemporary architecture of the mega hospital full of specialists who hardly communicate with each other.
Because that is also a characteristic of modern medical science: thinking in the boxes. There is no overview, only expert territories. When my son was treated for an infection in the leg at the UZ Leuven – the top hospital in Belgium – infectiologists and orthopedists could not agree on the diagnosis and the treatment. The dispute raged over the patient’s head for months. It is literally, as the word says, a direct object.
There is also such a thing as alternative medicine, which is ridiculed by the classical. That is not a reaction to it, it is much older than doctor medicine. Even as old as humans themselves. It departs more from the total living being, as a unity of body and mind, individual existence, the bond with nature. In which also all kinds of bacteria and viruses have a place. It does not accept blind submission to doctors and offers room for self-medication.
This is about the individual’s right to control his own body, as a house, as a garden, as a microcosm. The current euthanasia debate is an extension of this. It is not up to experts to determine how someone may / must die, who should be and which documents must be completed. In the limit, everyone is their own doctor and it is nature itself that confronts us with limitations. Not the Order of Physicians or some euthanasia law.
In the Middle Ages, this claim to self-determination was regarded as witchcraft by the Church and the academic world, with all its consequences. Anyone who was involved with herbs and with a traditional knowledge, not taught and controlled by a professional class, was ‘dangerous’ for society. Only in the 18of In 19of century, there was room again for the organic total vision, and the insight that man should not work against the forces of nature but should develop a ‘modus vivendi’ with them. That is what Lieven Annemans actually says. The virus is an annoying thing and we have to deal with it intelligently, not recklessly but also not panic.
The balloon that the health economist gave about group immunity (the creation of a natural resistance by coming into contact with the virus) is an extension of this alternative view. His resistance to the culture of fear is a resistance to virologic dictatorship and the political implication of a Big Brother society, what I have called ‘health fascism’ in my recent book: the increasing grip of the control state with the common good and the public interest as its great alibi. public health.
The corporatism of doctors, virologists and other specialists, now also statisticians, plays a role that should not be underestimated. This is their moment of glory, for them corona is a blessing and a confirmation of their omnipotence. Ordinary people have nothing to say, they have to remain silent and obey, bow to science. It was and is Marc Van Ranst’s wet dream. A Beijing model in which restraining orders, mouth masks, isolation, quarantine, bubbles and essential movements have come to dominate the discourse. And in which autonomy, personal responsibility, (yes) sense of citizenship, but also general psychological and social well-being play no role whatsoever.
‘This man is dangerous’, so was the quasi-unanimous opinion of the other experts (who call themselves the ‘real experts’) about Lieven Annemans. Once we had Dutroux, now we have Annemans as the number one public enemy. This judgment itself can also be called dangerous, perhaps even more dangerous. It’s the verdict of the unique thought. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the medieval burnings of witches and heretics. In other words: as soon as the opportunity arises, certain scientists turn out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Then someone who is simply concerned about psycho-social well-being is denounced as a charlatan. Such a phenomenon should set off alarm bells.
In the meantime it remains a question mark whether a vaccine is the miracle solution. Maybe it will only be part of the solution. A gold mine for the pharmaceutical industry, but humans will have to adapt like any organism. And while we have not yet gotten rid of the virus and should certainly not minimize it, the virologists’ totalitarian, blemish-obsessed discourse is not alone. Van Ranst and Annemans are each other’s opposites in a sensible debate, but the way the health economist is approached is anything but clean. I hope he finds sufficient support in his dissident behavior and resists the attempts at damage with his signature smile. Tip for the liberators of all kinds: put this man at the top of the shortlist.