There Are More Important Things Than Surviving COVID-19 – Opting Out

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COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and neither have the government interventions attempting to curb it. What started out as a temporary lockdown in order not to overwhelm the healthcare system has turned, against the advice of the World Health Organization by the way, to the default mode until some other magical solution presents itself.

The justification brought to us by the lizard people is that the number one priority is saving lives. The mainstream believes that lockdowns work in achieving lower case numbers and lower deaths, despite little evidence. To them, any slight uptick in numbers where there wasn’t a lockdown proves that lockdowns work, whilst any slight uptick where there was a lockdown prove that the lockdowns weren’t strong enough.

Any pushback gets the “if we save one life, it will be worth it,” foolishness.

First of all, who gets to decide what things are worth doing? Recommending a particular course of action to an individual is an entirely different thing than imposing something on others. Why does this common sense notion of saving lives (nobody serious is saying that no precautions ought to be taken against the virus) necessitate a nationwide halting of normal human life?

Also, no individual lives by that statement in all possible circumstances. Our society doesn’t even believe that. People take risks with their lives all the time. Every time you get in a car, you are risking your life. If the ultimate goal of life is protecting lives, then cars really ought to be banned. Yet everyone understands that risk is a part of life, and it’s what we take on in order to make the life we’re living worth living.

What’s implicit in this notion is that life is the end worth pursuing, rather than it being a means to other ends. If we are surviving, all the rest is window dressing.

Apparently, everything we do can be somehow traced back to surviving. Love, creativity, excitement, all the peak experiences we’ll remember on our deathbed, they’re all about surviving. Evolutionary psychologists will tell you the reason we like music is not for artistic satisfaction, to feel moved and have our emotions stirred, but to provide a context for mating rituals. Apparently, the reason most bands and artists have run out of creative juice by their mid-30s is because they’re usually not on the dating scene anymore. Survival is the non-falsifiable answer-all God of naturalists.

A lot of you will point to biology, evolution and the alleged reality of the “selfish gene” as evidence for this pure survival theory. But as Thomas Nagel asks, can we really (paraphrasing) imbue non-human beings with a list of ends that they want to meet? These genes apparently have intention, but the naturalists will go on to tell you that human consciousness and free will are illusions.

On the contrary, I would point to the people that constitute the affluent West, whose survival chances have never been greater in human history, yet are depressed by lack of meaning. The question of what to do with our lives is still there. There is almost no chance of non-survival of the species any time soon. Yet people who are rich, and married with children and grandchildren get depressed. I’d say the normal person’s intuition is correct: survival isn’t enough, there has to be some greater meaning.

Obviously, survival is a need that serves the foundation for everything else we do in life. We can’t do much of anything unless we feel some degree of security in our life. The survival instinct definitely informs a lot of what we do, the obvious one being our sexual habits, but also our careers and who we hang out with.

What I’m saying is that surviving doesn’t constitute life itself. Notice also how we don’t have to throw out evolutionary theory – we can integrate it into a more expansive idea of what it means to be human.

In that framework, we can include things like going to the movies, hanging out with friends at the park, dinner parties, ice skating, having sex with someone who you don’t live with, or none of that if you damn well don’t want to. Plus we can do all that whilst respecting the right of other people’s safety. Protect the most vulnerable, and let everyone else pursue what they feel makes their lives more tolerable.

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James Smith

Writer and film-maker from the United Kingdom. Digital nomad. Author of 'The Shy Guy's Guide to Travelling'.

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