By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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We are all terminally ill. It is a matter of time before we all die. Aging and death remain almost as mysterious as ever. We feel awed and uncomfortable when we contemplate these twin afflictions. Indeed, the very word denoting illness contains its own best definition: dis-ease. A mental component of lack of well being must exist SUBJECTIVELY. The person must FEEL bad, must experience discomfiture for his condition to qualify as a disease. To this extent, we are justified in classifying all diseases as "spiritual" or "mental".
The artificial distinction between food and medication, for
example, is relatively new. Until fairly recently, various comestibles and
libations were prescribed as cures and featured side by side with medicines in
medical textbooks. After all, both edibles and drugs are taken per os and both
result in gastrointestinal, hormonal, and immunological changes to the body.
Big Pharma engendered the schism to be able to charge more for substances that are either directly extracted from plants and animals - or which are synthesized based on natural substances.
Is there any other way of distinguishing health from sickness - a way that does NOT depend on the report that the patient provides regarding his subjective experience?
Some diseases are manifest and others are latent or immanent. Genetic diseases can exist - unmanifested - for generations. This raises the philosophical problem or whether a potential disease IS a disease? Are AIDS and Haemophilia carriers - sick? Should they be treated, ethically speaking? They experience no dis-ease, they report no symptoms, and no signs are evident. On what moral grounds can we commit them to treatment? On the grounds of the "greater benefit" is the common response. Carriers threaten others and must be isolated or otherwise neutered. The threat inherent in them must be eradicated. This is a dangerous moral precedent. All kinds of people threaten our well-being: unsettling ideologists, the mentally handicapped, and many politicians. Why should we single out our physical well-being as worthy of a privileged moral status? Why is our mental well being, for instance, of less import?
Moreover, the distinction between the psychic and the physical is hotly disputed, philosophically. The psychophysical problem is as intractable today as it ever was (if not more so). It is beyond doubt that the physical affects the mental and the other way around. This is what disciplines like psychiatry are all about. The ability to control "autonomous" bodily functions (such as heartbeat) and mental reactions to pathogens of the brain are proof of the artificialness of this distinction.
It is a result of the reductionist view of nature as divisible and summable. The sum of the parts, alas, is not always the whole and there is no such thing as an infinite set of the rules of nature, only an asymptotic approximation of it. The distinction between the patient and the outside world is superfluous and wrong. The patient AND his environment are ONE and the same. Disease is a perturbation in the operation and management of the complex ecosystem known as patient-world. Humans absorb their environment and feed it in equal measures. This on-going interaction IS the patient. We cannot exist without the intake of water, air, visual stimuli and food. Our environment is defined by our actions and output, physical and mental.
Thus, one must question the classical differentiation between "internal" and "external". Some illnesses are considered "endogenic" (=generated from the inside). Natural, "internal", causes - a heart defect, a biochemical imbalance, a genetic mutation, a metabolic process gone awry - cause disease. Aging and deformities also belong in this category.
In contrast, problems of nurturance and environment - early childhood abuse, for instance, or malnutrition - are "external" and so are the "classical" pathogens (germs and viruses) and accidents.
But this, again, is a counter-productive approach. Exogenic and Endogenic pathogenesis is inseparable. Mental states increase or decrease the susceptibility to externally induced disease. Talk therapy or abuse (external events) alters the biochemical balance of the brain. The inside constantly interacts with the outside and is so intertwined with it that all distinctions between them are artificial and misleading. The best example is, of course, medication: it is an external agent, it influences internal processes and it has a very strong mental correlate (=its efficacy is influenced by mental factors as in the placebo effect).
The very nature of dysfunction and sickness is highly culture-dependent. Societal parameters dictate right and wrong in health (especially mental health). It is all a matter of statistics. Certain diseases are accepted in certain parts of the world as a fact of life or even a sign of distinction (e.g., the paranoid schizophrenic as chosen by the gods). If there is no dis-ease there is no disease. That the physical or mental state of a person CAN be different - does not imply that it MUST be different or even that it is desirable that it should be different. In an over-populated world, sterility might be the desirable thing - or even the occasional epidemic. There is no such thing as ABSOLUTE dysfunction. The body and the mind ALWAYS function. They adapt themselves to their environment and if the latter changes - they change. Personality disorders are the best possible responses to abuse. Cancer may be the best possible response to carcinogens. Aging and death are definitely the best possible response to over-population. Perhaps the point of view of the single patient is incommensurate with the point of view of his species - but this should not serve to obscure the issues and derail rational debate.
As a result, it is logical to introduce the notion of "positive aberration". Certain hyper- or hypo- functioning can yield positive results and prove to be adaptive. The difference between positive and negative aberrations can never be "objective". Nature is morally-neutral and embodies no "values" or "preferences". It simply exists. WE, humans, introduce our value systems, prejudices and priorities into our activities, science included. It is better to be healthy, we say, because we feel better when we are healthy. Circularity aside - this is the only criterion that we can reasonably employ. If the patient feels good - it is not a disease, even if we all think it is. If the patient feels bad, ego-dystonic, unable to function - it is a disease, even when we all think it isn't. Needless to say that I am referring to that mythical creature, the fully informed patient. If someone is sick and knows no better (has never been healthy) - then his decision should be respected only after he is given the chance to experience health.
All the attempts to introduce "objective" yardsticks of health are plagued and philosophically contaminated by the insertion of values, preferences and priorities into the formula - or by subjecting the formula to them altogether. One such attempt is to define health as "an increase in order or efficiency of processes" as contrasted with illness which is "a decrease in order (=increase of entropy) and in the efficiency of processes". While being factually disputable, this dyad also suffers from a series of implicit value-judgements. For instance, why should we prefer life over death? Order to entropy? Efficiency to inefficiency?
Health and sickness are different states of affairs. Whether one is preferable to the other is a matter of the specific culture and society in which the question is posed. Health (and its lack) is determined by employing three "filters" as it were:
In the case of mental health the third question is often formulated as "is it normal" (=is it statistically the norm of this particular society in this particular time)?
We must re-humanize disease. By imposing upon issues of health the pretensions of the accurate sciences, we objectified the patient and the healer alike and utterly neglected that which cannot be quantified or measured - the human mind, the human spirit.
Note: Classification of Social Attitudes to Health
Somatic societies place emphasis on bodily health and performance. They regard mental functions as secondary or derivative (the outcomes of corporeal processes, "healthy mind in a healthy body").
Cerebral societies emphasize mental functions over physiological and biochemical processes. They regard corporeal events as secondary or derivative (the outcome of mental processes, "mind over matter").
Elective societies believe that bodily illnesses are beyond the patient's control. Not so mental health problems: these are actually choices made by the sick. It is up to them to "decide" to "snap out" of their conditions ("heal thyself"). The locus of control is internal.
Providential societies believe that health problems of both kinds - bodily as well as mental - are the outcomes of the intervention or influence of a higher power (God, fate). Thus, diseases carry messages from God and are the expressions of a universal design and a supreme volition. The locus of control is external and healing depends on supplication, ritual, and magic.
Medicalized societies believe that the distinction between physiological disorders and mental ones (dualism) is spurious and is a result of our ignorance. All health-related processes and functions are bodily and are grounded in human biochemistry and genetics. As our knowledge regarding the human body grows, many dysfunctions, hitherto considered "mental", will be reduced to their corporeal components.
Also Read: The Myth of Mental Illness
Note: The Body as a Torture Chamber
There is one place in which one's privacy, intimacy, integrity and inviolability are guaranteed: one's body, a unique temple and a familiar territory of sensa and personal history. The process of chronic disease invades, defiles and desecrates this shrine. It does so publicly, enhancing the sufferer’s sense of helplessness and utter humiliation. Hence the all-pervasive, long-lasting, and, frequently, irreversible effects and outcomes of long-term, intractable illness.
In a way, the torture victim's own body is rendered his worst enemy. It is corporeal agony that compels the patient to mutate, his identity to fragment, his ideals and principles to crumble. The body becomes an accomplice of the affliction, an uninterruptible channel of communication, a treasonous, poisoned territory.
It fosters a humiliating dependency of the abused on medicines, doctors, and bureaucracies. The impersonal character of modern healthcare objectifies the patient, further adding to his or her alienation. Bodily needs denied in the course of the ailment – sleep, toilet, food, water – are wrongly perceived by the victim as the direct causes of his degradation and dehumanization. As he sees it, he is rendered bestial not by the inadequacies of society and medicine but by his own flesh.
The concept of "body" can easily be extended to "family", or "home". One’s sickness often affects kin and kith, compatriots, or colleagues. The inexorable processes of degeneration and decrepitude disrupt the continuity of "surroundings, habits, appearance, relations with others", as the CIA put it in one of its torture manuals. A sense of cohesive self-identity depends crucially on the familiar and the continuous. By attacking both one's biological body and one's "social body", the patient's psyche is strained to the point of dissociation.
Beatrice Patsalides describes this transmogrification thus in "Ethics of the Unspeakable: Torture Survivors in Psychoanalytic Treatment" (it applies equally well to hospital settings, for instance, or to the patient’s death-bed):
"As the gap between the 'I' and the 'me' deepens, dissociation and alienation increase. The subject that, under torture (read: disease – SV), was forced into the position of pure object has lost his or her sense of interiority, intimacy, and privacy. Time is experienced now, in the present only, and perspective – that which allows for a sense of relativity – is foreclosed. Thoughts and dreams attack the mind and invade the body as if the protective skin that normally contains our thoughts, gives us space to breathe in between the thought and the thing being thought about, and separates between inside and outside, past and present, me and you, was lost."
Illness robs the patient of the most basic modes of relating to reality and, thus, is the equivalent of cognitive death. Space and time are warped by sleep deprivation. The self ("I") is shattered. The chronically sick have nothing familiar to hold on to: family, home, personal belongings, loved ones, language, name. Gradually, they lose their mental resilience and sense of freedom. They feel alien: unable to communicate, relate, attach, or empathize with others.
Terminal or debilitating illness splinters early childhood grandiose narcissistic fantasies of uniqueness, omnipotence, invulnerability, and impenetrability. But it enhances the fantasy of merger with an idealized and omnipotent (though not benign) other: the medical doctor, often the inflictor of agony. The twin processes of individuation and separation are reversed.
Being treated for an illness is the ultimate act of perverted intimacy. The medical professional invades the victim's body, or probes his psyche (if he is a psychiatrist). Bed-ridden, deprived of contact with others and starved for human interactions, the patient bonds with his caregiver (hence pathological phenomena such as the Munchhausen Syndrome). "Traumatic bonding", akin to the Stockholm Syndrome, is about hope and the search for meaning in the brutal and indifferent and nightmarish universe of the hospital or the outpatient clinic.
The medical doctor becomes the black hole at the centre of the victim's surrealistic galaxy, sucking in the sufferer's universal need for solace. The victim tries to "control" his caregiver by becoming one with him (introjecting him) and by appealing to the practitioner's presumably merely desensitized humanity and empathy.
This bonding is especially strong when the doctor and the patient form a dyad and "collaborate" in the rituals and acts of treatment (for instance, when the victim is asked to select the implements and the types of surgery to be inflicted or to choose between two equally vile and agonizing “cures”).
The psychologist Shirley Spitz offers this powerful overview of the contradictory nature of torture in a seminar titled "The Psychology of Torture" (1989). Substitute the words “chronic and terminal illness” for “torture” in the following text:
"Torture is an obscenity in that it joins what is most private with what is most public. Torture entails all the isolation and extreme solitude of privacy with none of the usual security embodied therein... Torture entails at the same time all the self-exposure of the utterly public with none of its possibilities for camaraderie or shared experience. (The presence of an all powerful other with whom to merge, without the security of the other's benign intentions.)
A further obscenity of torture is the inversion it makes of intimate human relationships. The interrogation is a form of social encounter in which the normal rules of communicating, of relating, of intimacy are manipulated. Dependency needs are elicited by the interrogator, but not so they may be met as in close relationships, but to weaken and confuse. Independence that is offered in return for 'betrayal' is a lie. Silence is intentionally misinterpreted either as confirmation of information or as guilt for 'complicity'.
Torture combines complete humiliating exposure with utter devastating isolation. The final products and outcome of torture are a scarred and often shattered victim and an empty display of the fiction of power."
Obsessed by endless ruminations, demented by pain and a continuum of sleeplessness, the patient regresses, shedding all but the most primitive defence mechanisms: splitting, narcissism, dissociation, Projective Identification, introjection, and cognitive dissonance. The sick person constructs an alternative world, suffering in extremis from depersonalization and derealisation, hallucinations, ideas of reference, delusions, and psychotic episodes.
Some patients come to crave pain – very much as self-mutilators do – because it is a proof and a reminder of their individuated existence otherwise blurred by the incessant process of disease. Pain shields the sufferer from disintegration and capitulation. It preserves the veracity of his unthinkable and unspeakable experiences. Pain is like a decoration for valour and courage under fire: something to be proud of and flaunt.
These dual processes of the patient's alienation, on the one hand and his addiction to anguish on the other hand complement his view of himself as increasingly "inhuman", or "subhuman". The medical doctor assumes the position of the sole authority, the exclusive fount of meaning and interpretation, the source of both evil and good. The patient is self-vitiated.
Illness can be perceived as a reprogramming the patient to succumb to an alternative exegesis of the world, proffered by the medical profession. It is an act of deep, indelible, traumatic indoctrination. The sick typically swallow whole and assimilate the doctors' point of view and their opinions (regarding the patients as objects, statistics, or corpses-in-the-making) and at times, as a result, are rendered suicidal, self-destructive, or self-defeating.
Chronic disease has no cut-off date. The sounds, the voices, the smells, the sensations reverberate long after each episode has ended: both in nightmares and in waking moments. The patient's ability to trust the rationality and benevolence of the world has been irrevocably undermined. Social institutions are perceived as precariously poised on the verge of an ominous, Kafkaesque mutation. Nothing is either safe or credible anymore.
Long-term patients typically react by undulating between emotional numbing and increased arousal: insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and attention deficits. Recollections of the traumatic events intrude in the form of dreams, night terrors, flashbacks, and distressing associations.
The sick develop compulsive rituals to fend off obsessive thoughts. Other psychological sequelae reported include cognitive impairment, reduced capacity to learn, memory disorders, sexual dysfunction, social withdrawal, inability to maintain long-term relationships, or even mere intimacy, phobias, ideas of reference and superstitions, delusions, hallucinations, psychotic microepisodes, and emotional flatness.
Depression and anxiety are very common. These are forms and manifestations of self-directed aggression. The sufferer rages at his own victimhood and resultant multiple dysfunctions. He feels shamed by his new disabilities and responsible, or even guilty, somehow, for his predicament and the dire consequences borne by his nearest and dearest. His sense of self-worth and self-esteem are crippled.
In a nutshell, the terminally and chronically ill suffer from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their strong feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame are also typical of victims of childhood abuse, torture, domestic violence, and rape. They feel anxious because the disease's “behaviour”, progression, and trajectory are seemingly arbitrary and unpredictable – or mechanically and inhumanly regular.
They feel guilty and disgraced because, to restore a semblance of order to their shattered world and a modicum of dominion over their chaotic life, they need to transform themselves into the cause of their own degradation and the accomplices of their torment.
Inevitably, in the aftermath of bodily trauma and protracted illness, the victims feel helpless and powerless. This loss of control over one's life and body is manifested physically in impotence, attention deficits, and insomnia. This is often exacerbated by the disbelief many patients encounter when they try to share their experiences, especially if they are unable to produce scars, or other "objective" proof of their ordeal. Language cannot communicate such an intensely private experience as pain.
Spitz makes the following observation:
"Pain is also unsharable in that it is resistant to language... All our interior states of consciousness: emotional, perceptual, cognitive and somatic can be described as having an object in the external world... This affirms our capacity to move beyond the boundaries of our body into the external, sharable world. This is the space in which we interact and communicate with our environment. But when we explore the interior state of physical pain we find that there is no object 'out there' – no external, referential content. Pain is not of, or for, anything. Pain is. And it draws us away from the space of interaction, the sharable world, inwards. It draws us into the boundaries of our body."
Bystanders resent and shun the sick because they make them feel anxious. The ill threaten the healthy person’s sense of security and her much-needed belief in predictability, justice, and rule of natural law. The patients, on their part, do not believe that it is possible to effectively communicate to "outsiders" what they have been through. The torture chambers known as hospital wards are "another galaxy". This is how Auschwitz was described by the author K. Zetnik in his testimony in the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961.
But, more often, continued attempts to repress fearful memories result in psychosomatic illnesses (conversion). The patient wishes to forget the pain, to avoid re-experiencing the often life threatening episodes and eruptions and to shield his human environment from the horrors. In conjunction with the patient’s pervasive distrust, this is frequently interpreted as recalcitrance or hostility.
COVID-19: Dispatches from a Raging Pandemic (or: How I Got it Spectacularly Wrong AND Prophetically Right!)
Latest by the authoritative science journal New Scientist: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
kills 0.7-1% of those infected. 99% fully recover. 7000 people had died
hitherto, the majority of whom were above age 50 and with pre-existing
conditions (such as heart disease, obesity, smoking-related complications, or
diabetes). The flu decimated 30,000 people in the US alone during the same
period. The measures adopted by governments, communities, and individuals the
world over are far more dangerous and detrimental than this or any other virus
can ever be.
This mass delusion, psychosis, hysteria, or panic is a first. The only comparable reaction to a pandemic happened in the 14th century with the bubonic plague (Black Death). The “Spanish” flu killed 50-100,000,000 worldwide. AIDS infected 45,000,000 and millions perished. Swine flu infected 61 million in the USA alone - and killed 600,000 globally. SARS (2002-4) had a case fatality rate 10 times higher than COVID-19. There was no hint of panic or hysterical self-isolation. So, what gives? Why now?
The answer is an effluent confluence of:
Functional illiteracy is at an all time high and the education system had crumbled.
2. Social media
Fake news, rank nonsense, and conspiracy theories are the only pseudo-intellectual diet of most people.
3. Distrust of authority
People distrust the government, experts, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, labs, universities, politicians, and the media. Instead, they rely on uninformed word of mouth, charlatans, and con-artists whose trashy wares are purveyed on YouTube and other such online unmitigated garbage dumps. For example: washing hands is good - most masks INCREASE the risk of contracting the virus!
Infatuation with one's self leads to extreme risk aversion and inordinate measures of pampering, self-medication, and self-protection. People consider their cosmically significant and unprecedently unique and treasured lives to be worthy of the utmost efforts at preservation.
is emerging as the solution for all the ills of modern society. People are
so fed up, so alienated and broken, so atomized and lonely, so frightened and
disgusted by how things turned out to be that they hope the Coronavirus will do
to humanity what Trump did to Washington: dry the swamp by decimating an excess
billion or two and by reminding everyone of what really matters in life. This
emissary of the Grim Reaper will restore solidarity, family, friendship,
community, and harmony as we all mobilize to eradicate it. It will bring out
the best in us.
This nihilistic state of mind results in the most counterintuitive phenomenon: people violently castigate anyone who tries to restore calm and good sense. They mob, humiliate, slander, and threaten those who do not subscribe to apocalypse. They gang on psychologists and medical doctors and politicians who attempt to offset the rampant irrationality and the panic which have swept across large swathes of humanity.
The Coronavirus is their last utopia, their only hope and they resent any endeavour to take it away from them. The virus is death and death is peace and thus the end to their travails and troubles without and within. They just want to withdraw into their toilet papered fortresses and await an ineluctable deliverance. And woe unto you if you try to bring them back into this valley of tears. They have had enough.
viruses struck in two waves.
This wave will last until June 2020.
Next one will start in October and November 2020 and will last until the summer of 2021. This second onslaught may well start in China once more.
Then COVID19 will be gone forever.
It has to do with the dynamics of the Corona family: reservoirs, herd immunity, self-limitation. Epidemiology and virology.
Viruses are amazing! They are not really life forms - more like weaponized packages or missiles with payloads of RNA. And prions - deformed highly infectious non-destructible proteins - are not even that!
So, between June and November 2020 expect to see no new infections. And the virus will completely vanish after July 2021.
But the disruptive psychological effects of this health crisis and the strain on interpersonal relationships, exacerbated by the measures taken by governments all over the world and the forthcoming global recession - outcomes like clinical depression and anxiety - will be felt long after the virus is gone.
Possibly the greatest effect will be on the increasingly more atomized social fabric: alienated and paranoid, people will henceforth avoid each other, having realized that they can leverage cyberspace to become totally self-sufficient. Many will be rendered hybrid narcissistic schizoids (grandiose lone wolves)
AIDS did this to sex in the 1980s and 1990s: people have adopted prophylactic celibacy and went online to consume porn, date, and socialize. Sex has never recovered. What remained of human interaction is next.
COVID19 (a coronavirus) failed to propagate and create a
viable human reservoir. The pandemic will be over within days: the number of
new cases will collapse precipitously.
To survive and thrive, especially with the change in weather, the virus needs to mutate and presto so. There are already 2 strains out there (S and L), which is an impressive feat for an upstart zoonotic (animal-to-human) virus. A future mutation can be far more virulent than the relatively harmless variant we are faced with now. This is exactly what happened with the “Spanish” Flu in 1918-20 when 50-100,000,000 died worldwide.
Most viruses "hibernate" (go latent or dormant and then resurface). But COVID19 - like MERS and even its close relative, SARS - did not secure the requisite number of hosts to implement this strategy.
Finally: how about teaming up with a bacterium? A germ-virus hybrid would be invincible as the couple leverages the skill sets of a life form coupled with a payload.
In the meantime, with our impatience, ignorance, risk aversion, and sheer panic, we have ruined our economies and rent our social fabric. Many will die as the outcomes of these lamentable policies unfold inexorably. The virus is the least of our troubles now: we have seen the enemy - and it is WE.
The COVID19 pandemic is receding worldwide, except in Italy whose
population is inordinately old: 23% are above the age of 65.
Italy has 650 Coronavirus fatalities per day. It is the only country with such numbers. The rest of the world COMBINED has another 600 fatalities per day. Germany's case fatality rate is 0.2% - Italy's 7%. Italy is an outlier: the entire country should be quarantined for a long while.
But there are other countries with such a demographic profile: Japan for example. Yet, the Coronavirus is eradicated there. This is because Italy has always had crumbling institutions (including healthcare) and a national character that can charitably be described only as Collective Borderline Personality Disorder: grandiose, defiant, contumacious, reckless, dramatic, entitled, and labile.
Italy also has a vested interest in amplifying and exaggerating what is undoubtedly a serious health crisis. Italy's economy has been in freefall for years now and the Coronavirus will come handy in securing massive dollops of international aid.
Consider, for example the 4500 Coronavirus deaths over 2 MONTHS. Italy has 1800 deaths of natural causes EVERY DAY. Why should its system be overwhelmed by an addition of 4500 to 640,000 annual deaths?
So, we can learn nothing from Italy: it is a special case, where all these emergency measures and more are justified.
Why not implement the same measures against the flu every year? Why only against Coronavirus? The flu and its complications are killing 650,000 a year worldwide, after all!
pandemic will be followed by a massive, global, but short recession that
will last 2 quarters. The global economy will then rebound very strongly and
enjoy a period of prosperity.
This reversal of fortunes will be brought on by unprecedented targeted fiscal expansion packages coupled with extreme monetary quantitative easing in a zero interest rate environment worldwide.
As people seize the day with unbridled credit-fueled hedonism, a consumption tsunami will deplete private savings to their lowest levels ever. This is exactly what happened in Europe after the Black Death and in the USA in the Roaring 1920s gilded age, following World War I and the “Spanish” Flu.
Three other ineluctable outcomes:
1. A baby boom ("Corona Babies");
2. A. explosive rise in divorces as people emerge from an
enforced sharing of living quarters with no longer so intimate partners in
already unstable and dysfunctional relationships.
3. A sharp rise in the incidence of reactive mental health problems such as mood and anxiety disorders as well as a marked deterioration in the condition of anyhow fragile, broken, and damaged individuals (example, people with Borderline Personality Disorder and survivors of CPTSD).
The pandemic is completely over - except in Italy. This
pandemic scare is transforming into an Italian epidemic. The number of new
deaths - outside Italy - is DOWN 90%. People are hysterical, so they do not pay
attention to the DATA.
Still: do not underestimate the risk. It is the second time in history that Italy is serving as a reservoir of a deadly agent.
In the 14th century, the Black Death (the Plague) spread from Italy to the rest of Europe (1347-8). It decimated between one third and one half of Europe's population. The very term "quarantine" was first used when Venice prohibited the entry of ships carrying sick people into its port for a period of 40 days.
Here is a winner
of the Nobel Prize and the world's number 1 biological modeler confirming to
the Los Angeles Times what I have been saying for a week now on my YouTube
The WHO issued a warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating" when in effect it is decelerating and over its peak, including even in Italy and the USA. And its trajectory has little to do with social distancing.
How to explain such inaptitude?
Epidemiologists are very poor mathematicians but too grandiose to seek help. The WHO doesn't employ even ONE mathematician!
Consequently, their predictions are driven more by anecdotal optics and panic than by any crunching (analysis) of the numbers in highly complex mathematical models
Remember: the infections that we are diagnosing today occurred (were transmitted) A FEW DAYS AGO! It is like star light: it takes time for light to traverse the distance, so we never see the present - we can only see the past (rearview mirror). Like a tsunami wave, the pandemic will crest in the next 10 days as a result of OLD infections - but NEW infections will decline precipitously.
How ironic it is to watch the empty shelves in supermarkets
across the USA, so reminiscent of the bereft grocery stores in the USSR and its
centrally planned and locally mismanaged economy. The USA used to mock the
Russians for their incompetence at allocating goods and services in a centrally
planned economy. Karma is, indeed, a bitch.
We are entering the final few weeks of the pandemic. Most epidemiological models clearly show that the virus failed to establish a viable reservoir for future infections and is, therefore, self-limiting.
Nonsense! - you scream in unison - Can't you see that the number of infections and deaths are increasing?
Of course I can. But it is not accelerating. The growth is stable, not exponential (mathematical progression, not geometric one). Much more importantly: currently diagnosed cases reflect infections acquired up to a month ago! The incubation period of this virus is up to 10 times longer than we have ever encountered. So, what we are confronted with now is the PAST, not the present: like starlight which takes years to reach us.
How reliable are the truly good prognostic models we have? The answer is very: they had predicted surprisingly well the caseload, fatality rates, and timing of abatement in all past pandemics.
The coming two to three weeks will be vertiginous and terrifying. One million will be infected and about 100,000 will die. But we are nearing the end. Survive and you will thrive.
Here is how people entertained themselves in Italy in a previous pandemic almost 700 years ago (The Black Death aka The Plague aka The Pestilence): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decameron
Pasolini made a film in 1971, loosely based on The Decameron:
Politicians all over the world are abusing the pandemic to become effective DICTATORS.
Take Hungary, for example.
This 10,000,000 strong country has had only 130 cases of COVID-19. About 5-11 of these cases are critical (depends on how you define the word), and only 6 deaths hitherto.
I repeat: SIX DEATHS. In 3 months. In an EU country of 10 million people.
Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister, announced that all the hospitals are full and collapsing, closed the borders of this EU country, and assumed the powers of a dictator in all but name.
The largely state-infested media whip up a frenzy of hysteria and panic to implement unresisted a xenophobic agenda that Orban has been unsuccessfully trying to impose for years now. In the process, the institutions of the state and of civil society are all but humbled, cowed, or eradicated.
And Orban is a random choice. Dozens of political leaders all over the world are acting even more egregiously to usurp power. I doubt if this pernicious process is either temporary or reversible.
The WHO announced that COVID-19 is growing exponentially. That is nothing short of a lie - or mindblowing innumeracy. If 1 person got infected (patient zero) and then passed it on to 2 others and they each infected two others, after 120 days there would have been 536,870,912 infected folks. Taking travel restrictions into account as well as social distancing, the number drops to 90,000,000. What we have instead are 500,000 affected. This is proof of a mathematical (linear) progression - not an exponential (geometric) one.
The WHO makes even more egregious assumptions: that the
Growth Factor is 2-3 (every person infects 3 others) and the doubling time is
2-3 days, not 4. Adopting these outlandish assumptions, we would have had to
import Martians and to infect them, too, as we ran out of eligible humans.
There are many models in epidemiology: population simulations mainly. But the really advanced ones were ironically developed for Wall Street by quants: people like me who are both physicists and mathematicians. These models make use of bleeding edge math: chaos theory, catastrophe theory, fractals, SPDEs, lie algebras, and neural networks. No medical doctor or WHO staffer would even recognize the terms, let alone be adept at making use of these astoundingly accurate tools. I studied medicine: the math in medical school is college level at best.
What these instruments tell us is that the pandemic is largely over. What we are witnessing now is the tsunami crest of past infections, owing to the inordinately long incubation period of this particular variant of SARS. We are looking at the rearview mirror or at distant star light.
Another 2-3 weeks and the pandemic will be over. And then we
will start facing the REAL
First, how do we know who carries the virus and who doesn't? Even people who had recovered from COVID19 may harbor a viral load. Many are asymptomatic and presymptomatic. Children and animals are perfect vectors of transmission and reservoirs. We have no idea if the virus is endemic (like flu) or will mutate into oblivion (like SARS and MERS). We don't even know if it is susceptible to ambient temperature and humidity (seasonal). A vaccine will be available in 2 years as a minimum. Anticipate a chilling effect on sex, social gatherings, parenthood, schooling, workplaces, public transport, tourism, and all other forms of human contact.
The economy will recover in 2 quarters due to packages of unprecedented fiscal stimuli and reckless monetary expansion. But human societies and relationships will never be the same. The real pandemic will involve soaring post-traumatic mental health problems coupled with paranoid and agoraphobic self isolation and anomic atomization. Technology and climate change (for example: rising sea levels) will exacerbate all these trends until we either disintegrate into the zombie apocalypse - or, in a backlash, reboot our civilization to render it less narcissistic and less psychopathic. It is an opportunity to make our choice: as a species, we are running out of time.
COVID-19 is shaping up to be a war of the quarantined but
defiant young against the doomed old who egotistically are absconding with the
In scenes not seen since the Black Death, protean, self-assembling, flash mob teenage gangs break curfew and maraud the streets, damaging property, coughing and spitting in the faces of passersby, and spreading saliva and secretions on surfaces.
Travel and movement restrictions, voluntary and mandatory, are likely to remain in place after the pandemic over, in 2-3 weeks. This abnormal state will engender inter-generational tensions and conflicts akin to the post World War I and Vietnam eras. But these ineluctable fissures will be amplified to the social breaking point by technologies such as social media. Expect a plethora of Manson families this time around: the age of the Clockwork Orange is dawning.
Today I came across the first truly worrying news in this
entire pandemic: a newborn baby died in the USA of COVID-19. If this baby had
no underlying conditions (comorbidities), it is a seriously scary development
because it implies that the virus is mutating in vivo and possibly recombining
with a flu virus. Similar feats have been "achieved" in labs in the
USA (2011) and elsewhere. Several impeccably healthy adults in the 50s had also
died, suggesting that perhaps a new strain is at work.
Newborns have only the bare rudiments of an immune system. SARS Cov-2 (the COVID-19 culprit) is essentially an autoimmune virus: it provokes the immune system - even if it is already depleted - into an overdrive known as hyperinflammation.
Certain types of immune cells - like cytokines - end up attacking the body's own tissues and, in elderly and immunocompromised patients, they cause death (cytokine storm). The reason younger folks have higher survival rates in this pandemic is because their immune system is still under construction.
For the virus to have decimated a healthy newborn, it must have mutated or merged with another nasty. Bad news all around: equipped with the formidable arsenal of even the common flu, we stand no chance. A “Spanish” flu like pandemic will ensue. In 1918-20 about 50-100,000,000 died. This time, the toll in human lives will be closer to a billion. Why? Because in our narcissistic panic, we universally quarantined and self-isolated and thus failed to develop the only true protection against the propagation of this virus: herd immunity.
The pandemic is over in Italy and the UK. Another 10 days
and it will level off. It is still going strong in Spain and the USA, but even
there, it will last 3-4 weeks at most. Its petering out has nothing to do with
quarantines and social distancing and everything to do with the typical
dynamics of a self-limiting virus of the SARS family. As usual, we have been
fighting the last war and shooting ourselves in both feet simultaneously.
Ironically, we have been ready for this virus. All our institutions have crumbled in the past two decades: family, neighborhood, community. We all became schizoid loners whose sole human contact is the occasional impersonal encounter of casual sex. The only social left in our lives were social media, our only friends were strangers on Facebook, and dating survived only in apps. Social distancing was a fact of life: the virus stood no chance of propagating anyhow.
This pandemic also exposed other structural weaknesses in what was left of our civilization: our narcissistic preoccupation with our bodies, extreme risk aversion, inter-generational lack of solidarity or even conflict, distrust of authorities, media, and experts, our malignant, technology empowered self-sufficiency. Income equality will skyrocket with big businesses as the only survivors of this cataclysm and entrepreneurs, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and the self-employed going out of business.
We were already crumbling: the virus just shined a bright and transient light on our incremental demise as a cooperative, intelligent species.
If anyone is to blame for the mass panic that swept across
the globe, it is the medical profession. It failed us beyond words in providing
a measured, reasoned, proportional, and analytical response to this health
Yesterday, the White House's coordinator, Dr. Brix suggested in a public statement that 200,000 people might die in the USA (based on the flimsiest of evidence and on undisclosed mathematical models not available for peer review and scrutiny). Dr. Fauci of NIAID is not far behind in his coast to coast alarmism.
The world renowned epidemiologist Lipsitch published an academic paper (with others of equal stature) suggesting, with a straight face, that social distancing was a successful measure in the “Spanish” Flu pandemic of 1918-19. To remind you: 100,000,000 died on that unhappy occasion. Isn't such a slaughter more indicative of the dismal failure and dangerous nature of quarantines and universal isolation - rather than its alleged and untried efficacy?
Other leading luminaries, or rather self-aggrandizing panic merchants - like Osterholm, the self-imputed "virus doctor" - are making the talk show rounds, strutting their stuff: they are some of the very same people who erred egregiously by predicting 1,400,000 dead in both the SARS (2002-3) and the Ebola pandemics and the need for 500,000,000 vaccines immediately, or else.
So, what is going on? Fear of failure and its attendant humiliation ("not on my watch"), better safe than sorry, the intoxicating novel experience of the limelight and mini-celebrity, and terror of the devastating consequences of litigation run amok.
There are 8 strains of SARS Cov-2 (the COVID-19 virus). Is
it going to mutate and kill us all? Exceedingly unlikely. HIV (the AIDS virus)
has been around since 1931 and has mutated only in 1971. Even so, it infected
75,000,000 and killed 32,000,000 people. Like SARS Cov-2, HIV is a zoonotic
virus (zoonosis: transmitted from animals to humans). Such viruses account for
60% of all human illnesses and 75% of new emerging infections.
To study mutations in genetic epidemiology, we sequence genomes and construct phylogenetic trees.
SARS Cov-2 is a very big RNA virus: with 30,000 nucleotides, it is twice as big as the flu agent. But it mutates only twice a month (flu: once or twice a week). Flu circulates among pigs and birds which serve as in vivo labs for mutations.
SARS Cov-2 has two secret weapons: 1. Spikes which allow it to latch onto the ACE2 protein receptor throughout the respiratory system, upper and lower; and 2. Furins: binding proteins that pierce into the patient's tissue like sharpened knives (anthrax has the same lovely feature)
Ironically, vaccines and medicines exert selective pressure on viruses: they mutate to offer resistance and only the strongest survive the onslaught. Antibiotic resistance has already rendered one third of our antibiotics useless.
The fear is that SARS Cov-2 will undergo an antigenic shift and combine with another virus, far more virulent and transmissible, also allowing it to cloak itself invisible to the immunological system.
Antigenic drift (its current state) is actually likely to reduce its effectiveness (as it did to SARS and MERS). Big viruses are less likely to undergo drift and more like to recombine with other pathogens.
Still, the good news is: immunity acquired is likely to last for years as the virus changes only minimally. This is why universal quarantine and social distancing are huge mistakes: they prevent the emergence of herd immunity. Measures targeted only at vulnerable populations would have forestalled much of the tragedy now unfolding.
Watch any video on COVID-19 by Prof. John Ioannides of
Stanford University. Detox yourselves!
The unwarranted panic was engendered by narcissistic doctors and leveraged by psychopathic politicians to grab power.
Misinformation is deliberately spread by unscrupulous doctors and increasingly more tyrannical authorities. Examples: the case fatality rate of SARS Cov-2 is the same as the flu virus, not higher - and asymptomatic carriers of the virus are not infectious.
As the pandemic proceeds apace, at least in the hysterical media, hospitals are becoming major vectors of transmission.
Shockingly, not a single randomized, double blind trial with a control group had been conducted on any population anywhere in the world: a reflexive first step in any pandemic when the authorities wish to reduce panic rather than fan and leverage it for tyrannical power grabs.
Doubts are also rising regarding the cause of death in many cases, especially with the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with pre-existing conditions: was the virus just present in their bodies - or did it actually cause their demise?
And how many of the symptoms are psychogenic somatization (psychosomatic)? Shortness of breath and chest pains are symptoms of both anxiety disorders and respiratory distress in all patients with any of the zoonotic Coronaviruses!
for the pandemic: next 18 months. My predictions:
Restrictions worldwide - lockdowns and social distancing - will be lifted almost fully by June, but NOT as applied to international travel except on official business or commerce - and only by invitation and with a certificate (clean bill of health, COVID-19 free tested)
In October 2020 - March 2021, there will be a second very deadly wave of COVID-19. All restrictions will be reimposed globally.
We will begin to use Remdesivir (a medication that I recommended in my vid weeks ago). It will cure COVID-19, so restrictions will be again lifted. Vaccines will fail clinical trials repeatedly and will come on stream only in 2022.
Full international travel will be restored on June 2021.
My COVID-19 videos are available here: https://www.youtube.com/vakninmusings
This pandemic renders all of us helpless, orphaned toddlers.
The parental template is shattered: no one is there to answer our questions or
tell us what to do. Experts and institutions alike display the same abysmal
ignorance and are subjected to the same indignities as we are. We are forced to
parent or reparent ourselves.
In this anomic environment, experienced schizoid loners, cyber nerds, digital natives, and adults who had been parentified in a dysfunctional childhood - are all advantaged. Digital socializing suits them and they thrive increasingly the more impersonal life becomes.
The mass and social media expose us to harrowing images and the outcome is a tsunami of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Narcissists and psychopaths are best equipped to cope with such exigencies. Other mental health disorders - depression, paranoia, hypochondriasis (factitious disorder), and anxiety - will become the new normal. Many people will shelter in place and socially distance for the rest of their natural lives as most Europeans did after the Black Death.
But, as relationships - starting with long distance ones (LDR) - disintegrate, an avalanche of bereaved and lonely hearts with descend upon dating apps and venues for casual sex pickups. Narcopaths will be there, lurking with open arms. The aftermath of COVID-19 will afford these miscreant predators a field day of vulnerable prey as the “Spanish” Flu did in its wake, in the 1920s.
I have been warning against an African famine of Biblical
proportions in my COVID-19 vids. The main culprit: locusts. Or rather the
disastrously misguided policy of social distancing which prevented farmers from
spraying with insecticides the breeding grounds of this pest.
Now, swarms of 500 BILLION insects each (20-200 times larger than 70 years ago) have descended on East Africa, decimating all vegetation and crops. The UN's WFP (World Food Programme) is predicting 300,000 deaths A DAY, as 265 MILLION people starve. Black lives clearly DON'T matter.
Locusts are grasshoppers. The desert variety has been known to cover with a thick writhing carpet 20% of the surface of the Earth, in over 60 countries on 3 continents. About a tenth of Mankind perished in each and every one of these onslaughts. The size of each swarm is up to 460 square miles in size. It consumes about 200,000 TONNES of plants PER DAY. Swarms fly thousands of kilometers. In 1954 such a cloud from Africa coated Great Britain.
WHO 2014 recommendations in case of influenza and Coronavirus
TO NOT LIMIT TRAVEL, to not quarantine or social distance.
This is also the orthodoxy view in epidemiology 101, what they teach in medical schools all over the world.
Why did WHO mysteriously reverse its position 3 months AFTER the discovery of this virus, one of hundreds in the Coronaviruses family? What NEW information led to this controversial volte face?
On March 14, I posted my first video dedicated to the
COVID-19 pandemic. In it, I said that the disease’s actual death rate
is between 0.7-1% of all cases (5-10 times the typical flu and 2-3 times in a
bad flu season)
At that time, the WHO was talking about 2-3.5%. Ironically, Dr. Fauci himself had suggested a rate of 0.1% (identical to the flu) in an academic paper published on March 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The next day, he went on Comedy Central and announced that he believed that the actual death rate is 1%
A massive testing campaign study in Germany came up with 0.22%. Now, this smaller, but still significant study in New York yielded a death rate of 0.5-0.78%. The case fatality rate is much higher, of course, at 3-6%, depending on the country. About 20% of all resolved cases have died. These figures render COVID-19 far more deadly than the flu - but also a trifle less contagious.
First, YouTube deleted my highly academic videos on the pandemic. Then it deleted a video which did not mention the pandemic at all, but did criticize YouTube - in the most civilized manner! - for its content policy.
As I had been warning: what started off as censorship of COVID-19 related information has now devolved into ugly, open, dangerous and full-fledged political censorship, resembling the oppression found in the worst regimes on Earth and in history.
The USA had just slipped way down the slipperiest of slopes and climbing back might be impossible. Free speech and free media are now not only chilled but banned altogether and in all spheres of life, not only the pandemic.
American democracy has never been as strong as it was made out to be. Both YouTube and Facebook are monopolies: most people today get all their information from these two online platforms. They should be immediately regulated under anti-trust laws. But show me the politician or public intellectual or regulator or media personality who would dare confront these behemoths.
This just in.
Six weeks ago, in one my early videos on the pandemic, I reviewed several dozen antivirals and zeroed in on Remdesivir.
I predicted in that video that Remdesivir will prove to be the cure for COVID-19 owing to the way it interferes with the replication of the virus's RNA.
I am so happy it panned out!
I wrote here:
“We will begin to use Remdesivir (a medication that I recommended in my vid weeks ago). It will cure COVID-19, so restrictions will be again lifted. Vaccines will fail clinical trials repeatedly and will come on stream only in 2022.”
The pandemic of COVID-19 hit everyone simultaneously as a universal, inescapable external shock. Several elements in the progression of the pandemic rendered it traumatic:
1. The exponential inexorable contagion which fosters a feeling of impending doom (extreme stressor);
2. The profound uncertainty regarding every facet of the disease: from the pathogen to the nature of the illness through to the long-term social and interpersonal effects of the desperate and ever-escalating attempts to rein it in. This led to rising rates of anxiety, depressive helplessness, hopelessness, and disorientation;
3. A lack of clear horizon and timeline which engender a sense of alarming insecurity;
4. Mortal fear of disability and death;
5. The transformation of the familiar – including one’s body, nearest and dearest, habits, and landmarks – into alien, minacious, estranged entities to be avoided on pain of life, as a condition for survival;
6. The breakdown or incapacitation of all support networks, human and nonhuman (technologies).
I have only
contempt for the brain dead proponents and propagators of lowbrow conspiracy
theories. But I must admit that I am bothered by several unprecedented features
of this virus:
1. Coronaviruses - especially huge ones, like SARS Cov-2 - mutate very slowly, much more slowly than their influenza cousins, for example.
Yet, this virus had mutated thousands of times already. Twelve of these mutations led to a substantial modifications of its most critical weapon of intrusion and transmissibility: its spike.
These mutations occurred on three continents simultaneously within the space of 3 months.
By comparison: the "Spanish" flu virus garnered only one substantial mutation after 2 years, having infected 1 billion people worldwide. Luckily, the error in replicating reduced its virulence.
Possibly, the COVID-19 virus is mutating so fast because it had been subjected to selective pressure owing to the lockdowns - as I had repeatedly warned it would in March and April last year.
2. The interspecies barrier is formidable and yet this virus hops across species effortlessly: bats, pangolins, humans, cats, tigers, mink, gorillas, dogs - all are welcome to be infected.
3. Animals very rarely infect humans (zoonosis). With this virus, humans - the exclusive carriers - are infecting animals. There isn't even a word to describe such a mode of transmission!
The COVID-19 pandemic is a major traumatic event. Will it result in mass PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)? Or will we dissociate the events and return to normal the minute an efficacious vaccine or a cure are found?
In countries which succeeded to control the outbreak, indications are that people are not experiencing PTSD – but rather develop traumatic dissociation, which gives rise to anxiety and depression.
For about 20% of COVID-19 patients, the disease comes and
goes in waves for a period of up to 8 weeks.
Many of these "long haulers" experiences long-term aftereffects which last for months and maybe longer:
Long term scarring of the lungs (fibrosis)
We do not treat mild COVID-19 cases because the side effects of the medicines we have are worse than the disease and because many of these medications suppress the immune system.
In mild cases, we want the body's immune system to attack the virus successfully, including by raising the body's temperature up to a fever of 39 degrees Celsius.
In moderate and severe cases, we treat patients in a hospital with oxygen, a ventilator (rarely), and with a variety of medications.
Still, many of the medicines used in treatment protocols in most developing countries are not used in the West because they are both ineffective and have serious - sometimes life-threatening - side effects.
In the 14th century, during the Black Death (Bubonic Plague)
pandemic, the young socially distanced themselves in bubbles and avoided the
infested cities, retreating to country estates and entertaining themselves with
erotic but erudite and multi-layered stories. “The Decameron” is a record of
one such retreat in Italy.
The youth of today throw COVID parties, crowd into bars and pubs, flock to the most affected regions, and refuse to implement any prophylactic measure of personal hygiene.
Selfish, entitled, willingly ignorant, proudly defiant, and impulsive, these revolting end products of human evolution conform to the clinical definition of a psychopath.
Personal responsibility, learning, purposefulness, and social solidarity are for bookworms, losers, nerds, geeks, and weasels. Carpe diem and tomorrow be damned. Conspiracy theories and ostentatious, politically correct “activism” (grandstanding virtue signaling) represent the apex of the feeble-minded slacker mentality of these lost, decadent, and spineless generations, born since the 1990s.
Humanity is indeed doomed. But not by the virus.
Some studies in places as diverse as South Korea, Germany,
and Italy seem to demonstrate that transmission of COVID-19 among family
members in close quarters is considerably lower than might have been expected.
The transmissibility of the virus (its contagiousness) is very high.
One possible explanation is the FACT that we mate with people - even in a one night stand!!! - whose immune system is SIMILAR to ours.
Some scholars say that we are attracted to people with the same genetic makeup and smell (pheromones) of our parents. Dr Martha McClintock of the University of Chicago studied feminine attraction to sweaty T-shirts formerly worn by males. The closer the smell resembled her father's, the more attracted and aroused the woman became. Falling in love is, therefore, an exercise in proxy incest and a vindication of Freud's much-maligned Oedipus and Electra complexes.
I must mention, though, that McClintock’s work contradicts other, less conclusive and far more controversial findings regarding the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) or the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA). Studies demonstrated either fewer HLA matches than were expected (Ober et al.) – or no such effect (Chaix, Cao, and Donnelly, 2008). Wedekind conducted body odor studies, again with sweaty t-shirts, that demonstrated a female preference for MHC-dissimilarity, especially during ovulation, but only in women who did not use oral contraceptives. Men also preferred MHC-disassortative mate choices.
Some cultures and religions regard the body as the temporary
abode of the mind, a necessary evil, an encumbrance, or even an illusion. They
invest in its maintenance minimally and use the body mainly to modulate and
regulate states of mind.
Other cultures and religions are somatic: they cherish and worship the body as a shrine, God’s handiwork, to be nurtured and cultivated. Adherents invest inordinate amounts of time to master and modify their looks, get rid of or control illness, enhance and buttress health, tailor wholesome nutrition, exercise, and leverage corporeal assets to obtain goals, such as sex or money.
Normally, the way the pandemic is viewed reflect these differences. In the former societies, there is no panic, only a calm acceptance of the vagaries of the fragile containers we call “bodies”. In the latter collectives, there is a frenetic - hysterical panic - search for vaccines, cures, and risk-mitigation measures.
The global branding firm Forsman & Bodenfors have
published an analysis of 8
cultural shifts occasioned or accelerated by the pandemic.
1. Frugality vs. consumption: people expect durability, longer shelf life but still wish to consume in order to regulate their moods and fill in the emptiness.
2. Meaningfulness: people are looking for diversions, ways to fill in their idle leisure time.
3. Tech matters: tech that helps people to connect is most valued.
4. Business practices spotlight: corporate social responsibility and activism matter.
5. Agenda: altruistic, community-oriented, prosocial, and charitable businesses will come on top.
6. Community: communal ties are strengthening and so does social solidarity.
7. Relationships: re-examining and reframing interpersonal relationships such as friendships and marriages.
8. Self-care: social distancing can spur self-growth (or self-neglect - SV).
Narcissistic mortification is “intense fear associated with narcissistic injury and humiliation ... the shocking reaction when individuals face the discrepancy between an endorsed or ideal view of the self and a drastically contrasting realization” (Freud in Ronningstam, 2013).
Rothstein (ibid.): “... fear of falling short of ideals with the loss of perfection and accompanying humiliation”. This fear extends to intimacy in interpersonal relationships (Fiscalini), unrealized or forbidden wishes and related defenses (Horowitz), and, as Kohut put it: “fear associated with rejection, isolation, and loss of contact with reality, and loss of admiration, equilibrium, and important objects.”
The entire personality is overwhelmed by impotent
ineluctability and a lack of alternatives (inability to force objects to
conform or to rely on their goodwill). Mortification reflects the activity of
infantile strategies of coping with frustration or repression (such as
grandiosity) and attendant psychological defense mechanisms (eg, splitting,
denial, magical thinking).
The pandemic of COVID-19 hit everyone simultaneously as a universal, inescapable external shock. We are going through the five stages of the Kubler-Ross cycle of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
We hate our contemporary civilization so much that we
positively rejoice every time there is an existential threat to the entirety of
humanity. Things have gotten so unbearable that we fantasize deliriously about
wiping the slate clean and starting afresh, rising from the ashes cleansed by
an apocalyptic global calamity, like a pandemic.
Every decade or so, the media, in a desperate attempt to monetize increasingly more reluctant eyeballs, whips up a frenzy about the virus de jour (coronavirus is the latest serving). The flu kills every annual season about 5 times more than all these viruses have decimated combined over the past few decades - and this figure includes Ebola. Only HIV deserves real awe as a globetrotting killer.
And, yet, we panic. But our dread is mixed with breathless Millenarian anticipation for the eschatological end of times. We can't wait to get over with the whole mess we have made of our lives. The grim reaper seems the only way out of the conundrummed morass that we inhabit. We finally decided to go gentle into that night, to the embracing comfort of being nothingness.
The true pandemic is not the latest variant of Coronavirus:
it is sexually transmitted
diseases and infections (STD/STI). If you are having sex with anyone above
the age of 15, there is a whopping 90% chance that she or he harbors one of the
ten major STDs/STIs.
Contrary to a deluge of misinformation online, all these afflictions are transmitted by kissing and oral sex. Even making out, necking, or petting may be enough.
Never ever have sex with anyone - even your own spouse - until they get tested and present you with a clean bill of health for at least these:
Hepatitis A, B, and C
Herpes (HCV) 1 and 2 both igG and igM
Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 1 and 2
Tuberculosis (PCR or IGRA)
SWABS or URINE
Human Papilloma virus (HPV)
Urine microscopy and culture and vaginal swab culture.
I made a video is about social isolation and distancing with
the narcissist: https://www.youtube.com/samvaknin
Social isolation with the narcissist is a hostage situation: intermittent reinforcement leads to trauma bonding and to a Stockholm Syndrome.
The pandemic challenges the narcissist's grandiosity. The narcissist displaces his need for control onto his spouse or intimate partner.
It is difficult to obtain scarce narcissistic supply in a pandemic, so the narcissist reverts to his partner and when she frustrates his insatiable appetite, he becomes aggressive: sexually demanding or withholding, physically violent, verbally and psychologically abusive, gives her the silent treatment and even threatens her. "Background Noise" is the only technique that works in these circumstances.
Abuse and abusive relationships with narcissists and psychopaths
is about advertently causing an artificial controlled pandemic in order to
generate herd immunity. Once a sufficient number of people are immune, the
virus finds it difficult to propagate and even those who are not immune (free
riders) are safe.
As long as the virus is successful, it is under no selective pressure to mutate and evolve. So, the best strategy is to rapidly obtain herd immunity: if we do it gradually, we force the virus to alter and improve its arsenal to get to as many people as it can before it is too late for it to replicate.
Presumably, a warmer or more humid weather should have a restraining effect on the pandemic. Spring and summer present an opportunity to allow the populations which are less vulnerable to get infected.
There are dozens of countries which implemented quarantine and social distancing measures only very recently. These are the countries with moderate to high infection rates per million population - but by far the lowest death rates: China, Israel, Russia, Sweden, North Macedonia, USA, UK, Brazil, and most of Africa, Latin America and Asia, refugee camps everywhere. Luckily for humanity, quarantines and social distancing are luxuries that the only the self-indulgent and navel gazing West can afford.
Coronavirus conferred immunity typically lasts from a few months to a few years: reinfection is unlikely, though possible. Viral clearance is universal: there are no measurable viral load or shedding two weeks after full recovery (defined as two negative swabs). Fast serological tests are coming onstream and should guarantee that recovering patients and asymptomatic folks are safe to interact with. One needs to be in very close physical proximity with an infected symptomatic (aerosolizing) patient for at least 30 minutes to get infected.
The pandemic amounts to a ginormous transfer of wealth from
the poor to the rich: asset prices remain stable even as the rich get to keep
the wages and benefits that they would have normally paid out to their poorer
compatriots. Most tax revenues and government stimulus funds end up with big
corporations and the already affluent. Income inequality - already
unprecedented - will skyrocket.
Rich people have an “inflationary mindset”: they prefer to spend their capital, but owing to the amounts involved, are forced to hold on to the bulk of it, tied down in assets, both tangible and financial. They wish to consume (inflationary effect or "personal inflation"), but end up saving (deflationary outcome.) Poorer folks have a deflationary state of mind: they would like to hold on to their money, but are forced to spend most of it, or even all of it (not to mention avail themselves of additional credits and loans.) They wish to save (deflationary effect), but end up consuming (inflationary outcome.) Thus, all economic players in the marketplace wind up acting irrationally: against their innermost as well as expressed wishes and preferences. This gulf between the desires and actions of all economic agents is the main source of instability and uncertainty in the capitalist system, based as it is on wealth transfer from the many to the few and its accumulation in the hands of the latter.
What are the effects of these discrepancies in the perception of money between the rich and the rest of us? How is this psychological gap – indeed: this abyss – manifested in economic expectations and in one’s grasp of one’s purchasing power (based on streams of future income)? How does the price signal react to income inequality?
The larger the disparities between rich and poor, the greater the share of national wealth held by the rich, the more deflationary the economy. Rich people consume only a tiny portion of their wealth. The rest is tucked away in the vaults of financial institutions, in real-estate, or in art. Their money is effectively taken out of circulation and its velocity drops precipitously (demonetization).
The genomes (genetic sequences) of the SARS Cov-2 virus are
available publicly. The earliest - from China - dates to January 21 and the
latest was releases on April 24 on GenBank and SRA - the Sequence Read Archive.
The initiated can use online tools to analyze the variations between these sequences. Such discrepancies represent the cumulative outcomes of antigenic drift: random copying (replication) errors (aka mutations) as well as of recombinations, including antigenic shifts (borrowing RNA or DNA segments from other viruses, bacteria, or host cells). There is some potentially bad news.
Under severe selective pressures (the virus could not find hosts to infect, owing to social distancing), the virus may have now undergone a series of antigenic shifts, had mutated, and had combined with at least 2 other viruses, including HIV (in its envelope) as well as possibly 1 bacterium (in its RNA)
Luckily, there is no trace or signature of the highly transmissible (infectious, contagious) influenza virus. But this isolate is so removed from the original L and S strains that it qualifies to be considered a SARS Cov-3, IMHO.
From now on, the previous strain may decline, but the new strain - an ominous Swiss Knife - will be capable of attacking children aged 1-6 and young adults 25-40. In fact, these age groups may come to predominate the case fatalities.
The virus will no longer focus exclusively on the respiratory system and instead cause extreme sepsis (toxic shock syndrome) coupled with inflammatory processes culminating in heart failure.
The new virus will also attack the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, connective tissues (skin, joints), and the brain. It will mimic syndromes like Kawasaki and Guillaume Barre, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The good news is that Coronaviruses are self-limiting. The pandemics caused by them suddenly stop even without any countermeasures. But, even so, we better find the right antiviral by autumn.
There is also a tsunami of mental health disorders heading
our way. It is projected to affect at least half the population, in all age
But there are two additional waves inexorably coursing to our already dilapidated shores: irrationality and grandiosity.
In an attempt to make sense of a capricious and life-threatening universe, people resort to inane conspiracy theories, to fairytale or fire and brimstone religions, or to the demented or ignorant teachings of con artist self-styled "philosophers", "public intellectuals" and "life coaches", half educated gurus, psychopathic leaders, and other savory characters.
At the same time, grandiosity had become the norm. Hypervigilance thrives and even the most innocuous comments and actions are interpreted as humiliating insults and sadistic criticism. Aggression is cresting as is a rigid resistance to learning. The pandemic rendered everyone self-sufficient and, by extension, godlike. Apotheosis follows atomized epiphany.
These are not passing fads but structural transformations: the shape of things to come. In a way, I am glad I am 59 years old and not 40 years younger. I wouldn't want to stick around much longer in the inferno that will follow this meltdown of civilization.
restrictions are lifted, people in fatalistic societies will behave very
differently to the inhabitants of narcissistic cultures.
Fatalism implies an external locus of control: whether one lives or dies depends little on one's decisions or actions. God, fate, destiny, blind luck, misfortune, and malevolent others all conspire to render the verdict of the ultimate survive-or-perish outcome.
The denizens of these spaces are likely to act recklessly and adopt a "devil may care", carpe diem attitude to the risks that the pandemic and virus pose.
In grandiose-narcissistic environments, the locus of control is internal. Their populace believe delusionally and counterfactually that they can avoid illness and death by following rigid protocols of risk aversive behaviors.
They are likely to be far more obedient and compliant and, sheeplike, as they cower in their homes, terrified lest mortality and disease impinge upon their immeasurably precious bodies and cosmically significant lives.
Travel bubbles or corridors are arrangements between
countries to allow access to their citizens across otherwise sealed
international borders. Similarly, quaranteams are social bubbles: a limited
group of people who meet regularly and exclude all others as health risks.
This pandemic forces us to retreat into isolation, atomization, self-sufficiency, and narcissistic or depressive solipsism. Especially so in the "countries of the plague", the epicenters of this viral agent of change.
This regression (or progress) is bound to result in two revolutionary paradigmatic shifts:
1. The normalization of mental health pathologies: everyone is going to be clinically depressed or anxious or something or other.
2. Common goods which rely on cooperation and social conventions will lose their value. The Commons will fragment and many social institutions will be rendered obsolete. Examples: money, the family, public goods such as education, and the nation-state. As the banking system collapses, we may devolve to a barter economy with agricultural land as the most prized possession.
Watch my 2 parts video about the inter-generational conflict
the pandemic wrought between boomers and millennials.
The average millennial (1981-96) has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.
Millennials will bear these economic scars the rest of their lives, in the form of lower earnings, lower wealth and health and delayed milestones, such as homeownership.
Lockdowns are here to stay as a new tool in the arsenal of increasingly more authoritarian regimes the world over. In January, when China incarcerated 11 million people in Wuhan to stop the spread of the novel virus, media in the West smugly proclaimed that such misconduct can never be replicated in the West, where an active and vociferous public opinion will put an instant stop to it and defy the measure. Well, they overestimated the public's extent of disobedience. Same happened after 9-11, when most civil and human rights were curtailed without a peep from the sheepled public.
Nothing is more permanent than the transient and the temporary. The power grabs by the political class are irreversible - including their newly acquired ability to imprison their populations for indefinite periods of time. Rest assured they will make use of it, time and again. They already are abusing these measures against demonstrators in the racial equality and climate justice movements.
The plutocrats of the West made massive amounts of lucre during this pandemic: Jeff Bezos got 40 billion dollars richer and Gates added 12 billion to his fortune. So did Edelston, Buffet, Musk and every other billionnaires on the Forbes list. Why slaughter the goose and forgo its golden eggs? These true masters of the universe - who control all media, traditional and social as well as every politico alive - will make sure that the pandemic lasts forever: it is good for business.
There are two aspects that set this pandemic apart
from all previous iterations:
1. All our institutions - from the family to the state - are defunct or, at best, dysfunctional, so the social safety net is frayed beyond repair.
2. This pandemic occurs in a generational interstitial: generation Z (zoomers) are entering the workforce (or what is left of it) and graduating, buried under an avalanche of student debt. The Boomers are retiring in droves, more wealthy and smug than ever.
This pandemic spells the end of the USA as a superpower
and the demise of its self-imputed exceptionalism. Like the British Empire
before it, its decline will take time - but it is ineluctable and irreversible.
The United States is more states than united: a Potemkin "nation", fake and incompetent to the core, divided by the very dream that propelled it into being, torn by interest groups and aggressive professional and extortionate victims along multiple fault lines and vulnerable antisocial underbellies. Americans produce only commodities and manipulate symbols, much like the natives in the colonies of yesteryear. All the other economic sectors of this third world entity are shot.
I foresaw the demise of this polityin two pieces, published immediately in the wake of 9-11, in September and October 2001:
societies (such as the USA, Israel, and the UK) and fatalistic ones (such
as Russia, Brazil, or India) fare poorly when it comes to social solidarity,
impulse control, concerted action, consensus building, and planning for the
future. "Carpe diem" and "que sera, sera" rule these
These types of cultures are ill-equipped to mobilize resources and to structurally, efficaciously, and enduringly deal with external shocks (pandemic, war, or economic collapse, for instance). When compared to collectivist nations such as China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, or Vietnam, their responses, such as they are, are sluggish, labile, and chaotic.
It is ironic that a hardened, junkie violent career criminal
became the mascot of a global human rights movement but of course "I can't
breathe" and police brutality are hallmarks of the pandemic as well: the
virus affects breathing, sometimes fatally - and law enforcement all over the
world are at the obsequious and unquestioning service of increasingly more
authoritarian regimes and money-backed politicians. They place their collective
knee on the public's neck enforcing lockdowns and other measures.
So, protesters around the world, even if they are unaware of it, are not demanding only racial equality and an end to police militarized and paranoid knee-jerk violence. They are insistent on freedoms: to breathe, to speak out, to associate, and to move around. No one can breathe nowadays, regardless of his or her skin color.
is shaping up to be an exclusionary race by richer economies - notably the US,
UK, and Canada - to hoard 3-5 times the amount of doses needed to inoculate the
entire population, thereby preventing poorer nations from getting their hands
on the much needed jabs.
A possible explanation for this irrational, even malevolent misconduct, is that no one knows how many shots would be needed to induce long-lasting immunity. The COVID-19 vaccines may prove to be as fickle as their flu equivalents and require an annual administration of a booster. Better safe in a warehouse than sorry in hindsight.
A less benign and way more sinister conspiratorial rationale is that the West is trying to get a head start in reviving its post-pandemic economies, leaving in the dust and in a state of dependency the likes of Russia and even China by denying them access to the way superior biotechnology, manufacturing, and distribution infrastructure (including cold chain) that go into the vaccines of the West.
Psychological Reactions to the Pandemic
Separately, coronaphobia is neologism which encompasses extreme anxiety and phobia reactions to the coronavirus. It is defined as “an excessive triggered response of fear of contracting the virus causing COVID-19 leading to accompanied excessive concern over physiological symptoms, significant stress about personal and occupational loss, increased reassurance and safety seeking behaviors, and avoidance of public places and situations, causing marked impairment in daily life functioning." Narcissists – especially somatic ones – are far more likely to experience Generalized Anxiety Disorders than the general population.
1. Denial: the virus does not exist, the diagnosis or mechanism of action are wrong, the statistics are skewed, it will go away soon, it is not as serious as it is made out to be.
2. Anger: as the disease persists, denial becomes impossible. Frustration sets in and becomes aggression (Dullard, 1939) directed at others and at institutions and authority figures. "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"; "Why would this happen?". Claims of mistreatment, erroneous guidance, inefficiency, and discrimination mount.
3. Bargaining: attempt to mitigate the grief by avoiding its cause: changes in lifestyle and various compromises (masks, social distancing) are offered as sacrifices intended to secure health or an extension of life expectancy. Religiosity, conspiracy theories, some forms of environmentalism, belief in occult or esoteric practices, placebos – are all variants of rampant magical thinking. "If I could trade my life for his or hers" is also bargaining.
capitulation in the face of overwhelming odds, learned helplessness, and
hopelessness owing to all-pervasive and extreme uncertainty. People say:
"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon,
so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one; why go on?" “I
can’t continue to live like that for much longer”.
During the fourth stage, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. Body language and affect regulations are impacted and mood lability sometimes sets in. The affected suspend communication and become schizoid, avoiding all contacts and interactions with the world and sinking into anhedonic inactivity.
5. Acceptance: finally, people become habituated to the natural or manmade disaster as an inevitable part of the new normal. Life goes on, time heals all wounds, better give up the fight. A new narrative accommodates and incorporates the hitherto unthinkable and gives rise to tender tendrils of hope, inner peace, and restored emotional regulation.
When narcissists fall victim to chronic or acute diseases, or survive a
traffic accident, they react in either of four typical ways, depending on the
type of narcissist:
1. The schizotypal reaction: the belief that the narcissist's predicament is a part of a larger, cosmic plan, or of a blueprint that governs the narcissist's life and inexorably leads him to greatness and to the fulfillment of a mission.
2. Narcissistic rage intended to allay feelings of helplessness, loss of control, and impotence and to re-establish the narcissist's omnipotent, grandiose self.
This is frequently followed by a schizoid phase (withdrawal) and then by a manic spurt of activity, seeking narcissistic supply (attention).
3. The paranoid
reaction: the narcissist deludes himself that the accident was no accident,
someone is out to get him, etc. The narcissist casts himself in the role of a
victim, usually in the framework of some grand design or conspiracy, or as the
outcome of "fate" (again, a schizotypal element).
4. The masochistic reaction: in the wake of the illness or accident, the narcissist's constant anxiety is alleviated and he is relieved, having been "punished" properly for his inherent "evilness" and decadence.
Narcissists hate weak (sick) people and hate it even more when their source of narcissistic supply ceases to function properly. Most of them just move on: they abandon the sick spouse and find another, healthier one. Some of them play the role of martyrs, victims, selfless saints and thus garner narcissistic supply as they "treat" their bedridden spouse.
The permanently disabled narcissists adopt one or more of three strategies:
1. Exaggerated helplessness which justifies emotional blackmail and the kind of insidious dependence that cripples his caregivers;
2. Control freakery in a frenzied attempt to reassert his grandiose sense of omnipotence now gravely challenged by his invalidity;
3. Sadism which renders his victim as helpless as he is and as frustrated as he feels and, thus, “levels the playing field” and normalizes his disability ("everyone is helpless and frustrated so there is nothing really wrong with me, I am, after all, still perfect.")
Dramatic (cluster B)
personality disorders are drama queens and kings.
Pandemic increases the need for drama (Lidija Rangelovska)
MOTIVES for DRAMATIC BEHAVIOR
Acting/distancing (Karpman Drama Triangle)
Self-esteem via reverting locus of control
Attention seeking: hero (gratitude), victim (pity)
Victim or rescuer mentality
Thrills, novelty-seeking, impulsivity
Provocation (projective identification)
Staging, life as a novel or a movie (theatricality)
Manipulation via stress, brinkmanship
Distraction, decoy: shifting blame, diverting attention
One of the main functions of
the shared fantasy is to project to the world a façade of normalcy and
equally, to self-delude the narcissist that he is all but normal. It is a form
of virtue signalling. The disintegration of the shared fantasy exposes the narcissist
and others to the harsh reality: he is mentally ill and his family or firm are
precariously balanced houses of cards.
As humanity is becoming increasingly more grandiose and entitled, puberty is extended well into one’s 20s (Twenge and Campbell). Boomerang kids live with their parents and continue their interminable “education” well into their 30s. Marriage, sex, and childbearing are distant memories. Even computers and the Internet reflect these trends: they nanny and discipline us (see my post about “nanny computing”). Not only do we all refuse to grow up and assume adult chores and responsibilities (Peter Pan Syndrome or Puer Aeternus), but we elect puerile leaders who cater to our pathological needs. Postmodern, post-industrial civilization is one gigantic shared fantasy and the pandemic has, therefore, led to global mortification.
We are reacting to this mortification as all adolescents do: we look for our missing parents. Some deny reality and try to continue with the old normal (“hoover” the various partners – individual and institutional - in our shattered shared fantasy). Others rebel against parental figures and become antisocial: defiant, impulsive, callous, and reckless. But the majority are cowed into unthinking submission, a type of conformity common to adolescents faced with a threat or with the unsavory outcomes of their misconduct.
In the aftermath of every major
pandemic in history – the Black Death and Spanish flu included –
the world had experienced a long period of unprecedented prosperity and
irrational exuberance as efforts to rebuild coincided with a redistribution of
wealth. In some cases, income inequality decreased (14th and 15th centuries) –
in others, it skyrocketed dramatically (1920s).
COVID-19 is bound to segue into the same magnitude of economic rebound, but it is also likely to induce structural changes. Remote work will overtake work in physical locations, for example. Many tech giants have announced plans to dispense of most of their office space. This will have a huge destabilizing impact on construction and on commercial real estate. Automation and globalization - trends that commenced long before COVID-19 - will be catalyzed by it.
Family formation will languish further as both life expectancy and earning drop off a cliff. Entire industries, originally created to cater to the outsourced needs of families – first and foremost, education - will go into terminal inexorable decline. The only exception will be healthcare.
The pandemic also exposed the stark divide between the dwindling and impoverished, hollowed out middle and working classes and the elite, centred around finance, technology, and retail. The record-breaking ascendance of the stock exchanges reflects this schism between main street and wall street.
The workforce of the future will be comprised of low-income, unskilled, dead end jobs on the one hand and well paying positions that require higher education and continued re-skilling throughout the lifespan.
Accurate, timely information regarding the COVID-19
pandemic has been slow
to come. Web pages - even institutional ones - remained outdated, pull only,
jumbles of text; apps were a debacle and spurned by users. Fake news,
misinformation, and conspiracy theories created an infodemic.
The only solution is wiki and other crowdsourcing technologies. Citizens can provide real-time medical and other information to be curated by volunteering medical doctors.
Interview to Nova Makedonija
The pandemic has merely accelerated the decline of the USA and the rise of the historically dominant Eurasian landmass (Russia and its newfound ally, contiguous China).
Russia is providing weapons not only to Serbia, but to NATO allies like Turkey. It had cast itself as an important diplomatic force in the Middle East (not only in Syria, but even with Israel). It is now emerging as technological and scientific power both for good (vaccines) and bad (hacking).
China is now pivoting from a strictly economic superpower to a military one. It is purchasing critical infrastructure in Greece, Africa, and Latin America. Its soft power has surpassed the USA’s in terms of lending to sovereigns, online social media; payments, and retail; and propaganda. Its GDP is nearly the same as the USA’s and the EU’s.
As a tiny polity, North Macedonia cannot afford to surf the wrong geopolitical wave. It must strike a neutral stance between East and West, even if it means that it has to postpone its EU aspirations. It should adopt the Swiss model and welcome everyone. It should redirect itself and embrace industries which do not render it dependent on either superpower: services, green agriculture, medical tourism, offshore banking, coding and backoffice operations, etc.
Article by Aleksandar Srbinovski in today’s Nova Makedonia, quoting from my statement: “Macedonia cannot afford to surf the wrong geopolitical wave”.
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