18th century philosopher Anthony Collins wrote, “If we have a right to know any Truth whatsoever, we have a right to think freely … because there is no other way to discover the Truth.”
For the past year, America and the world at large has grappled with a loss of basic freedoms following the virulent onslaught of COVID-19.
Despite the lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing, I fear the greatest assault on our civil liberties – our right to seek the truth – may go unanswered.
During a time when the effects of COVID-19 have been so far-reaching and personal, can we afford to abandon our freedom of thought and the pursuit of truth?
Never has there been a moment in human history where science and medicine have been so heavily leaned upon for guidance and authority.
I too believe that this virus can be understood within the confines of science and medicine. The truth is out there – buried beneath a sheer volume of credible research – and if required, it will stand up to the rigors of medical science and opinion to validate itself.
That will take tremendous time, effort and cooperation on a global scale we have yet to see. Until then, it is reasonable to expect that any intervention be accorded the utmost care and consideration in respect of human life.
Yet, before any international consensus about the pandemic was crystallized, or the socio-economic implications fully debated, our lives changed overnight from the imposed restrictions.
Thousands of small businesses were forced to shutter and millions of people lost their jobs, leaving many across the country feeling vulnerable, depressed and suicidal.
Look, I get it. Public health is a tightrope.
Act slowly and there will come a torrent of criticism for failing to stop preventable deaths. Act aggressively to stop an imminent outbreak and you risk being accused of overreacting.
But as much as inaction would endanger more lives, ill-advised decision making has hurt us even more, and its consequences will only ripple into the future.
Stewardship has failed us in this crisis. According to a Pew research study, public trust in the government has reached historic lows. Perhaps this is little surprise, as the pandemic merely accelerated this eventuality.
From the poor and inconsistent accounting of COVID-19 deaths (here and here) to both the CDC and US Surgeon general Jerome Adam’s contradictory statements on masks, the extent of missteps by those in charge have only served up more doubt, confusion and despair.
Still, mainstream media further amplified the government’s position by touting those same statistics as irrefutable scientific fact to demonstrate why certain measures were necessary.
Like many others, I had so many questions.
How lethal is COVID-19 and how many people have already been infected? Do lockdowns slow the spread? If so, what is the evidence with respect to public health to support that? What about the societal, economic and educational harms we have to concede? Are masks effective in slowing the spread or are they highly situational?
The digital world we live in today is one riddled with falsehoods and fabrications. Institutions have political affiliations, corporations have agendas and money leaves an irresistible trail. To sort out fact from fiction to get to the truth is hard enough in itself.
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Maybe my information sources are insufficient, and at times proven untrue as I later found out about this video shared by others. Though I err in judgement on occasion, it does not deter me from searching for the truth or trying to make sense of things. Why should it? The truth demands our attention, especially now that the economic, social and psychological consequences are brought to bear on our shoulders.
Highly educated experts can also subscribe to incorrect positions and American culture places immense faith in expert opinion, even when the evidence shows such confidence should be tempered by skepticism.
A general unease and uncertainty lingers which has yet to abate, and I fear it won’t unless we start thinking critically and take decisive steps to educate ourselves on this pandemic and the vaccines.
No politician or expert has a monopoly on rationality. There are no self-appointed guardians of the truth, only those who would seek it and subject it under the strictest scrutiny to ensure its legitimacy. That is our duty.
I used to think that I might have been a little late writing this.
But this message will stand the test of time.
I sincerely hope it does. The truth deserves better. We deserve better.