4 April 2020

    With more than the usual amount of time on my hands lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about terminology – not word usage in general, but that which applies to the Human Condition. What I have in mind are conceptual terms like stupidity, moral versus amoral, and insanity. At first blush, it may seem an odd thing to be focusing on right now, but think about it in terms of what’s going on around you. I’ll get to examples in a minute.

   Take stupidity: in the sense I’m talking about, it’s behavior that shows a lack of judgment or good sense. It’s been hypothesized that a certain percentage of the human population are born stupid. I doubt it. We all do stupid things from time to time, but a predilection for unwise behavior has to be instilled some way (i.e., not nature, but nurture).

   I’m not sure that the line between morality and amorality is clear, but in general: if you’re acting immorally, you’re aware that what you are doing is considered wrong by most people (either socially or legally), and you do it anyway. If you do something amorally, it’s done without any thought of the rightness or wrongness of the action, or of what will follow. You just do it. I don’t think a person can be wholly amoral; most of us seem to know “right” and “wrong,” even if we chose to ignore the knowledge in certain circumstances. An amoral act may be associated with stupidity, or perhaps with insanity.

   My use of the term “insanity” is non-technical; trained experts have identified a host of neuroses and psychoses, identifying various specific malfunctions of the human mind. I’m talking about a pattern of what the average person would consider “acting crazy:” consistently doing or saying things that make no sense, showing extreme unpredictability, lying or exaggerating when it is pointless or even harmful. A pattern of stupid or amoral acts might suggest a degree of insanity.

*  *  *

   So, where am I going with this? What started me thinking was a story in the Oregon Public Broadcasting news feed about our infamous Western anti-government terrorist group, holding a meeting in Idaho during the current health crisis (reported by Heath Druzin, Boise State Public Radio, 1 April 2020). To quote a little from the article: “To battle the coronavirus pandemic, many state governments are ordering residents to shelter in placerestricting travel and shutting down many businesses. In places like Idaho, some militia leaders are vowing to openly fight these orders… (and are)   (Their leader) is threatening to lead a march on the homes of Idaho Governor Brad Little and the director of the state’s Department of Health and Welfare. He also says he’d like to form a human cordon around businesses staying open in defiance of the order.” “The scene at the warehouse in Emmett is like something from a pandemic safety nightmare. Dozens of people sit elbow to elbow, greeting each other with hugs, even posing for pictures with an arm around (the leader’s) waist. The small rally is also illegal, according to the emergency order issued by Idaho’s governor.”

   Stupid? To knowingly expose yourself to the potential of death from a virus that is spread through contact with infected people? I’d say so. We don’t know that anyone in the room was infected but, at the rate the disease is spreading, the chances were pretty good.

   Amoral? With all the (apparently purposeful) close contact in the room, if one person was infected, then everyone who walked out the door was a potential spreader of the virus. Did anyone at the meeting think about the risk of taking the disease home to their own family, let alone infecting all the other people that each would come into contact with in the next weeks? Apparently not.

   Insane? On the basis of this one incident, who could say? If one took into account the zeal with which these people have pursued their war against alleged Government Overreach, I’m ready to add the element of craziness to the discussion.

* *  *

   A year ago in the United States, we had a pretty significant measles outbreak - lots of sickness, some deaths. The disease spread largely through unvaccinated children, who got the disease themselves and then exposed others. At one time, measles was almost eradicated in our country, due to vaccinations in early life. The infant vaccination rate has fallen considerably in recent years, and in some states is now below what the Center for Disease Control considers a “safe” level to head off serious returns of measles and other once nearly-extinct childhood maladies. Some of the drop-off is reportedly due to the costs of the vaccines, but more often than not the reasons for not complying are either  “religious,” or a continuing reaction to a long-ago disproved  link between vaccinations and autism. Thankfully, we didn’t have a major measles epidemic this time, but it didn’t need to have occurred, at all.

   Stupid? I think so. When completely safe protection is available, to leave a child vulnerable to painful illness and possibly death seems to be about as stupid as a parent can get.

   Amoral? While willing to let their own children take their chances with infectious disease, these parents seem not to even consider the possible effects on others who don’t share their belief in “letting nature take its course,” no matter the outcome.

    Insane? I would have questions about anyone who seemed to treat children’s lives as cavalierly as the no-vaccine people seem to. The fact that this “religious” belief doesn’t appear to be shared by any of the world’s major religious groups raises more questions with me.

*  *  *

   This is an essay without an end – or, at least, not a good one. From just these two situations – and more could be cited (think of climate change!) – it’s obvious that Stupidity and Amoral actions are causing great harm to our country, even to the point of causing needless deaths. But you can’t legislate against Stupidity, or even do much to change it. Stupidity itself seems to be a disease in the United States.

   The Idaho anti-government thugs, by their very  pointed act of defying strategies aimed at slowing the spread of a deadly virus, could be accused of domestic terrorism. They won’t be. Past actions by this group have shown that both law enforcement and the courts act helpless against this kind of extreme “civil disobedience.”

   Some half-hearted attempts have been made to keep non-vaccinated children out of the public schools, but many exceptions have been made for “religious” and other “moral” objections. Allowing such exceptions is, in itself, Stupid, and defeats the whole strategy. But even if there were no exemptions, those same children barred from public schools are still free to wander through playgrounds, shopping malls, libraries, and anywhere else their parents take them. If someone dies as a result of exposure to a sick, non-vaccinated child, the parents should be prosecuted. They won’t be.

    So, what can we do? If – as it often seems – you and I are the only two Intelligent people left in the country, not much. But maybe there are more, and maybe they have some ideas.





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