Pandemic Fantasies Hit Hard Reality
This weekend, under the auspices of Brownstone Institute, two dozen writers and scholars—lawyers, doctors, essayists, scientists—gathered to come to terms with what happened over three years. At some point, all of us realized that no one in the room is today doing anything like what we were doing three years ago. Most everyone there had changed jobs, moved, adjusted their outlook, and otherwise taken a new direction in life.
It’s happened to countless millions in this country and all over the world. The upheaval has been astonishing to experience and watch, both in its most grim elements but also in the way we’ve all learned to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic era.
We spoke about the future, yes, but we are nowhere near done with coming to terms with the recent past. It seems like a blur, which is a reason why it is valuable to focus in on the details of what we’ve been through. We recounted the silly things (one-way grocery aisles), the brutal things (closed churches and gyms), and the tragic things (friends and family members dying alone in hospitals and buried in Zoom funerals).
Each person had a story of confronting authority in their own realm and being astonished to discover how many people were willing to go along with all the nonsense.
Our technologies that had promised a new age of information and personal emancipation revealed themselves to be captured tools of surveillance that used and manipulated us rather than served us. Politicians proved gutless. Our friend circles and communities turned out to inhabit obsequious servants of ruling-class lies.
We never doubted our family doctors but then they started telling us things we knew were not true and asking us to engage in behaviors that were clearly bad for our health. Government officials whom we implicitly trusted with grave responsibilities have shamelessly lied to us for years now. If we only doubted their credibility in the past, now it seems like the whole business of government is nothing but deception.
The courts that we thought were there to defend our rights fell too, not meeting at all for months, deferring to executive power later, and only after nearly two years started finally to act to strike down the most egregious impositions on our liberties.
The pharmaceutical companies that have built up a good reputation over decades suddenly threw themselves into experiment shots backed by obviously implausible claims. When the public began to doubt, they took recourse to pushing for hard mandates that ended up forcing medicines on people who did not want them, in complete violation of the spirit and letter of international law. Now we are surrounded by resulting injury and death and yet the manufacturers hide glibly behind their indemnifications from liability as provided by law. Then they took it one step further to force the shots on kids to perpetuate their legal immunity.
The industrial sector also proved far too willing to go along. This is because some of the biggest out there saw that they would benefit from lockdowns, even as small businesses were being crushed. It was genuinely appalling how few leaders in industry were willing to stick their necks out to say the most obvious things, such as that the lockdowns and mask mandates—to say nothing of the vaccine mandates—were inconsistent with free enterprise.
It’s devastating to discover how much the prospect of free money and subsidized profitability causes truth to be buried. Big Tech thrived, as did streaming platforms, digital educational tools, and other adaptations of lockdown-era technology.
Peloton capitalized on this with outrageously expensive exercise bikes that people bought with their stimulus checks, all with the intention of using them to stay healthy in lockdowns. They would spin away in their apartments alone and expect the working classes to drop off their groceries at their door. In reality, the new equipment just became yet another thing to take up space and a symbol rather than the reality of health.
Peloton expanded dramatically as their stock price hit $167 at the height of lockdowns, only to fall all the way to $16 today. The company and its employees truly believed that the good times would last forever. But they did not and the company is now massively bleeding money. Like everyone else in this sector of the lockdown industry, they are cutting as fast as possible.
The playbook is the same for all these once-high-flying companies that are now suffering. There is a turnaround plan, mass layoffs, and C-suite upheaval. This same thing is happening to industry across the board. For the prior 15 years with zero-percent interest rates, capital chased return in speculative ventures that were betting on long-term return. But then the long term suddenly stopped. The investment proved unsustainable.
The silver lining in an industrial sense is the killing off of ESG/DEI, invasive and bloated HR departments, and wildly inflated payrolls that had turned corporate America into an enforcement engine of woke ideology. There is a strange poetry unfolding here as the post-pandemic period is wiping out whole sectors of fakery that had come to dominate corporate culture and society for years.
At Brownstone’s event this weekend, we reflected on the darkest of times but also on how the light has begun to dawn in every area of life today. It’s been painful, far too much and with zero justification, but we are headed now into a new area of reality and truth. As usual, politics will be the last to adapt but adapt it will in time. Meanwhile, there is plenty of work to do in every other area of life to build a new renaissance from the rubble of the last three years.