Conspiracy theories and pandemics

There is a long history of pandemics doing real damage. I imagine there were many half-baked ideas about causes and cures. Today many things have changed. I'm not as interested in the pros and cons as I am disturbed by the contradictory reactions of people to them.

Let's start with our leaders - particularly our PM. She has done remarkably well to hold us together - yet she has refused to tell us everything. She has often done this in public, and that makes me suspicious. Why should information be held back from citizens?

On the other hand, I watched a US TV report about how Australia has been so restrictive in its handling of the pandemic, asking could it be called a free country. If anything it has fewer restrictions than NZ, but some citizen's, possibly taking a lead from the US (unwise given the lives lost there to Covid-19) object publically and loudly.

Politicians are faced with a no-win situation. Many citizens just want to be kept safe - while many others just want to get out in the world.

For myself, I am concerned that our health system was inadequate before the pandemic. A friend of my daughters is a nurse in England. She lost a colleague to covid-19 in the first wave, and now the English waiting list for cancer and other treatments is horrendous The likely effect here of more covid cases is not something I care to think about.

And that is only fatalities. Long-covid as it's know is devastating many people who survived.

What is the truth in all of this? And how does it work for me? I use me as an example, but each of us is special and has our own peculiarities. When I was on dialysis in a room with say 20  other people, it didn't take long for me to discover I could change my program (and take a tablet when finished) to greatly reduce the paid that night. There is no universal rule that will allow for every one of us.

This leads me to conspiracy theories - which we all love. (Don't search the internet - the list is exhausting.) How do we evaluate them? I should say after talking with my GP, I was left with uncertainty - it would "probably" be OK. That is hardly reassuring, and others have found the same when they tried to get their health factored in. This vaccine is simply too new to stand the test of time.

Just to be clear I have been vaccinated. It may not In fact provide much protection - we just can't know. As an aside, this year's flu vaccine was significantly worse. A nurse said the new over-65 flu shot was like pumping treacle. Our arms were both sore for days.

But what makes a debate turn into a conspiracy theory? Take the pandemic. The government has clearly not given us every detail they know. The fact that has happened has me on alert. What they have told us has sometimes turned out not to be true, which is another issue. Often they didn't know themselves but haven't really admitted that.

When Australia says we don't know what we're doing, and the US says Australia's strategy is removing human rights, are they right?

During 2020's Maori language week, our PM gave her favourite saying:

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

While pakehas tend to focus on the economy (and no doubt we need a sound economy) I believe this statement is true. Of course, to care for people we need a sound economy, but focussing on the economy has hardly cared for either people or the world we inhabit.

But what about the many conspiracy theories around? How do we deal with them?

Much of the science I learned at school has since been overturned, and so much we didn't know about since then has been discovered. This is not new - we don't find it easy to replace our old understandings with new ones. Often the establishment held to old views even when better ones came along.

Science is particularly interesting because everything must be replicable - except the big bang theory and evolution which are claimed to be scientific because some scientists say so, even though there are so many conflicting parts to the theory some long-age advocates have started urging looking for a new theory. But there are many others in most areas.

How we handle them is of particular interest to me in that I have often held views not shared by others (as did people like Galileo and others.) Some of the best times in my life have come from strong discussion (some might say argument) on these. I am so thankful for those who challenged me. Sometimes I didn't change my ideas. Other times I modified them. And more rarely I completely reversed my position.

I remember a home-schooling conference in AK. It was probably our second or third (the first one and our first ERO review moved us from reluctant home-schoolers to unschoolers). A lady we were eating lunch with regaled us with tales, including living beside the Amazon. We quickly placed her in the "too loopy" basket. But in the last decade or so I've been reminded of some of the things she was said as I read modern educationalists saying much the same things.

People are incredibly diverse, and especially this century it's become so easy to label someone as a conspiracy theorist just because we don't agree with (or even understand) their ideas. The fact that there are undeniable crazy conspiracy theories out there doesn't mean that anything we don't understand is one of those. We each need to think for ourselves.

Admittedly the internet makes vastly more information available, so makes evaluating the accuracy of that information more daunting. But the alternatives are believing everything - or believing nothing.

 

Last Modified

Last modified: 14 November 2021.