My Mask Story

We are still doing social distancing, so my classrooms are big. Even with 25-30 students you need a large room if you are to maintain the six-feet space between people. This means I use my teacher’s voice to deliver my lectures (I’m very into the traditional, old-fashioned lectures these days). The teacher’s voice needs good lung capacity, in case you don’t know.

I teach in a transparent facial shield, which helps boom my voice to every corner of the classroom. Fun times! I like to overwhelm. Today, however, I got distracted by some messages before class and forgot to swap the mask for the shield. I marched into class in a mask and thought, OK, what’s the big deal? I can teach one lecture in a mask.

Folks, I barely lasted 3 minutes. Then I started to choke and gasp for air like a last-stage COVID patient. Again, remember, teacher’s voice isn’t like speaking. It’s more like singing in that you need a lot more air. I had to run out of the classroom, tearing the mask off my face and wheezing.

I had gotten checked post-COVID, and my lung function is unaffected, so it’s not that. It’s the bleeding mask. I now understand why the poor priest almost collapsed in church. I’m kind of stunned he lasted as long as he did.

Stupid masks. I’m so glad I refused to teach in them from the get-go.

Hopeless Student

“If you want a cat, I’ll buy you a cat,” I told Klara. “I don’t know much about cats but I have figured out they aren’t food. I can learn more.”

“You know, mommy,” she said in a voice I reserve for particularly hopeless students, “I think I’m OK with a toy cat instead.”

Intense Dispossession

The proposed tax on unrealized capital gains is a much bigger threat than climate change but it sounds arcane and confusing so most people don’t notice.

We are seeing a concerted and intense campaign for dispossessing the middle class and creating third-world inequality. And nobody is talking about it. People are blindly palpating this elephant and maybe noticing the separate features of this phenomenon. Or not even that.

Another Story About Totalitarianism

My previous story from back in Ukraine about the effects of totalitarianism was very successful, so here is another one.

In the 1990s, computers weren’t ubiquitous, and college class schedules were made on paper and posted on a huge cardboard piece on the wall by the Dean’s Office. In Ukraine, we didn’t choose our classes. Each group was assigned the classes and given the schedule each semester.

So before the beginning of one semester, I went with my group to copy the schedule from a big cardboard poster. Of course, when you do this kind of work by hand, errors creep in. It turned out that somebody in the Dean’s Office had made a mistake and scheduled two of our courses for the same time slot on the same days.

What does a normal person with no experience of totalitarianism do when something like this happens? What would you do? You’d go to the Dean’s Office to tell the people there that they made a mistake, right? Everybody is human, mistakes happen, no big deal.

But when I suggested this to the group, everybody was incensed.

“You are going to get us all into trouble!” people hissed. “If we go, they’ll think we are complainers and trouble-makers!”

“I’m not suggesting we make trouble,” I tried to explain. “We are going to say very politely and respectfully that there’s a mistake in the schedule and please rectify it.”

“Please don’t do this to us,” my best friend begged. “You aren’t even planning to show up in class. If you complain, the Dean’s Office will hate our whole group but you won’t be here to suffer the consequences. You will let us all down.”

It was true that I rarely showed up for anything that wasn’t a final exam, so I agreed to stay out of this. The group decided to choose one of the courses in the time slot and pretend that the other one didn’t exist. I tried pointing out that not fulfilling your course load for the semester would create more trouble than informing the Dean’s Office about the mistake but the terror of saying anything negative about the authorities was too strong.

The funniest part was that, apparently, the professor whose course the group had chosen to ignore was equally terrified of the authorities. He never mentioned to the Dean’s Office that not a single one of his students ever came to class. The poor bastard showed up for his scheduled class twice a week and. . . just sat there. He never went to find out what was happening.

As you can imagine, it all came out at the end of the semester. Everybody caught hell. Our group couldn’t do its scheduled state exam at the end of the year. We fell behind other groups, and there was a lot of confusion about when we were going to graduate. And it all happened because people had absolutely no idea how to treat people in authority – even the tiny, insignificant authority of the ladies in the Dean’s Office who made schedules – as fallible human beings and not incomprehensible, irate and distant deities.

Do Without It

This is how austerity works. What does this story have to do with austerity, some people might ask?

Read it again and tell me: do these policies make it more or less likely that people would go to the hospital instead of seeking home remedies or online treatments? Would you take an elderly relative or a small child to that hospital? Well, that’s the whole point.

Far fewer children are in public schools today than they were before COVID. Far fewer people seek medical care because they don’t want to be locked up and isolated. “Normally, I’d go to the hospital for this but these days. . . you know,” is a phrase I’ve been hearing from normie acquaintances. “I never thought I’d even consider anything but a public school for my kid but these days. . . you know.”

The Soviets knew how this worked. You simply need to make the free service you offer so low-quality, so intolerable, and so fraught with humiliation and hurt that people will find a way to do without it.

Pro Social Distancing

One thing I do like about the COVIDocracy is that “social distancing” is still mandated. Nobody observes it any more. On campus, people huddle together all the time. They knowingly break the rules. This is great because it teaches them to exercise their own judgment and value it over that of an external authority. Sadly, it’s going to cost a lot to turn people from sheep to humans but whatever works.

Another Bykov Quote

If there are people, individuals or a category of people, who are always protected, spared any discomfort or criticism because we feel sorry for them, they are going to end up turning into monsters. They will end up devouring human beings.

What’s sad is that Bykov’s novel would be extremely useful for Americans to read. He’s writing for Russian speakers but we already know everything he has to say. And people who really, really need to be warned against this scourge can’t hear those of us who experienced it and want to issue a warning.

What Puts an End to Wokeness?

One idea that I find interesting in Bykov’s novel is how, in a reign of extreme wokeness, people are waiting and wanting a war because that is the only thing that can end the ideological stranglehold.

Bykov is writing about the Stalinist USSR in 1941. And he’s right in that the Great War put an end to any sincere belief in the Soviet dogma. The regime didn’t end in 1945 but its capacity to control minds and not only bodies did. Of course, it then took several decades to make it go away completely.

As I keep saying, the current insanity we are experiencing in North America will end when not a single person will be able to hear the words “structural racism” or “decolonizing the curriculum” with anything but a cynical chuckle. I hate cynicism but at this point it’s our only hope for a way out of all this.