The Two Worst Ideas of the 20th Century 

I’ve been thinking about it. The 20th century was not nearly as great a century as I had somehow assumed.

It had its positives. There were some very significant achievements in terms of science and technology. And people generally got richer. And work got easier. And there were more conveniences. But it was also the most murderous century in the history of humankind. And the general level of happiness went down – especially in “advanced” countries.

Prior to the 20th century, I’d say that the worst ideas (in terms of life and happiness) were religious ideas – e.g., “My religion is better than your religion,” or “My authority, as your ruler, comes from God.” In the 20th century, this sort of thinking lost its power to destroy and decimate. But it was more than amply replaced by two ideas that have the same evil little seed.

I’m talking, of course, about communism and psychoanalysis, two hugely influential schools of thought based on a very similar (and very appealing) untruth: that the troubles in our lives have causes, and those causes are something or someone other than ourselves, and that the way to deal with these issues is to understand, first of all, that we are not responsible for them. In the case of communism, they are caused by systemic oppression on a class level. In the case of psychoanalysis, they are caused by early childhood trauma, usually imposed on us by our parents.

The obvious problem with this idea, besides its patent absurdity, is that it liberates the individual from personal responsibility and excuses him for his bad behavior.

The idea of communism is responsible for more than 100 million deaths in the 20th century. The core idea of psychoanalysis is probably responsible for a billion miserable lives.

More on this as I chew it over.

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The hydroxychloroquine imbroglio is just one of a dozen confusions that have emerged from the political and media exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In past essays on the subject, we’ve discussed several others, including the conflation of case fatality rate and real fatality rate, the argument over the effectiveness of intubation, the WHO’s and CDC’s back-and-forth positions on face masks, the lack of reporting on the relationship between viral load and severity of symptoms, the misinformation about the risk to people under 18 and children in particular, and the patently illogical recommendation of sheltering in place.

Given that, one has to wonder: Whom can I trust?

Have you asked yourself that question? Yes, of course you have. Every one of us has asked that question many times in many different contexts. We asked it first as toddlers, then again as teenagers, then again as young adults… and we are still asking it.

The question, properly posed, is: “Can I trust authority? Can I trust my parents, my teachers, my political leaders, my doctors, and my friends?”

For most of us, the answer to that question was determined long ago. Which means that, for most of us, the answer to the question of whom we are going to trust for answers about COVID-19 has already been made.

Some will always trust the LLP&M. Some will always trust the RLP&M. But if, like me, you don’t believe what either of them is saying, whom do you trust? There is only one answer to that. You have to trust yourself.

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“A graduation gift for these unique times” 

That was the subject line of a recent email from The New York Times. It was followed by this…

“The class of 2020 finds itself in a unique moment – and a gift of The Times can help them understand it. Now more than ever, facts are indispensable, and The Times delivers essential information, expert analysis, and practical guidance on a daily basis.”


I used to venerate the NYT — when it was a NEWSpaper.

Now that they’ve learned (from Fox News and others)  how much money you can make by switching to advocacy journalism, I read it only for laughs. (And to keep my enemies closer.)

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Four more on my contact list tested negative. I’m starting to think I’m not the super-spreader that I thought I’d be. One of those that tested negative, an old friend, had been banned from work and relegated to the basement while waiting for his test results. Now, he can get back to his prior life. He hasn’t said so, but I’m sure that in some portion of his subconscious he blames me for putting him in COVID Prison for a week.

As for the virus itself, it seemed to hit a peak yesterday. If this surge follows all the others, it should come down at about the same rate as it shot up… then, at least for this “wave,” hover at the low end of the scale for a while… and then… well, we’ll see.

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