As the strength of the COVID variants decrease as time moves further and further away from the initial case, the hum of the global cognitive dissonance surrounding the pandemic has grown louder– and that is a good thing because people can only believe in specifically contradictory ideas for just so long.
Call it a Road to Damascus moment, an epiphany, or a true instant of utter clarity, humans (save sociopaths) are not capable of existing in a state of willful and conscious self-deception forever.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
Once the first glimmer of the realization of the truth seeps in the dam will break, eyes will open, heads will shake, apologies should be offered, and the embarrassed asking to forget what happened during the pandemic – like a drunk the morning after – will begin in earnest.
That, as it were, addiction – in this case self-deception – is now following the downward spiral of more prosaic dependencies. Other than going to unthinkable extremes to achieve some kind of psychological self-justification, how else could what has been happening in California schools be explained.
This kind of behavior is more common in people trying to come up with a reason – any reason in the face of any fact, damn the consequences – to not go to rehab even though at some core level they know they should.
The reaction to COVID at the outset was, to a large extent, understandable – here was a completely new lethal infectious virus that, if left unchecked, could potentially inflict an enormous toll. And even after a few months, with the most dire death projections already turning out not to be terribly accurate, there was still legitimate reason to be extremely cautious.
But as the restrictions moved from the physical world into the realm of individual thought, the first seeds of “If you are so absolutely sure you’re right and it is so terrible, why won’t you let me even talk about it?” began to germinate.
The segment of the populace that most trusted the “experts,” usually because they thought of themselves as an expert in their own field and had the job title and putative credentials to prove it, pushed this idea aside – to question another expert would be to question themselves.
Then other experts appeared, saying the lockdown/panic approach was wrong and it was causing significant “collateral damage.” When these far more nuanced – and prescient – experts were throttled, mocked, and shamed by the pandemicists (either those acting in good faith or those who personally benefited from the pandemic) that led to an even more disconcerting sense. This truly kicked off the growth of, privately, cognitive dissonance and, publicly, political tribal entrenchment.
The internal discord grew, expressing itself outwardly in previously incomprehensible ways – people becoming belligerent when asked to wear a mask, people screaming at people to put one on, and people who chose to not get vaccinated being lumped together as stupid and unclear and dangerous to society because they were leery of putting a minimally-tested, newly developed medication into their systems.
The doublethink grew, as people virulently in favor of vaccine mandates and passports and such were forced to – even if sub-consciously at first- acknowledge that the vaccine is not the fool-proof defense against getting or transmitting COVID promised but only a (albeit importantly) way to make sure if you get it you have a much lower chance of developing a bad case.
And now we are at a place when actual research shows masks do little to halt the spread of the virus, that forcing people to remain in close contact in their homes essentially created a billion little incubators, that there are side-effects to the vaccines, that a large percentage of reported COVID deaths were “with” COVID instead of “from”COVID, that the schools absolutely could have re-opened in the fall of 2020, that over-masking may actually be harming immune systems, and that the other impacts of the pandemic reaction – economic, social, psychological, etc. – have been both brutally devastating and largely preventable.
As the evidence grows, so does the cognitive dissonance, and the deep-seeded uncertainty it brings, in those who so steadfastly lived the COVID life. They have lashed out at the prospect of change (see the quarantine rule change reaction) and will continue to do so until that “click” moment when nothing makes any sense anymore.
From Al Jazeera to U.S. News, with stops at CNN and The Lancet, the percolation of pandemic truth is filtering out to a public that is craving to hear it – except for the diehards who are still plugging their ears.
Even some experts are admitting that maybe making grand absolute pronouncements about something they could not possibly have known the future of was not a very good idea and actually made rational discussion nearly impossible.
It is this inability to tolerate this dissonance – this shift from theoretical facts one has invested one’s soul in to accepting the acknowledged actual facts that are their polar opposites – that will truly end the pandemic.
In one way, it’s like that cocktail party moment, that oddly uniform but completely unplanned instant when all of the chattering and chortling and clinking uniformly pause and the room is eerily quiet – except right now we can see it coming.
And then the party that is life starts again.