Why lockdown has become a lifestyle

The culture of fear has made a lifetime of quarantine look attractive

For almost half a century, fear has dominated the outlook of Western societies. One of the distinctive features of this outlook is the tendency always to think the worst. And it is this tendency that has exerted an all too powerful influence over policymakers and experts during the Covid pandemic.

For almost half a century, fear has dominated the outlook of Western societies. One of the distinctive features of this outlook is the tendency always to think the worst. And it is this tendency that has exerted an all too powerful influence over policymakers and experts during the Covid pandemic.

EU member states’ decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a possible link between the vaccine and an increased risk of blood clots is a clear example of worst-case thinking. That cases of blood clots among vaccine recipients were not significantly higher than one would normally expect in the population at large didn’t seem to matter. Worst-case thinking prevailed. The imperative to avoid taking a risk, no matter how small, triumphed. And, as a result, risk-averse officials undermined the credibility of a life-saving vaccine.

At the heart of worst-case thinking is the precautionary principle. This states that when confronted with uncertainty and the possibility of negative outcomes, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Many of the precautionary principle’s supporters have claimed that the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine misapplied the principle. They rightly note that ‘stopping vaccination is not a cost-free option, in that delay leads to deaths’. However, since the very rationale of the precautionary principle is to view uncertainty in terms of the worst case – in this case, thousands of vaccine-induced blood clots – EU member states were not misapplying it. It is just that because the stakes were so high due to Covid, the irrationalism of acting according to the precautionary principle was temporarily exposed.

The precautionary principle may have emerged from within environmentalism, but it now pervades all areas of life. It encourages us to feel fearful and insecure before the future. And it has led to safetyism – that is, the establishment of safety as the foundational value of Anglo-American culture.

We can see the deleterious impact of safetyism and worst-case thinking in the sphere of childhood. Indeed, childhood has been increasingly organised around the anticipation of the worst possible outcome. Parents are now reluctant to let their children out of their sight. And children have come to view themselves as fragile and vulnerable. During the pandemic, this fearful view of childhood and children intensified. Children’s mental health was said to be at risk, and their physical development threatened. This worst-case approach actually incited children to feel hopeless about their future. [ … ]

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Posted by Mayberr

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