Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Red Flags Everywhere Because Humans are Not Rational


I am a student of history and philosophy. Grounded in these traditions I have concluded that although individual people and small groups are capable of reason, too often other impulses drive human behavior.

I believe that the capacity to be reasonable in the best Enlightenment understanding of that concept, depends upon enabling social/economic circumstances that temper other impulses that derive from desperation, fear, anxiety, anger, greed, thanatos, etc.

Unfortunately we are now in a time when enabling social/economic circumstances are fracturing and the institutional supports for reasonableness foundering. 

The red flags are everywhere. They are particularly scary when the flags are produced by large institutional actors.


China reportedly "evacuated" 20,000 people from 12 villages and is concentrating them into quarantine facilities described by internees as unclean and unacceptable:

Emptied villages. Locked campuses. How China battles a COVID-19 resurgence

Why is China CONCENTRATING people? My guess is that a nasty strain may have evolved that China wants to eradicate entirely. What is going to happen to those 20,000 concentrated people?

Bad things happen when people are concentrated. It is clear that the Covid-19 virus thrives in concentrated conditions such as prisons and mink farms and slaughter houses. China is scared. It is not rational to concentrate people to control a highly contagious disease.

E484K is a mutation first identified in South Africa that is believed to pose special risks because it increases potential for "antibody escape." There are other genetic changes that are noteworthy.

Viruses typically make evolutionary trade-offs in favor of transmission over lethality but what if SARS-CoV-2 isn't bound by that evolutionary trade-off?

The viral hazard is increasing but human behavior is deteriorating and not just in China.


It was painful to watch the rioters deface the US Capitol building in their collective delusion that their destructive mini-assault mattered. Their rag-tag symbolic assault won't change the extant power relations, but will encourage and legitimize yet more state surveillance and, ultimately, repression.

Rioting Americans are not rational but it seems that plagues and plague measures have historically produced this type of collective insanity.

Moreover, many of today's demonstrators across the political spectrum have been essentially dispossessed

The social and economic conditions for reasonableness have been destroyed and escalating crises have operated like structural adjustments transferring wealth and power from the many to the few as I have documented across my academic scholarship.


The world is awash with red flags. How increasingly irrational institutions and individuals are going to manage these fractures I do not know. I can only hope.