“If religion is the opium of the masses Then superstition is its LSD
Turning us into hallucinating asses
Chained to illusions, lies, unfree
Thoughts that defy all logic and sense
Beliefs that spring from idiocy
And fear of some future recompense,
That’s hell right here --- not yet to be!”
From Recipes of Damnation by Bachchoo
The world waits for the vaccines to be made available and kick in. My local doctor’s surgery sends texts to say that we, its patients, should earn the description. The UK government intends to immunise first all workers in hospitals and care homes and citizens who are 80 years old and over. Sensible.
Who will administer the vaccines and where will they do it? British pharmacists, who have been administering winter flu jabs over the past few years, have petitioned the government to use their premises, services and injecting expertise to assist the country’s immunisation programme.
Our local pharmacy, conveniently across the road from the medical practice, has been in the vaccinating business, but during the last round of flu vaccination, while the Asian pharmacist was administering the jabs, the young Afro-British assistant who works there all year round declared that she was a vaccine resistor, a sceptic. She didn’t believe in vaccination.
There are millions of idiots around the world who are anti-vaccers. My unverified conclusion, gentle reader, was that this young lady belonged to a cultish church called Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has a meeting house down the road in this neighbourhood. These Witnesses don’t believe in scientific discovery and won’t accept blood transfusions, even if they are dying without them. Faith dictates foolishness -- and in this case I thought it dictated against the one thing that can almost certainly save a person from the Covid-19 plague.
Forgive my arrogance, but I am convinced that the young black assistant in our pharmacy was a Jehovah’s Witness. How do I know? I don’t. But some months ago, I encountered two young black girls dressed in very maidenly Sunday-best sitting at a bus stop. I was myself waiting for a bus. There were only the three of us. One of them gingerly approached me.
“Excuse me, sir, may I speak to you?” she ventured. I said she could.
“Do you know the Bible?” She asked.
“Bits,” I said, and then, before either of them could begin to convert me to their true Jehovan faith, I asked: “But do you know the Bible?”
They both nodded, and said: “Yes, of course.”
“Right then,” I asked: “In which and only book of the Bible are the three Magi who visited Jesus’ birth mentioned?”
They looked at each other. They didn’t know.
“Mathew,” I said, and then: “And what religion were these Magi?”
Again, blank looks.
“They were Zoroastrians,” I said. I was enjoying this.
“And so, which book of the Bible begins with: “In the beginning was the Word”?
“Genesis,” one of them enthusiastically ventured.
“Wrong,” I said, “It’s John in the New Testament!”
They looked bewildered and then my bus arrived and stopped. They were waiting, I gathered, for the other routed bus which serves that stop. So, as I got on and left them, I said: “Remember, you heard it on the Road to Damascus!”
I think, gentle reader, I understand the Jehovah’s Witness’ reluctance to accede to scientific truth. The latter is the product of the use of reason, the building of deductive processes of thought through the centuries, from Archimedes leaping out of his bath shouting “Eureka”, Aryabhatta formulating the zero, or Isaac Newton realising that the entire earth and trees move upwards towards apples, which come loose from the stems holding them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have no use for this system of logical conscious apprehension. They have a complete, self-contained belief system of their own.
So did the court that tried Galileo for saying that the earth moved around the sun. His prosecutors and judges had a complete system of belief which specified that the earth was stationary. Poor old Gally recanted and said they were right, to save himself from being tortured and put to death, but as we know, on his way out of court he muttered to the gods -- “epur si mueve!” -- and yet it moves.
The deniers of vaccination who pose a puzzle are those who have no such complete theory of the universe. What they have instead is the Internet through which the most abject nonsense is spread. A Brit campaigner called Hannah Dean has gathered 13,000 followers on Facebook by sneaking into hospitals and taking photographs of empty corridors, which she says proves that Covid-19 and the emergency that the government has declared are a mass conspiracy and hoax. She hasn’t yet said why she thinks the government has perpetrated a false scare about a virus that hasn’t done what the government, to the detriment of the economy, claims every day that it has. Then there is a weirdo, a black guy called Chris Preddie, who has used Facebook to muster 47,000 followers, calling on them to riot against the Covid-19 lockdown.
These people may actually believe what they perpetrate, or they are using this crisis in world health to gain the cheap popularity that today’s Internet outlets offer -- notoriety for nothing -- or even worse, for murderous, nonsensical negativity....