The Cult & the Sacrifice
Essay by Paul Bali - 12 March 2022.
Health by Hypnosis
Milgram showed the majority's extreme deference to a lab master "dressed in a gray technician's coat". 
To the Dubious at the switch labelled DANGER: SEVERE SHOCK, Milgram's master sternly warned "The Experiment requires you to continue." Today's dubious—those hesitant to mask up, to take the jab, to fire good employees—are told to "Trust the Science", where 'Science' means a pseudo-consensus scrubbed of all dissent.
An ordained priest draped in the mantle of authority incants at us, subjects us to a mantra, and most of us accede: a trick every sharking televangelist exploits, and a hack that the Covid Cult thrives by.
Susceptibility to hypnosis has perhaps been adaptive in our tribal past, for it augments the placebo effect of healing ritual. You WILL be well, the shaman tells the patient in the depths of their suggestibility, and the body believes. For most of human history, as Daniel Dennett puts it, susceptibility to hypnosis was our health insurance.  Today, it's a liability. The hypnotist's assertions bypass our conscious defenses and lodge in the brain to commandeer motoric behavior; we're soon observed phoning in our credit card or rolling up our sleeve in the bright-lit rite-space.
As the old gods recede, other gods rush to fill the void, other dread Voices with their promise of a life everlasting. The Covid Cult is a health cult whose highest good is human health of a narrowly corporeal kind, often quantified into Years Lived & productivity. Our pharma-crats & klieg-lit TV doctors play priestly mediator. Dissenters must be identified, then compelled into worship or punished—as were Christians in the time of Diocletian compelled to sacrifice at the altar of the Empire's gods or face imprisonment, de-ranking, property confiscation, torture, & death.
The Sacrifice Persists
Jesus was executed for his heroic-foolish assault on a thriving center of animal sacrifice. By Christian logic, God takes the place of the lamb at the bloody altar. You might say Christianity magnifies the sacrifice by positing an infinite Victim; or you could say it cancels the cult, offers up the Sacrifice to end all sacrifice.
Yet the sacrifice persists, and the Covid Cult thrives on it. If children are at statistically-zero risk from Covid, then the jab is a net-injury, even ignoring subsequent adverse effects. In the rush to mass-vaccinate kids I discern the fearful old bartering logic, the dreadful god's command holding sway: Bring me what you love, offer me your best, and I'll protect you.
Listen to the Science, even when it's asking for your kids.
The animal sacrifice persists in our medical labs. How many mice, rats, pigs, rabbits, ferrets, & macaques have been tortured in the vaccine devo pipeline? I mean 'torture' of the interrogative kind: extracting useful data via pain-infliction. And by "sacrifice" I use the term deployed in the journals, as in: "Mice were sacrificed 1 or 3 weeks after surgery by decapitation according to approved protocols and hearts were collected for analysis."
The vaccine may be vegan by ingredient, but the virus-vaccine nexus is unvegan as foie gras. The virus, whether sprung from a meat market or virology lab, originated at our violent interface with a caged animal. Our mass confinement & genetic manipulation of animals is a biologic timebomb that has gone off and will keep going off. Yet see the global auto-response: we cage & manipulate more animals. The virus & vaccine are a perpetual motion machine of trans-species trauma. The virus emerges from our violent control system, yet we fight it by expanding that control system. We find ourselves, soon, trapped within the thing we wrought: the Herder now herded, locked down & number-stamped, subjected to a regimen of shots.
I'm tempted to believe we deserve it: that by these viruses the rat, the bat, the pig, strike back at the overtaking Ape & his Matrix.
I haven't stopped using Advil for headaches, paper products pulped from bird-homes, nor roads that pave the teeming field. My boycott is woefully incomplete, inconsistent. I admit my vaccine refusal is a symbolic rite. The Mandate endows the vaccine with mana, commissions it into an instrument of the Cult's authority, and I respond in kind: I invert the rite and redirect its power.
Also, Advil actually works for me, and I take it as needed. But I'm a fit forty-seven with natural-earned Covid immunity. As for my other-regarding duties, the vaccine is a lame transmission-reducer. Stripped of medical value, the jab becomes an instrument of compulsion, a submission test.
A stampede kills more than the gunman's bullet they're fleeing from. Covid has been too mild to decimate civilization, but the overlaid social virus—our response to the RNA incursion—has world-destroying potency.
I've often found it tricky to predict where someone will end up on this issue. You say Chomsky's come out as obnoxiously pro-mandate? Huh, okay. When I glimpsed something about Neil Young in the Covid tweetstream a few weeks back, I found myself wondering, before taking in the depressing details: Which side will Neil be on? It could have gone either way, as far as I know Neil.
I'm troubled that so many people I love, respect, & cohabit huge swaths of Venn-space with are on the other side. It's frankly tough to love & respect them across the stark divide. I've given up sending aunts, cousins, friends, & colleagues that incisive blog-link, that summation of the key damning stats. But even as they sympathize by text with my fight to keep my teaching job, and don't want me jailed, I see they keep tweeting for the Mandate & the Curfew & the Mask.
I'm troubled by the divide and concede I don't quite get it. I find myself reflecting on a potent little Sci-Fi story that's barely Fi, a SlateStarCodex classic from 2018 called "Sort By Controversial". It imagines a schism-maximizing algorithm dubbed "Shiri's Scissor", a program that "could make people hate each other" and may be behind an escalating series of world-racking feuds. The narrator ends ominously:
Delete Facebook. Delete Twitter. Throw away your cell phone. Unsubscribe from the newspaper. Tell your friends and relatives not to discuss politics or society. If they slip up, break off all contact.
Then, buy canned food. Stockpile water. Learn to shoot a gun. If you can afford a bunker, get a bunker.
Because one day, whoever keeps feeding us Scissor statements is going to release one of the bad ones.
What's Fi is the conceit that one startup, one algorithm, is behind so much of it. And aren't recommendation algorithms trained to maximize eyeball-to-screen time, not stoke controversy? Yet we're captivated by controversy, and then by the horror of the yawning chasm, the glowing glimpse of hell that it opens.
In the face of a sufficiently devastating virus, armed with an indisputably safe & sterilizing vaccine, a global edict to "Get vaxxed" would have overwhelming public support, I guess. But in fact we have a virus of debatable power, and a vaccine of debatable safety & efficacy.
The edict thus divides us, almost seems designed to.
Apart from the Disaster Capitalists and State tyrants who power-up on pandemics, there's that mindless [I hope] algorithm that seeks only to hold our attention. I can't embrace the relativist contradiction that "both sides are right", but we all can agree that our differences are hyped by an Info-sys that thrives on them. I can't say "We're both right", but do recognize a common enemy, a worm hacking deep who may ride us till we're dead.
1. Chapter 2 of Stanley Milgram, Obedience To Authority: The Unique Experiment That Challenged Human Nature. Harper & Row, 1974.
2. Synthesizing the work of anthropologist James McClenon and others. Chapter 5 of Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking, 2006
Dr. Paul Bali teaches Philosophy at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is a member of Canadian Academics for Covid Ethics.