Covid-19 Vaccines: A One-Year Assessment

A year ago, when the first three Covid-19 vaccines received emergency approval to much collective hope and fanfare, I made a promise to myself that I would wait one year to decide whether to be vaccinated myself, based on the body of evidence of efficacy and short- and long-term safety.

That year has now passed, and I have made my decision: I am going to remain unvaccinated, and I feel like that decision is scientifically justified.

While I expected that vaccination would become a contentious issue, I would never have predicted in late 2020 that governments would be mandating these vaccines a year later, or that the official government and media narrative would become so strident and so devoid of nuance.

I have long lamented the societal tendency – which has been ongoing for at least two decades but which really accelerated following the 2016 election – to divide the world into Good People and Bad People. Good People supported Hillary. Bad People supported Trump. Good People posted black squares on their Instagram pages to signal their support for racial justice. Those who deemed this to be a rather silly and ineffectual means to support racial justice were deemed Bad People. This divisive poison has now even penetrated into the small world of organic seed production. The Good People seek to break down “dominating” constructs, to “decolonize” the seed community, to center and elevate those voices which have been marginalized. There is nothing wrong with this work per se, but it comes with a certain self-righteousness, in which many of the elders of the community – those who have fought to establish a foothold for small organic seed production against the machinations of ruthless global corporations – are called out as part of the problem, as egotists, as Bad People. It refuses to acknowledge our common humanity, our common dedication to the sacredness of seed and of life on this planet.

This has been a difficult year for me; 2021 was the year in which I – thanks to my opposition to the vaccine narrative and my unwillingness to be vaccinated – became a Bad Person. I don’t do well with that. For better or worse, I am one who looks outward for validation and respect, and even in normal times I am socially awkward and I often feel that I am being pre-judged negatively by those who I meet. I am most grateful for the online community that author John Michael Greer has established for open discussion, and also for all of those in my personal community who have maintained respect for me even as their own perspectives hew closer to the mainstream.

I feel grateful to be self-employed in a small town in the United States right now, and not in Chicago, New York City, Canada, Australia, Austria, Germany, or any number of places where basic rights are becoming contingent on vaccination status. Although I am not currently free to leave the country, I am grateful that few of my opportunities have been constrained, and that it seems that further ratcheting of restrictions is unlikely at this point. At the same time, I have to admit that in all likelihood I owe many of those continued freedoms to angry right-wingers with guns, who honestly believe that the drive for vaccination is driven by a malicious globalist agenda for social control. I do not agree with the opposite pole on most issues, but I guess if I am going to survive in a polarized society it is helpful to live in a place where both of the poles – however dogmatic and misguided their beliefs may be – hold some degree of influence. I have to hope, though, that this progressive increase in polarization will begin to give way to renewed communication, to healing, before it gives way instead to armed insurrection and violence.

I should reiterate here what I actually believe is going on, which is most definitely not that we have excellent and safe vaccines available that would end the pandemic if only those stupid and ignorant unvaccinated people would get their shots already. It is also definitely not that Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab and cronies are using vaccination to roll out a worldwide digital identity and social credit system that will create a Matrix-like world in which we are all subservient to the global capitalist Machine. Certainly if the latter were even partially true, vaccine cards would not be cheap and easily forged cardstock, and there would already be some nationwide database of vaccination linked to passports or drivers licenses. Instead, I perceive that the majority of modern humans are believers in Progress – the set of beliefs that includes the mastery of human ingenuity over nature and over the evils of the past, among other things – and that vaccination is a core sacrament within that belief system. It is simply assumed, in the face of a global pandemic, that a vaccine will be developed and will put an end to suffering and death, and any who would question that assertion are backwards heretics who must be discredited and silenced.

In my quest to better understand the science of Covid-19 and vaccination, I have now read well over a hundred scientific publications, and I continue to monitor the latest research that appears on preprint servers each week. I feel like I have a solid understanding of where the science stands, which I will attempt to present here. I’m not going to fill this with citations and footnotes – in part because I am presenting an overall mindset shaped by reading multiple studies – but I can provide additional references upon request to back up any particular claim.

Are the vaccines safe?

No.

Most of the time when people hear this question they mentally convert it to “Are the vaccines safer than infection by a virus that has claimed 800,000 American lives?” which is a very different question which I will address below, but “safe” ought to imply actually safe. Boarding a plane is safe, in that it does not meaningfully increase one’s chance of death as opposed to staying at home. By the same metric, driving cross-country is significantly less safe, although still safe enough that few people hesitate on that basis alone.

This graph tells the story:

Reported vaccine-associated deaths from the CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 1990-present. Reported Covid vaccine-associated deaths prior to 2020 are due to erroneous date entries on reports. From https://vaersanalysis.info

Contrary to frequent debunking attempts, these are not meaningless data. Submitting to VAERS takes about a half hour and requires the submitting doctor or patient to affirm under penalty of perjury that they have solid reason to believe the death or other adverse event was caused by a vaccine.

We can argue about to what degree these deaths might be under-reported or over-reported, but even if the tally is off by a factor of ten in either direction, the take-home message remains the same: these are the most dangerous vaccines in modern history, and they carry a real risk of death and other life-altering adverse effects. This is affirmed by the existence of survivors’ movements like Real Not Rare, which seek to draw medical and political attention to the very real experiences of harm and loss that a growing number of people have experienced following vaccination.

Occasionally I still see the argument that it is OK to lie about safety because the net benefit of mass vaccination would exceed the net harm. I no longer believe that that cost-benefit ratio of mass vaccination favors the vaccines, but even if this were true I cannot stand behind any argument that says it’s OK to lie “for the greater good.” This is not “just a little poke”. It carries very real risks along with real benefits, and the decision to be vaccinated should be a carefully considered one – along the lines of prophylactic surgery to offset a high genetic risk of cancer.

Is vaccination safer than infection?

It depends.

The risk stratification of Covid-19 infection is immense, with elders with comorbities around 1,000 times more likely to die if infected compared with healthy children and young adults. At least in the near term, vaccination of high-risk groups clearly carries a lower risk to life and limb than infection. However – and especially given that the risk of some adverse effects is higher in the young – the opposite is quite clearly true for children and healthy young adults.

One of the most morbidly befuddling aspects of the past year has been watching what could have been a heroic victory of modern medicine – releasing a vaccine that reduces the risk of death by 75-95% in vulnerable elders – turn into a tragedy as we increasingly marketed, coerced, and even mandated these same beta-version products to everyone regardless of pre-existing risk or natural recovered immunity. Rather than acknowledging that the first vaccines to market are likely to be less-than-ideal and continuing development of safer vaccines with more rigorous testing, we have committed ourselves to the same options and many countries have already ordered enough doses to provide their citizens with four or more injections. Whether or not one is in favor of mass vaccination, this failure at the cost of human life should be unforgivable.

Do the vaccines reduce transmission?

Not by much, and perhaps not at all since Omicron arrived.

We have known for months that vaccinated people, when infected, carry identical viral loads to unvaccinated people, and that the virus can readily spread through fully-vaccinated schools, hospitals, and workplaces. Thus the primary basis for vaccine passports and mandates has been very weak, and in venues that require a negative test only for unvaccinated people, it will actually be the vaccinated people who are more likely to bring in and spread the virus.

We have also known, based on population-level data, that there is no significant inverse correlation between the proportion of the population vaccinated and the number of reported Covid-19 cases, which further suggests that vaccines do not meaningfully reduce transmission.

With Omicron, the vaccinated proportion of infections has been equal to – or in some cases even greater than – the proportion of vaccinated people in the population. Boosters might help for a few weeks to a few months, but it is high time that we let go of the idea that vaccines reduce transmission.

Was it ever reasonable to assume that vaccination would drive the virus to extinction?

No.

The closest analog we have to SARS-CoV2 is not smallpox or polio but another respiratory retrovirus: influenza. Flu vaccines reduce infection rates and disease severity to various degrees, but they do not prevent infection altogether (because the type of antibodies generated by the vaccine have a limited presence in the respiratory tract), and the virus mutates continuously to get around them. The current outcome, with transmission continuing despite vaccination and increasing levels of vaccine resistance in new variants, was always the most likely one.

Do Covid-19 vaccines reduce hospitalization and death from Covid-19?

Yes.

Although plenty of people on the opposition side try hard to pretend this isn’t true, the signal is quite clear in the data. The effect is also quite durable, with vaccine-induced protection against infection fading after a few months while protection against severe infection remains. This is likely due to priming of T-cell immunity, and similar protection against severe infection is observed following recovery.

This remains a strong argument in favor of vaccination for high-risk groups, and the idea that increasing vaccination rates will reduce strain on hospitals is also worthy of consideration. However, as conventionally presented without nuance, the argument fails to note that those with natural immunity will receive a much more limited (if any) benefit from vaccination, and for some groups (especially young men) there is growing evidence that vaccination actually causes more hospitalizations (due to myocarditis and other adverse reactions) than it prevents.

Are long-term effects still a concern?

Yes.

Until a full two years have passed – and possibly up to five – we cannot rule out the possibility of Antibody-Dependent Enhancement – a situation in which vaccine-induced antibodies lead to enhanced, more severe infection by a future variant of the virus.

There is also a possibility that spike protein exposure or immune dysregulation as a result of vaccination could lead to shortened lifespans or increased occurrence of illnesses or medical conditions. Of course the same is true for infection; some people experience long covid, and the rate of cardiovascular and neurological problems appears to be elevated for some time after recovery. So this is a trade-off with unknowns on both sides.

Are continuing boosters safe?

We have no idea, but I’m betting on “no”.

There is certainly no reason to believe that they will be safer than the original injections, which we already know are more dangerous than any other vaccine in common use. And given that protection against severe illness and death following vaccination remains robust beyond six months, and an ever-increasing number of people have experienced breakthrough infections which act as a natural “booster” and confer strong immunity, it would seem that the cost-benefit ratio looks worse for the boosters than for the primary series.

One thing to keep in mind here is that these are genetic vaccines – an entirely different technology than the conventional vaccines which inject antigens directly – and we have effectively no studies regarding the short- or long-term safety of injecting them three, four, five, or more times.

Genetic vaccines provide instructions for human cells to produce viral proteins, which then generate an immune response. This immune response unavoidably targets human cells, which could easily interfere with the delicate balance between autoimmunity (a failure state in which the immune system attacks its own tissues) and tolerance (a failure state in which the immune system recognizes pathogens or cancer cells as its own tissues and fails to attack them). Repeating this process multiple times per year strikes me as a dangerous idea, made more so by the fact that we have almost no prior data and we are conducting this experiment in real time on millions or perhaps billions of people.

Furthermore, we now know that the spike protein is itself biotoxic, directly causing blood clotting and possibly also amyloid formation. Repeated internal exposure to this protein through continuing boosters could lead to cumulative harm.

Is natural immunity equal to vaccination?

Yes.

Although some studies have found that hybrid immunity (infection AND vaccination) is superior, it remains true that the protection against infection and severe disease provided by previous infection is comparable to, and in some cases superior to, that provided by vaccination. There is no solid justification for requiring or even recommending vaccination for those who have already recovered from Covid-19.

What does the future hold?

Covid-19 will become endemic in the human population, and in a number of animal populations as well. It will likely follow a similar path as coronavirus OC43, which is thought to have entered the human population from cattle in 1890 and to have caused waves of illness and death – with symptoms quite similar to Covid-19 including loss of smell – of decreasing severity over 5-10 years before it faded into the background to become just another seasonal cold virus that is still with us today.

All of us will get infected at some point, or our immune system will be trained to recognize the virus by subclinical infection such that we acquire immunity without detectable antibodies. Vaccination could easily help to reduce the death toll, but applied as a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel it could also greatly increase the death toll – through adverse effects of the vaccines or by driving viral evolution in an unnatural way that selects for increased virulence.

At the moment we are still very much in sledgehammer mode, and for that reason I am increasingly concerned that the net effect of our vaccination campaign on human life will be negative, and perhaps dramatically so.

Into a new year we go. I hope the news at the end of 2022 is more positive, and that we can begin to step back from the polarization, “othering”, and dehumanization that has been accelerating in recent years and that represents an existential threat to our society.

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24 Responses to Covid-19 Vaccines: A One-Year Assessment

  1. Deea says:

    Hi Mark! Good to read your writings. I’m going to keep my reply short.

    I am not worried about dying from the virus, but rather from the long term physiological damage it is demonstrating to many individuals. Obviously being in ICU and intubated for any amount of time causes long term physiological damage, limiting life experiences as one has previously known. I’m also concerned about the long lasting damage (perhaps for the rest of the person’s life) it is demonstrating on brain and cardiovascular functioning for those whose symptoms are less severe requiring no hospitalization. It’s a crap shoot how much life will change if you contract it: running the continuum from death, significant disabilities to no symptoms. It would be hard to return to your job if you deliver mail if your cardio system and adrenals are impaired. Hard to go back to doing lab studies if your brain is cognitively impacted, and on and on it goes. In this scenario it is more similar to small pox or polio than the flu or prior virus.

    Another concern is how completely draining it is. Yes, larger systems are collapsing and morphing. I’m concered with the individual stress it is causing which is another whole topic. That is toxic at so many levels in and of itself. So many with significant mental health issues showing up along aide of this.

    I support individuals making their own decisions about vaccinations. I also support having conversations about the fall out of covid at various systems level, including individual choices that have been made. Working with several vulnerable groups of individuals, I choose not to be a catalyst for changing their life by potentially infecting them. It would break my heart and I feel it would be irresponsible of me.

    Also, so many countries do not have the choice. They don’t have access.

    Finally, with the current physical changes happening on earth, this will not be the last major life altering disease. I hope we can learn to listen and open ourselves to all views.

    • Mark says:

      Deea,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives!

      I would agree that the lasting effects of covid infection are too often downplayed by those on the “skeptical” side. Increasingly though it appears that no amount of vaccination is going to prevent nearly everyone from being infected eventually, and there is a growing community of people who are experiencing long-term vaccine reactions that are very similar to long-covid. All in all I think the vaccines were a positive development and certainly saved quite a few lives in the the early months when they were given to the most at-risk populations, but I think the drive to vaccinate everyone and especially now to “boost” everyone has pushed us beyond diminishing returns into negative return territory.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for your efforts to articulate what seemingly should be obvious to many, yet isn’t. I consider your take mildly generous toward these vaccines, given the damage they are doing while being thrust on a majority of the population that is at little risk from this virus… any more than from other common respiratory infections.

    I have no difficulty accepting that normalizing medical “passports” is a means of social control. You have clarified that these vaccines do not stop transmission, which to me negates any legitimate purpose for proof of vaccination to enter a space. Motivation for such seems mostly political, if not malicious.

    If I subjected myself to external definitions, I would be far from the category of an angry right-winger with a gun. Yet, I have no hesitation in accepting the premise of willful malevolence being enacted on entire populations, whether assigned to simple greed or possibly darker intentions. To wit:

    – Strong coercion to vaccinate children and young adults who are now at significantly more risk from the vaccines that from the virus.

    – Blocking numerous inexpensive, effective and readily-available treatments, particularly those that are most helpful early in the course of the disease. Disease progression leading to intubation, or hospitalizations limited to expensive and often dangerous drugs, are outcomes of intentional policy.

    As you know, I am on hiatus from Facebook and posting about these subjects. One of several reasons includes the futility of what I think of as caught in the endless act of chasing one’s tail, continually attempting to substantiate a position that is often unaccepted as real…despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Premise: “Here is data/science/anecdotal evidence clearly demonstrating that being vaccinated does not prevent transmission to others.”

    Response: “I’m concerned about the people around me. I am vaccinated to protect them.”

    Premise: “Here is data/science/anecdotal evidence clearly demonstrating…and powerful testimonies from OSHA experts given before governing bodies explaining…that masks do not and cannot prevent transmission and can even create unintended negative effects.”

    Response: “Masks save lives. I care about the people around me, so I unselfishly wear a mask to protect them.”

    Me: *sigh*

    • Mark says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your perspectives on this. We often agree on effect but not so much on intent. Ultimately I think that both can be true to some degree. There is a clear trend toward a sort of techno-authoritarianism that existed prior to the pandemic, and those who would like to move society in that direction are clearly exploiting the pandemic as justification. But I’m not willing to go the next step to say that these people really have control, that they are pulling the strings, that all governments are following their instructions, etc.

      That is, as you and Michele would say, a victim mentality. Victim mentalities are problematic because they exaggerate the true power of those who would manipulate, by giving them more credit than they deserve in the shaping of narratives and outcomes. So I am more interested in understanding the collective belief systems – the religion of Progress as I often describe it in this case – that predispose us to certain types of mass psychosis. I think Eugyppius did a good job of describing this process this morning: https://eugyppius.substack.com/p/spontaneous-order-in-complex-systems

  3. NomadicBeer says:

    Have you looked at the possibility of survivor bias in the foxed? Basically if you add up the “dead in the first 2 weeks” and “dead after” is it lower than the unfoxed dead? Same with hospitalized.

    Are you a practicing physician? Are you taking govt money for jabs and Covid diagnostics? It would be fair to report possible conflicts of interests.

    Thank you!

    Thank you

    • Mark says:

      In order:

      1. No, not mathematically. However, unless I use estimates of vaccine deaths that are much higher even than VAERS, the Covid death numbers are still at least an order of magnitude (10-fold) larger than the vaccine deaths, so survivor bias is unlikely to have a significant effect.

      2. No, I have no medical training. I have a PhD in Biological Engineering and a solid understanding of genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology.

      3. My graduate research from 2008-2014 was primarily funded by the EPA. I have not received any government funding since, and I have no conflicts of interest with regard to Covid science or policy.

  4. energy lens says:

    Mark ~ I’ve been waiting months for your next post! Thank you for the time and energy you have invested in sharing your gleanings. My wife knows you as Mark L. from the community you mentioned, and characterizes you as bedrock. Best Regards, Charles.

  5. Mark K says:

    I think it is a mistake to draw any conclusions from data based on the VAERS reporting system. Anyone can report adverse reactions and obviously a lot of people do. To get any accurate picture you have to do some basic data validation to verify that someone was actually injured or that someone did actually die. VAERS does not do that. Given all the emotions and politicisation surrounding this virus you can be sure that the system has a lot more noise in it than normal. Numbers are not factual if they are not based on quality data.

    • Mark K says:

      Here is another way to look at that chart you posted. The J&J vaccine is the one that the most info about adverse reactions is available. The official story is that there were 9 deaths out of 3.5 million vaccinated. If the chart is showing us 20,000 deaths then common sense tells me that 2-5,000 deaths resulted from the J&J vaccine. How is this possible? Are there any public figures in the 20,000 deaths–they cannot all be anonymous. There is a nice wikipedia page that lists many public figures that died from Covid. Where is the similar list of public figures injured or killed by the vaccines?

      • Mark says:

        As you point out, there is a significant discrepancy between the “official” death count and the VAERS data. That would seem to indicate that a formal objective inquiry into VAERS death and injury data is warranted, to determine the likelihood that each of these reports was vaccine-related. I can see no good-faith effort to do that, and so we are left with anecdotes all of which can be individually dismissed as anecdotal but which collectively seem to suggest a truth that many would find inconvenient. You may already have opinions about the messenger here, but I found this interview extremely convincing and concerning in that regard: https://odysee.com/@BretWeinstein:f/darkhorse-podcast-with-lydia-mcgrew:a

        As for the list:

        1. Clearly there is no media interest in compiling such a list.

        2. Given the difference between 800,000 (covid deaths) and 20,000 (VAERS-reported vaccine deaths), said list – if it existed – would be much shorter. There have certainly been public figures who have died suddenly shortly after injection; whether it is connected remains unproven. Eric Clapton is probably the most famous person to have come forward with a vaccine injury; the media attacks on him have been relentless.

        3. Given that the primary pathology of the spike protein is clotting, the associated adverse effects have high background rates and can be readily written off as coincidence when viewed individually. If we were serious about understanding what is going on (as opposed to just promoting the narrative that the vaccines are safe), we would be tracking the incidence rates of a wide range of health outcomes over time across a large cohort following vaccination. We are not doing this. The anomalously large number of athletes who have died suddenly this year (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_association_footballers_who_died_while_playing) is alarming, although as covid infection could also be implicated further investigation is warranted.

        • Mark K says:

          Given that 514m shots have been given, I would expect that there would be some individuals who died after receiving a shot. I think it is easy to forget that 3m people die each year in the USA covid shots or not. Thrombosis is not something new. If one is diligent about keeping up on ones vaccinations and are fated to get a blood clot, it will certainly come in the days, weeks or months after you get vaccinated. The point of the VAERS database is to uncover an issue that is outside the expected.
          So either 9 or 11 people died from J&J vaccine induced thrombosis. Sad, but not sure how you can gin this up to 20,000 vaccine deaths. The other 18,989 might be dead if they got a saline injection. Death is normal–but you may be reported to VAERS just so if there is a pattern researchers can see it.

          • Mark says:

            So…in an average year we administer 300 million vaccine doses, and 400 deaths are reported to VAERS. This year we have administered 514 million covid shots, and over 19,000 deaths have been reported to VAERS. That’s a 28-fold increase in reported deaths per injection. You might convince me that the reporting rate might double or triple as a result of increased awareness of VAERS, or an increased tendency to ascribe cause-of-death to a new vaccine, but you’re not going to convince me that a 28-fold increase can simply be explained away as “of course some deaths happen.”

            As you say, “you may be reported to VAERS just so if there is a pattern researchers can see it.” Well, there’s definitely a pattern, but most researchers don’t seem very interested in digging deeper to figure out why that pattern has appeared.

        • Mark K says:

          The other reason to get vaccinated is to benefit the society we live in. The unvaccinated are over represented in the medical system. As long as the medical system is under stress the pressure to vaccinate will continue as it rightly should. People intuitively dislike free riders and in the current situation to choose to not vaccinate solely because of the small but real risk to oneself is to expect the larger society in general and the medical system in particular to save you even though you chose not to participate in the vaccination program. This is infuriating to many and it is what is behind the few vaccine mandates that exist or are enforced.

          • Josh F says:

            In the 3 cases of elderly deaths in my circle of friends and family, their Doctors told them (unvaccinated) to simply go home and wait for symptoms to develop without any early treatment until they couldn’t breath and then limited their care to approved options that ultimately ended with their deaths on a ventilator. in one case, a 95 year old woman was discharged with a DNR bracelet complaining about sitting in an ER room for 8 hours without food or water. The head nurse called to apologize.

            The skeptics community has known since March 2020 that early treatment with a combination of antihistamines and azithromycin are effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths in the elderly. At one point earlier in the pandemic prior to the vaccine roll-out, 40% of Covid deaths were in nursing homes.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7833340/

  6. Scotlyn says:

    Thanks Mark, this sounds like a comprehensive and well thought out set of reflections on costs and benefits, both personal and community, of availing of the experimental vaccinations on offer.

    For now, I just want to thank you for putting it out there so clearly.

  7. Slithy Toves says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. As I’ve mentioned, I was vaccinated last year. Given my health, I think I probably made the right decision (as I mentioned on JMG’s Dreamwidth, if there’s a mass die-off from the vaccines, I’ll be part of it one way or another), but I’m currently in a wait-and-see mode about the booster: closer to the year mark, if I haven’t already caught Omicron, I’ll decide whether it makes sense to get a booster given what we know then.

    This has been a difficult year for me; 2021 was the year in which I – thanks to my opposition to the vaccine narrative and my unwillingness to be vaccinated – became a Bad Person. I don’t do well with that. For better or worse, I am one who looks outward for validation and respect, and even in normal times I am socially awkward and I often feel that I am being pre-judged negatively by those who I meet.

    This really resonates with me. I’ve never been able to provide myself with validation, because I don’t trust myself to do so: indeed, to my mind there’s something viciously circular about self-validation. Yet most members of my social circle have adopted what I’m going to call the “CNN worldview,” which I know in my bones is wrong.

    I’ve mostly been able to get by without talking about it with anyone, but it’s been difficult knowing that many of my friends and colleagues would think less of me if they knew my true views on things.

    • Mark says:

      Thank you! I really appreciate JMG’s discussion board, and I’m hoping that this might be the year that I find more like-minded folks locally…

  8. ilona says:

    @Mark L @Slithy Toves
    Slithy Toves said “I’ve never been able to provide myself with validation”…

    It seems to me this is a widespread issue. I experience, and many people experience, a constant flutter of “I did this wrong, I did that wrong, I wasted time,” like a constant refrain to life. If that’s similar to what you’re experiencing, do you think you could learn to mistrust, turn down, ignore that internal negativity? Just look it in the eye and say “ilona told me you are a deceiver. On to the next page!” I am pressed for time, and I don’t have the best words at this moment but your comments caught my eye. Validation — not that you are perfect, but that you are good, you are plenty good enough!!! That’s what I say.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks ilona! We could perhaps all learn to turn down and ignore our internal negativity, although some of those who don’t require external validation are those we would call sociopaths. There is a balance to be struck between having confidence to make our own choices without fear of judgment while also maintaining empathy, reciprocity, and community-mindedness.

  9. Saltpeter says:

    Greetings, Mark. I’m late responding, but I did want to chime in with regards to your statement:

    “This has been a difficult year for me; 2021 was the year in which I – thanks to my opposition to the vaccine narrative and my unwillingness to be vaccinated – became a Bad Person. I don’t do well with that. For better or worse, I am one who looks outward for validation and respect, and even in normal times I am socially awkward and I often feel that I am being pre-judged negatively by those who I meet.”

    Just want to add you’re not alone with your great discomfort with that. It hit me really hard – I actually bowed out of work for a few days back in late September because I thought I might be sick, but I was actually so anxious and stressed regarding the vaccination situation and what action I should take, that I had given myself the worst multi-day bout of boiling anxiety I’ve ever had. Like you, I’m used to relying on external validation and feeling like I’m OK with the general crowd, so the change to being someone who could be labeled one of the “Bad Ones” was harrowing at first.

    The good news is that I feel I’m reaching a point where, even if all my priors are wrong and my decision was unnecessary, I’m happy I made my current decision because the past year’s experience has been a major step towards me learning some important life lessons. To accept that change in your social status will occur inevitably in life and that you should not change yourself just to accord with others’ potentially incorrect narrative. To accept that you should not concern yourself with others’ thoughts or actions that you have no control over. And to know that you are still valid, even if your reasoning and your attempts to act for the common good no longer agree with what the general crowd thinks the common good must involve. I’m hoping that your experiences have helped you somehow in your life going forward. I could tell from our meeting months ago that you’re a very nice, quiet and intelligent person – I’d hate to know if you had to go through a crisis of validity, when you are clearly a good person.

    Thank you for your essay and for your writings on the Dendroica Project.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks!

      I feel that it has in some ways been positive as well. I have been fortunate compared to many others, in terms of being self-employed and not economically vulnerable to covid restrictions or vaccine mandates.

      I went through a period of greater stress around September also, when it was unclear whether the mandate ratchet could be stopped and whether I might be facing fines, jail time, or an inability to participate in everyday life such as is being imposed on citizens of Australia, Austria, and some other places. At present it seems more stable and even like the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction, and I am also forming some new connections with like-minded people.

      Anyway thanks for your note, and I hope there will be more Oregon Ecosophian gatherings this year!

  10. Goran says:

    Hello Mark,
    Thanks for this overview, and your candid sharing of your own reasoning and actions.

    One aspect that has been under-reported imho is the psychological nocebo-effect during the whole pandemic.
    Lots of people build up a lot of fear and anxiety, and when they get a “positive test” they imagine that they will suffocate and die, like the people in Bergamo, Italy who were put on ventilators.
    We all feel a bit up and down sometimes, but when News is constantly about the Disease, the physiological effects become stronger. “Did I cough a bit more? Do I feel dizzy? Do I lose oxygenation? Is my smell ok? etc. etc.”
    “Did the neighbours cough?!”

    The long term effects of isolation and anxiety are devastating for healthy eating and sleep habits…

    When the disease broke out in January 2020, I had friends in China, whom I talked to every day, and I really hoped that the world would manage to contain it like SARS-1.
    Apparently that failed. I am still sad about that, but not much we can do now.

    One part by the other Mark is IMHO valid – to throttle the infection so that we do not get it all at once – to keep the load on health care manageable.
    I think it is wise to have politically driven restrictions in order to try to keep the infection rate limited, so that people can die with grace and many people can be helped.
    Vaccines of young and healthy should be a tool of last resort.

    Peace,
    Goran

    • Mark says:

      Hi Goran,

      Thanks for this perspective as well. I agree that attempts to “flatten the curve” during significant waves of infection makes sense. One thing that is usually missed in comparisons to the 1918 pandemic is that at that time masks, business closures, etc. were only considered during periods of widespread severe illness and were not (at least to my knowledge) adopted by entire population for years at a time.

      Despite my attempts to have a more objective perspective I can attest to still personally flinching when people cough and having my own concerns with regard to infection. If anything Omicron has helped with that, as more of my friends have actually contracted it and have recovered with minor illness.

      Mark

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