Subversive Subversion

Subversive Subversion

I tried to write a little bit about this a couple of days ago, but the most fascinating thing to me about the anti vaxxers isn’t their position on vaccines. The quick shift to institutionalised vaccine mandates has had a profound galvanising impact on those who envision themselves as ‘counter cultural’ or ‘subversive’. The anti vax movement has become the perfect platform for solidifying and codifying inchoate, anti-establishment tropes into a tasty, easily chewable lozenge.

Until the pandemic, it was quite easy to nominate yourself as a ‘fellow traveller’, someone who questioned government authority, mainstream science, medicine etc.,. And let’s face it, there’s a lot to like. Progressive necessarily means moving on from what’s established. But, there’s a difference between moving forward and moving but staying put. Or indeed, going backwards.

I’ve followed a number of people who might best be described as anti authoritarian or even survivalists, on social media. The tenor of their writing has changed lately. It’s more extreme, laced with a real sense of persecution.

One woman in particular lives on a mostly self sufficient farm. She raises and kills animals, and attempts to live a life without ‘modern poisons’ including RF waves and the like. Her writing is compelling, and she describes herself and her family as subversive, and living a life that is ‘true’. The rest of us are living lies, we’re hoovering up the government’s bullshit, quietly being brainwashed by schools who fail to teach our children anything useful and a society that is obsessed with removing us (humans) from nature.

Like I said, there’s a lot to like.

The anthropologist in me though gets pretty wary when people start talking about nature and culture. Humans are nature and we are culture. And yes, most of us are tremendously stupid, boorish fools who’re quickly depleting the planet’s ability and capacity to sustain us while we feverishly furnish our ever more elaborate cargo cult. But the anti science, neo-Luddite approach makes me profoundly uneasy. Because to me, when I read her elegantly composed posts where she describes anyone not fortunate enough to own a small piece of land that was expropriated through relatively recent colonial violence from its original inhabitants, on which they can grow food without furiously worming everyone every five minutes, I feel like she’s just spouting more privilege. The sense of self importance amongst her and her ilk is palpable – ‘I live the right way, you are all fools and dupes’. What’s more striking though is that there is an acute and particular kind of misery that leaks off the screen. There’s obviously the sense of being persecuted, as I mentioned above. (Given the current circumstances, it’s not hard to see how this has become particularly acute and shared by all many extremists) but it’s more than that.

Extremes are defined by ‘the middle’. If everyone suddenly adopted the ‘right way of doing things’ they extremists would then shift to ‘the middle’. They derive their sense of righteousness from their pseudo religious subversion. I don’t think they’d sit well in ‘the middle’.

Their position as subversive extremists is a part of their identity. The Amish, for instance, live what we might call an extreme lifestyle, but they’re not endlessly crapping on about it on Instagram (because apart from anything else, they’re a bit busy). The thing that appeals about subversion is the rebellion itself, the sense of viewing oneself as separate from the mainstream. Different. Special. Clever. It’s teenage rebellion, with gravitas.

This morning I chatted with a friend who is worried for a young relative, the daughter of anti vaxxers. The child has leukaemia, and despite initial success with treatment, is now sadly, in the early stages of a resurgence of the disease. This child’s specialist has recommended a blood transfusion, which would significantly improve the child’s life. The parents are refusing the transfusion, demanding that the blood be sourced from an unvaccinated donor. In effect, the child goes without, and grows more weak and ill by the day.

These parents have previously embraced all medical treatments, which have given their child years of life. And now they are denying this one medical treatment on the grounds that the vaccines are something other than what ‘we are told’.

Likewise, the woman I mentioned above, with the enormous social media following. She lost one of her children this year.

This is what it means to ‘live naturally’. Death is nature. The rest of us morons might be living in a cage, but it’s nicely gilded.

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