Madmen then led an easy wandering existence. The towns drove them outside their limits; they were allowed to wander in the open countryside, when not entrusted to a group of merchants and pilgrims. The custom was especially frequent in Germany; in Nuremberg, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the presence of 63 madmen had been registered; 3 1 were driven away; in, the fifty years that followed, there are records of 2 I more obligatory departures; and these are only the madmen arrested by the municipal authorities. Frequently they were handed over to boatmen: in Frankfort, in 1399, seamen were instructed to rid the city of a madman who walked about the streets naked; in the first years of the fifteenth century, a criminal madman was expelled in the same manner from Mainz. Sometimes the sailors disembarked these bothersome passengers sooner than they had promised; witness a blacksmith of Frankfort twice expelled and twice returning be;.. fore being taken to Kreuznach for good. Often the cities of Europe must have seen these “ships of fools” approaching their harbors.
It happened that certain madmen were publicly whipped, and in the course of a kind of a game they were chased in a mock race and driven out of the city with quarterstaff blows. So many signs that the expulsion of madmen had become one of a number of ritual exiles.
The madman’s voyage is at once a rigorous division and an absolute Passage. In one sense, it simply develops, across a half-real, half-imaginary geography, the madman’s liminal position on the horizon of medieval concern-a position symbolized and made real at the same time by the madman’s privilege of being confined within the city gates: his exclusion must enclose him; if he cannot and must not have another prison than the threshold itself, he is kept at the point of passage. He is put in the interior of the exterior, and inversely. A highly symbolic position, which will doubtless remain his until our own day, if we are willing to admit that what was formerly a visible fortress of order has now become the castle of our conscience.
Michel Foucault – Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
An examination of over 100 Covid-19 studies reveals that many relied on false assumptions that over-estimated the benefits and under-estimated the costs of lockdown. The most recent research has shown that lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid-19 deaths. Generally speaking, the ineffectiveness stemmed from individual changes in behavior: either non-compliance or behavior that mimicked lockdowns. The limited effectiveness of lockdowns explains why, after more than one year, the unconditional cumulative Covid-19 deaths per million is not negatively correlated with the stringency of lockdown across countries. Using a method proposed by Professor Bryan Caplan along with estimates of lockdown benefits based on the econometric evidence, I calculate a number of cost/benefit ratios of lockdowns in terms of life-years saved. Using a mid-point estimate for costs and benefits, the reasonable estimate for Canada is a cost/benefit ratio of 141. It is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in modern history.
Berlin – 40,000 schools and 58,000 daycare centers are closed due to the pandemic. According to a decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers, this will remain the case until mid-February – at least. Of the adults, almost two million were already on short-time work in October, before the new lockdown. All of this has resulted in a massive destruction of human capital.
School closures, in particular, are causing “enormous economic damage, both to individual students and to the economy as a whole,” warns Ludger Wößmann, an education economist at the Ifo Institute. This is because “nothing is as well documented in the economics of education as the connection between education and income.”
If the school closures continue to apply until the end of February – which cannot be ruled out in view of the high infection rates – the bottom line would be a loss of 4.5 percent in the lifetime income of the students.
Sounds frightening, does it not? Well, as they say in German, “Nichts wird so heiss gegessen, wie es gekocht wird.” (“Nothing is as hot as it is cooked.”) School as we know it is a lot, a lot, of wasted time.
Short personal flashback. I was good in languages in school, in maths a complete failure. So no bragging here. In the last year in high school we went on a school trip to the UK as was customary back then. One evening we hit a disco in London. Being in a disco you can’t help getting into a communication with, well in London with Brits who speak their language. Surprise. We had to discover to our embarrassment that was not our English. Not even close. It was clear to all of us the next day, we knew the grammar, future perfect like our daily breakfast, conjugation of verbs was second nature to us. Oh, it went all so smooth. Only one tiny problem was there, we could not for fuck’s sake communicate because our English world lived in books. And what books. You would not believe it in hindsight. Out of school I subscribed for whatever reason to TIME magazine. Had to discover I was unable to understand the full gist of an article without consulting a dictionary. That’s when I learned the language, the living language.
Here’s the way to learn a language. You need the basics and that’s where school comes in. Maximum six months. Then it’s on to reading newspapers, watching news on TV, short stories. In school!!! You do not need any school books. None.
Why is it not done? Well when you are a language teacher you know the school book in the second year, no preps needed. News change every day. Why the hassle? You get the picture.
Back when the public schools were closed or online, someone I know burned themselves out working overtime to get the money to send their kid to a private school. They figured that all the other parents would do it, their kid would fall hopelessly behind, and then they’d be doomed to whatever sort of horrible fate awaits people who don’t get into the right colleges.
I hear this is happening again now, with more school closures, more frantic parents, and more people asking awful questions like “should I accept the risk of sending my immunocompromised kid to school, or should I accept him falling behind and never amounting to anything?”
You can probably predict what side I’m on here. Like everyone else, I took a year of Spanish in middle school; like everyone else who did that, the sum total of what I remember is “no hablo Espanol” – and even there I’m pretty sure I forgot a curly thing over at least one of the letters. Like everyone else, I learned advanced math in high school; like everyone else, I can do up to basic algebra, the specific math I need for my job, and nothing else (my entire memory of Algebra II is that there is a thing called “Gaussian Elimination”, and even there, I’m not sure this wasn’t just the name of a video game). Like everyone else, I once knew the names and dates of many important Civil War battles; like everyone else – okay, fine, I remember all of these, but only because the Civil War is objectively fascinating.
And I think that’s the whole point. We learn lots of things in school. Then we forget everything except the things that our interests, jobs, and society give us constant exposure/practice to. If I lived in Spain, I would remember Spanish; if I worked in math, I would remember what Gaussian Elimination was. I think a lot of the stuff you’re exposed to and interested in, a sufficiently curious child would learn anyway; the stuff you’re not goes in one ear and out the other, hopefully spending just enough time in between to let you pass the standardized test.
To be sure, school as a structured place of learning has a very important role for kids from poor families and/or abusive parents as David Roberts writes:
For the at risk kids, school closing is a disaster. Imagine a kid living in a homeless shelter or a kid whose parents are terrible role models or, worse, abusive, or a kid who doesn’t have enough to eat. For those kids, school may be their only oasis of normalcy. Without school, they will at minimum suffer and might permanently lose a chance at a decent life. This has little to do with test scores and everything to do with socialization and having adults in their lives who care.
Crossposted from the ‘Consent Factory‘ a, well, quasi satirical post from their in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins.
Greetings from “New Normal” Germany!
On April 1, 1933, shortly after Hitler was appointed chancellor, the Nazis staged a boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany. Members of the Storm Troopers (“die Sturmabteilung,” or the “Storm Department,” as I like to think of them) stood around outside of Jewish-owned stores with Gothic-lettered placards reading “Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!” The boycott itself was a total disaster — most Germans ignored it and just went on with their lives — but it was the beginning of the official persecution of the Jews and totalitarianism in Nazi Germany.
Last week, here in “New Normal” Germany, the government (which, it goes without saying, bears no resemblance to the Nazi regime, or any other totalitarian regime) implemented a social-segregation system that bans anyone who refuses to publicly conform to the official “New Normal” ideology from participating in German society. From now on, only those who have an official “vaccination pass” or proof of a negative PCR test are allowed to sit down and eat at restaurants, shop at “non-essential” stores, or go to bars, or the cinema, or wherever.
Here’s a notice from the website of Prater, a popular beer garden in Berlin:
Of course, there is absolutely no valid comparison to be made between these two events, or between Nazi Germany and “New Normal” Germany, nor would I ever imply that there was. That would be illegal in “New Normal” Germany, as it would be considered “relativizing the Holocaust,” not to mention being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimizing the state in a way that endangers security,” or whatever. Plus, it’s not like there are SA goons standing outside shops and restaurants with signs reading “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t sell to the Unvaccinated and Untested!” It’s just that it’s now illegal to do that, i.e., sell anything to those of us whom the media and the government have systematically stigmatized as “Covid deniers” because we haven’t converted to the new official ideology and submitted to being “vaccinated” or “tested.”
Protesting the new official ideology is also illegal in “New Normal” Germany. OK, I think I should probably rephrase that. I certainly don’t want to misinform anyone. Protesting the “New Normal” isn’t outlawed per se. You’re totally allowed to apply for a permit to protest against the “Covid restrictions” on the condition that everyone taking part in your protest wears a medical-looking N95 mask and maintains a distance of 1.5 meters from every other medical-masked protester … which is kind of like permitting anti-racism protests as long as the protesters all wear Ku Klux Klan robes and perform a choreographed karaoke of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.
Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humor?
I don’t mean to single out the Germans. There is nothing inherently totalitarian, or fascist, or robotically authoritarian and hyper-conformist about the Germans, as a people. The fact that the vast majority of Germans clicked their heels and started mindlessly following orders, like they did in Nazi Germany, the moment the “New Normal” was introduced last year doesn’t mean that all Germans are fascists by nature. Most Americans did the same thing. So did the British, the Australians, the Spanish, the French, the Canadians, and a long list of others. It’s just that, well, I happen to live here, so I’ve watched as Germany has been transformed into “New Normal Germany” up close and personal, and it has definitely made an impression on me.
The ease with which the German authorities implemented the new official ideology, and how fanatically it has been embraced by the majority of Germans, came as something of a shock. I had naively believed that, in light of their history, the Germans would be among the first to recognize a nascent totalitarian movement predicated on textbook Goebbelsian Big Lies (i.e., manipulated Covid “case” and “death” statistics), and would resist it en masse, or at least take a moment to question the lies their leaders were hysterically barking at them.
Whoops … there I go again, “relativizing the Holocaust.” I really need to stop doing that. The Germans take this stuff very seriously, especially with Israel under relentless attack by the desperately impoverished people it has locked inside an enormous walled ghetto, and is self-defensively ethnically cleansing.
But, seriously, there is no similarity whatsoever between Nazi Germany and “New Normal” Germany. Sure, both systems suspended the constitution, declared a national “state of emergency” enabling the government to rule by decree, inundated the masses with insane propaganda and manipulated “scientific facts,” outlawed protests, criminalized dissent, implemented a variety of public rituals, and symbols, and a social segregation system, to enforce compliance with their official ideologies, and demonized anyone who refused to comply … but, other than that, there’s no similarity, and anyone who suggests there is is a dangerous social-deviant extremist who probably needs to be quarantined somewhere, or perhaps dealt with in some other “special” way.
Plus, the two ideologies are completely different. One was a fanatical totalitarian ideology based on imaginary racial superiority and the other is a fanatical totalitarian ideology based on an imaginary “apocalyptic plague” … so what the hell am I even talking about? On top of which, no swastikas, right? No swastikas, no totalitarianism! And nobody’s mass murdering the Jews, that I know of, and that’s the critical thing, after all!
So, never mind. Just ignore all that crazy stuff I just told you about “New Normal” Germany. Don’t worry about “New Normal” America, either. Or “New Normal” Great Britain. Or “New Normal” wherever. Get experimentally “vaccinated.” Experimentally “vaccinate” your kids. Prove your loyalty to the Reich … sorry, I meant to global capitalism. Ignore those reports of people dying and suffering horrible adverse effects. Wear your mask. Wear it forever. God knows what other viruses are out there, just waiting to defile your bodily fluids and cause you to experience a flu-like illness, or cut you down in the prime of your seventies or eighties … and, Jesus, I almost forgot “long Covid.” That in itself is certainly enough to justify radically restructuring society so that it resembles an upscale hospital theme park staffed by paranoid, smiley-faced fascists in fanciful designer Hazmat suits.
Oh, and keep your “vaccination papers” in order. You never know when you’re going to have to show them to some official at the airport, or a shop, or restaurant, or to your boss, or your landlord, or the police, or your bank, or your ISP, or your Tinder date … or some other “New Normal” authority figure. I mean, you don’t want to be mistaken for a “Covid denier,” or an “anti-vaxxer,” or a “conspiracy theorist,” or some other type of ideological deviant, and be banished from society, do you?
CJ Hopkins May 24, 2021 Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14468, Georg Pahl, CC-BY-SA 3.0
“It is inconceivable that policymakers today, aided by their theoretical understanding of the mechanisms and by the statistical information at their disposal, would begin to make the serious errors committed by the governments in 1929-32.” J. Tobin