Many of us are growing to realize the dangers inherent in the increasing polarities in our world. Polarity is all about two camps fighting one another on two sides of an issue, each side “othering” and dehumanizing the other as an enemy to be vanquished at all costs. Of course, polarities have likely plagued humanity for thousands of years. But the information age and the rise of social media have worsened the problem and also made it much more obvious.
Lately, I’ve been listening to Charles Eisenstein‘s 10-part lecture series on political hope. Charles encourages his listeners to not only understand where each side of a polarity is coming from — in essence, putting oneself in the other’s shoes — but also to search for what truly lies beneath a polarity. When I think about the nature of polarity, what springs to mind is the image of a see-saw. One side goes up at the expense of the other, which must go down. But under a see-saw lies its fulcrum. The word “fulcrum” derives from the Latin word “fulcire,” which means “to prop”. Besides being a prop for a lever, a fulcrum has also been defined as something that plays a central role in or is in the center of a situation or activity. Given any polarity that you may be embroiled in, what is supporting it? What lies at its true center?
As it turns out, on the exact same day that I listened to Charles’ talk about polarity, I had a Zoom chat with two lifelong friends from elementary school — two women with quite different mindsets than me but who are also much like sisters. One lives in Jerusalem and the other in Washington, D.C. Before COVID times, we talked to each other on our birthdays and got together every 10 years or so, but since March 2020, we have been Zooming once a month. This particular Zoom took place the day after the inauguration, so our conversation naturally drifted to the next topic that is dominating the news — the COVID vaccine.
Unfortunately, this conversation pushed on my own hot-button polarity issue: vaccination. I will discuss my own views in more detail later, but let me just say that one of my friends had already gotten the shot and the other was having it the next day. In contrast, my husband and I want to avoid it if we can. The truth is, my friends have always viewed my involvement with alternative medicine as nonsense and we avoid talking about the subject. But it was hard to avoid it when it came to this Zoom discussion. In fact, I experienced my first dose of “vaccine shaming” from one them, who accused me of avoiding the vaccine at her expense, intimating that she was doing her duty to achieve a herd immunity that I could ride upon. In actuality, this couldn’t be further from my true thoughts. And after the Zoom ended, her comment triggered a response in me much like Charles had warned against: a desire to completely disengage from my friends and to view them as “sheep-le” who unthinkingly follow media directives. This article is my effort to follow Charles’s advice and disengage as best I can from this polarity, to put myself in my friends’ shoes, and to find the fulcrum that underlies this increasingly divisive issue. (Please forgive the fact that this article is written from the perspective of a person living in the USA.)
Let me begin letting you know more about where I’m coming from. Unlike the stereotype of the “anti-vaxxer” who knows nothing about science and ignores the obvious facts, much like a flat-earther or climate-disaster-denier, my own experience of people on “my side” of the vaccine debate is very different. Many (if not most) are parents of children who have been injured or even killed by vaccines. Some have been injured themselves and are suffering from a lifelong chronic disability. Among them are medical doctors and many other types of professionals. Because their vaccine injury experiences were swept under the rug or outright denied by the medical establishment and by society in general, and because vaccine manufacturers have had no liability for vaccine injuries since 1986, most of these people have spent years trying to recover from their injuries at their own expense, usually with the aid of “alternative medicine” in various forms. They also tend to be highly educated on the topic of vaccines, and know more about it than most doctors. They are also familiar with the many scientific studies that go against the media party-line that vaccines are “safe and effective”.
While I have never had a vaccine reaction myself (though I haven’t been vaccinated in at least 35 years), I believe one of my sons was vaccine injured and eventually healed with the aid of homeopathic medicine. I was so inspired by this event that I gave up my career as a research computer scientist in Silicon Valley to write about this form of medicine and become an advocate for it. After my book on homeopathy (Impossible Cure) was published, I was approached by someone to see if I could do something about making the government’s vaccine injury data (VAERS — the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) more accessible. At the time, it was available to the public for download, but as pretty cryptic raw file data. Over the course of a weekend, my husband (also a computer scientist) downloaded the data files and created a more usable database. About a year later, he put it online (medalerts.org). Although the CDC eventually created their own website to share this data with the public, my husband’s website still provides the most complete and usable view of the VAERS data and is thus the one often used, even by CDC researchers and vaccine manufacturers.
Up until recently, new VAERS data was made available for access once a month. Since the COVID vaccines came out, new downloads have been made available once a week. As a result, my husband and I are some of the very first people in the world to know the latest stats on COVID vaccine injuries. As of March 5, 2021, there have been 1524 deaths associated with a COVID vaccination and 3470 hospitalizations (you can find a summary of the latest stats here). So when I say that I am aware of the potential dangers of getting a COVID vaccine, I am not exaggerating. I also know that, in the past, every vaccine that has been rushed to market has ultimately been pulled because of injuries. I am also dubious about whether the action of the COVID vaccines released so far (which are experimental in nature and different from traditional vaccines) will create herd immunity.
I’ve also got to admit that I have been personally traumatized by the vaccine debate, aside from my own child’s injury. Because of my husband’s involvement with VAERS, he was asked to testify in Sacramento in 2015 when they were considering SB277, a bill which ultimately removed California children’s ability to obtain philosophical and religious vaccine exemptions, mandating vaccination for attendance at any public or private school or child care center. Thus, it forced anyone who didn’t want to vaccinate their child to homeschool or move to another state. Although medical exemptions were allowed, they have been increasingly circumscribed and many doctors have been persecuted for writing exemptions since that time.
As part of the SB277 hearing, hundreds of protesters came to Sacramento to voice their plea to the legislators. Since I was in the hearing room with my husband, I got to see it all. Over the course of many long hours, parent after parent, sometimes towing an injured child in a wheelchair, came up to the microphone to ask the legislators not to pass this bill. Some of these parents were doctors. Some had children who died. One man was removed by guards for an angry and anguished outburst. The author of the bill, Senator Pan (the largest recipient of donations in the California Senate from the pharmaceutical industry), smiled and nodded at each one. The legislators paid rapt attention to the people who gave formal testimony in favor of the bill. But when the anti-SB277 contingent provided testimony (including my husband), the legislators talked amongst themselves and ignored them. The bill was rubber-stamped by the committee and within weeks, had become law.
This experience traumatized me so much that I got sick for several weeks afterward. In addition, the newspapers wrote articles about the event that differed from what I had actually witnessed. I cancelled our longstanding subscription to the San Francisco newspaper. I no longer trusted the media or the political system. In many ways, my complete view of reality was pulled out from underneath me because of this experience.
So what about putting myself in my friends’ shoes? I must admit it’s hard to do now, but with effort, I can recreate my world view before all this happened. I totally trusted doctors and conventional medicine back then, and I would follow their directives without question. I would never think of not vaccinating my child or myself. Injuries from prescribed medicines and treatments? Surely these things must be rare or apocryphal. Besides — and perhaps this is the key thing — what other choice did I have but to trust my doctor and medical authorities? Alternative medical ideas seemed archaic and bogus to me. Everyone was saying this was true, especially the media. So if I didn’t have modern medicine, I would have no way to heal myself. To question this would be to question science — perhaps even the foundations of civil society. More importantly, to question it would be to endanger my health, my children’s health.
So I get it. To my friends, I am their “crazy sister” who followed her delusional ideas about homeopathy, alternative medicine, and vaccines. They love me anyway, but they certainly don’t want to follow my advice and wait a few months before getting vaccinated. In fact, they worry about my own health, as much as I worry about them getting vaccinated. They may also fear that I am some kind of dangerous outlier, perhaps as dangerous as a Trump supporter (even though they simultaneously think I am much too left-wing in my views). So they pat me on the head and hope that I will finally get a clue and get vaccinated. After all, they do love me.
So where is the fulcrum? What lies beneath this vaccination polarity? Charles suggests that one strategy is to discover something both sides hold in common. In the case of vaccines, it seems clear that at the center is everyone’s natural desire to be healthy and to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from disease and death. The main difference between the two sides is how to go about it. One side has lost faith in the conventional medical establishment to achieve this aim, and the other has not.
Perhaps it is also a matter of degree and a knowledge of and access to alternatives. While it is well known that many people have, for one reason or another, lost some confidence and trust in mainstream allopathic medicine and especially in the pharmaceutical industry, some have greater distrust than others. In addition, awareness of, and the ability to afford, other options for staying well can differ greatly. And herein lies the conundrum and the debate. And it is also now clear why imposing severe mandates on “anti-vaxxers” and marginalizing the vaccine-injured isn’t going to help matters much; it will only make their distrust grow. So let’s explore this issue a bit more.
Perhaps first and foremost is the current state of health in modernized countries and especially in the USA. Chronic disease has become rampant, even among children. A majority of both children and adults are now taking prescribed medicines on a regular basis. Parents have grown to accept chronic disease in their children as the new norm, and are likely not aware that this kind of thing was rare 50 years ago. In this context, a dependence on conventional medical solutions seems more necessary now than ever. And the specter of some new acute epidemic disease being added into the mix is too much for many to bear. Vaccines and “accepted” solutions seem to be the only answer.
On the other side, from the standpoint of alternative health approaches and the people who use them, the rise of chronic disease is directly linked to over-vaccination and the overuse of medicine. They also believe that an underlying factor for chronic disease is our increasingly poor state of nutrition. Soils have been depleted, foods have been poisoned by pesticides like glyphosate, people have become addicted to nutrient-empty junk food, and obesity is rampant. Add into this mix a growing toxic stew of electromagnetic radiation and air pollution. So once again, while most can agree that people are increasingly and chronically unwell, an awareness of the severity of the trend and an agreement about what is causing it differs.
Another factor is that, in general, the conventional approach to disease (and especially the use of vaccines), tends to be blanket in nature, without taking into consideration that each individual has their own health tendencies and therefore may be more disposed to injuries than others, especially long-term chronic injuries. In contrast, alternative medical approaches are generally all about individualization, and those who use them are very much aware of this. Unfortunately, vaccine mandates only allow for a very narrow form of exemption based on acute and rapid reactions and therefore do not take individual health tendencies into account. To those who already distrust mainstream medicine, this further exacerbates it.
Let’s talk a bit more about the awareness issue. After the early 1900s, many forms of medical alternatives were actively suppressed, denigrated, and virtually disappeared. Initially, it was largely about medical competition, fueled by the rise of the pharmaceutical industry and the fact that some of the more modern medicines finally did work well. This period also coincided with the rise of the notion that science was the only solution to mankind’s problems. It featured the “green revolution” and the rise of big-agriculture, along with the development of many amazing medical technologies. Although several medical alternatives re-emerged and gained a lot of traction after the 1970s, over the past couple of years (and especially since the pandemic began), they have been targeted and intensively suppressed with the aid of big-tech and the media. This is true not only of more controversial systems like homeopathy, but also of the use of vitamins and various foods and supplements to bolster immunity and avoid disease. As a result the public’s awareness of and willingness to try alternative approaches has become weakened, while at the same time, it has increased distrust among those who already rely upon these alternative health approaches.
Another factor in all of this is our view of illness and death itself. Over the past 50 years or so, it has become increasingly intolerable to people to suffer and recover from an acute disease, whether it be the flu or even a cold. Even in my childhood (I am 65), people expected to be sick for a few days occasionally and spend some time recovering at home. Everyone (and especially doctors) understood that getting and recovering from an acute disease strengthened one’s immune system. In addition, pretty much every child in the USA got the measles, mumps, and chickenpox to no ill effect. It was anticipated and accepted, like a rite of passage, and doctors knew that experiencing these childhood diseases led to leaps in cognitive and bodily immune development, and also conferred lifelong immunity. In contrast, today, taking time out for illness and recovery has become unacceptable, with people taking suppressive medicines so that they can go to work anyway. This is the new norm. The collective memory and acceptance of acute illness as part of our everyday experience has been lost. Could an underlying reason for this be the societal breakdown of family structures and supports? For example, if no one is available to care for sick children, it is no wonder that working parents want to avoid the childhood diseases which often kept them at home for a week or more.
When it comes to death, most people will undergo any form of treatment if it affords them one more day of life, even if it renders their remaining days miserable and bankrupts their families. Doctors and hospitals actually encourage this, due to their own fear of lawsuits. In the end, our acceptance of death as part of life has been lost. Death has become almost unspeakable, with the dying largely hidden from view. In contrast, suffering from a lifelong chronic ailment has sometimes become a badge of honor and even identity. Is an underlying reason for this phenomenon the breakdown of the extended family? After all, when the elderly were living with their families, everyone got to see the dying process first hand. Or could it be the modern notion that “science” can cure every ill and death is no longer required? The growing transhumanist movement is actually touting such ideas.
I’m sure there is more beneath the polarity of the vaccine debate. I also suspect that the COVID-19 vaccine experience will, ultimately, bring this polarity to a head, much as the BLM and Me-Too movements have intensified our awareness of racism and misogyny. Our world seems to be going through a kind of cleansing, with polarities intensifying and coming more clearly into view, and hopefully, ultimately, bringing awareness of their underlying issues and solutions into focus. 2021 will no doubt be an interesting year.
When my husband Steve and I embarked on our first voyage across America in September 2021, we thought we were merely looking for a new place to spend our summers, given that we could no longer go to our usual haunts in Canada. But within just a day after leaving...