Category Archives: Fourfold Vision

January Chapter: Forward with Social Justice into the Backwardness of Blogs

January 2021 (first draft, subject to revision):

Since this article begins as the first in a year-long monthly series, and in the natural unfolding of a blog will end up as the last, it is perhaps worthwhile to begin with some conclusions and let the text evolve towards its natural beginning. Where would preoccupation with the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, Fourfold Vision, and Complex Thinking for Complex Times take us if we gave it free rein? How would it be if we hypothesize the following and see if it stands up as we fill in both articulation and rationale month by month on a weekly schedule of revision?

To clarify: I intend to start a new chapter each month, progressing backwards from conclusions and recommendations through analysis and examples to first principles. I will review the current chapter each week and make whatever additions, subtractions, clarifications, and revisions seem necessary. This means that you, the reader, if you wish to keep up with me, will read each chapter four, occasionally five, times. (April, July, September, and December are the fivers this year, since Thursday is the official (not necessarily the actual) posting day.) I see no harm in that, even some good, as repetition assists retention, more profound thought, and creativity.

Here goes:

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

(1) Make a Mantra of Social Justice. At present, at least before Covid-19 came along, it seemed that the words we heard most often in public discourse were “The Economy”, meaning economic growth of the common, quantitative kind, measured by a very small number of indicators, such as GDP, the stock market indices, or (un)employment. We should elevate ‘Social Justice’ into that dominant position, and think of economic affairs as simply one tool in the box.

An anecdote of natural regression from more complex to simplistic thinking: You are perhaps familiar with the phrase, “It’s the Economy, stupid!” sometimes believed to have originated with Bill Clinton, campaigning for the presidency of the United States in 1992. In fact, the idea began one of a triad that came from one of his campaign strategists, James Carville, and the actual phrases were: “1. Change vs. more of the same. 2. the economy, stupid. 3. don’t forget health care.” The transition from a three-idea proposal to a one-idea slogan was apparently immediate.

I propose that one of the fundamental tetrads in our eventual Social Justice portfolio could be: Prosperity + Health + Security + Freedom.

(2) Nature As Our Partner Not Our Servant. We need to consider, and act on, the possibility, which looks more and more like a reality, that Nature in some holistic sense is feeling her survival threatened by our actions, particularly by our dumping of garbage and effluents. These are causing her systems to clog and her regulatory systems to weaken or fail. A fundamental drive of Nature is survival, and her pursuit of survival can be ruthless and cruel by our standards. We need to be afraid of what she can do if we abuse her. On the other hand, she is generous and forgiving. She will cooperate with us if we cooperate with her.

A sense of partnership with Nature, much closer to what humanity has always respected under aboriginal conditions (not having any choice), needs to be infused into our industrial, commercial, technological, and consumer cultures, as a fundamental condition of Social Justice. We need a tetrad for that, but don’t have it yet. Ideas?

(3) Complex Thinking for Complex Reality. The cumulative effect of democratic, industrial, and commercial progress in the past few centuries has been a hugely complex, interactive society, or set of societies, seeking to satisfy individual, local, national, regional, and global imperatives. In order to make those our servants rather than our masters we need to think as complexly as they are. Simplicities, however consoling, cannot do the job.

(4) Resolute, Sane, Orderly, and Continuous Social Reform. There is no magic formula. If something needs improvement, work to improve it. If we try something that works, we should do more of it. If we try something that doesn’t work, we should try something different. We may in fact work that way naturally. We need to trust the process, and distrust those who are impatient, dogmatic, or authoritarian.

(5) Education. All advancement of any kind begins here, and not only with schooling, important as that is. The humanaculture of learning and teaching needs to permeate public discourse and private aspiration.

(6) Social Safety. We cannot call ourselves socially just as long as anyone is in distress through no fault of their own, and we need to be very careful in our judgements about fault. What looks like fault is often our lack of understanding. In particular children should not inherit the misfortunes of their parents.

One of the lessons of Covid-19 is surely the importance of governments in responding to emergencies, and the importance of their infrastructure in tools, expertise, and legislation when the emergency strikes.

(7) Fitting Taxation. In order to provide the public services and protections so essential to Social Justice, we need to tax whatever creates or manifests material wealth for individuals and corporations, using a set of largest possible bases and at steeply progressive rates.

(8) Guaranteed Incomes. The Big Four pillars of Social Justice are, or ought to be: Income, Housing, Health Care, Education. If people have incomes they can help with the other three. If we don’t guarantee the income we pay a huge price trying to provide the others.

(9) Right Œvirsagas. Œvirsagas are the macro-stories we tell ourselves in order to know who we are, where we are, where we have been, and where we ought to be going. They are the propaganda we generate for ourselves, in order to keep us focussed and energized.

HOW GOOD WE ARE WILL DEPEND ON HOW WE THINK!

A Tetrad of Post-Covid19 Specific Measures based on lessons learned:

(1) A Guaranteed Annual Income. If we had had that from the beginning the social safety net it would represent would kick in automatically for those in need.This measure would require higher taxation of the progressive redistributive kind.

(2) Massive Reform of Elder Care. Towards Home Care and minimally institutional forms of residence; away from large institutions especially those of the warehousing kind.

(3) Sophisticated Understanding of Risk. Covid19 is a new risk and we don’t know how to think about it. We take risks all the time in our daily lives, especially with disease and accidents, and we know how to think about them. We need to apply the same kind of understanding.

(4) Journalism for Our Time. The present whip-saw oscillation between sensationalism and sentimentalism, along with grotesquely inadequate expertise in statistical interpretation on the part of journalists, is making any kind of contextual thinking extremely difficult for those who rely on regular journalism for understanding.

The Madness of King Us: Liberty

A recent article by John Stoehr on the web site Agence Global (https://agenceglobal.com/2020/07/27/are-americans-rethinking-who-they-are/) talks about that moment in recent history when Americans began to “think of themselves more as consumers and taxpayers, instead of free and responsible citizens.”

“Thinking of themselves as consumers and taxpayers — instead of citizens endowed from birth with rights, liberties and responsibilities — lent itself to thinking about the federal government as separate from the citizenry. “Government” was something done to people. It wasn’t of, by and for them.”

Mr. Stoehr believes that the present “crisis” may be presenting the opportunity for Americans to revert to an earlier, more generous vision of themselves, as “citizens who consume and who pay taxes” because, “as citizens, we are much more than consumers and taxpayers … we are the ultimate sovereign. … The confluence of national and constitutional crises seems to be forcing some people, perhaps most people, to rethink how they think about themselves.” Americans will be fortunate people indeed if subsequent events reveal that Mr. Stoehr knows what he is talking about.

The ideal of “smaller government” is less popular in Canada, although certainly not absent. We have a highly developed sense of governments at all levels as engines that ought to be doing things for us: providing us with goods and services, protecting us from the myriad evil effects of our economic and social practices, and even changing people’s minds on basic issues of social justice. I live in a deeply conservative part of the country. I often marvel at how quickly my neighbours demand government action when something occurs that they don’t like. I even recall one entrepreneurial person who insisted that the government, having provided infrastructure that made the family enterprise possible, now “owes us a return on our investment.” That is a sweeping assignment of responsibility indeed!

We in Canada are blessed indeed with the range and variety of political and social ideals we have inherited through our diverse ancestry. We can, quite legitimately in accordance with our history, pursue the American ideals of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Stephen Leacock himself urged these upon us in his probe into The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, and quite justifiably so in my opinion. These are noble pursuits. The British bequeathed us with “Property, Stability, Conformity”, perhaps not exactly in those words, but quite effectively. The French gave us Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, perhaps not as effectively. We ourselves added Peace, Order, and Good Government. All these add up to a fine portfolio of ideals for individual and collectual well-being, and we would be ill self-served if we ditched any one of them.

If anyone pointed out to me that we do not live up to those ideals,—and someone would surely do that,—I would reply, as I said earlier, that ideals are made to be flawed. The virtue lies in believing in them, and striving for them. The grotesque short-comings that we see all around us come from those who do not believe and do not strive. The outcry against “systemic racism” and all movements of similar weight seem to centre on demands that governments do something about them. I put “systemic racism” in quotation marks not in any judgement against the movement, quite the contrary, but because I have quibbles about definitions that are of no importance to the victims. They may have importance when it comes to taking action.

The late prophet Isaiah Berlin opened our minds to an understanding of two types of Liberty, or Freedom,—he explicitly used the two words interchangeably. He called the two types “Negative Liberty” and “Positive Liberty”, complex ideas encapsulated briefly and respectively by Michael Ignatieff, in his biography of Isaiah Berlin (p. 275) as “freedom of action or thought”, and “the capacity to develop [one’s] innermost nature to the full”.

When I was a young research director working for a government and agency that I will not name, I commissioned what came to be called “the problems study”. This was a deliberately naive piece of work, viewed only as a starting point, arising from the frequently voiced observation that the people in the field where I was working faced many problems. Exactly what are those problems? I asked, and was authorized to find out, as systematically as possible within the budget approved. After a duly diligent process of selection, I sent two qualified people out into the field to find out what the problems were by asking people whose job it was to deal with them. Fortunately for my reputation, career prospects, and self-respect, I added a sufficient number of in-person household interviews to verify the perceptions of the professionals.

The results were consistent: the doctors and nurses said that illness was a huge problem; the addiction workers said that addiction was a huge problem; the police said that crime was a huge problem; the child protection workers said that too many children were being abused or neglected; the social workers said that family life was problem-ridden, and the schools backed them up; the financial counsellors said that money problems were everywhere; the clergy said that spiritual problems were rife. And so it went, through the entire panorama of the helping professions. Everyone said their agencies needed more money. The households interviewed, on the other hand, while acknowledging that not everything was rosy for everybody, said that on the whole life was pretty good, and that most people coped well enough with the hardships of the region, which was a northern one. Later on, in some subsequent research, we were able at least to sense the situation accurately. The number of people on the wrong side of the “problem” divide ranged from 5% to 15%, depending on situation and demographics, and appeared to be distributed randomly. It was the visibility of the “problem-laden”, especially to their articulate helpers, not the number, that created the perception of a society in serious trouble.

I am wondering how to apply the lessons of that research, and its successors, to the two big demands of our immediate present: that the authorities conquer the Covid-19 virus and mitigate its effects, and that they do away with “systemic racism”.

In trying to think and talk about all that, I am finding that Isaiah Berlin’s terminology, while admittedly useful to the understanding of what he meant, inhibits a clear conception of what it means we should do. Both terms contain double negatives. To speak of expanding or contracting negative liberty is confusing. Is it the negative or the liberty that is being expanded or contracted? Positive liberty in any social situation clearly must connote a strong element of moral choice and self-constraint. It is time, I believe, to invent some words, and for that it is traditional in the English language to turn either to the Latin, or to the Greek.

In this case the honours go to the Greek, I believe. I propose that negative liberty be called “adeia”, or more simply “adea”, from the Greek word for “permission” and related things, and that positive liberty be called “eleutheria”, or “elutheria”, from the Greek word for “liberty-freedom”.

This adjustment in terminology will allow us to consider dealing with Covid-19 unambiguously and positively through pursuit of a higher rather than a lower “adealism”, and “systemic racism” through “elutherial” rather than punitive measures. In both cases we would therefore be talking about mitigating evils through positive instead of negative measures, by expanding rather than contacting something, by moving forwards rather than backwards. If we think and pursue that way, we are less likely to incur harmful side-effects, or to emerge from the endeavour with our society in even worse shape than it was before.

As to what all this might mean in practical terms, I promise that I will continue along these lines and report progress as I go along.

I write this article as part of the Fourfold Visions Projectile (see http://www.voyageurstorytelling.ca), out of my beliefs in complex thinking about complex matters, and in the positive usefulness of diverse points of view, openly expressed.

Paul Conway, July 31 2020

 

The Madness of King Us – Covid-19

I am trying to  imagine what Cast of Mind we should cultivate to get us through the Covid-19 outburst. Although by no means sure, I am not convinced that the cast of mind being thrust upon us by those in authority, their advocates, and the news media is the best one for the job.

I have been suggesting, in other places, that a Fourfold (or Morefold) Cast of Mind might constitute a better way. By that I mean, most simply, that we should cultivate the capacity to look rigorously at any situation, in this case the new corona virus, in more than one way with equal degrees of rigour. The idea is a little more complicated, in that a truly Morefold Cast of Mind would think in all relevant ways simultaneously. A simple sequential algorithm will work well enough for today.

You will perhaps have noticed that I did not call Covid-19 a crisis, or even a pandemic, but an outburst. I am searching for a neutral term, but not too neutral. I am trying to keep my mind clear of all preconceptions, especially those cultivated by people who might be cultivating some other cast of mind. Is Covid-19, or the virus that causes it, the “crisis”, or is the “crisis” our reaction? In other words, is our reaction proportionate to the phenomenon itself, or are we marching to the beat of some other drummer?

In order to clarify further before I get into specifics, I draw your attention to three examples of Fourfolding that I have encountered so far. Obviously I will be more content when I have a fourth, which ought to come from William Blake, who called our attention to the “supreme delight” of “Fourfold Visions”. His concept however is so complex that I do not yet have the pleasure of understanding it. I have found three more mundane others. I call them Tetrads:

Stephen Butler Leacock, 1860-1944, in his copious and varied writings on education: Knowledge + Imagination + Compassion + Humour;

John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946, in his tribute to Alfred Marshall, written in 1924: Mathematics + History + Statecraft + Philosophy;

Isaiah Berlin, 1909-1997, who, according to his biographer Michael Ignatieff, sought a cast of mind that is: sceptical, ironical, dispassionate, and free.

A fourth might well be Northrop Frye, 1912-1991, who certainly liked to organize his thoughts in fours, although I am not sure what the full list would be. I am nearly certain that “Literary”, or “Poetic”, would appear on it.

What happens if we approach Covid-19 with a cast of mind somehow consistent with these casts of mind? How would we react?

First of all, I think we would require that whatever we are reacting to ought to be a fact and not merely a belief. Is our reaction itself a fact? No doubt it is, but too far downstream for this analysis. I submit that the “facts” at the root of most of the excitement are (a) statistical, and (b) historical. Other “facts” or perceptions, are augmenting the excitement, I submit, but those are the roots. I will start with the statistics. I am looking at two statistical web sites with coronavirus pages: https://ourworldindata.org, and http://www.worldometers.info.

The result is a blizzard of statistics, far too many for the mind to grasp, no matter what cast of mind one brings to the task. These sites, but particularly the former, are very, very, very, very informative, if you have the time and numerical literacy to make use of them. The natural human need, however, is somehow to distill the essence of what they are saying. This is where we get into trouble, because it is almost impossible to distill the essence without imposing prior judgements or biases. To distill without bias takes one into a realm of sophisticated analysis inaccessible to the citizen-reader who is simply trying to become well informed.

To illustrate how biassed distilling might work, what would I do if I wanted to convince you that some phenomenon, measured in numbers, is larger rather than smaller? First of all, I would look for the largest numbers available and draw your attention to them. For example, given a list of countries and their Covid-19 data, I would first make sure that whatever statistic I was reporting would be as wide as possible. “Cases” does that admirably, and I would make sure that I made any discovery of what I meant by a “case” as difficult as possible. It appears to me, in this instance, that a “case” includes everything from a positive test with no symptoms right through to mortal illness.

What about death? Is that not a more precise phenomenon? For a younger population I believe it is, because death is not generally expected there. But for the very old? People over eighty are at high risk of dying, and usually have more than one condition which, if put under sufficient pressure, can kill them. Is an octogenarian with a weak heart who contracts Covid-19 killed by the weak heart or the virus? Common sense would conclude: by both. In the midst of a panic, what happens to the idea that octogenarians are at high risk of dying, no matter what is flying around, and that they die primarily from being old?

Then, I would make sure that if I did present any ratios, for purposes of comparison and context, I would choose the largest denominator possible. Cases, or death, per million produces numbers ten times larger than per hundred thousand, for example, ten thousand times larger than percentages, and a million times larger than the raw rate which is a measure of the probability of occurrence. Thus, for Canada (today’s figures) 110,000 cases in a population of 38,000,000 sounds a lot more impressive than a probability of occurrence equalling .0029.

Third, I would avoid any comparisons with other comparable statistics, which might make mine look small. For example, according to Our World in Data (these people seem to be very thorough), 56 million people died in 2017, world-wide. Covid-19 has been active for about five months, with 607,000 ascribed deaths (see above caveat about multiple causes of death). The total number of deaths in five months of 2017, well before Covid-19, was somewhere around 23 or 24  million; call it 25 million by 2020. This gives Covid-19 only 2.5% of the world’s deadly effect, considerably smaller than other causes such as heart failure and cancer, and that is before adjusting for the complications of age and the possibility that people are dying from neglect, postponed medical care, over-doses, suicide, etc., causes which come not from the disease itself but as side-effects of our response to it.

If I went on with this purposeful exercise any further, I would bring in the practice of focussing on the larger countries, because they have larger numbers, and neglecting the small ones. I would talk about the U.S.A., Brazil, India, and Russia, with their dramatically large numbers of cases, not about San Marino and Belgium, where the death rates per capita far exceed any other place. San Marino is small, of course, and needs a different kind of analysis, but what on earth was going on in Belgium? When journalists were going on endlessly about Italy, Spain, the U.K., the U.S.A., I do not remember anyone talking about Belgium.

Then there is the whole testing phenomenon. How does that work, and what effect does it have on careful interpretation of the numbers?

Most of all, however, I would make sure that statistics were presented to the public in the grossest possible way, without sensitive geographic or demographic partitioning, so that no one would possibly be confident about what they meant without delving into the detailed tables themselves which, as I have already pointed out, the citizen-reader, trying to become informed, would have neither the time nor possibly the know-how to do.

I am not suggesting for a minute that Covid-19 is not a serious matter, or that some kind of unusual reaction would be inappropriate. Clearly this time is not “life as usual”. Nor am I questioning the reactions taken in the early stages, when no one knew what this virus was or what it might become. For us to be concerned that it might be as terrible as the so-called “Spanish” flu was entirely understandable. What do worry me, however, are the continuing efforts to keep us in a high state of apprehension, even fear, even as the virus becomes much better understood, and as the side effects of our response become increasingly apparent. We are being constantly urged to be afraid of Covid-19. I think we need to be a little more fearful of our reactions.

For me personally, two aspects of our reactions loom very large. The first is the encouragement of isolation from each other. This concern is very real to me, who in my situation could easily, and comfortably, turn into a rural solitaire. What do we become if we act habitually as if we were afraid of each other, are able to interact only under severe constraint, and are not allowed to see each other’s faces? How do you smile at someone through a mask?

The second is the encouragement given to “experts” to beak off in the public media without once telling us what their evidence is. Maybe they have some, but they aren’t saying. I get particularly concerned when these beakings come in the form of predictions, which must be based either on hunch or on statistical models extrapolated from other diseases. We simply cannot have the data yet for valid extrapolation from the history of Covid-19 itself. The broadcasting of “worst-case scenarios” based on untested statistical “models”,—the usual term for sets of equations based on theory or historical data,—was a terrible phenomenon in the early stages of the outburst and a contributor to panic.

Thirdly, I worry about the stimulation being given to the authoritarian tendencies of governments and their officials. In Canada we are, and strive mightily to be, a liberal democracy. We are entirely within our rights as citizens to question every rule imposed on us by our governments, without exception. I do not mean that we have the right to disobey it, but we may and should question it, and press for it to be changed if we think it harmful or unnecessary.

I have seen some talk recently about “metrics”. The only metric that makes any sense to me is the probability that I will catch Covid-19 if I go about my life and business in the normal way, and the probability that I have it already and will give it to someone else. I would like to see that probability adjusted sensitively for different parts of the country, and for different settings.

If I had the data for that calculation I would be able to perform a proper “risk assessment” and make reasonable decisions about what I should do and what I should protest. For example, it seems clear that the risk, the probability of harm and its consequences, would be higher if I were going into a care home or other residential institution, although I would like to see that calculation adjusted for management practices. Anyone who has been in care homes knows that they vary in their facilities, ventilation, and practices, perhaps crucially. What I have been able to learn with a reasonable amount of digging, puts the level of risk in the normal activities of life far lower than is being generally assumed, except perhaps in congested settings.

It appears we may be inching towards a regime where that kind of conclusion prevails, although I believe we are not yet well protected against a return of panic, if the numbers increase abruptly and they continue to be interpreted as grossly as they have been so far. We are certainly not well protected against authoritarian measures thrust upon us without proper explanation. By proper I mean explanations accompanied by statement of the evidence, not the unsupported assertions of people identified as experts, nor anecdotes taken out of context. Explanations of this kind would make the evening news more useful, albeit perhaps more confusing, and less exciting.

I write this article as part of the Fourfold Visions Projectile (see http://www.voyageurstorytelling.ca), out of my beliefs in complex thinking about complex matters, and in the positive usefulness of diverse points of view, openly expressed.

For the next several days I will be reviewing this text each morning, and striving to improve it. I apologize for its flaws. Thank you for reading.

Paul Conway

 

 

Saluting “A Balanced Response” to Covid-19

Today a magnificent development in Covid-19 discourse: A new web site has appeared with an Open Letter and a Statement endorsed by a bevy of senior medical and academic people, advocating “A Balanced Response” towards the virus. The web site is http://www.balancedresponse.ca, and I highly recommend it.

I have for several days been contemplating a blog post about that, but these people have spoken far better than I could have done. Responding to their invitation, I spoke to them as follows.

Dear Balanced Responders:

I am absolutely delighted to learn of your initiative and to read your web site. Many, many thanks for them.

You asked for feedback and here is mine. I apologize for its wordiness, but I am immensely excited and encouraged by what you have done and that tends to stimulate my thoughts and make me verbose.

Please extend my particular congratulations to the person or people who drafted the text. I have done that kind of writing professionally and I can recognize good work when I see it. Your letter and statement are the best I have seen in a long, long time, and certainly the best that has come out of Covid-19 discourse, if it can be called that.

We have been subjected to far too much “discourse” that is technically propaganda, well-intentioned propaganda no doubt, but still propaganda. I believe that decisions were taken at very high official levels deliberately to frighten the general public into compliance, a strategy enthusiastically augmented by the CBC, which is my main source of news, and which can only backfire eventually. Your Statement says, “Our leaders and public health authorities had to use strong language to support universal acceptance of these measures.” I believe the same effect could have been achieved by much less dubious rhetoric and abuse of statistics.

I am concerned that one serious side-effect of Covid-19 has been to stimulate the authoritarian dreams of some politicians and senior officials. “My goodness,” I hear them chortling, “we are ordering people around for their own good and they are obeying. Isn’t this fun!” It is but a short hop to, “Let’s do more of it!”.

Another has been to stimulate the finger-pointing and shaming instincts of some of our fellow citizens. Now that masks have emerged as a visible sign of compliance, this kind of anti-social behaviour will have every opportunity to prosper.

I agree entirely with your recommendation that: “Any requirements for mandatory masks must be based on strong evidence with clear specification of where they are most appropriate.” I am not yet seeing any real evidence (as opposed to guesswork) that a piece of cloth, or a flimsy piece of whatever medical-looking material is used, hooked behind the ears, is a protection against anything, let alone an extraordinarily crafty virus. It does protect against intrusive finger-pointing and shaming, I suppose, but forcing protection against that can only lead to rising levels of anger, which are bad for mental health. I support the intent of your Recommendation 12, but would add that we need to be not only responsive, but preventive. We should not trade one epidemic for another.

And what do we become as a community and society, if we routinely hide our faces from each other? How do you smile at someone from behind a mask? What does a mask say, if not, “I am afraid of you, and I think you are entitled to be afraid of me”?

The key to the approach you are recommending is in Recommendation 10: “Canadians must be better informed about their true level of risk from COVID-19. An accurate accessible risk assessment tool is a priority. This will help empower people to make informed decisions about how they choose to lead their lives. Help people understand and manage their fear and anxiety.” The questions that I ask myself continuously when I am out and about is, “What is the probability that the people I am going to meet will have the virus and will pass it on to me? What is the probability that I have the virus, and will pass it on to them? What is the probability of severe consequences, either way?” I study the data available to me, which are most distressingly incomplete, and I keep coming up with the the same answer: Those probabilities are very, very small, not negligible of course, but within the range of normal human existence or very close to it.

Development and cultivation of the risk assessment tool you recommend, even in the face of incomplete data, is within the scope of simple application of statistical decision theory, accessible to anyone who can do basic arithmetic and understands the meaning of odds. If the formula is out in the open it can be easily up-dated as new data come in.

I believe that development of a more sophisticated understanding of the term “case” would help enormously to prepare the ground, and also even crude demographic partitioning of the data, as you have done in your first Statement paragraph.

People in official positions need to be careful about the precision of their language. A nearby care home suffered a positive test in one of its elderly residents, causing enormous upheaval, distress, and cost not only monetary. The test turned out to be a false positive, but the incident was nevertheless referred to by the authorities as an “outbreak”.

I have published my recommendations for policy arising from Covid-19, although I do not pretend to have a wide audience. I have had them up on my web site (www.voyageurstorytelling.ca) for some time, ever since the patterns became clear. I pass them on to you for what they are worth:
(1) A Guaranteed Annual Income. If we had had that from the beginning the social safety net it would represent would kick in automatically for those in need.This measure would require higher taxation of the progressive redistributive kind.

(2) Massive Reform of Elder Care. Towards Home Care and minimally institutional forms of residence; away from large institutions especially those of the warehousing kind.

(3) Sophisticated Understanding of Risk. Covid-19 is a new risk and we don’t know how to think about it. We take risks all the time in our daily lives, especially with disease and accidents, and we know how to think about them. We need to apply the same kind of understanding.

(4) Journalism for Our Time. The present whip-saw oscillation between sensationalism and sentimentalism, along with grotesquely inadequate expertise in statistical interpretation on the part of journalists, is making any kind of contextual thinking extremely difficult for those who rely on regular journalism for understanding.

I think these sketchy ideas are compatible with your thinking, although I don’t think you addressed the first or, explicitly, the fourth. The latter is in line with your Recommendation 10, however. Understanding of context is extremely important for the kind of informed decisions you are talking about there.

I will indeed do as you ask, to spread word of your Open Letter and Statement on my social media sites and blogs. I look forward to further developments on your web site.

Again thanks, and all best wishes for wide acceptance of your ideas and advice.

Signed …

The whole response to Covid-19, up until recently, as been an almost unprecedented (at least since WW II and maybe not even then) application of onefold vision (single vision) to our macro-societal life. We have been under a form of authoritarian rule, supported by our own fears and lack of information (as such rule always is), justifiable only in a drastic emergency. It was possible in the early stages that we were in one of those, but has also been clear for at least two of the four months that this epidemic was no such thing unless we chose to make it one. We did. Now, finally, we have authoritative people expressing, with all the weight of their knowledge and experience, an alternative point of view. We need to celebrate that. They have given us a Fourfold Vision of how we should think and what we should do.

PWC, July 9 2020