Monthly Archives: November 2021

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Coronavirus (35): The ABCs — Authority, Boosters, and Caregiving

Since March 14, 2020, I have written 34 installments for my “Coronavirus” series. My last installment on August 21, 2021, “Coronavirus (34): ‘Virtue Signaling’ vs. Doing the Right Thing,” provoked over 200 reacts and nearly 100 comments, as people debated whether I was “virtue signaling” for having adopted a Facebook frame that said: “I Have a Healthy Distrust of Authority, and I’m Vaccinated.” I stated in that Notablog entry:

Let it be known far and wide that I am a libertarian who believes that it is indeed possible to be against the state and against coercion, and still voluntarily get myself vaccinated, despite the fact that the vaccine was developed by Big Pharma in league with Big Government. I believe in looking at the facts of reality as they are and making rational judgments based on the context of my own knowledge and experience. I’ve lived in a city that was, at one time, the epicenter of death and despair from this nightmarish virus. I’ve seen enough mass death for a lifetime and then some. I’ve lost family, friends, neighbors, and beloved neighborhood proprietors. And given my own medical preconditions and the health problems of my sister, for whom I am a primary caregiver, I made a reasonable decision to get vaccinated. My whole family is vaccinated. … We took the path of least risk, given that COVID could very well spell the difference between life and death for us.

Given that I have been publicly forthright and honest throughout my life about my own health problems, I wish to state, again, for the record, that today I received my third Moderna booster. And I am happy I got the booster, and have had no noticeable side effects. My sister is due to get her booster soon.

Now, I realize that I don’t need to justify my decisions publicly, but I’m doing so for one reason and one reason above all else, which was suggested in my last entry.

On November 13, 2020, I nearly lost my sister to a very serious illness; she subsequently underwent extensive back surgery on March 22, 2021. After four-and-a-half months in both the hospital and a subacute rehab facility, she returned home in July 2021, and I continued being her primary caregiver, as she has been mine through all the ups and downs I’ve faced over my entire life—the 60+ surgical procedures I’ve endured to keep me ticking. The stories I can—and eventually will—tell about the U.S. Healthcare System are not the subject of this post. Suffice it to say, the current system sucks for a variety of political, economic, and cultural reasons that I’ll address at a future date.

But the problems endemic to U.S. healthcare did not prevent us from taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves from a virus that, given our comorbidities, would most certainly have put our lives at risk. I have been confident in the guidance of my doctors who have kept me alive all these years and who have been at my sister’s side during what has been the most difficult year of her life. Every doctor bar none recommended that we get ourselves inoculated to protect against a potentially deadly COVID-19 infection. I am happy to report that whatever illnesses have plagued us, none of us has been infected by that coronavirus. We’ve got enough problems! Yes, breakthrough infections are possible, but they remain rare. We think we’ve done all that we can to fight off one more layer of catastrophic illness in the Sciabarra household.

In the end, I remain vigilant against Authority, even as I’ve taken a third Booster (and will take any additional boosters as might become necessary, even if they are among annual shots, like those for the flu). I do this because Self Care is as important as Caregiving. For unless I take care of myself, I will lose the capacity to take care of the people I love. I will not become a transmission belt for an infection that most assuredly could kill my own immuno-compromised sister.

I leave it to others to decide what path they will take. I only know that after my sister’s umpteen hospitalizations over the last year, I can look at this photo of her, taken on Halloween, and know in my heart that I’ve done everything I possibly can to keep her out of harm’s way. Her smile says it all.

DWR (1): Take What You Want and Move the F&*K On!

This is a Facebook post from my friend Ryan Neugebauer (part of what I’m calling my DWR or “Dialogues with Ryan” series). I’m reposting it here because I’ve been thinking the same thing for a long time, given my experiences on social media. From Ryan:

I’ve noticed that there are trends for hating on certain thinkers/figures in different political spheres. People in both groups will chastise them and make them out to be valueless.”In left-wing spaces it will be Ayn Rand or some free-market economist (Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, or Friedman). In right-wing spaces it will be Karl Marx, Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, or some self-described Socialist politician.

I have NO USE for this kind of tribalism. I take insights from thinkers across the political spectrum. I’ve read people like Edmund Burke, G.K. Chesterton, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Benjamin Tucker, Mikhail Bakunin, P.J. Proudhon, Kevin Carson, and numerous others. Some of those are Traditionalist Conservatives, Classical Liberals/Right-Libertarians, left-wing Anarchists, as well as State Socialists & Social Democrats.

I have disagreements with all of the thinkers I read. Some more than others for sure. But I won’t throw an entire person out just because of significant disagreements. I won’t pretend they don’t have insights just because I really hate something they say. I take the good, understand and reject the bad, and simply move on.

It’s important to learn to engage diverse thinkers and not close yourself out. It’s also important to be reasonably charitable and not write someone off entirely unnecessarily.

Though this approach will not help you with group membership in a political tribe, it will help you with being a better thinker and a better interlocutor. So please choose that over fitting in.

And let me just add: If you’re not capable of thinking outside the square of a stultifying ideology, you’re impoverishing your own critical thinking abilities. My own approach for every thinker I’ve ever read has always been the same: Take what gems you can find in each writer and/or school of thought you are exposed to; criticize that which you reject (but PLEASE, OH PLEASE understand what you’re accepting and what you’re rejecting!), and MOVE THE F&*K ON!*

* This is a play on the old Spanish proverb often quoted by Ayn Rand and her followers: “God said, take what you want and pay for it.”

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, I made these additional points:

1. Evil may be real, and we can call it for what it is. But there are many insights that one can glean from thinkers that many libertarians and Objectivists might consider “evil”. Many of those on the left brand Rand and Hayek as evil, as apologists for a system of exploitation, but if left-winger Slavoj Zizek can find value in Ayn Rand, and “postmodernist” Michel Foucault can find value in F. A. Hayek, surely those on the other side of the divide can find something of value in the works of Hegel, Marx, Engels, and others.I, myself, give enormous credit to Marx for bringing a dialectical sensibility to the analysis of social relations. As I point out in my “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy” (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism), it was Hegel who viewed Aristotle as the “fountainhead” of dialectical inquiry (and he used that word), which compelled the theorist to look at every issue, problem, or event by tracing its relations to other issues, problems or events within a wider system across time. Both Marx and Engels did enormously important work in applying these insights to the analysis of social systems, crediting Aristotle (in the words of Engels) as “the Hegel of the ancient world,” among “the old Greek philosophers [who] were all born natural dialecticians … the most encyclopaedic intellect of them, [who] had already analyzed the most essential forms of dialectic thought.”

Even Lenin (!) worked on a lengthy treatise dealing with dialectics, in which he praised Aristotle for providing theorists with “the living germs of dialectics and inquiries about it.”

One can reject so much in Hegel, Marx, Engels, and others, and still marvel at the ways in which they applied this essentially Aristotelian mode of inquiry to the analysis of social relations, systems, and dynamics. The whole point of my own trilogy was to reconstruct that mode of inquiry as a tool that could be used fruitfully by libertarian social theorists. And for this project, I had to face the wrath of scores of folks who labeled me a nutjob.

Well, I may still be a nutjob—but I stand by my conviction that dialectical inquiry is something of great value, and that there is much to be gained by studying the works of those on the left who have used it. I may disagree with many of their conclusions, but I can still give credit where credit is due and, as I said in my post, “move the f&*k on.”

2. As someone who embraces dialectical method (the art of context-keeping), it is context above all that matters here. Which is why we can take the gems from other thinkers and reinvent them, reconstruct them, invert them, and place them in a larger context that speaks to the real conditions that exist, in our attempts to change them fundamentally.