Being unmasked as unshot and unjabbed

A Metaphysical Reflection in a Time of Pandemic

There is an unprecedented global agreement among authorities about the desirability, if not the necessity, of universal vaccination. Via the media, government propaganda urges people to get their “shots” or “jabs”. Health authorities echo the urgency otherwise in the quest for herd immunity as a key to a return to normality. In the absence of any Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, being vaccinated is being crafted as a human obligation.

Those who hesitate are variously criticized for failing “to do the right thing”. Emergency measures are announced to render such vaccination mandatory for many categories of the population. Those who actively oppose vaccination, if they have the ability to do so, are deprecated as “anti-vaxxers” and may be the subject of more powerful measures of persuasion. There is even the possibility that some may be interned — consistent with wartime practices of the past.

The following is a reflection on the existential condition of being “unshot” and “unjabbed” — and being “unmasked” as such. This follows from the sense in which “being shot” has fatal implications in many situations, most particularly in warfare, but possibly in civil violence. It has been an option for the treatment of conscientious objectors. Similarly “being jabbed” is a common experience in violent confrontations and disputes — and typically as part of bullying and “being mugged” in the street. It may well be characteristic of violence in institutional and workplace settings. It is typically not fatal, but may well be harmful — even to the point of requiring medical treatment.

Whilst personal recognition of being “unshot” and “unvaxxed” may indeed be a matter for private reflection, as with being “unjabbed”, the experience is reframed when one is “unmasked” as being in that condition by one’s community or in the eyes of authorities following imposition of health passports. Such unmasking may resemble the experience of being recognized as having issues of gender identity, or of having unusual inclinations conventionally deprecated. In more extreme cases the public unmasking may take the form of indictment for civil or criminal offences. Such unmasking may well be rendered public by the media, possibly with exaggerated and unwelcome implications.

The question here is however the nature of the experience of being unshot or unjabbed — especially given the absence of any physical evidence. What implications does it have for one’s sense of identity and of being? If being shot can confirm identity in a community and in society, does being unshot call this possibility into question in a radically fundamental manner — even to the point of recalling the contrasts famously explored by Jean-Paul Sartre (Being and Nothingness: an essay on phenomenological ontology, 1943).

Is there a sense in which it is becoming impossible to “be” without being “shot” — possibly evoking the famous question framed by William Shakespeare: To be, or not to be that is the question? The exploration is complicated by the degree to which “shot” features as a metaphor in many domains which have borrowed from its obvious military connotations. This is evident in its use with respect to vaccination, to stimulants, to initiatives, to photography — as with related use of “shooting” and “target”. Who is not thereby entangled cognitively in a militaristic confrontation with reality — especially in a period in which discourse regarding the pandemic has become an arena of memetic warfare? (COVID-19 as a Memetic Disease — an epidemic of panic, 2020).

Such questions acquire new relevance in the light of the catastrophic upshot in August 2021 to the decades-long intervention in Afghanistan to which the best of Western military strategy has been applied at a cost of over $2 trillion and many lives. Under the leadership of a succession of US generals, each general had been given the opportunity to “have a shot” at curtailing and suppressing the Taliban. With the pandemic framed as a war, and COVID-19 as the “new Taliban”, is the same unimaginative style of thinking now only too evident — with no alternative considered? Does global governance ever imagine the possibility of a Plan B?

TRANSCEND Media Service

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