Loving their servitude
It should come as no surprise that the institutions that gave us “safe spaces” to protect students from uncomfortable political beliefs have now embraced a form of therapeutic totalitarianism designed to keep students safe from COVID.
Independent journalist Michael Tracy and Reason editor Robby Soave have each written at length about the “permanent surveillance state” being built by academia. Their findings are disturbing.
- Columbia University has forbidden students from hosting guests, visiting residence halls other than their own, and gathering with more than ten people.
- Connecticut College has imposed a “cautionary quarantine” on its student body and restricted its students to socializing with a maximum of three students, outside, socially distanced, and wearing masks.
- At Georgetown, students may not remove their masks in class to ask questions or to drink water.
- At the University of Southern California, students may not eat or drink in the building.
- Brown University has announced that students are forbidden to gather in groups of more than five, whether indoors or outdoors. They are no longer permitted to eat in the cafeteria, and must instead pick up their meals and eat elsewhere, keeping a mask on at all other times.
Even worse, a snitch culture, reminiscent of East Germany, has taken hold. The Dean at Connecticut College is reported as saying (on a zoom call) that “Moving forward, none of you should be OK with people not having a mask on inside, or not having it properly worn.”
“Deans at Georgetown University and the University of Southern California have also been sending out these imperious injunctions for students to rat out the alleged violators among them, or as USC Law School Andrew T. Guzman put it in that typically manipulative style: ‘non-compliant members of our community.’ What’s a ‘non-compliant member’ of the USC ‘community,’ exactly? Someone who engages in unsanctioned indoor ‘hydration.’ No, I’m not kidding.”
And bear in mind, all of these institutions require students to be fully vaccinated. Few population cohorts are safer from COVID than vaccinated 18-to-22-year-olds, yet these students are being told that they are at risk of dying if they engage in any amount of socializing or non-masking.
“Vaccination was never the gateway to normalcy it was presented to be,” Tracy concludes, “and the only option is apparently to instate ‘Permanent Emergency’ protocols with no cognizable ‘off-ramp’ in sight.”
Most disheartening of all is that the students appear to be accepting these infringements on their liberties with hardly a whimper (and are happily forking over $50,000 a year and up for the privilege).
“One might have expected students to rebel against these measures,” Robby Soave writes. “Many campuses contain a loud and active contingent of injustice-minded protesters. But if young people at Columbia, Harvard, and elsewhere are fed up with mandatory masking and social distancing, they certainly aren't saying so. In fact, some students seem to be eagerly reporting each other for COVID-19 noncompliance. And at campuses where the mitigation efforts are less militant, students have actually protested the lack of enforcement. University of Iowa students recently held a ‘die-in’ to demand that the administration pause ‘all non-essential in person events’ and implement a mask mandate.”
Many have seen parallels in this creeping authoritarianism to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But a closer analogy to our current predicament can be found in the novel Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, Orwell’s high school French teacher.
Orwell’s novel presents an oppressive state ruled by terror and torture, whereas Huxley’s novel, published 17 years earlier, envisions a subtler way of imposing repression. The world's rulers, Huxley predicted, will discover that conditioning and medication “are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”
That appears to sum up the state of academia today: students loving the servitude to their health overlords (“stay safe!”).
And, unfortunately, what happens at the colleges no longer stays there. As Andrew Sullivan famously wrote, “We all live on campus now.” By which he meant that, at one time, students left the cloistered world of academia and had to adjust to the wider world. Now, the wider world has to adjust to them.
If recent history is any guide, Soave writes, “we should be terrified that the current crop of college students might leave campus possessed of the notion that the most insane version of pandemic oppression is perfectly normal and desirable.”
If so, then the next stop is a full police state -- e.g., Australia.
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