What is the purpose of your journey?

What is the purpose of your journey?

Many people will be familiar with this question from Garda (Irish police) checkpoints over the Coronavirus lock-down travel restrictions that operated within the Republic of Ireland between 2020 and 2021. To me, that question felt like an annoying intrusion into privacy. Others may have felt safer that our movements were being policed. But if we take the question out of context, I think we’ll all agree that it becomes the deepest philosophical question of all: “What is the purpose of your journey?” Why are you doing what you do? What is so important to you that you prioritise doing some things over others?

Covid roadside philosophical conversation
What is the purpose of your journey?

Those who don’t want to think about, or see the importance of discussing the philosophical questions of life with regard to Covid miss the point that the measures taken so far regarding Covid have affected every important aspect of life including the freedom of assembly, bodily autonomy, the freedom to socialise, pursue our passions, work, travel, play sports, hold dances, meet the people we know and love and meet the people we don’t yet know and love. We need Covid strategies within the game of life, not life strategies within the game of Covid.

Readers of “The Happiness Directive” article will know that I think individual and societal happiness is largely the essential purpose of our journey, but successive governments here in Ireland and abroad beg to differ.

One metric to rule them all

In Ireland we’ve been told for decades that the purpose of our journey is to serve the economy, and the near unquestionable metric of importance during the Celtic Tiger years was economic growth. Of those who “talked down” the economy, the Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland at the time – Bertie Ahern – said “I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide” while delivering a speech to a trade union in 2007. Most people are aware that it’s not politically correct to belittle mental health, but few people grasp how fundamentally misguided it is to champion the measurement of an indicator such as economic growth, and promote (even in jest) the growth of suicide – the most solid measurement of unhappiness there is, and therefore the opposite of what should be, I think, our ultimate aim: happiness.

To use one of Mr Ahern’s catchphrases, the seemingly unending economic growth did “in-fact-a” hit the proverbial brick wall of a ghost-estate in 2008 and we entered the Great Recession. The Irish government decreed that the banks would not be allowed to fail and used public money to shore up massive private debts. This became too much for a little state in recession and two years later Ireland itself accepted a bailout from the IMF and EU along with stringent austerity conditions to cut public spending. Suffice to say this did not make people happy either.

Successive governments have had their priorities mixed up regarding the place and usefulness of economic growth, and that habit of focusing on a single strategy in the journey of life persists in how we are dealing with SARS-CoV-2.

The banks can’t be allowed to fail and neither can the vaccines

In Ireland the public paid the heavy price of bailing out the banks for committing to the impossible aim of continuous economic growth. Just over a decade later it is fitting that Fianna Fáil are back in government indemnifying the pharmaceutical industry roll-out of experimental Covid-19 vaccines and outlawing healthy human behaviour for extended periods. This blind wedding to a couple of highly questionable tactics could cause much more damage than the bailout did just 12 years ago.

There is a still-unexplained bias in the counting of Covid-19 deaths – at the beginning, all of those who died who were Covid-19 positive by PCR test within a certain period or suspected of dying of Covid were counted as dying with “Covid-19 virus identified and virus unidentified” (Central Statistics Office terminology) regardless of possible life-threatening underlying conditions. I don’t know if this has changed yet. In the media this often became further obscured as “Covid-19 deaths”. Will all of those who die at some stage after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine be counted as vaccine deaths? It would also be irresponsible and inaccurate to do so. Now however the state has a financial incentive to under-report vaccine side-effects and deaths as it will be footing the bill for any vaccine-harm identified and proven as such.

Those who doubt the Irish State’s ability to shirk responsibility and fight those they have harmed do not need to look far back into our history to remember how it fought survivors of a shameful list of state-sanctioned misdeeds including those injured by earlier ill-advised pandemic vaccine roll-outs.

Pandemrix Déjà vu

In 2009 the Swine flu pandemic was announced and while promoting the use of a new vaccine called “Pandemrix” the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said there was “nothing to be worried about”.

However many children developed narcolepsy after taking that vaccine. Click here for an Irish Independent newspaper report in 2016 about the Irish State deciding to fight compensating those cases and click here for a news report in 2020 on the resolution of a test case when the State eventually settled by making a payout (without admitting liability) to a boy who developed narcolepsy after taking a Swine flu vaccination and now is on medication for life and unable to play sports. An HSE report found that 5 to 19 year olds who took the vaccine became 13 to 14 times more likely to develop narcolepsy than those who did not. There were about 100 more similar cases pending in Ireland.

Here is a an excerpt from an RTE report in 2009:

The Department of Health has moved to reassure the public about the safety of the swine flu vaccine, following concerns in Germany about a medicine which has been ordered for use in Ireland.

One German medical organisation has advised against using Pandemrix because of concerns about the safety of a booster substance used in it.

However Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said there was nothing to be worried about.


Reading these recent reports about what happened the last time an under-tested vaccine was rolled out is unsettling when juxtaposed with the fantasy again being woven about the moral imperative of universal Covid-19 vaccination.

Protecting our young people

I would encourage parents to ignore the social media misinformation, there is a lot of nonsense out there, there is a lot of scaremongering out there … Yesterday, I announced that the vaccine registration portal was opening to all those aged 16 and 17 years old and today’s announcement is an important step in offering that same protection to our younger population.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly

Reading the above quote one would assume that our teenagers and children are in some serious danger from Covid-19. We get a barrage of statistical information about rising cases in the younger cohorts of society but precious little in terms of outcomes. Thankfully the Irish Central Statistics Office have published some relevant data.

The “Vital Statistics Yearly Summary” for 2020 was published on the 28th of May 2021 and is available here: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-vsys/vitalstatisticsyearlysummary2020/

From that data set of 31,765 deaths in 2020 I composed the following graph in excel to try to visualise death by age group and cause:

Death by age group and cause Ireland 2020. source data from CSo.ie

The with “Covid-19 virus identified and virus unidentified” toll is highlighted in orange near the top of each age category from 25 years old upwards. There were no Covid related or suspected deaths in any category under 25 years old.

The with “Covid-19 virus identified and virus unidentified” contribution to death in the younger cohorts gets a bit lost when showing all causes and all ages so I composed another graph for the under 65s showing death with “Covid-19 virus identified and virus unidentified”, suicide and some of the accidental death categories:

RIsk of Death from COVID Compared to suicide and SOme of the Accident Categories. Source Data: CSO.ie

Some 2020 points of interest:

  • In the under 25s there were no deaths with or suspected with Covid but there were 51 suicides.
  • 25 to 34 year olds were nearly 12 times more likely to die from suicide than with Covid-19 or suspected with
  • 35 to 44 year olds were over 9 times more likely to commit suicide than die with or Covid-19 or suspected with
  • 45 to 54 year olds were 3.8 times more likely to commit suicide than die with Covid-19 or suspected
  • Between the ages of 55 and 64 years old risk of death with or suspected of being with Covid-19 was slightly greater than from suicide.

A more up-to-date data-set called “Covid-19 Deaths and Cases” was published on the 7th of May 2021 and is available here: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/br/b-cdc/covid-19deathsandcasesseries30/

This is all the CSO data of death with Covid-19 up to the 30th of April 2021. The Covid figures in this data-set are smaller proportionally I think as they only count “confirmed” cases, as opposed to confirmed and suspected cases.

Composing a graph of “Covid-19 confirmed deaths” by age group we get:

COvid-19 deaths in Ireland to April 30th 2021. Source Data: CSO.ie

There were six “Covid-19 confirmed deaths” in the 25 to 44 year old age bracket for the period but I would have to make the graph extremely tall for them to become visible here.

I don’t know how many young people became seriously ill with Covid during the periods in question, but these statistics show that as we descend the age categories, the risk of death with Covid-19 in Ireland approached zero, and that young people throughout the pandemic so far have had greater mortal risks to contend with, especially in mental health.

The known potential side-effects from the various Covid-19 vaccinations on offer however are significant and so in September 2021 the British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that there was insufficient evidence to offer vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years old.

In a letter to the UK government dated 13th September however the UK’s four chief medical officers decided that the mass vaccination of this age group could be justified on wider grounds than just the “health benefits and risks of vaccination” considered by the JCVI.

“The additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm from educational disruption, on balance provide sufficient extra advantage in addition to the marginal advantage at an individual level identified by the JCVI to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group.”

Letter to the UK ministers of health from the UK chief medical officers 13th Sept 2021

I hope it goes without saying that when the authorities have to search like this for grounds to use experimental pharmaceutical products on children there is a deep ethical problem. It’s case of allowing a tactic (vaccination) to usurp the strategy (herd-immunity) and objective (health) that it is supposed to serve. See the earlier article “The Happiness Directive” for a detailed discussion on this concept.

Indefinite lock-down

At the dawn of the lock-down era the government published lists of what it deemed constituted essential journeys and essential services that were permitted to continue operating. You can look at the essential services list for Level 5 (the highest) restrictions here. In the main it deals with the physical practicalities of life such as ensuring the continuation of the production of and access to food, energy, shelter, media and supplies for the treatment of some of our physical ailments. The temporary restriction of social contact was the aim of the game in order to “flatten the curve” of infections so that those requiring medical treatment would not outstrip our hospital capacity. This temporary guidance seemed like a reasonable proposition to the vast majority of people as evidenced by the widespread compliance with advice to stay at home in the Spring of 2020, way before the restrictions became law and enforceable with legal penalties.

When normal social contact is withdrawn for an extended period however, we soon realise that all of those permitted essential services and products are quite meaningless if we are not happy. For me a free and varied social life is a cornerstone of happiness. The extended removal of a normal social life is the worst form of penalty that can be bestowed upon a conviction in our courts and now that most of us have had a taste of it we can’t fool ourselves that prison has any rehabilitative qualities. We generally come out of isolation more addicted, more overweight and sicker than ever. It pains me to have to point out that as a society we are now in worse condition to naturally deal with this virus, future variants or whatever other challenges will come along. For many us who lived alone and worked alone or were unemployed during the periods of highest restrictions, life at times reassembled solitary confinement – the worst form of punishment in prison. Its worth remembering that the United Nations considers solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be torture.

Some people have found lockdown very hard”

man cannot live on bread alone
“Some people are finding it very hard”

To some people, especially those in a busy domestic situation, living with friends or a young family, these descriptions of isolation may be hard to imagine. Starvation is also hard to imagine for those of us who have never gone without food for an extended period, but that doesn’t make it less real for those who do. Starving people sometimes resort to eating things that aren’t really food and become even sicker or die. People deprived social contact often resort to watching Netflix or such, which although somewhat imitates socialising in that we hear and see people, doesn’t nourish the soul. It becomes an addiction that makes us sicker, and when a real social opportunity comes along, people often find it easier and safer to stay at home, whacking up on the next Netflix series, a few cans of beer and some chocolate (if it isn’t all gone).

For all the hot air expelled by officialdom in recent decades about the importance of mental health, the powers that be either don’t really care about it or else still haven’t the foggiest clue as to what it is. Being told to look after our mental health when much of what feeds it is illegal or deemed immoral is like telling people to eat well during a famine.

Look after your mental health

The graveyard of inspiration

No people who turn their back on death can be alive. The presence of the dead among the living will be a daily fact in any society which encourages its people to live.

A Pattern Language, Alexander et al, 1977

When I was younger, seeing graveyards was a terrible reminder of my own mortality and that of everyone I held dear. In recent years however, graveyards have become a source of inspiration for me – they are a great reminder to make sure I do what I want with my life now, as I know neither the day nor the hour it will end. I appreciate that growing up and living in Ireland was a blessing at least regarding the prevailing Irish cultural attitude to death: there is always sadness with the passing of a loved one, but when that person has lived a full life with few regrets then a funeral here is as much an occasion to celebrate as to mourn. However if the deceased is young, or an older person whom you know had a hard life or didn’t live it to the fullest, then it is a sad occasion indeed.

I hope this healthy attitude to death is not purged in the current cultural revolution where every death from or attached to Covid is deemed tragic by people who, however intelligent or eminent in their professions, don’t seem to have much insight into the meaning of life. It is debatable whether the measures imposed will ultimately prolong our lives (and those of subsequent generations) or shorten them, but I would say they have certainly made them less full.

The aim of life isn’t to stay alive

If living were the aim of life then there wouldn’t be any suicide. I don’t think the concept of suicide would even enter our consciousness at all as we would all be too content achieving our highest aim of just living. People who think that the highest aim of life is to stay alive are in for a big disappointment sooner or later because as far as I know every living being is born with a 100% risk of death. To be happy while we are alive is, I think, a more realistic and enjoyable goal.

I think that the main reason people consider suicide is not just that they are unhappy but that they don’t see any possibility of happiness on the horizon.

How long can you hold your breath for?

I just tried to see how long I can hold my breath and managed to do so for a minute. The first 15 seconds are not very different to the interval between very slow breathing. At 30 seconds it was still fairly easy. At 45 seconds I’m considering breathing and from there on I am really just holding on to see can I do a minute. If I learned some breathing techniques I’m sure I could go longer and If I added training to that, longer again. It’s certain though that at some stage I will breath. Even if I were to pass out from lack of oxygen to the brain I would (hopefully) begin breathing again then.

We can go without food for much longer. A few years ago I had a number of health problems that didn’t resolve themselves despite my thinking that I had a relatively healthy diet and lifestyle. In desperation I went on fast for a day to see would things improve. After skipping the first meal I was hungry but noticed I was no longer tired and sluggish. As I read up more on the health benefits of fasting I decided to extend it for another day. After two days the pain and aches in my joints that I had felt for years were gone. The experiment was paying very fast dividends and it became a physical and spiritual journey. After three days and four nights I didn’t have much energy and started eating again, but had read and watched enough on the subject to switch from my formerly high carbohydrate and sugar diet to one based primarily on natural fats as a source of fuel. When we have been unknowingly poisoning ourselves every day for years, ill health becomes normalised and accepted. I think many people are unwittingly in this situation.

Up to then I had been quite susceptible to colds and cold-sores, perhaps getting them about once a month but since then have barely had a sniffle and only the very rare early warnings of a cold-sore before they resolve themselves. The mechanism of immune system repair via autophagy is proven and becoming recognised in mainstream medicine. You can read a paper about it here in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is all important information for our health, particularly in restoring our natural resilience to viruses, but is secondary to the point I want to make here: no matter how good at holding our breath we are, it is temporary and if we don’t breathe again soon we will die. No matter how much reserves we have, if we don’t eat at some stage we will eventually die of starvation. A more likely outcome, despite possible intentions otherwise, is that we will decide to breathe and eat to preserve our lives.

Before researchers become researchers they should become philosophers. They should consider what the human goal is, what it is that humanity should create. Doctors should first determine at the fundamental level what it is that human beings depend on for life…

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution

The analogy I am making is that socialising is as fundamental to human life as breathing and eating. As with fasting, a short break from socialising may be healthy, but ordering people to withdraw from normal socialising for an indefinite period will do damage and ultimately will not be respected.

At the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020, for many of us it was very easy to stay at home and catch up on our gardening or other interests. As time went on however it seems many of us developed an a la carte-style restrictions compliance, choosing which ones to abide by and breaking the ones that were most inconvenient when we wanted to. In the majority of cases I would say there is no relationship between the type, timing and usefulness of which rules were broken. They were all rules imposed rather than rules agreed after all.

I propose that public health guidelines in future be based on the characteristics and lifecycle of whatever pathogen we are dealing with and the characteristics and lifecycle of humans. This would be have a much better chance of adoption, success in flattening curves and would result in far fewer of the negative short and long term side-effects that the past and current strategies are causing.

Covid strategies within the game of life

As the situation stands in Ireland in October 2021, a two tier society has been signed into law with the vaccinated (and those who can prove that they have recovered from Covid) granted special status for accessing indoor hospitality, and any other services as may be specified by the Minister of Health later on.

For those who want to, or need to access such services (most of us I would say) but don’t want to take the shots on offer, there is an unwritten incentive to get infected and get a positive PCR test proving it. Of course, after however long the pass is valid for (in Israel its 6 months) we may be marked “invalid” again unless we can get re-infected (which may not be possible) or take whatever shots will be on offer then.

As expected the government in Ireland has reneged on its promise to end most Covid restrictions on October 22nd 2021, citing a rising trend in Covid cases. It’s somewhat of a relief that this is happening now rather than after a few weeks of relative freedom – the public hate-mongering against the unvaccinated is bad enough without having universal freedom spuriously correlated with the seasonal rise in respiratory disease.

The current vaccination tactic of dealing with Covid is dangerous, and the immunity accrued by it is now being shown to be temporary. Some discussion on potential past, present and future alternative tactics to lock-down and vaccination is overdue.

Volunteer corps

At the beginning at the pandemic, it was broadcasted how dangerous the virus was to the older, sicker and certain other demographics of the population, and flattening the curve was the mantra to avoid hospital overload. Back then the sense of emergency was such that I thought a potentially viable strategy would be to encourage the entire population to undergo a period of health restoration and immunity rebuilding, hospital capacity building (we should still do all of this) and to establish a volunteer corp of the young and healthy portions of the population who have recovered from a SARS-Cov-2 infection to receive training in essential services, particularly with regard to the care of the elderly and infirm. With conferred immunity they would be on call for community service as required.

Another idea was to run much shorter periods of voluntary social restriction alternated with periods of social freedom for all who choose it. The length of these periods would be informed by the characteristics of the virus and by our social needs.

Vive la weekend

As the majority of people recover from infection, for most people I hope the main worry is not contracting SARS-CoV-2 but passing it onto someone in a vulnerable demographic. After a year and a half of 24hr news and propaganda barrage regarding Covid, we should know that SARS-CoV-2 has an incubation period of between 2 to 14 days. In the vast majority of cases, symptoms, if they appear will do so before 10 days, and this is used as the outer limit for self-isolation in Ireland after exposure. This is the period when infected people become contagious, and in the vast majority of cases, symptoms will appear in this period if they are to appear at all. There has been little talk about the pre-incubation period however – the period between infection and infectiousness. Those 2 days (at least) could have been used to give vital social breathing space to society. Two days is 48 hours, and is longer than the period from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

Even before widespread rapid testing became available, these characteristics of the virus could have given conscientious citizens freedom to socialise one weekend a fortnight with a significant risk of catching, but not of spreading the virus beyond their household. Partying once a fortnight is more regular than what alot of people get in normal times. Possibly some asymptomatic cases would get through and maybe some with very late incubation but we had a more realistic aim then of flattening the curve, not crushing it. I think some such system would have better maintained mental health and sustained the good-will of people towards any reasonable public health measures in the long term.

Antigen Testing

The antigen test tests whether or not you are likely to be in the contagious phase of a SARS-CoV-2 infection whereas the sensitivity of a high cycle PCR test tell whether you are likely to have any amount of the virus in your body whatsoever. The latter can pick up people who are not contagious and even people who have recently recovered from infection and are definitely not a risk of spreading. In terms of speed, cost, usefulness and practicality for deciding whether or not to restrict ones social movements or not, the antigen test is obviously far more appropriate.

With rapid antigen testing available, we could have been partying every weekend with little to fear as regarding unintentional spread, assuming it is fit for purpose, easy to use and widely adopted. Everyone who wanted to socialise without worrying about spreading Covid could do a test on Friday afternoon. If it’s positive it’s unfortunate that you’d miss that weekend’s socialising but you could be happy that you’d probably recover soon and have natural immunity thereafter.

Party on: A negative home antigen test

“Opening slowly and carefully”

If we accept the conventional theories on transmission and spread of the virus then the tactic of “slowly and carefully reopening” is not sensible if we want to flatten curves of infection. The gradual opening of “the economy” in Ireland is designed just for that – the economy. To me it’s not based on virus or human characteristics. Back in the summer of 2020, before the virus became endemic, and – though largely seasonally driven – when the first lockdown seemed to have an effect on lowering transmission, the safest time for socialising freely would have been straight after a lockdown. Instead the pattern has been to build up, slowly opening, allowing the virus to circulate more, culminating with a period of relative freedom when the virus is well established again. The authorities are then somehow surprised that infections spike and decide to lock us down again for an indefinite period.

Short periods of complete freedom alternated with short periods of conscientious voluntary restraint would have been much more enjoyable, more human and I think more effective in breaking transmission chains. The best public health measures are the ones that stand a chance of being adhered to.

These are ideas for emergencies when there isn’t much slack in the health system. If there’s capacity (and we really should plan to have capacity) then we should live normal lives and save up our ability to adhere to voluntary social restrictions for when it counts the most. Like fasting and holding our breath, our capacity for withdrawal from society has limited reserves and should be used sparingly and not for continuous indefinite periods.

These are basic ideas that would need some work. They wouldn’t work very well for those living or working with people of a vulnerable demographic for example. (The recovered volunteer corp could step in however to mind them while the young people take a break and maybe get infected/recovered.) The foundation however is simple: a recognition of our social needs, the maintenance of our human rights and an absolute overhaul of the predominant diet and lifestyles that make so many of us vulnerable to illness to begin with. A radical alteration to our consumption habits is the foundation for addressing both our health and environmental problems, but addicts rarely want to quit, and whats worse is that we are addicts in denial that we have a problem. There is a long way to go.

(Covid) Pass Maths

It’s beginning to dawn on people that the Covid vaccination is not a one off, and the vaccine passport system is here to stay if we allow it. Naturally acquiring SARS-CoV-2 is not very appealing to me, but the prospect of a lifetime of injections to genetically modify some of the normally healthy cells in my body to grow bits of yesterday’s virus variant is even less appealing. I’d prefer to deal with SARS-Cov-2 now while I’m relatively young and healthy.

Around the world breakthrough infections in the vaccinated cohorts of society are showing that there is only a 5 to 6 month window of substantially increased immunity to Covid-19 conferred after taking the shots. In Israel this has been reflected in law meaning their Covid Pass now expires after 6 months unless a booster is taken.

I’m forty years old. Suppose I were to live to eighty and the Israeli system were adopted here and retained indefinitely. Under those circumstances, if I wished to retain my rights to go to the pub, go dancing, or access other services as the minister may decide (or travel abroad unless I can provide a negative PCR test), I would need to become and stay vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 for the next 40 years.

Divide 40 years by 6 months = about 80 injections if the boosters are only one shot. This is only for one virus that it’s very likely I could handle on my own. Obviously the concept of a vaccine passport opens the door to other requirements such as mandatory seasonal flu shots or more products for whatever other microbes come along in the meantime.

The sums are even worse for children. A 12 year old child, (who if anyway reasonably healthy is practically safe from serious Covid), living to the age of 80 years old, under the situation described above would be facing 68 years of jabs. Divide this by 6 months of freedom = 132 doses of genetically modifying booster vaccinations for a virus it is extremely likely they can handle on their own.

If you are an adult you’ve a grown up choice to make about whether to take these injections or not. It’s difficult even for us adults given the lack of perspective on offer regarding this topic. The concept however of subjecting the younger generations in society to this experiment and setting them on a lifetime course of new pharmaceuticals (and their attendant side-effects) that they most likely don’t need is the stuff of scary science-fiction. The proposition has been so fast that I think many people are stunned and unable to process the new reality which is rapidly establishing itself.

Do we really care about future generations?

If serious “unknown unknown” problems surface (see The happiness directive for a discussion on this) for the older vaccinated generations of society it will be one of the greatest tragedies in history. If we inject the children and young adults and such problems arise it could alter humanity itself. We are hypocrites if we curse the fathers of the industrial revolution who in the 1700s blindly set the in motion the events that have led to climate breakdown in our day if we lack such vision ourselves. We need 300 year planning, not 6 month gambling if we are to avoid similar errors. Our current course is setting up future generations for an inheritance of utter dependence on the pharmaceutical industry on a despoiled planet. The decades of marketing ploys selling products such as life assurance and eco-cars on the basis of concern for our children and future generations can be seen for the charade it is if deep down we are only concerned with the next few months of our own lives.

I think, however, that with basic facts and some reprieve from the 24hr media barrage to take time to think, we can come to wise conclusions. Our lives are transient but they have meaning, purpose and can be beautiful. What is the purpose of your journey? I think that if we try to answer this question we will be in a position to begin deciding what to do.