Equating discrimination based on inherent characteristics with discrimination based on failure to behave in a way that makes you safe to others and others safe to you is, frankly, a travesty that debases the premise of discrimination.

I had a friend many years ago who launched the Campaign Against Ingrown Toenails. Your sign photo lives in the same camp.

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To me "mixed feelings" is the only reasonable reaction to the general question of mandates. I don't know how anyone could be comfortable with vaccination not being a condition of employment for some people; for example, patient-facing nursing home staff. On the other hand, I'm very unhappy with the blanket comfort level around compulsion that's been expressed by most of my friends, even before the vaxes were FDA-approved. I'm supportive of some mandates, but I find it hard to even say so in an environment where there's so little acknowledgment of the extent to which mandates are an admission of failure and a serious overriding of individual self-determination.

There's a lot being said right now to the effect that mandates are "working". Well yes, if you have the power to take away someone's livelihood, then it's quite likely they'll do as you command. Force "works". To the extent that gets more jabs in arms, I'm glad to see it. But I'd like to also see some attention to the thousands of lost jobs, the further erosion of trust, the lasting consequences for those against whom force has been levied, the obligation to use compulsion as sparingly as possible, and what we could have done to avoid needing it in the first place.

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Picking up on David Zager's point about discrimination:

I think it would help the discourse a lot if we were to remember that "discrimination" is not per se a bad word.

Some kinds of discrimination are good! Litmus paper discriminates between acids and bases; our tongues discriminate between salty and sour flavors; airbags discriminate between gradual decelerations and violent crashes. We don't want airbags that go off indiscriminately!

What deserves our condemnation is unfair, unjust and irrelevant discrimination, discrimination on grounds unrelated to the question at hand, or motivated by racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

Women make just as good fighter pilots as men do, so to discriminate on the basis of sex in the selection of fighter pilots is wrong. However, people with poor vision do not make good pilots, so to discriminate against the blind in the selection of fighter pilots is not wrong. We *want* the air force to discriminate on the basis of vision tests; we don't want them putting people into pilot seats indiscriminately!

So too: there is nothing wrong with discriminating against active disease carriers, or people who may be active disease carriers, in situations in which their presence poses a danger to others. Hiring Typhoid Mary to cook in your hospital is a fatal mistake.

Shorter: we need to discriminate between permissible and impermissible discrimination, or otherwise we'll wind up with indiscriminate nonsense like that sign.

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The key phrase in the piece is “the polarisation machine.”

News media has nearly always been polarising to such a degree that’s it’s a business model - The Times for you, The Guardian for me, The Sun for them, all carving out an identity-based market niche over decades. These brands often offer different takes on the same facts having learned what their readers respond to. It’s how they stay in business.

This model predates the internet by at least decades and was the extant structure to be supercharged by social media when it arrived. And how. Real-time observation of what we like (enervation: shock, anger, divisiveness, etc) and algorithms feeding it back to us near-instantly combined with the difficult-to-grasp, sheer scale of it all - billions of people, most of the world now, reading a newspaper with the same name but feeding each reader personalised story selections, all different except for one common factor: the likelihood that it will make that person mad at someone else.

We’re living through a profound transformation of the machine that feeds us information about the outside world, aka News. It has become free to access, has a readership of basically everyone and is financially incentivised to divide. Divisive issues - race, gender, political teams - get the most response, therefore the most coverage, the most response and so on, and we get a seemingly endless cycle of this versus that, them versus us, me versus you.

Of COURSE we’re divided: it’s a fucking polarisation machine!

Thanks Zeynep, you rock in general.

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I’m a Vietnam-era veteran and I got the Moderna vaccinations from the VA when they came out last spring.

I was skeptical at the time about the speed with which these shots were introduced, but I talked to my son who is a medical school professor in Sweden, and he said the tests looked okay and just go ahead and do it.

On the other hand, his mother (my estranged wife), who lives in Japan, got the Pfizer shots a little while ago and got a reaction that landed her in the hospital for ten days of intravenous steroids. A one in ten million reaction.

So there are no guarantees in life.

When our son was in high school he was treated for cancer, and one thing I came to believe through that experience is that we each have "a physician within” who tends to know what is best in our own case if we really listen.

In any event, it’s a free country, and everyone should have a right to privacy especially where it pertains to the health of their own bodies. We make a mistake when we try to shame people into doing things, and we make mistakes when we judge ourselves superior to others. Deep down it’s a matter of trust.

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Here in Texas, the anti-discrimination language is out in full force. My partner was brought in by the Dean to send an apology e-mail to his class (Intro to Chemistry for Engineers) because he had his students watch a video about the physics of N95 masks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAdanPfQdCA ) - the parent of some student was very upset that it might mean he was discriminating against some students on the basis of whether or not they wear a mask, and also that the first five seconds of the video might be creating a hostile environment for students who don't support Black Lives Matter.

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I've been thinking about the vaccine refusal--as opposed to hesitancy, or straight-on anti-vaxery--for months now, getting mad at people, getting dissappointed, and finally, with the advent of mandates, getting concerned, because now those people have backed themselves into a corner. I have tried to find a way to empathize, see it their way, and the closest I can get is:

"You can't make me eat my broccoli."

Which, as far as I am concerned, is a pretty solid position. Was when I was six, at least. I avoided a lot broccoli just by holding out. Good thing my parents liked broccoli, helped make the situation go away.

But our government is not our parents, nor vice-versa. And I don't think that it is helpful for either the citizenry to assume the role of defiant child or the government to adopt the role of stern parent. I don't dissaggree with the mandates, I just don't know how it will end.

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Has anyone looked at this problem from the psychological standpoint of a narcissist-codependent relationship? It seems that these days MOST of our relationships have become a form of this (crazily enough created by the "it's all about you" marketing inculcation of the last 50 years.)

I see the classic, "I'm a hero in my own mind by debasing myself to follow an abuser" model everywhere, from politics to working for predatory corporations.

Confounding this is how we increasingly live in a mostly performative culture, where the presentation of self is more important than the actual value of self. Does an analysis of a celebrity's opinion and influence on mask-wearing versus vaccine side effects tell us anything about rational social behavior? Or does that itself lose the plot and make understanding further away.

Gotta think there's a lot more "crazy" out there than in any time of recent memory. And so I'd think that the best place to start is psychology not sociology, specifically how falible human perceptions and emotions are, and what forces set them off in individuals.

Certainly a lot of your excelent work does this, but I think we should start with taking out the social frame and look at how individuals are made crazy, then apply the narcissist-codependent frame and see how the soup is brewed. I think that would show a lot more helpless (unwitting) codependents than is recognized, like 80% of the population.

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I would like to note at the start that I am so strongly pro-vaccine that I flew to the US from Switzerland, where I live, to receive the J & J vaccine (Switzerland didn’t order enough doses, so the initial roll-out was slow for healthy adults under age 70).

That being said, I think that Switzerland has found a middle way for entry to public spaces that has led to less conflict and more cooperation. In order to enter restaurants, bars, sporting events, concerts, museums, etc., people living here must present a Covid Zertifikat—a QR code you carry on your phone in a special app. Workers check not only the code but also your ID, and they are very careful. Once we’re inside the venue, we can take off our masks.

People are much more accepting of this certificate here than in the US for a few reasons:

First, because there is a standard procedure for granting the certificates, and because workers check them carefully, we can be sure that people aren’t cheating; the certificates feel “fair.”

Second, the certificate grants privileges like being unmasked indoors safely, which we all appreciate.

Finally, and most important, you can get the certificate even without being vaccinated. People who have recovered from Covid can be certified through a doctor’s note, and people who neither have a doctor’s note nor want to be vaccinated can obtain a temporary certificate for a specific event by showing a negative Covid test.

I think the Swiss have struck a good balance. We shouldn’t base policy on issues of purity and good behavior. We should care about whether people can hurt other people or not. The addition of rapid testing and proof of recovery to the Covid certificate switches the focus from whether someone is following orders to whether they are safe to be around others, however that safety has been achieved.

Presciently, Dr. Tufecki has advocated for rapid testing from the beginning of the pandemic. Some people, for whatever reason, however frustrating or misguided, continue to refuse the vaccines. For them, rapid testing can be a good compromise.

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We've known for a while now that somewhere around 20% of the population isn't going to get vaccinated. It's a diverse group (including homeopathic medicine types, conspiracy theorists, faith healing religious groups), but it's also mainly working class people who did not attend college. At a certain point, it's probably going to be healthier for society to let the unvaccinated get their immunity from infection. It's certainly not ideal, but it can be managed, albeit painfully, as shown by the surge over the summer. The polarization isn't going anywhere, there is already a huge shortage of workers without vaccine mandates, and it would seem to be less un-healthy for society to just let the rest of the pandemic naturally run its course.

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First time I felt a knee jerk reaction to post a comment. Here goes!

My “first” family, i.e. my mom, one younger and one older sibling are all three vaccination-hesitant. My mom, soon turning 70, is more hesitant than opposed and is deeply influenced by external information and does little to translate it to find nuance. I am scared for her, I am afraid of both her being in pain and of losing her. I am scared for my older sister who actually laughed and me when I said I took my shots to help make everybody (including myself) more safe. You know the one your talking to feel like they need to protect their views with every means necessary (because they know they are probably wrong but won’t admit that to even themselves) when they yell and laugh at you when you simply don’t see eye to eye and you are very calm about it.

My little brother is a flat earth:er. At least he was, hasn’t come up for a few years now. I hope he thinks it’s a ball again. I haven’t even tried talking to him about anything serious for years. I just get so sad.

So my flesh and blood doesn’t see this pandemic the way I do. They don’t feel like they need to (or can) help protect everyone, they want to protect themselves first.. at least I think that’s what’s going on. As we never can have an actual conversation about it.

The polarized world is scary.

Even more so when you feel you might lose your family to the literal other side.

And at the same time I feel “I have the information I need” I also feel doubt about everything I read and hear. For surely I am in an information bubble too..

I know that fear is not going to help us reach each other. But what will?

Love, acceptance and kindness? They already feel they are using that themselves when they talk to me.. they feel I am at risk of going to the other side for taking the covid vaccines.

Like all conflicts that seldom or never resolve I’ve come to the conclusion to just drop it. I don’t want to argue anymore. I will handle my feelings of fear and frustration and meet them the only way we know how: without any real conversation about the state of the world we live in. I save that for people who can listen and respect me, no matter what their opinion is.

And what does this have to do with the sign?

Just take it down. Your family will never get you. Find your own and be friendly with everyone, vaccinated or not.

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There is a big difference between driving without a seatbelt and driving while intoxicated. The former an kill you.The later can make you a murderer.

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Wow, do I feel THIS. I feel really strongly about people getting vaccinated to protect one another. At the same time, I feel that we aren't addressing the other true, true need (in the U.S.) about where and how we are actually taking care of one another through actual health insurance (that's accessible and affordable) and health care, provision. Then I think about the ethics of it all and how we are really 'sharing the wealth' or not - in our own country and around the world -- in terms of vaccines, but also in terms of healthcare overall (including mental healthcare and mental health supports). I have mixed feelings about mandates -- I really see the need for them. I also really hear the fear from those that are unsure or against vaccination that this is some kind of 'slippery slope' -- that this is a form of discrimination (and what discrimination is next). I don't see it that way, but it makes me wonder about how people feel so distrustful of healthcare and that they feel that if something happens to them they won't be taken care of...or, they see this only in individual terms (they believe they'll be ok, so why worry about anyone else). On other hand, is it dangerous to ostracize people?

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Alexis de Tocqueville wrote and published, in 1835, some observations of the American system of holding politicians to account:

“If American lawmakers had wanted to invest society itself with the power to ward off great crimes as judges do, by sowing fear of punishment, they would have allowed political tribunals to avail themselves of all the resources of the penal code; instead they equipped those tribunals with a less than adequate weapon, one ill-suited to dealing with the most dangerous of criminals. For what does banishment from politics signify to a person bent on overthrowing the law itself?

The primary purpose of political judgment in the Unites States is therefore to withdraw power form a person who has made poor use of it and to prevent power from being granted to that same citizen in the future.” (p. 122, Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, tr. A. Goldhammer, Literary Classics of the United States, New York, N.Y., 2004)

Tocqueville was enthusiastic about this new relationship between government and the governed and he was careful to examine both the potential and the pitfalls of the government that had been in existence for approximately 60 years. His understanding of history and human nature gave him a prescience that is playing out even as we type and read. Tocqueville concludes about the American way of holding politicians to account, compared to that in France and England, “It is less fearsome as well as less effective.” (p. 123, op. cit.)

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The pandemic didn’t “turn it on.” It’s been brewing for years. Trump’s presidency brought it to a head. We’ve never actually settled or recovered from the Civil War and its legacy of ‘no-nothingness.’ The lull after WWII was actually just storm clouds gathering.

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American culture sites agency in the individual first, then the family, then larger-scale institutions. We drove off the road when we tried to supplant that by placing extraordinary power in political leaders, ceding to them a vast new realm of decisions. I see no way that could not have led to trouble.

Comity was further undermined by the extraordinary cascade of policy, scientific, and operational fiascoes that have characterized the response. We even provided a delightful series of symbolic moments as leader after leader was caught exempting themselves from the strictures they demanded of the public.

To start the repair, fix these things. Return agency to individuals (stop the mandates), trusting them to make appropriate decisions. Then start holding leaders and institutions to account for their failings. That will start them on the road to repairing their broken bits.

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