The Authorities Have Failed Us: An anarchist response to SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 based on mutual aid and solidarity
Possibilities in a time of epistemic and institutional crisis
The authorities have bungled the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 at almost every conceivable step.
Where do you start?
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) chose to appease the Chinese state over sounding the alarm - not performing one of the only jobs the WHO has!
The Chinese state suppressed critical information about the virality, transitivity, and pathogenicity of the disease until it was too late.
Our Brain-Genius-in-Chief™ in the US suppressed the numbers and downplayed it because of fears over his re-election campaign.
On the other side of the aisle, California governor Gavin Newsom did the right thing early by discouraging large gatherings - except at Disneyland (LOL). You can’t make this shit up. Disney literally wanted to continue business as usual.
I could go on, but the point stands: read Adam Elkus, who summarized this better than I can.
As the title of this newsletter and its entire point indicates, what I am interested in is in the absence of epistemological authorities, what do we do? I’ve been writing this newsletter for two years about how the confluence of government power and expert authority destroys the ability to know real things about the territory of physiology, because the tools used by authorities are meant for shaping markets of rent extraction, not for actually helping people. The cures and treatments are a side effect of the main point.
It seems this thesis has been thrust into criticality by Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 - so what now?
What is the anti-statist’s response to a global pandemic? How can you ensure security and safety without borders, authoritarian control, mandatory quarantines, and surveillance tech?
Decentralized, Privacy-Preserving, Contact Tracing Without Central Authorities
The Singaporean government has been, by comparison, wildly successful at flattening the curve.
How did they do it?
They follow contacts and test liberally. They made an app available to track infections, and only expose patient data when an infection has been confirmed, rather than opportunistically use the crisis to build permanent surveillance infrastructure to threaten civil liberties in perpetuity (e.g. the Patriot Act).
Less than 1% of their tests are positive, which reflects how many tests they are doing. They sequester people who test positive in hospitals. Those people do not go home, because community transmission seems to be a key feature to intervene in to flatten the curve.
In Singapore, once you are confirmed positive, if you have no symptoms you can be sent home, but you are kept under strict home quarantine. A government SMS system texts you every day and requires a check-in to confirm your location - penalties are harsh.
Singapore did not enter mass lockdown based on fear. They made testing widely available, and enforced quarantine rules that made sense for their population, and “normal life” is mostly continuing their with contained spread.
Here’s the problem - I don’t for a second trust Anglo / Western governments to wield this power in the same way, nor do I think Singapore’s penal state approach is good. At the end of the day, this leads to the cops knocking on your door and putting you into a jail cell or worse to enforce the rules. The edge cases are really, really bad, but something must also be done. What is to be done?
Decentralized, privacy-preserving contact tracing is possible. It’s being worked on as we speak. Friends of mine at the ZCash foundation have started this community of security researchers, software engineers, designers, and legal minds to brainstorm how to do this without central authorities and deliver a tool that can help empower ourselves to do it. With this, perhaps we can make visions like this one more of a reality:
Decentralized, Evidence-Based Community Health Guidelines that Actually Work™
The New England Complexity Science Institute has put together EndCoronaVirus.org. It’s full of amazing resources for everyone, evidence-based answers for just about everything one can find about SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19, and can be a great resource for all community members, families, pharmacy workers, grocery store workers, and more.
At a glance, they have broken down individual, family, neighborhood, town, city, and international-business level scales into simple guidelines. Check out their evidence-based guidelines for respiratory health here, as a sample. Their simple and straightforward FAQ should be sent to any Trumpie you know.
Secondly, masks. Experts told us they wouldn’t protect us, we shouldn’t hoard them (fair), etc, and that covering our faces with cloth, paper towel, and other things wouldn’t help.
Behold, decentralized groups of smart people working to uncover every intervention done to date to measure the efficacy of paper towels, masks, cloth, and more in preventing transmission of viruses via aerosol.
Check out the sheet linked above, and if you don’t have a mask, realize that there are other options. This is not a blanket recommendation to turn anything into a mask - it’s a suggestion that perhaps “authorities” cannot anticipate every wrinkle in their own epistemology, and you can perhaps take some more agency in ensuring you and yours are protected at least minimally, in these times of institutional failure.
People and 3-D Printing Rise to the Occasion when the Supply Chain Fails
In Italy, where the Covid-19 pandemic has been hitting hard, the supply chain for resuscitation devices was devastated by the overwhelming demand of those stricken with severe disease. A local reporter contacted a 3-d printing lab’s founder after finding out that the death toll at the local hospital in Brescia was climbing steadily, and the hospital was out of a part necessary for their resuscitation machines. These machines regulate airflow for people who can no longer breathe on their own due to fibrosis and destruction of the lungs (literally, liquifying the lungs).
Another team shared plans for a 3-d printed part that turns any scuba mask into a non-invasive ventilator.
This hospital was reluctant to break IP, but the extraordinary situation makes it clear to everyone involved: IP literally kills people. When this crisis goes away, we will have plenty of 3-d printers, and PLENTY of COPD patients, lung transplant patients, people who need ventilators. Will we wait for the captured markets of capitalism to create the necessary 10-15% profit margin to deliver these products to those who need them in the developing world, or will we do something about it?
3-D Printing Face Shields, Face Masks, and Sterilizable Stethoscopes: Expanding 3-D Printing Infrastructure to Those Most in Need
I’ve talked them up quite a bit in this newsletter, but they are always worth a mention.
Tarek Loubani and his team are working on open-source face shields (not face masks) that can be produced with cheaply available plastic material typically used for PPE. If you are interested in his project, check out their Patreon here, or go to their website and check out the 3-d printing file repos and get involved. If you have a skill relevant to Glia and want Tarek’s contact info, feel free to reach out to me directly, he has given me permission to share his WhatsApp details.
Nutritional, Supplemental, and Pharmaceutical Interventions
This newsletter wouldn’t be complete without a quick study of Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, and potential freely or cheaply available interventions that anyone can use.
Unfortunately, it’s not ready yet! But rest assured, I and a small group of medical students, physiologists, and MDs are working on a project we will rapidly open-source when it’s ready. We are focusing on measuring effect sizes and harm, and making sure we put something that is safe, and at worst harmless. SARS-CoV-2 is very new, but there are plenty of interventions already tested for it.
At a high level, we’ll talk about the following:
Things that make it hard for the virus to replicate
Things that bolster lymphopenia (lymphopenia levels track well with course of disease currently)
Things that increase nitric oxide (NO) (interferon signaling can potentially increase the risk of cytokine storm, NO signaling could be a good alternative)
Things that increase T cell, CD4, CD8+
Things that bind 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C to prevent inflammatory cascades in the lungs
There’s a lot more detail here, and a LOT more careful, diligent work to do before we share anything even coming close to a recommendation. None of this is a recommendation.
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Thanks for reading!