You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
“Jab ’em in their sleep!”
That was the message of Rogrigo Duterte when faced with of the reluctance of his fellow Filipinos to taking their shots. Now, I’ve always liked the guy and still do, but, joking or not, it’s difficult not to see a sinister omen in his words. Having seen the dialogues that are taking place around the world, I do see it as a looming possibility in the not-so-distant future.
There have been several instances in previous weeks of people getting in hot water for comparing the plight of modern-day anti-vaxxers to that of the Jews during World War II (for instance here and here), and while we may not quite be there yet, what else do you bring to mind when you conjure up a picture of someone being held down and subjected to medical procedures against their will? It’s an obvious jump to make; either that or aboriginal women in Australia being subjected to forcible sterilisation from the late nineteenth all the way to the 1970s because of their ‘inferior’ genetics. (A quick and horrifying aside: Forced sterilisation is a practice which I was shocked to learn is still legal in Australia and inflicted upon girls with disabilities and those who show intersex characteristics.) Beyond these two examples, I’m hard-pressed to think of other instances of large-scale, forcible, medical interventions.
A swift internet search on the legality of forced vaccinations led me to the case of a man from Ukraine in 2012 who was forcibly vaccinated against diphtheria. The court ruling decided that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the legislation than deals with the ‘right to respect for private and family life’. The ruling came to the conclusion that “the interference with the applicant’s physical integrity could be said to be justified by the public health considerations and necessity to control the spreading of infectious diseases”. This is all very well, but it’s likely to be of little comfort to those who insist on the right to make choices on their own health and wellbeing. Many readers will be of the same opinion as Rodrigo Duterte (Jab the fuckers!), but there are those (myself among them) who will not be satisfied by an obscure ruling on the case of a single guy from the Donetsk if it comes to deciding on the right to the bodily integrity of millions – billions, perhaps – worldwide.
Do we need to have this conversation? I believe we do. The campaign that has been unleashed against those who have so far refused the jab is, quite frankly, astounding. Some elements of government and the media (and the public too, for that matter) are salivating at the thought of the expulsion of the filthy unvaxxed masses from society, and in some cases, stating openly that this is their intention. The premier of Australia’s Victoria said the following:
“There is going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated. We’re going to move to a situation where, to protect the health system, we are going to lock out people who are not vaccinated and can be.”
Harsh measures, which only just stop short of forced vaccination. These measures raise the question, however, of what happens to the people who are excluded from said economy. Make no mistake, this is essentially the creation of an underclass (a generous epithet, since it implies they are still within society), or Untermenschen. What of said people once they are pushed aside, and can no longer work, shop, participate socially or even receive healthcare? Are they still required to pay taxes, for example? Why, if they receive none of the benefits of participation in society? Are they expected to abide by society’s laws? Why should they, if they have been cast outside society’s embrace?
It seems to me that the social contract is being called into question. Is it the case that, by their exclusion, the social contract has been ripped up for this new ‘class’ of people, or are we to view this as merely the legitimate application of violence by that body with (under the terms of the social contract) the monopoly and the authority to do so? (And make no mistake, violence is already being applied, by means of exclusion, threats and economic pressure.) Have the great unwashed masses legitimately abdicated their rights to a central authority with their best interests at heart, or is government attempting to usurp people’s natural right to health and bodily integrity? Furthermore, to add another layer to the mix, is it governmental or corporate violence (can we even distinguish between those two anymore?) that we are actually facing, and if it is the latter, do we not have a human and civic duty to resist?
These are the questions.
Regardless of what happened to one guy in Donetsk with diphtheria, I support the right of all people to choose whether to subject themselves to a medical procedure if it may have ramifications for their own health, be that procedure for the common good or not. There are many who will disagree. But what is happening around the world right now sets a dangerous precedent that calls into question the foundations that our societies are built upon. Exclusion is now an active policy of many governments and institutions around the globe, and if you think things are unstable now, what do you think happens when you create and entire sub-strata of people left with nothing, and nothing at all to lose?
Beware, friends, that Rodrigo Duterte does not creep through your bedroom window one night with a big jabby needle. Perhaps it’s time to sleep with one eye open.
‘Forced Vaccination and the Breakdown of the Social Contract’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.