Why?

Sorting people into a 27x27x27 matrix is a poor proxy to finding out who is infectious

Your location is a poor proxy to whether or not you are infectious. 

Your passport is a poor proxy to whether or not you are infectious. 

The country you are going to is a poor proxy to finding out whether you are infectious or not – arguably one has nothing to do with the other. 

And yet, these are the proxies authorities use to decide who should be treated as infectious and who should not.

Just take Europe. There are 27 countries that could be your country of departure or destination, and there are 27 nationalities by passport. That means that when authorities play covid theatre at borders they are essentially sorting people into a 27x27x27 matrix, then each country decides what to do with people that fall into any one of the 19683 categories.

19683 categories that have nothing to do with whether you are infectious or not.  

Multiply that with the mode of transportation (air travel being more obstructed by epidemiological measures), the number of countries you are crossing, and whether you travel for business (something they can ask you once again, just like before 1992) and the matrix gets even more complex. And it still knows nothing about whether you are infected or not. 

What covid theatre at the borders do is: 

  • make authorities look interested in your safety
  • generate revenue through fines 
  • establishes who is boss and who is an exposed little subject
  • create opportunities for abuse of power (you may call it “applying common sense” when it benefits you, but discretionary power given to individual officers to evaluate your case also happen to be a hotbed for corruption) 
  • Covid theatre also implies that your government cares for you
  • and it distracts. 

States handle a lot of things this way, the covid travel chaos is not an outlier from their usual modus operandi.

The root of the mismatch between reality and policy is that policy treats people as a collective mass – while people are individuals. On a collective basis, the infection rate of a land roughly indicates chances of any one individual there being infected, and that is good enough to save the biggest possible number of lives (not anyone in particular, just the biggest number) in the absence of actual test results. In the meantime, people are still individuals, who are either infected or not, only a test can establish that individually.

People are used to and accept being treated as a mass of humans in general, when they demand and approve of such policies. But when it comes to their individual case, it is suddenly not good enough. When they reach the border they appeal to common sense and argue that they, individually, have no chance of being infected because… Suddenly, the policy based on collective thinking is not good enough.

Maybe we shouldn’t alternate between regarding ourselves as individuals and a mass of bodies.

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