A Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day
People don’t like to be told what they “should” do. These days, people prefer to construct their own morality, particularly true when it comes to choosing whether or not to get the Covid19 vaccination. Many people simply do not understand how their choice affects everyone else. Let us explore this paradox by using two unrelated statements which are only right twice a day:
All Democrats are pedophiles. All Republicans are Nazis.
Let’s use the broken clock paradox. It is true that there are democratic leaders (and Republican) leaders who are pedophiles, who were/are part of a sex ring, who were involved with Jeffrey Epstein. We may never know who or to what extent Democratic or Republican leaders are or are not pedophiles. The necessary facts simply are not available, at this time, to support either statement. Of course, any statement that begins with the word “all” will, by definition, never be true. The statement is nonetheless true in a sense, but only “twice a day.”
It is also true that Trump and those who support(ed) him use(d) fascist tactics. But he/they also supported policies which were not fascist. It may or may not be true that he/they are/were fascists, but only “twice a day.”
Neither statement is completely true, nor completely false. Not all democrats are pedophiles. Nor are all republicans fascists. So even though the clock is right twice a day it is still broken. Meaning we cannot rely upon it to tell us the correct time. So to know what time it is, we must look to other clocks, some of which are fast, some slow. Some are more accurate than others. And yet we accept time as a fact.
But time itself is only an agreement.
We may agree that it is 6:39 pm EST on January 17, 2021, because that is the moment this BLOG was published. But In reality, time is something we invented solely for the purpose of being able to function together, to be able to do other important things together. We do so by agreement. We agree in order to make things better. But agreement is not always necessary to make things better. For instance, we will likely agree that a fascist or a pedophile’s idea of “better” might be different than mine or yours.
I think we can all agree we’d like to get this whole Covid-19 thing behind us. There are reports of isolated cases, under certain specific conditions, in which the vaccination is causing unforeseen health problems, maybe even resulting in death. Clearly, with what we know at present, people with certain conditions should not take the vaccination. There is plenty of sound, scientific based information available about what those conditions are. And yet there is a lot of doubt remaining. One thing we do know is what we don’t know CAN hurt us. The science is not completely settled. There is still lingering uncertainty regarding the efficacy of the current vaccinations.
But still, many are wondering, what is the right thing to do?
You may call me naive, but I think those are some pretty good odds. And just because you can find a scientist or two who will say the clock is right twice a day, doesn’t mean all clocks are broken. In fact, I think it’s pretty naive to believe because you stumbled onto a webpage that raises alarms about the vaccination, that you know more than the entire scientific community, which says again, for emphasis:
99.999% who take the vaccination will receive 95% immunity.
As reported in the NYTs: “’It’s driving me a little bit crazy,’ Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told me. ‘We’re underselling the vaccine,’ Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said. ‘It’s going to save your life — that’s where the emphasis has to be right now,’ Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine said.The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — the only two approved in the U.S. — are among the best vaccines ever created, with effectiveness rates of about 95 percent after two doses. If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of Covid-19 as a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu — as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent — is actually a success.”
But that is not the reason you should take it. Taking the vaccine is not about you and your personal freedom. It is about saving the world
The existentialist icon, Jean Paul Sartre believed in the essential freedom of individuals. He also believed that as free beings, we are responsible not only for our own actions, but by our actions, responsible for all people. That’s right, in everything we do and say, we are acting on behalf of all people. Along with total freedom, comes total responsibility. That is the awe and dread of human existence.
Our best scientists have spoken. According to the CDC, only those who “have had an immediate allergic reaction – even if it was not severe – to any ingredient in either of the two available COVID-19 vaccines should not be vaccinated.” Please note that fear is not one of the allergic reactions on the list. Those arguing that their personal liberty is being compromised as a reason not to support this unprecedented effort, are misguided, at best.
To be sure, what is beautiful and noble in all this: nobody is telling you or anyone else what you must do. It is a moral question, not a political one. Compliance is not mandatory. It is up to each of us to decide whether to take the vaccination. Each of us must face this moral, existential dilemma head on, just as Sartre suggested. After all, the science could be wrong; the clock is right twice a day.
But there’s a big difference between doing one’s homework about what we are being asked to put in our body and sounding the alarm in a crowded theatre. The latter is not only irresponsible, it is immoral. It may be legal to frighten people into not getting vaccinated. But placing the seed of doubt in the one scientifically based solution available only adds fire to what is a terrifying public health crisis. It is both irresponsible and immoral.
I think we can all agree that everything has a price.
The vaccinations are free but they came at a heavy cost. Our taxes have paid for the best research and roll out available. We put our best minds to work on the task. The vaccinations are state of the art. But they are not perfect. No one said they would be. We all know that it takes years to completely vet a new drug. And even then, after all the studies and research, there is still risk in taking any drug. That’s because the human body is incredibly complex. We know that rushing the process may have serious consequences. We’ve seen plenty of science fiction based on this simple truth.
But the people of the world have spoken. Drug studies take more time than we have. We don’t have years. We have decided. We are unwilling to accept the years it would take to eliminate all risk. The vast majority of people throughout the world have agreed to accept a certain amount of risk and sacrifice, because beating this pandemic is of monumental importance, both for our health and for the economy.
These are difficult times and difficult choices must be made. It’s like a war. As in war, there are always risks. Like storming the beaches of Normandy, or dropping the a-bomb. There were monumental sacrifices that were made and a tremendous downside for making those choices. But we made them. Or should I say, the government we elected made these choices on our behalf. We didn’t really have an option. I wonder what would have happened if we had told the soldiers who stormed Normandy (my father happened to be one of them) that the mission was optional. Of course, it was only optional for the generals, not the foot soldiers. Those generals chose, serving a government we elected, to win the war. They determined that storming Normandy was our best option. So my dad stormed the beaches. Fortunately, he managed to survive. Many did not.
Of course, we are not foot soldiers. And Covid-19 is not really a “war.” Whatever you want to call it, if less than 90% of the world’s population refuses to take the vaccine, it will continue to spread and millions more will die. Those are the conditions of battle. Those are the rules. I didn’t make them up. But breaking them has consequences, not just for you and I, but for everyone. You might say, “why can’t I be one of those 10% who doesn’t choose to cooperate?” No one will stop you from refusing to get vaccinated. But you would be among the many cowards who did not step up when the world needed you. Think about it. For every hero, throughout history, there are thousands who were too afraid to act.
But in this case, there is far more at stake. Either WE all rise up against this common enemy or WE don’t. If people believe their right to choose is more important than living in a world without Covid-19 than those outliers are condemning us all to needless suffering, and quite possibly, extinction. “The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to make a choice between either changing our thinking and practices in these realms, or facing increasing destruction and perhaps self-annihilation.” Because if we don’t get ahead of this pandemic, it will will mutate into something that will destroy us. It is an existential crisis. It’s not fair, it’s not pleasant. But that’s the way it is. We either survive as a species together, or we will die as a species together. That’s what this choice means. That is the existential lesson Covid-19 is teaching us.
Shakespeare couldn’t have written a more compelling plot. That human survival should depend on each one of us making the a choice to save the world, is truly humbling. My earnest hope and prayer is that enough people will choose the path that leads us out of the current crisis and not further into it. Because in this case, being right twice a day, doesn’t just mean the clock is broken. It means time itself might stop for the human race.