Medical Aggression – the new nasty?

Could you be experiencing medical aggression?

A friend of mine told me of a conversation with his sister that roughly went like this. 

Sister: Are you still not vaccinated for Covid-19?

Friend: As I am not vulnerable and the jab doesn’t stop me either getting it or passing on the infection, I will not go get the jab. 

Sister: I understand that is your choice. But I am concerned that Mum might not be getting vaccinated because you aren’t. 

Friend: Are you saying my personal decision is putting my Mum in danger? Don’t you think she can make her own choices? 

Sister: Yes, but we are all influenced by others and she respects your views. 

Friend: I haven’t said anything to Mum about what she should do. But I would never blame your decision to get vaccinated if Mum decided to and was injured by it.

Sister: I don’t know what you mean. 

Friend: Well, even if you put pressure on Mum to get vaccinated and she had a bad reaction, I would not see it as your fault. Because we all have different information and it’s wrong to make this issue about blaming or shaming.  

Sister: But I’m not the one taking an unusual position. 

Friend: Right, so the government decides whether you try to shame me? Isn’t it strange you threatening to blame me for our Mum dying because of my personal decision about my own health? You have been bombarded with the idea that my personal decision is deviant and dangerous and so now bring that into our family.  

Sister: I understand you feel strongly about this but no need to get so aggressive

Friend: I experienced your question as a form of aggression. It’s coming from all sides now and it’s tiring. 

Is medical aggression a thing? For instance, are the following actions forms of aggression from the state, organisations, media, colleagues, friends, or relatives?

  • Restricting people’s movement on the basis of either vaccination status or their willingness to provide such information on demand. 
  • Restricting people’s access to public places such as shops and buses on the basis of either vaccination status or their willingness to provide such information on demand. 
  • Restricting people’s access to employment on the basis of either vaccination status or their willingness to provide such information on demand. 

Are these forms of medical aggression? Perhaps it depends on the severity of the disease, plus the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine? 

[Search for more or Subscribe]

What about these rather impactful measures from some governments?

  • Fining people for not being sufficiently vaccinated (2, 3 or more jabs)? 
  • Imprisoning people for not paying their fines related to vaccination status?

Losing money and liberty are some of the most serious impositions from the state. Are they forms of medical aggression? 

Then there is the more subtle matter of how people dehumanize other people due to their medical choices. Are the following forms of aggression?

  • Expecting someone’s personal medical data to be a matter of public concern
  • Stating or implying that it is abnormal not to be vaccinated 
  • Stating or implying that people are dangerous to others due to not being vaccinated
  • Discussing non-vaccinated people as if they are objects, without full humanity, that must be controlled or managed etc. 

For people on the receiving end of these forms of communication it can feel both demeaning and even aggressive. 

A related topic is the way that individuals and organisations engage people due to their publicly expressed views on public health policies and the related science. Might the following constitute medical aggression?

  • Marginalising, censoring or cancelling people from social media platforms because of their views on health policies, technologies and related science 
  • Inaccurately labelling people negatively with terms like anti-vax
  • Criticising (or implying lesser) character, intellect, or sanity on the basis someone’s views on health policies, technologies and related science
  • Stating or implying that people are dangerous to others because of their views on the pandemic

If someone believes that a disease is very dangerous and that the public policies to address it are well-informed, safe, proportionate, effective, and accountable, then the denigration of people in the way I just listed might be seen as an unfortunate necessity. It is why so much of the reticence to resist medical aggression is predicated on an uncritical assumption of the recent orthodoxy of pandemic management. 

However, many people dispute that the orthodox policy agenda is well-informed, safe, proportionate, effective, and accountable. There are many views on why, so to illustrate, here are just three. First, the significance of asymptomatic transmission has been overplayed to justify controls on the whole population. Second, that has led to a lack of support for people with symptoms whose employment situation means they can’t isolate. Third, the statistics on vaccine effectiveness have been massaged, using methods promoted by the pharmaceutical industry. With that understanding, the discrimination against non vaccinated people is based on misunderstandings and falsehoods. With that perspective, a further dimension to medical aggression comes into view, which involves betrayal and appeasement. With that in mind, let’s return to my friend and a conversation he told me that he had with his father. It went something like this. 

Friend: I’m worried Mum is feeling isolated as she can’t go to her normal shops and cafes and meet people like she used to, because they demand vaccination certification

Father: Your Mum and I disagree about that but I don’t want this to come between us

Friend: So you don’t feel worried or upset about Mum having her life interrupted like this?

Father: Well it should only be for a little longer and other people take a different view from your Mum. Your sister and I have agreed to avoid the subject with Mum. 

Friend: How bad will it need to get before you decide to help Mum? If she is put under house arrest?

Father: Don’t be so dramatic. Your Mum and I are OK. 

The ignoring of injustice, even when it is perpetrated against neighbours, friends, family and colleagues, with excuses such as ‘I won’t judge them’ can easily be regarded as a form of micro-aggression. It can be the most insidious, as it creates bystanders to abuse and isolates those who are being persecuted. It is a form of betrayal. When described as such it can be quite triggering for people to hear and unfortunately can lead to more explicit aggression. 

Not coming to people’s aid either practically or emotionally can also occur in organisations. For instance, here is another conversation I had with my friend. 

Friend: They are talking about closing the border to the unvaccinated, so I won’t be able to commute to work anymore. 

Me: Has your employer or trade union said anything to the government or media to stop that? 

Friend: No, it hasn’t even come up

Me: Has your employer or trade union reassured you they will make adjustments to your working practices or find you subsidised accommodation near work if you want that solution?

Friend: No, that’s very far from their thinking. They are discussing how strict to get with masks and distancing, not how to help their unvaccinated staff. 

Do you think the trade union or employer are expressing micro-aggressions towards my friend by not even considering how to help him cope with a draconian and discriminatory local government policy? In various fields of scholarship it is demonstrated how oversights and non-actions are as powerful as actions in the way power is exerted and maintained in societies and organisations. Therefore it may not seem like a specific individual act of aggression, but cumulatively the employer and the trade union are disregarding the full personhood of my friend when they don’t even think about this problem. Given his prior service to them, their oversight and disinterest also constitute betrayal. 

There is also reasonable concern about how some people who object to government policies on the pandemic can become aggressive. That can occur through speech, when people are labelled as evil and suchlike. It can be helpful to avoid such conflict. Unfortunately  and rarely, resistors to the current agenda might pursue violent forms of protest. That is also counterproductive and is rightly criticised. However, any sporadic aggression from people who are against the recent governmental agenda does not have the power of the state or corporate media behind it, to either coerce people or whip up public hatred. Comparing the two situations could therefore be seen as a form of micro-aggression against people who reject the dominant agenda, because it is a deliberately incoherent comparison.   

It is also incoherent because it ignores how there has been an industrial effort to define non-compliant views on public health as deviant and dangerous, despite decisive evidence to the contrary. That has led to the creation of a negative category of person that can be aggressed against. That process is something known in my field of scholarship as “othering.” Unless we name this phenomenon of othering – and the dehumanisation it involves – to then explore whether medical aggressions are occurring, we risk a new form of unconscious bias spreading to underpin harmful behaviours and policies in future. 

If you feel like it’s aggression, then that’s your valid experience. If we name it as aggression then we can support each other and work against it. By doing so we will be helping people reflect on their views and decide whether to stop participating in this novel and growing form of abuse. To enable that process here is a provisional (and probably improvable) definition:

Medical Aggression is the experience of hostile or destructive behaviour or attitudes in response to one’s choices and/or views on medical and/or health matters, particularly when such behaviour or attitudes are aligned with power.

Perhaps if might help if you link to this blog when you correspond with people who you feel have been medically aggressive. They might recognise that their speech or actions can be experienced as aggressive, and so choose to explore disagreements in a more respectful way in future. Others will refuse to consider that, but at least you will have made your experience clear to them, hopefully before disengaging from that abusive situation. I realise that in an organisational context, where managers are firing you or your colleagues, or discriminating against you as their customer, then this blog will be of little use. In such situations, I hope you can find both personal support and legal routes to fight back against institutionalised aggression.  

Some volunteer facilitators are organising confidential online support circles for people who are witnessing or experiencing medical aggression. Subscribe to be informed of these ‘Freedom To Care’ gatherings. 

FYI: I am not an ‘anti-vaxxer’ but assess that both science and ethics justifies a less corporate and more citizen-based approach to this pandemic. My previous writings on the pandemic I list below.

My previous writings on Covid

The Climate for Corona – our warming world is more vulnerable to pandemic – where I discuss how environmental degradation makes zoonotic disease more likely. 

COVID and Climate Change – why XR must visit the WHO – where I discuss that even if the virus came from an experiment then the people who fund such dangerous experiments have tried to justify themselves due to anticipating an era of pandemics due to environmental change. 

For Environmentalists, COVID is the Elephant in the Zoom – where I emphasize that either due to direct impacts on bats or indirect impacts on the recklessness of bat scientists that the suffering being caused by Covid and the policy responses are forms of suffering due to climate change and our maladaptations to it. 

Lies Damn Lies and Hospitalisation Statistics – where I explain that medical corporations have been too involved in shaping our understanding of possible responses to the pandemic and that even concludes developing misleading statistical methods on vaccine effectiveness. 

It’s time for more of a citizen’s response to the pandemic – for a real #PlanB – where I explain how a different agenda to the current orthodoxy could be pursued that allies with our fellow citizens to remove barriers to us all making responsible decisions and how the Left has failed to articulate this agenda due to having lost close connection with the low paid workforce. 

Has asymptomatic transmission been key to this pandemic and if not, so what? – where I summarise the scientific evidence for asymptomatic transmission to be insignificant to the pandemic (as WHO initially said) and therefore the basis for the orthodox policy agenda is flawed.

Uniting in Love and Rage against Corporate Power – where I explain that the corporate media demonise activists in ways that limit solidarity across different topics in the struggle against the abuse of corporate power so we need to come together rather than accept the negative stories about other kinds of activists.

What if this is it? Responding consciously to societal disruption – where I explain that the loss of human rights and the rise of authoritarianism are forms of societal disruption and therefore something for us to resist as we seek to reduce harm from societal breakdown (aka Deep Adaptation). 

Finding my voice through a fever – where I explain that getting Covid myself made me stop work, rethink my priorities and start writing, performing and recording music for the first time in my life. 

Because every action breeds a reaction…