Health on a Human Scale: A vaccinated anarchist against vaccine passports

Anonymous Submission to North Shore Counter-Info

Quebec is instituting a system of vaccine passports in the coming days, and Ontario is likely to follow suit. The passport is a document confirming your identity and your vaccination status that will have to be shown in order to access many spaces. Not a day goes by here without a barrage of open letters and social media posts asking to be required to show a passport to move around the city, for every worker to be given a policing function.

I got fully vaccinated as soon as it was available to me, and so did all my close people. However, I think the vaccine passport is despicable and that those who are advocating for it are making a serious mistake.

My crew’s choice to get vaccinated was just one product of ongoing discussions about how to relate to collective health during the pandemic. We did not obey the lockdowns or the rules about gatherings – we established our own guidelines based on our own ethical, political and practical considerations. We asked a different question. Sometimes this resulted in us being more cautious than the law allowed, sometimes it resulted in breaking the rules. We were far from alone in this, and I know my circle benefited from other people’s discussions.

The pandemic has been unique in our lifetimes, but its ethical challenges are not: controlling the behaviour of others is a pretty central element of democratic politics. The government looks at us as a mass of people to be managed towards various goals, notably profit and social peace. They look at the world from above, through a lens of domination and control – this is as much the case for the pandemic as for climate change and poverty. Different politicians and parties will have different priorities, and our agency is reduced to advocating for how we want to be managed – or how we want those other people to be managed.

We come to internalize the logic of domination and put the needs of order and the economy above our own. We start to view the world from above too, far from our own experiences, desires, ideas, values, and relationships. “The social war is this: a struggle against the structures of power that colonize us and train us to view the world from the perspective of the needs of power itself, through the metaphysical lens of domination.”

In the context of the pandemic, to view the world from above means understanding the situation through corporate media (whether social or traditional), through colour-coded maps, through the designation of hot zones, through policy debates, through rules laid out by experts (I want their knowledge, not their authority). It means to think about our own decisions in terms of what everyone should do, to act ourselves the way we think everyone should act. Our own priorities vanish, and the agency of others is perceived as a threat.

As a state-led covid measure, the vaccine passport is like the curfews and the stay at home orders, the expanded fines and the coercive powers given to bylaw. It is a public order measure. All these restrictions are meant to prevent the kinds of conversations that had people in the streets in recent months to carry out encampment defense, tear down statues, and honour residential school victims.

I want to oppose domination, but also its false critics. Some anarchists have thought they developed a critique of authoritarian responses to the pandemic, but they only succeed in being reactionaries. They are still seeing the world from above, where the only conceivable collective action is that of the state. They fall back on the discourse of individual rights, but there is nothing anarchist about a freedom carved into bite-sized pieces and spoon-fed back to us. Their analysis becomes totally unprincipled when they start defending the rights of religious conservatives to continue holding their services. They are involved in the anti-masking movement, which is not about individual ethical choice, but rather covid denialism,. They end up in bed with those who see any common good as an attack on their privilege.

To me, freedom also means responsibility. It is an individual imperative to make your own choices, but also to understand yourself as embedded in a web of relationships. It is about voluntary association, but also understanding that we are also embedded in webs of relationships with all people (not to mention all living things, the land and water). We have responsibilities to those webs as well. When our choices in the pandemic start from ourselves and builds outwards, to our chosen people and onward to the societies we exist in, we are no longer seeing the world from above, but on a human scale.

This is called autonomy, and it is itself a threat to the powerful. It means organizing our lives on a radically different basis, one that comes into conflict with the attempts of the powerful to maintain order and obedience.

A vaccine passport system is a way of cracking down on autonomy. I don’t give a shit about going to a restaurant or a concert, and my crew is continuing to avoid indoor crowds even though the state says we don’t have to. Let’s organize ourselves to avoid the repression and continue to act on our own priorities. See you in the streets.

5 thoughts on “Health on a Human Scale: A vaccinated anarchist against vaccine passports”

  1. The sheer volume of self-proclaimed “anarchists” I’ve witnessed over the past 18 months (lookin’ at you, Toronto twitter anarchists) cheerleading for cops and State repression against the lunatic fringe of covid-deniers causes me great concern. Their pompom antics encouraging State crackdowns are shortsighted and foolish. They need to realise that every time the cops arrest/beat mostly peaceful (if abyssmally stupid) chuds protesting mask mandates, the cops develop protocols and tactics that will eventually be turned on us, or margnalised communities seeking justice. The State, and it’s enforcers, are shit, and have to go. State repression must always be condemned, and never legitimised, even if it’s, for the moment, being directed at our enemies. It will always end up directed back at us, and even stronger for having been deemed acceptable against “antisocial elements” in the public conciousness.

  2. I am fully vaccinated and I think people should do what they can to limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect those around them as well as themselves, including in most cases getting vaccinated. The far right clowns showing up and chanting “genocide” at Trudeau over vaccine mandates are awful and should be exposed as the neo-fascist front organizations that they are. BUT ALSO bodily autonomy is so, so important and it makes me fucking sick that those clowns are the only ones talking about it in public right now. It seems to me like pretty much the entire “left,” even some parts of it that I would have thought of as anarcho-adjacent, concerned about freedom, etc are talking about vaccine mandates like they’re just obviously some social good. Honestly I think they know on some level that what they’re doing is wrong, that they probably don’t actually want a world where your employer can access your health records and you have to show ID and proof of medical fitness to enter a fucking library. They just crave a world where things like Covid are simple, with a beginning and an end and always a simple, correct choice to make when really being so closely interconnected with each other means we have to make horrible life and death decisions all the time. We should protect each other, but not at all costs all of the time. It is important to take Covid seriously and make sacrifices to protect each other, and also some activities are too important to stop doing them forever even if it means risking transmitting the virus. I wish these leftists would just admit that they are human and really want, maybe even need, to hug their loved ones, go to a social gathering, have sex with strangers, whatever it is, rather than insisting that there will always be a state solution to everything and asking the government to start repressing and surveilling unvaccinated people because they are just now realizing that the pandemic isn’t going to just “end” and they’re never going to escape the fact that living in the world means negotiating the serious, potentially deadly impacts that our actions have on others right now and always.

    1. Well put.
      “The fundamental principle, plain and incontestable, is that every person’s body is inviolate”.

  3. I am interested in your analysis, as I balk at the idea of a vaccine passport. But gimme some tangible alternatives here: yes, you and I in our circles can have conversations to navigate who is comfortable having us in their houses, or going on a date with us. But what do you think is an actual, likely, achievable alternative to allow things like festivals, farmers markets, concerts, airport travel, and the like? These activities of mass society are on a different scale than the conversations we have in our circles.

    1. I don’t think it is so different. The people responsible for creating such spaces discuss among themselves their various priorities and come to conclusions. They state those conclusions along with other information about the event. Those attending talk to their people and decide how to engage.

      Which sounds simple, except when we consider that capitalism is structurally the opposite of that kind of self-organizing. When relationships are mediated by money and when our position in the economy determines to a large degree our social behaviour, even if we did find a way to talk to each other, it would be an exercise in powerlessness.

      Take a farmers market. I would love if those hosting the market have their conversation, the farmers and vendors have theirs, and, why not, collectives within the community of those who attend the market do as well. Representatives from those spaces talk with each other and decide if and how to hold the market.

      In practice, financial pressure and incentives on the market hosts mean they will hold a market regardless. Vendors pay the same fees whatever their income so they want a maximum of attendees despite their health needs. Consumers are left with a do or don’t do choice, a miserable “vote with your dollar” position that presupposes having no relationships in that space.

      I don’t really think scale is a problem. Scales on which real relationships can’t occur would probably get deemphasized as our habits shifted towards autonomy. The mass scale is good for capitalism as organizing herds of alienated consumers scales up easily, and the fundamental absence of attachment is the same for a consumer in a group of ten as in a group of ten thousand.

      The world that is experiencing this crisis is the capitalist world. It is also that world — with its priorities intact — that responds to it. The crisis would be fundamentally different in a world conceived on a different basis. We would be asking different questions, which is way more valuable than answering the same old questions differently.

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