Were he alive today, 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary would be appalled. Leary is mostly remembered for his efforts to decriminalize psychedelic drugs. However, his principal objective was to encourage people to think for themselves, question authority, and accept the chaos that comes with “a state of vulnerable open-mindedness.”
Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself. A Notable Quote by Timothy Leary.
Today’s Battle Cry is “Obey Authority”
Instead, we crave for the comfort of authority. We want protection from vulnerability. Those standing at the ready to provide comfort and protection abound. They hold up the equivalent of the Little Red Book that tells us what to think, what to say, and what to do. They use words in ways they were not meant to be used. Science is no longer observation, inquiry and experiment, but is now absolute. They use “science” as a psychological bludgeon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the following in response to criticism regarding his COVID-19 guidelines:
I believe for the most part you can trust respected medical authorities … I believe I’m one of them, so I think you can trust me. But I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth, who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data. The Guardian, July 15, 2020
One needs to question Dr. Fauci’s awareness of how drastically scientific knowledge can change. The theory of a stationary earth around which the sun revolved was once scientific truth.
What Might Timothy Leary Question Were He Alive Today?
Why is the media so focused on reporting numbers infected with COVID-19, especially when famous people are among those numbers, and not much reporting on numbers recovered?
Are COVID tests accurate? Celebrities Elon Musk and Erykah Badu recently received on the same day both positive and negative diagnosis, according to media reports.
Have U.S. state and city leaders struck a reasonable balance between lockdowns and future health in the absence of routine in-person exams, workers’ threatened livelihoods, children’s lack of proper education, deterioration of mental well being?
Even if people are willing to question, what would be a venue for those questions? The Internet is today’s soapbox. But…
…[T]he UN Secretary- General launched the United Nations Communications Response initiative to combat the spread of mis- and disinformation in April 2020. ..The Resolution also calls on international organizations to address mis- and disinformation in the digital sphere, work to prevent harmful cyber activities undermining the health response and support the provision of science-based data to the public. WHO, Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic
Social media companies have committed to regulate content in light of the pandemic.
Eliminating misinformation can help social media users gather and disseminate accurate information, helping them stay safe and reduce risk to others … A more ambitious role for social media platforms would be to boost efforts by public health authorities by, for example, upranking links to recommendations from recognised health authorities, and downranking ads for essential limited medical supplies, such as face masks, to prevent hoarding. Building Trust While Influencing Online COVID-19 Content in the Social Media World, The Lancet, April 21, 2020.
Questioning or Obeying is a Personal Choice
Indeed, COVID-19 is a real pandemic. The current estimated COVID-19 death rate of 2.16% is not to be flippantly dismissed. However, the principal question here is whether shutting down discourse that conflicts with official WHO and CDC guidelines is beneficial.
Timothy Leary was certainly not the first to encourage questioning. Greek philosopher Socrates, for example, regarded questioning essential to critical thinking.
The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking because the art of questioning is important to excellence of thought. Socrates argued for the necessity of probing individual knowledge, and acknowledging what one may not know or understand. Wikipedia, Socratic Questioning.
It is the prerogative of each individual to choose questioning and vulnerability or obedience and protection. Today, it seems the majority have chosen to “stay safe.”