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.