Hey Kyrie. Hope you’re well. I’m doing okay.
You might think this is a joke. But really, there are things way more far-fetched than unemployed celebrities having Google Alerts out for their name. So there’s a nonzero chance that you’re reading this right now. I’m gonna operate on that chance. Why? Personal reasons. No, seriously, it’s a violation of my HIPAA.
Alright, I’ll tell you. I don’t want to be condescending, honestly, and on the off chance that you are reading this, Kyrie, I want you to know: I don’t think you’re stupid, and I’m hoping you’ll hear me out about all this vaccine stuff.
First of all, thanks for speaking on the need for more therapy for traumatized youth in the hood and on reservations.
I don’t agree with you, Kyrie, that getting vaccinated is about individual choice. Society is a team sport, just like basketball. If I had 10 players on a court and all of them decided to play by the rules, while one chose to play by their own rules, the only way it would keep looking somewhat like a game of basketball would be because of the nine people following the rules, right?
Well, the only reason society hasn’t completely collapsed today is because of people who decided to get vaccinated. I mean that without exaggeration. The 1918 Flu killed 50 million people. The Delta Variant is three times as transmissive as that virus was, so, adjusted for current population, without the COVID vaccine 631 million people would be dead: that’s 8% of the world. But that didn’t happen, literally because of people who were able to get vaccinated.
To be honest, Bro, anyone who plays professional basketball has no business talking about individual choices. Your whole life you’ve eaten exactly what you were instructed to eat, practiced the way you were taught to practice, and played by rules established long before you were born. You do know that the NBA commissioner can indefinitely suspend you at any time for, “being guilty of conduct that does not conform to standards of morality,” right?
So you already agree to, and operate by, other peoples’ rules. Authority is bread and butter in basketball. Moving on.
There’s mad plagues in the bible. I saw your tweet that “God never fails,” and I wanna be direct on this one. At least four pastors have died or gotten very sick from COVID-19. These were pastors who decided not to get vaccinated, Bro. Are you more holy or deserving in God’s eyes than a pastor?
Okay, I want to talk more about this idea of individual choice from a different angle, but in order to do that I’m going to give my analysis of why some people are afraid of vaccines in the first place.
So, science can’t offer us explanations for why things happen. Science is for studying physical behavior; it can’t tell you why a virus started, for example. But we know from real-world experience that things happen for reasons. And one thing we’re totally sure of is that we ourselves weren’t involved. Since science has failed to offer a satisfying reason for why this is happening, we want to look elsewhere for answers.
Simultaneously, a lot of the COVID stuff revolves around distrust of science. From the belief that COVID is man-made to suspicions of the vaccine ingredients, there is no part of COVID that’s free from side-eye about science.
To summarize: our instinct is that something or someone caused COVID, it wasn’t you, and we don’t think science always helps.
Okay, let’s start with the science part. First, I think everyone is a scientist. You are. I am. If you observe things in the world, take note of how they’re behaving, and change those notes when new things happen—that’s science. Science is purely about observing the physical world.((Every professional basketball player is a lay-scientist by this definition. You develop concrete data about your body and how it moves through space, and your success is determined by the accuracy of that data. The proof is in the pudding. From the 5’3” Muggsy Bogues to 7’7” Gheorghe Mursesan, variously bodied players rely on highly accurate models of the physical world to succeed.))
What science as a field does really well, and that you can’t do on your own, is study big amounts of things.
Good science is transparent. It relies on physical observation, which takes time, but if you study things at a large scale then you gather reliable data. Does that mean scientists are always able to interpret that data? No. But data about people is solid if it’s gathered from groups of at least a thousand, in general.
The fear-of-science stuff has led to an emphasis on natural immunity, which is believed to be superior to vaccine immunity. But data shows that pre-existing natural immunity isn’t enough. It just doesn’t work against new types of COVID, Kyrie.
So that’s the science angle. We shouldn’t expect science to do anything but provide us with factual data about physical behavior. The How and What, not the Why. And science failing to provide us definite answers on the Why shouldn’t cause us to distrust science; it’s not supposed to answer shit like that.
Let’s talk about Why.
Since the virus can’t spread without our involvement, it relies on our behavior. I repeat: It relies on our behavior. If COVID is a flower, we’re the pollinating bees. If COVID is sunset lamps, we’re the viral tweet.
The virus wouldn’t be what it is without us.
In particular, it’s been spread by rich people. It goes without saying that the poorest people of the world have never flown in an airplane or taken a cruise. I’m talking about the majority of the world’s inhabitants. 80% of the world has never taken a flight, and rich countries make up 90% of air travel.
It was business people, the capitalist elites of our society, who flew COVID around the world.
But why couldn’t we get it under control?
Look at the countries where there were the biggest outbreaks: England, Brazil, India, Russia, Us. All of these countries have, or had, right-wing leaders who downplayed COVID. Here, we had Trump, who wouldn’t allow the CDC to hold briefings for two months at the fucking height of the pandemic. Politics over people.
So, from my perspective, it’s been political leaders and business leaders who’ve been responsible for the virus as we know it. Rich people spread it, and politicians fed it.
But it’s been poor people who’ve suffered the most. Currently, it’s the poorest people of the world who can’t even get access to the vaccine you’re refusing. Countries like Haiti and Afghanistan are full of people who simply may not ever get access to the vaccine. Only 6% of African states are currently vaccinated. This is a very real problem for everyone.
In our country, specifically, it’s been Black and brown people who’ve died the most. Pacific Islander, Latino, Indigenous, and Black Americans have COVID-19 rates double or more that of White and Asian-American people. The people who’ve died have mostly been poor, less-educated, and veterans.
The technology of confinement has played a big role. Prisons and nursing homes have been hubs for the virus. And it’s spread through animal confinement too. Denmark killed 17 million mink to curb a mutation. Now, I believe this is a genocide and stains the soul of Denmark, not least because the only reason they keep the mink in the first place is for their fur.((That those 17 million were free, conscious, and inexplicably living when they were born is apparent to anyone with the life experience of a five-year-old. They have, through the technology of confinement and animalizing, been reduced to statistics and “culled” rather than murdered.))
You have to ask yourself, if politicians and business people caused this then why is it that Black and brown people have died so much more frequently? Why so many prisoners, why old people, why the poor?
Why should how many books I’ve read have anything to do with whether or not I would die from COVID? It makes no sense, right? Well, if you read less, studies show you’re more likely to believe and share COVID disinformation. So, there you go. People who don’t believe in vaccines die more.
You make the case that this is all about individual choice for you.
So what is it that prisoners have chosen that’s led to them dying at higher rates? What individual choices did they make, especially, since their lives are centered around a lack of agency? Prisoners died from COVID at rates more than double other U.S. citizens.
I mean, seriously, how could their individual choice explain that? These are people who can’t choose who is in close proximity to them or what conditions they’re living in. They certainly couldn’t make a choice one way or another to engage in safe or unsafe behavior. Most of them are Black and brown, many of them are innocent or locked up for non-violent charges.
They are vulnerable in particular because of their lack of individual agency; because the people running prisons refuse to get vaccines.
We live in a society. Life is a big game of basketball where not playing by the rules can get people killed. We can’t pretend our individual choices don’t affect others. Those with the least choice are dying. You supporting individual choice in this situation means, at the very least, that you’re ambivalent about other people living or dying.
It means turning a blind eye to the simple facts that at the end of the day it’s the people who have the least freedom—the poor, the confined, the Global South—who are dying the most from COVID-19.
Look, the reality is that there is no true independence unless you go live on another planet. This is a place of limited resources and space; we’re interdependent.
Just as in the age of slavocracies eating sugar and drinking rum supported the industry of person-stealing, we in the West sit at the top of a Rube Goldberg machine of oppression. Our consumption permanently alters the material of this world, and those in the Global South, in particular, will continue to see their lives radically affected.
Our choices matter. You affect me, and vice-versa. In this case, the data is clear: vaccines save lives. I know we’re on the same team, Bro. Let’s protect everyone on the court, even those we might not tend to think about.