Human Guinea Pigs

Covid19 may be remembered as one of the biggest global experiments ever. Certainly, it might have been possible to predict a pandemic (and some people did) and in the ensuing chaos we can criticise the unpreparedness of our government all we want. Essentially though, this was viewed by the science community as one of the biggest human experiments of our lifetime and we, the general public, were the guinea pigs. How we behaved was observed. How we reacted to the virus was recorded. We all, in some way or another, became part of the statistics. We also know to our cost that not all guinea pigs survive scientific experiments or, indeed, come out the other side unscathed. And what is the value of the guinea pigs to the scientists that use them? Are they recognised and lauded as an essential aspect of the experiment, or are they simply discarded once they have served their purpose?

How we behaved or responded to this crisis will probably influence how we personally choose to react to any similar event in the future. But what was important in this experiment in relation to our experience of it was the nature of our situation and circumstances as we came into the crisis. Whether you lived in a detached house with sufficient space to splash around with your kids in a paddling pool in the back garden or sweated through lockdown from the cramped space of a high-rise flat trying to keep two or three screaming children entertained and a violent partner appeased, was to determine your experience in respect of the pandemic and lockdown threat level. Essentially your experience of living with perpetual fear. Our capacity to cope, or cope-ability, is directly aligned with our health and wellbeing in terms of resilience and our living conditions directly affect our resilience levels. When it seems like all options are removed and we have very little room for manoeuvre, I can vouch for the fact that, at times, it felt as if some of us were being put into a cage and left to fend for ourselves in a dark corner of the lab. Scientific experiments are often designed around a comparison scale in relation to effectiveness. Most scientific experiments go beyond pure curiosity and are designed to resolve problems such as disease control or elimination. All humans are resources of potential and our potential use to society is often determined by both societal values and political systems. The true value of any experiment begins with balance and equality in relation to the laboratory and the subjects being tested. It didn’t take a scientifically trained boffin to see that this was never a level playing field at the outset.

As the mathematician Professor John Nash observed: the best outcome, socially and economically, for any group is for every individual within that group to act in accordance with what will produce the best outcome for both themselves, and the group. By asking various sections of the community to do what was best for the group, we left them in an incredibly dangerous and vulnerable situation. There were those who acted in accordance with the instructions given them by their government and health officials. Who believed that they were acting in the best way for the group if not the best way for themselves. And there were those that acted as they deemed was best for themselves, and who openly couldn’t have cared less about the group, or the outcome. The experiment failed, simply because we are not robots. In the future, they will look back and assume that the instructions that were given by governments were followed to the letter by their populace.  The only aspect of this experiment that might be interesting to observe is how we all react to politically and socially generated fear and the contagion value of that innate emotion. There are those in power who already know the compliant worthiness of encouraging fear amongst your subjects. This experiment simply reinforces the value of their actions. Other human experiments include the dropping of the atomic bomb, Nazi regime political propaganda, cigarettes & e-cigarettes, women’s liberation, sugar versus fat, saturated fats versus unsaturated fats, artificial sweeteners, genetically modified anything, fluoride in water, leaking poisonous waste into water supplies. The list is endless.

Awareness in Action. They are. Are you?