H.G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds in the late 1890s. Bill Gates wrote How to Prevent the Next Pandemic in 2022. But when it comes to hitting the epidemiological nail on the head, Wells does a far better job.
For readers who haven’t read this sci-fi classic, in The War of the Worlds, Martians invade Earth and start killing people using a deadly heat-ray. Amid all the panic and desperation, the Martians suddenly die off and the world is saved.
The novel’s narrator explains that after nourishing themselves with human blood, the Martians succumb to germs against which they have no immunity. All the best efforts of the British Army, scientists, and astronomers failed. Instead, the Martians were “slain . . . by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”
Fast-forward over 120 years and you would think that we would have learned a lesson or two in the interim. But Gates argues in his book that running away to hide from pathogens is the best way to beat them. His book is literally a paean to lockdowns, masks, and other low-tech, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). This may seem surprising coming from someone like him but when you realize that NPIs are control mechanisms, it starts to make sense.
The COVID-19 pandemic isn't over, but even as governments around the world strive to put it behind us, they're also starting to talk about what happens next. How can we prevent a new pandemic from killing millions of people and devastating the global economy? Can we even hope to accomplish this?
Bill Gates believes the answer is yes...
This is how Amazon describes Gates’ book, the product of “one of our greatest and most effective thinkers and activists.”
And just how does Gates plan on achieving his grandiose objective? In his words,
Lockdowns ... The evidence is clear that they reduce transmission, and that stricter lockdowns reduce transmission more than looser ones do.
It’s unclear what evidence Gates has in mind. Study after study has found lockdowns and other NPIs to be useless or worse in protecting people from COVID. Furthermore, experts are starting to link lockdowns to a generalized deterioration in immunity which, they believe, could have led to the recent outbreak of hepatitis among children.
Gates is wrong on the science of lockdowns, but he does at least acknowledge “the human suffering caused ... is incalculable, literally.” What he (along with most of our public health officials) doesn’t seem to realize is that this “human suffering” exacts a physical toll in terms of higher mortality and morbidity rates both from COVID and from other diseases—and even not in the presence of disease. Loneliness, feelings of abandonment, the fear engendered by being surrounded by medical personnel in PPE with not a familiar face in sight—all these cause a sick person’s chances of recovering to drop and a healthy person’s prognosis to degrade. Lockdowns have been conclusively linked with depressed mental health, with increased abuse of drugs and alcohol, and with swifter descent into dementia in the elderly.
For Gates, it is apparently a price worth paying. According to him, these policies “saved so many lives that it will be worth adopting [them] again if the circumstances call for it.” He even claims that “NPIs in six large countries, including the United States, prevented nearly half a billion COVID infections in the first few months of 2020 alone.” Even if he were right, so what? COVID was still around when the draconian rules governing NPIs were loosened up later in 2020. In any case, people can’t live in lockdown forever. Or can they?
Lockdowns ... [are] more effective in countries where residents have less of a voice in the country’s affairs, and the government is in a position to strictly enforce lockdowns and other mandates.
Clearly, Gates is all in favor of people having “less of a voice” in making their own life choices. Government knows better, after all. It seems to have escaped Gates’ attention that things aren’t working out all that well in China, where residents have no voice in the country’s affairs, are locked up in their homes, and are still contracting COVID.
But maybe that’s because China doesn’t have GERM.
No one does, yet. But GERM is what Gates has planned for the world. GERM will cast him as superhero.
I call it the GERM—Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization—team, and the job of its people should be to wake up every day asking themselves the same questions: “Is the world ready for the next outbreak? What can we do to be better prepared?” They should be fully paid, regularly drilled, and prepared to mount a coordinated response to the next threat of a pandemic. The GERM team should have the ability to declare a pandemic and work with national governments and the World Bank to raise money for the response very quickly.
GERM’s members, like epidemiologists, are not doctors. They won’t heal people, as Gates clarifies, “You might have noticed one obvious activity that’s missing from GERM’s job description: treating patients. That’s by design.”
Rather, GERM is all about control. GERM is about responding to the “next threat of a pandemic.” It’s not even about responding to the pandemic itself.
Gates should have read Wells. He would have discovered that GERM is likely to be vanquished by germ.
The Talmud, a compilation of commentary on Divine wisdom written by the Jewish sages almost two thousand years ago, states:
Abba Binyamin teaches: If the eye were given permission to see, no creature would be able to withstand the sight of the mezikin (Berachos 6a).
“Mezikin” are, literally, “destroyers.” Among the interpretations of this statement is that man would die of fright if he were able to see all the myriad bacteria, viruses, fungi, and so forth, that surround him, bombard him, coat him, and infest him, constantly.
God, in His wisdom, to quote Wells, has hidden these from our eyes, but He has also given us the wisdom to realize that we should not be hiding from them. He has given us an immune system — not a coat of armor — and the wisdom to learn how it functions best, and how it is thwarted, if we err.
Among the lessons we can learn from the humble germ is that we, too, should be humble. GERM, however, puts Man on a pedestal, and although Gates claims to have learned from the “experts” how to defeat pandemics and save lives, it would have been far better if he had instead learned a little humility.