Very few things in this world function as a true mutually-exclusive, single-factor binary. For example: if the light in my office is off, then we know it's definitely not on. If the light is on, then it's definitely not off. Guaranteed. In the case of the light, there is one clear determining factor. It's simple. For better or worse, that's not how most things work. More often, greater nuance exists which we must take into account when forming some kind of conclusion.
When I was an IRS auditor, one of the determinations I made on a fairly regular basis was whether an activity on a tax return was a business or a hobby. There are 9 factors that must be considered in making that determination, but before you even look at those factors you first consider The Presumption. It goes like this: if an activity has a profit in 2 out of the last 5 years, the government will assume that activity is a for-profit business. End of discussion. No 9 factors needed, the activity is a business.
On the other hand, that presumption does not work the other way around. That is to say: if an activity does not make a profit in 2 out of the last 5 years, the government cannot assume the activity is not a for-profit business. There is greater nuance in that case. Enter the 9 factors, which the government must consider and analyze in order to draw a conclusion one way or the other.
Most of my fellow auditors had no problem working their way through the 9 factors, weighing each thoughtfully and coming to a well-reasoned conclusion. But in getting there, many of them struggled with the concept that an activity without a profit in 2 of the last 5 years could possibly be a business. They were stuck, trying to apply a one-way analytical assumption in reverse.
This non-reversibility seems really challenging for many humans to wrap their brains around in almost any context. I read an article this week called "The Case Against Masks at School" written by three folks in a medical or a medical-adjacent field. Their conclusion was: school administrators should not impose mask mandates because the current studies do not prove reduced covid spread results directly from mask mandates.
But it's not that children masking in schools actually provides "little discernable benefit" against covid. The studies discussed in this article certainly did not show masks had no benefit. It's just that the studies these folks reviewed do not prove a link between mask mandates and reduced infection rates. Which doesn't automatically mean that masks have no impact. These authors fell victim to what I will now call the fallacy of the reverse presumption.
Maybe this phenomenon already has another name and I just don't know it. What we call it is less important than how ubiquitous this flavor of mental gymnastics is in our society. It's at the root of a lot of what feels to me like medical gaslighting. I learned this week the way doctors have been testing kidney function (for many decades) is completely inaccurate because it's based on a bunch of racist, false assumptions.
I also learned this week about a new study claiming more than half of the side-effects from the covid vaccine were actually not effects of the vaccine. This study claims they were actually the placebo effect. Or, more accurately (since they were negative effects), the nocebo effect. Maybe that's true for some or even a lot of people, but I didn't imagine all the disruption to my menstrual cycle. And I certainly didn't manifest all the debilitating joint pain I got from my booster shot. I went into my booster appointment expecting little or no effect since I heard the Pfizer jab was so much less impactful for most people. So my expectations were not what caused those side-effects.
This study seems like a thinly veiled attempt to make the vaccines seem less daunting. I can understand why that would be desirable marketing because concern about side effects is one big reason unvaxxed people are avoiding the jab. But telling people they are only experiencing unpleasant side-effects because they were expecting it does not resolve those feelings of unease.
You know what would resolve those feelings? More complete and accurate information about who is experiencing which kind of side effects. Then at least people could choose which brand of life-disruption they would rather experience. If I had known I might experience a different array of side-effects I would have gotten a Moderna booster instead of "mixing it up" and going with Pfizer. I personally would have preferred more of the same flavor of suffering instead of a new suffering sampler platter.
I got both my vaxx shots and my booster, and I'll go back and get the next booster when it's time. I'll even go get the one after that, and the one after that. I'll get however many it takes for us to eventually be done with this pandemic. And that's true for me even though I had some very intense and debilitating reactions (some of which I'm still dealing with 8 months later). I'm not mad about having unpleasant side-effects - I will take these side effects over having the long-lasting effects of Covid. But I am infuriated that my experience is dismissed by the larger medical community so they can hopefully talk more people into getting their shots by pretending it's not that bad.
I would like the medical science community to instead focus it's efforts and energy on figuring out why these things happened to me and millions of other uterus-having humans. Maybe they could do something about the make-up of the vaccine to dampen the after-effects for those of us who have extra powerful immune systems in case we need to grow a baby human. If not, they could at the very least give people a heads-up before sending us out into the world, unaware, to manage sudden surprise symptoms.
Medical science isn't the only perpetrator, of course. Politics is also rife with this brand of problematic conclusioning. The current kerfuffle with Iran is a perfect example. After the efforts of countless diplomats and negotiators over many years, the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed and official in 2015. Then three years later, the former Asshole in Chief unceremoniously pulled us out of the deal.
Iran held up it's end of the bargain for another year before concluding we weren't coming back. Then they proceeded to go about their business. Now our current President wants to come back to the Deal (which is good). But before he does, he insists Iran must first give some ground.
Excuse me, but we were the ones who did the leaving. We agreed to a thing and then ripped-up that agreement. That makes us the jerk who owes the apology. We have absolutely no leg to stand on, so Biden's insistence that the other party does something to demonstrate we should return to the deal we broke just looks like what it is: bullying. Bullying combined with a refusal to accept any responsibility for our actions.
Diplomatically it also makes no sense to me because we have an iron-clad face-saving excuse for acting like a jerk: Trump is a fickle idiot with a well-documented pattern of reneging on deals he was party to. So just throw his dumb, orange ass under the bus and come back to the table with your hat in hand, humility on your lapel, and respect up your sleeve. Don't pretend like the US is some superior participator in this process that deserves praise and veneration regardless of our past actions.
I call bullshit on that. And so does Iran. Professor Mohammad Marandi, Media adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, was on the BBC's Hardtalk recently. He made several thoughtful points, one of which struck me as especially poignant. When pressed by the host, Stephen Sackur, about disparaging remarks from the international community, he responded that "Western Countries are not the international community. That time is over." And he's right.
The United States is no longer the all-powerful, all-respected international player it once was. Other nations are calling us on some of our bullshit that has hitherto been politely swept under the international relations rug. Similarly, some of us are getting wise to the application of the fallacy of the reverse presumption in various parts of society. And more of us are speaking out against it. Get wise to how it shows up in your life and do the work to overcome it. It's one of the things we need to sort out in order to build a better future.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.