An ethical perspective on our troubled planet – Melt van der Spuy

The coronavirus pandemic will long be spoken about as one of the craziest times on earth and the decisions of institutions and governments across the globe will be questioned and scrutinised for years to come. Below, BizNews community member Melt van der Spuy questions the South African governments actions surrounding the pandemic and ethical dilemmas that further complicate the matters at hand. – Justin Rowe-Roberts

By Melt van der Spuy*

The article ‘Has science been ignored for political expediency?’ Biznews 29 May 2021 refers. Cardiac anaesthetist Dr Nathi Mdladla raises strong reservations around the way that the Covid Pandemic has been dealt with globally, and more pertinently, how it has been dealt with in South Africa. Mdladla raises concerns that include but are not limited to; non-pharmacological interventions, hard lockdowns, further lockdowns, expensive “cures,” corticosteroids, and various alternative potential treatments of which the effectiveness is still uncertain. Ultimately, he raises concerns around the vaccines and their planned rollout as well. He questions the narrative that says the only way to defeat Covid is to vaccinate the world. He holds out various alternative solutions to the crisis. He makes solid argument that money and the flow of money drives much of what is happening around us.

The problem for most of us who read articles like these (of which there are now no longer few), or indeed articles that follow the mainstream narrative, is that we sit outside of the medical and scientific world, and we are not equipped to discern one way or the other. Even those within the medical / scientific world seem to be uncertain about so much that there is nowhere obvious for average Joe to hang his hat. I find myself starting to have earnest questions around what primarily motivates the situation globally. Is the narrative we are fed consistently, honestly based on good science or not? Dr Mdladla appears to be saying not. I am not in any way equipped to determine whether what he says is valid. This means I am obliged to trust that what the government tells me to do is indeed based on good science. I am not a scientist, nor am I a medical practitioner. How am I meant to discern what is true? Having grown up in apartheid South Africa and having seen the chaos that the ruling ANC government is currently visiting upon the country, I tend to distrust government at face value, until they prove me wrong.

Since I distrust government(s) and since I am not a scientist, I need to devise a different strategy for deciding whether, or not, to participate in the mainstream media drive toward total compliance. I am a pastor, a theologian of a kind, and an ethicist, in that sense. I am only equipped to discuss and discern the Covid crisis from my field of knowledge. Any decisions I make moving into the future will therefore necessarily be based on ethical considerations, along with whatever I am able to discern regarding the medical science of the mainstream narrative, which at this point does not seem to be much. A growing minority seems to be questioning whether the desperate drive to vaccinate the world is not at least in part driven by the huge money that controls pharma and pays/pays off high-powered people and politicians to drive the predetermined narrative as the only possible solution to the problem?

Why is it that there is an increasing number of mainstream medical practitioners such as Dr Mdladla – not kooks, or conspiracy theorists – who question the sanity and indeed the science around the battle against Covid? That Covid is being used as a political weapon seems to be almost beyond debate. Mainstream media regularly shows itself to be biased and, at various points thoroughly unreliable. The problem being that its alternative is often even more unreliable! Particularly the alternative of the ‘ranting red neck variety.’ Most of what comes from that camp would appear to me to be largely
fabricated stuff and nonsense.

What is of huge concern is that there is scarcely a medium that comes at us without bias. There are a few publications that I have grown to trust. BizNews, has proven to be one such publication that over more than a decade has tried to give, what I regard as a fair and balanced view, which has mostly proven to be accurate in hindsight. Outside of isolated investigative journalism everything is skewed, and truth is an extremely elusive commodity. When mainstream medical practitioners, and academics, like Dr Mdadla raise serious reservations around the narrative that shuts out any alternative view, by means of censorship, then I start listening.

The problem facing us, that will not go away, is an ethical crisis as much as it is a medical crisis. And the field of ethics is a minefield of note. To date I have not seen that much in the press or media that approaches the pandemic from a thought through ethical perspective at all and the time to open ethical considerations and discussions is surely long overdue? Foundationally, faith-based ethics believes we are ultimately accountable to a creator. Secular ethics has no such parameter nor restriction and is based on human perspective. One framework of thought within those fields (usually the secular framework) is that ‘the most just action is that which brings the greatest good to the greatest number of people.’ In that framework of thinking, a miniscule percentage of vaccination injuries or even vaccination deaths would be acceptable, considering the so called ‘greater good.’ Individual liberty and conscience are not that highly regarded in this ethical framework. Those who argue for the necessity of vaccination will necessarily quote this perspective when calling for the world to be vaccinated continually and regularly against every variant of this disease that arises in time to come.

Juxtaposed against that view is the view that holds the freedom and rights of the individual to act and live within the constraints of their own conscience and choice as paramount. In this view justice is served when people are acting as they ought to in accordance with personal morality and virtue. This framework has traditionally always been the faith-based and specifically Christian point of departure. That being so because of a held belief that God values each individual human life and along with that life, its personal conscience. To ask someone to act against their conscience, whether they are right, wrong, or even deluded, would be a breach of the traditional faith-based ethical norm.

To compound matters, from a distinctly Christian perspective the church will need to do serious work of determining what ‘good neighbourliness’ entails in these times. These two departure points for ‘doing ethics,’ will clearly lead to sharply different conclusions about what is the just course of action in relation to Covid, or anything else for that matter. These are not the only departure points for ethical discussions, but they are likely the two most often used foundations and a good starting point for discussion.

  • Melt van der Spuy, MTh (Stellenbosch) DMin (Fuller Theological Seminary)

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