When a biblically-informed culture speaks of “the dignity of the human person” and “the sanctity of human life,” it grounds those concepts in the Word of God. The American founding was shaped in equal measure by biblical and Enlightenment thought. But even the Enlightenment, as experienced here in the United States, drew its morality and anthropology from the Jewish-Christian ages that preceded it. 

What that meant, at least until the last six or seven decades, was that most of us, even those in the nation’s leadership classes, genuinely believed that humans are unique in nature, unlike any other creature, with something distinct that demands elevated respect. We knew that when we crippled or diminished that dignity, we did evil. When we served it, we did good. But that was then. This is now. And we now live in a culture that speaks piously about saving the environment and rescuing birds and fish on the brink of extinction, but then doubts the very existence of a human “nature,” while celebrating the mass homicide of unborn children and the composting of human bodies for, among other things, “nutrient-rich” soil enhancement.

So how does any of this relate to The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State (to be released November 1)?

For those unacquainted with the author’s CV, Aaron Kheriaty is a psychiatrist and a widely published expert in the field of medical ethics and public health. For many years, he served as professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and director of the Medical Ethics Program at UCI Health, where he chaired the ethics committee. He also chaired the ethics committee at the California Department of State Hospitals for several years. He was fired by UCI in December 2021 for refusing to comply with the school’s Covid vaccination mandate. 

Kheriaty recounts his personal battle with the University of California midway through his book’s second chapter. It makes for powerful reading. But it’s simply one course in a much larger meal. The real genius of the text is the way Kheriaty weaves his own experience into a broader analysis and critique of—in his words—“the coming technocratic dystopia.” From anyone other than a medical expert who was an early target of that dystopia, the content of The New Abnormal might sound alarmist; in the hands of Kheriaty, it’s exhaustive in factual detail and deeply persuasive.

The author argues that in many ways the Covid lockdowns were unnecessary, scientifically dubious, and counterproductive. The collusion of government institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and mass media outlets—not to mention the profiteering made possible thereby—was ethically inexcusable. The degree of social control brought to bear on the general population was both unwarranted medically and unprecedented in peacetime conditions. But it did serve as a dry run for the emerging biomedical security regime; a glimpse of future “state of emergency” actions by government agencies more or less independent of any congressional supervision. Government has its own chronic addiction—to more government—and if Covid could be cast as a public health emergency demanding exceptional state interventions, then why not the climate crisis?