For all it’s painful consequences, Covid 19 has revealed startling things about society. One is our relationship to experts and how their discourse is used in stories people tell. It raises questions about the misuse of opinions given as facts. This untethering from ‘reality’ could have dire consequences.
The story of young Vint in my latest novel, Bursting with Life!, underscores this disconnect from reality. He is led astray not only by experts but also by trusted authority figures. The experts convince everyone there’s a serious risk of him going mad. Some justification for their concern is rooted in a spate of inexplicable events. Experts advocate severe limitations to avoid stimulating his imagination and sparking an ‘attack’.
The motivations of actors involved differ considerably. His parents are unquestioning about expert evaluation. They want an end to their struggle to steer him clear of the precipice. They long for the compliant child he once was. For his teachers the situation is otherwise. They need to rein in his wild imagination and strange ways which don’t fit their conception of teaching. They have no time for a dangerous misfit when they have thirty children to get through exams.
Finally the medical experts are motivated by goals they cannot admit. They’ve detected a potential in him that promises lucrative returns both in cutting-edge research and military applications. Leveraging the threat of madness, they estrange him from his patents, increasing their hold over him while testing his abilities.
As no one in Vint’s entourage provides an alternative perspective, he accepts this diagnosis and subscribes to the restrictions. Made afraid of himself, fear drives him to comply. It is only when an outsider offers a glimpse of a radically different vision, that he sees himself in a more favorable light and considers his imagination as a potential, not a fatal liability.