This is a very fine piece on the current panic by my colleague and close friend Professor Harley Price (Priceton.org). It offers a refreshing combination of human insight, irony and humour
There may be a silver lining to the coronavirus. Parliament has now been officially quarantined. Mass shootings are being put on hold (there are no masses, sacred or secular). South of the border, Chuck Schumer, reflexively enraged at whatever Trump does, says, or thinks, may be moved to remind himself that the virus can be passed to others in airborne droplets, and thus stop foaming at the mouth for a while. And more Americans may, belatedly, come to recognize the prudence of Trump’s admonitions about our addiction to cheap Chinese labour, and the vulnerability of the U.S. “supply chain” to the malevolent whims of another communist dictatorship.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are experiencing a full-blown psychic pandemic, in addition to the viral one. Does anyone remember a run on the grocery stores during the HIV, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 epidemics? As one wag on the radio observed, if you need to lay in that many rolls of Charmin, you ought to have scheduled a visit to your doctor long ago.
Meanwhile, our inboxes and airwaves are being inundated with nauseatingly self-congratulatory messages from businesses telling us they’re “here to help”, “committed to serving our communities”, and lauding their solicitude for our “safety” (their “top priority”), in what are little more than crass advertisements masquerading as social responsibility. What you’d expect, I suppose, from purportedly capitalist entities that have long ago learned to “put people before profits”—and thereby make bigger profits–and otherwise signal their virtuous devotion to the latest progressive cause. (I am reassured to learn that my bank has been scrubbing down the counters and floors of its branch offices; but there is no news thus far as to how it will sterilize the coins and bills that are the more probable conduits of the contagion).
In response to what he has described as a dire emergency, Canada’s Prime Minister is, as usual, more scrupulous about observing progressive pieties than taking the obvious and necessary steps to avert it. Forty-eight hours after his announcement to the contrary (Mar. 16), multiple flights from China continued to land every day at Canada’s major airports—wherePublic Safety Minister Bill Blair’s “enhanced security measures” consist in adding a single question on kiosk touch-screens about whether incoming passengers have travelled to Hubei province–, and busloads of illegal aliens (sorry, “irregular migrants”) were still being cordially welcomed by the RCMP with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts at the Roxham Road border crossing.
Fully six weeks earlier (Jan. 31) President Trump had already sensibly banned all flights from China, for which he was immediately accused of “racism” by the Democrats. The next day, Joe Biden remonstrated, “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia—hysterical xenophobia—and fear-mongering”, making it clear, I think, that Trump was not merely guilty of “hysteria and xenophobia”, but “hysterical xenophobia”. But Justin Trudeau would never do anything that might be construed as “racist”, would he?
With the exception of the perennial useful idiots in the Western media, we are all by now aware of the fact that, had the Chinese Communist Party not brutally covered it up (for over a month, in fact, after they first learned of the outbreak in early Dec., 2019), the current pandemic would almost certainly have been averted. In the 20th century, International Communism gave the world psychiatric prisons, re-education camps, penal colonies, and industrial methods of extermination. In the 20th, it has added virulent contagious disease to its exported benefactions.
Given the CCP’s criminal behavior—COVID 19 should be re-named COVERUP 19–, closing airports to citizens from the country in which the virus originated—the Wuhan virus, as it was first called, before the Party persuaded a compliant Western media to desist from any more “racial stereotyping”—is hardly hysterical; but putting the entire planet under lock-down and decimating the world economy in the process probably is. “Facts”, as John Adams famously said, are “stubborn things”, but never stubborn enough to force entry into the portals of the apocalyptic mind enjoying the thrill of imminent world-extinction.
The facts remain that the ordinary flu is contracted by a billion people annually and causes 300,000 to 600,000 deaths. (At the time of writing, 250,000 cases of coronavirus and 11,000 deaths have been reported world-wide.) In 2009, the HINI virus infected another billion people, inflicting between 150,000 and 575,000 fatalities. SARS (2002-4) and MERS (outbreaks in 2012, 2015, and 2018), while relatively contained, both had mortality rates (15% and 34% respectively) substantially higher than the coronavirus. It is often said that the mortality rate of COVID 19–whose estimates started at 3.4% and are now down to .4%–is exponentially greater than those of HINI or the common flu (.1%), but, according to the CDC, 80% of those who carry the new virus are asymptomatic—which means that its actual mortality rate is exponentially lower than has been bruited about.
It is notable that the U.S. and Canada have done a poorer job of “flattening the curve” than Taiwan or Hong Kong–in spite of their immediate proximity to the source of the contagion–; but then Taiwan and Hong Kong are rather more experienced with, and less credulous of, CCP mendacity. All the same, there seems to be a palpable disproportion between the 20 deaths caused so far in Canada (pop. 37 million) and the shuttering of an entire nation.
In “times like these”, we are often instructed by the authorities that if we can save a single life, it will have been worth the sacrifice of our material well-being and democratic liberties. But as against the lives saved by the extreme measures taken against the coronavirus, one should at least be conscious of the lives lost on account of surgeries cancelled, medical diagnoses delayed, not to mention spikes in suicide rates induced by bankruptcies, the obliteration of retirement portfolios, and government-enforced loneliness. I fear that not a few of us, compelled to read and watch the unrelenting and unvaried “news” about the pandemic day after day, week after week, might eventually expire from boredom.
It has been accepted (with astonishing insouciance) that the (over)-reaction to the virus—rather than the virus itself—will cause a global economic collapse, driving millions around the world into joblessness, penury, starvation, disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, despair (and thus inevitably pre-mature death). And since (as Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once said), “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”, the usual suspects are making hay out of it. The global warming fanatics have already exulted that the pandemic will finally rid the world of all carbon-dependent industry, and kill a lot of old people, who tend disproportionately to be “deniers”. (Anyone who doubts the ideological consanguineity between the environmental movement and revolutionary Marxism should take note of their common revulsion of free-market capitalism and the bourgeois elderly.) The only concern the climate alarmists have about the coronavirus is that it might wipe out the population before it gets to witness the reification of Ocasio-Cortez’ prophecy of the incineration of the planet in 12 years.
In the U.S., the Democrat media (the adjective is now so redundant as to be scarcely necessary) have been talking up recession for years in the hopes of undermining the booming Trump economy, a venture they have now renewed in the knowledge that, in the equity markets, fear inexorably creates its own reality. Fear has also taken care of shuttering manufacturing, retail, sports, entertainment, restaurants and pubs—in short, commerce. That’s one of the reasons the media need to hype the story and keep it alive until the Fall. After the evanescence of the “Russia-collusion” and “Ukraine-quid-pro-quo” mass hysterias, the Democrats and their media mouthpieces may have finally hit upon one that, in wrecking the economy, gives voters in November a reason to purge America of the Trumpian miasma.
Beyond such rankly political calculations, the Western media are simply unable to resist the lure of the lurid. Natural cataclysms, terrorist atrocities, school shootings, high-rise building collapses, famines–all milked for every drop of bathos that can be extracted from them—have become the media’s bread and butter, and the only stories for which they deign to interrupt their incessant indictments of President Trump. Of course, for the vicarious experience of grief and demonstration of ersatz compassion, the media have merely supplied an ever-increasing demand.
Since the global ululation over the death of Princess Diana, emotional inflation seems to have reached run-away proportions. One doesn’t have to be an old fuddy duddy to notice that, just a couple of generations ago, our ancestors treated hardship, danger, and tragedy (world war, depression, starvation, epidemic disease) with unflinching Stoic fortitude by comparison to today’s fevered response to relatively trivial vexations. “Safety” has long been a festering cultural obsession, to the point that one regularly sees tykes on three-wheelers ensconced in full body armour.
But life is inherently beset by dangers; self-realization and achievement demand facing them, and safety itself involves risks. That has been the universal moral theme of every ancient narrative from Homer’s Odyssey to Virgil’s Aeneid, whose storm-tossed protagonists were offered comfort, respite from struggle, and refuge from danger—by Calypso, Circe, Nausicaa, Dido, and the Sirens–, at every juncture of their arduous journeys. Had they not resisted these temptations–had the safety-minded authorities closed down the shipyards and armaments factories, banned all maritime voyages, made communal banquets illegal, postponed bardic recitations, cancelled the Trojan games, and insisted that warring armies practise social distancing–, neither Odysseus nor Aeneas would have accomplished their quests, Rome would not have been founded, and (most important of all) there would have been no stories to tell.