A Few Worse Plagues Than COVID

This autumn, Pope Francis shocked the world by finally saying something rational, religious, and rhetorically out of step with this progressive moment — the occasion was duly noted here in Limbo — namely that “gossiping is a worse plague than COVID.”

As my adopted home of South Korea gradually returns to something the government calls “Level 1.5” social distancing (don’t ask), thus more or less forcing holdouts like me, who prefer to live as humans rather than as lab rats, to give up face-to-face teaching again and return to the dreaded and completely inadequate online method, I inevitably find myself returning to the pope’s words. Specifically, I have taken to considering a few other things that are, in relevant ways, “a worse plague than COVID.”

Irrational fear, which is to say fear not tempered by a contextual understanding of its object, is a worse plague than COVID.

Moral paralysis caused by susceptibility to irrational fear — the spiritual numbness resulting from immoderate and atomistic self-concern in the face of perceived dangers — is a worse plague than COVID.

A general societal openness to being manipulated by those eager to heighten and exploit mass fear for personal or political gain, is a worse plague than COVID.

The complete, fear-induced disregard for the premises and practices of a free society, i.e., of a community grounded in mature self-reliance and the mutual respect of adult citizens, is a worse plague than COVID.

Progressive modernity’s belief, or rather pipe dream, that a risk-free, illness-free, problem-free, hardship-free, temperature-controlled life is an urgent and reasonable social goal — let alone a desirable goal — is a worse plague than COVID. 

The collective will to sacrifice social cohesion, economic stability, family solvency, and all other forms of public health and welfare — mental and physical — in the name of a self-defeating fantasy of personal safety and immediate comfort to be purchased at absolutely any price, is a worse plague than COVID.

On the other hand, and in direct defiance of all these plagues of the walking dead, it must be noted that life itself, which will end for every one of us, either abruptly and without warning, or after a significant period of deterioration and suffering, is also a worse plague than COVID. This fact, however, far from being a cause for panic, is, if viewed properly, the soul’s chief bulwark against the susceptibility to irrational fear and its various life-destroying symptoms, such as those outlined above.

In other words, falling into panic and hysteria over the (very slim) possibility of succumbing to just one arbitrarily isolated item out of a theoretically infinite list of possible causes of an outcome that is, in principle, not only likely but absolutely certain and inevitable, is the heights of irrationality. Irrational fear is fear not tempered by context. With regard to death, life itself is the ultimate context.

In short, what is all this fear about? Live. 

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