Coronavirus Context: A Personal View
Here are some numbers that might interest you — or might not. In fact, I really don’t care if they do or don’t. I report them for the record, for posterity, for my soul, or merely for the satisfaction of typing what I would rather not scream.
The approximate number of humans on this planet — beyond my friendly band of Limbo readers, and the portion of my students who continue to display the basic will to live proper to young adults, but so uncharacteristic of this moment — for whom I feel an iota of respect or concern right now. (“The feeling is mutual?” shouts the mob. Good; I prefer that such people not care about me. Stop caring about me, ye humans of today. I have been cared about enough for one lifetime, thank you.)
The canto of Dante’s Inferno where we find the eternal fate of the cowards, fence-sitters, wafflers, and others whose earthly lives were so dominated by irrational fear and the ever-moving banner of petty self-interest that they were incapable of displaying even the minimal conscientiousness and nascent courage we should expect to find in any decently raised nine-year-old.
Dante defines them — and “them,” in this case, includes, to be charitable, about ninety-five percent of the population of our “advanced” world today — as “These miscreants, who never were alive.” They have rendered themselves so insignificant on Earth that they are welcome in the afterlife by neither God nor Lucifer, despised and rejected by both. They therefore occupy a sad space just inside the gates of Hell — damned to an eternity of hopeless nothingness emblematic of the lack of will or backbone with which, while ostensibly alive, they evaded the basic responsibilities of moral freedom.
And I, who looked again, beheld a banner,
Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
And after it there came so long a train
Of people, that I ne’er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.
When some among them I had recognised,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain,
That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.
These miscreants, who never were alive,
Were naked, and were stung exceedingly
By gadflies and by hornets that were there.
These did their faces irrigate with blood,
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
(from Canto III, Longfellow translation)
The percentage increase in Koreans who are known to have committed acts of self-harm in the first half of 2020 — in this country with the highest suicide and self-harm rates in the advanced world — compared to the same timeframe the previous year.
And from the same official Korean government statistics, we might as well add the number one hundred thirty-five, which is the number of excess suicides in the first half of this year among Korean females in their teens and twenties, compared to last year. (The total suicides among females in those age groups during that period: one thousand nine hundred twenty-four.) And to fully understand the significance of that number of excess suicides, we might also note the percentage of Korean coronavirus deaths this year from among that same cohort of women in their teens and twenties: zero. This is, if you will, government- and media-promoted suicide, the sad byproduct of government- and media-stoked mass panic — in a country of fifty million people with fewer than five hundred coronavirus deaths this year, which, by the way, is roughly one-sixth of an average year’s (conservatively estimated) Korean influenza deaths.
The number of countries on this planet where the government and the general citizenry have made the daring, difficult, painful, “controversial” choice to behave like adults this year, to accept the burdens of reality, to reject the modern impulse to cower with irrational fear and beg the state to protect them from all harm, and to stand upright and courageous as men and women who deserve to live, rather than groveling in the dirt like so much self-annihilating dust at the mercy of every gust of propagandistic wind from the profiteers and powermongers.
God bless Sweden. Sweden, of all nations. One of the world’s earliest progenitors of “democratic socialism.” The home of the entertainment world’s multi-generational poster children for the moral anesthetic of pop culture kitsch, ABBA. The home of the modern art world’s most sincere purveyor of nihilistic despair, Ingmar Bergman. If there was one country on Earth, ten months ago, that one might have hoped (though not expected) to stand alone against the global progressive tide of vulgar cowardice and totalitarian assertion, it surely would not have been Sweden. And yet it was so, and is so. Sweden, and Sweden completely alone, has put the rest of our sorry, pathetic “nation-states” to shame. So far.
If she gives in to the global pressure at last, as a realistic person may be forgiven for expecting, she will be the last domino. There will be no country on Earth remaining as any sort of emblem of collective will and civic courage. And the brave and intransigent Swedish medical officials and scientists who dared to be adults, and to be honest about what they were seeing, will be buried in the mire of modernity’s bubbling quicksand, heroes of integrity silenced in the end by the cacophony of irrational fear and moral surrender that passes for politics today.